Apart from your diet, what you use to cook your food matters too for your overall well-being. That’s why there are lots of cookware to choose from, made of different materials. Among these are cast iron and nonstick cookware.
Traditionally, cast iron has been a sole nonstick cookware available, until the discovery of Teflon in the 20th century. When it comes to choosing between the two, opinion is often divided as to which one is more nonstick than the other.
Also, divergent opinions exists as to which cookware is better than the other. Therefore, the cast iron vs nonstick debate won’t end soon. Contained in this article are all the information you need to make an informed decision between which skillets to choose.
WHAT IS NONSTICK COOKWARE MADE OF?
All around the world, people from all walks of life rely on nonstick pans and skillets for everyday cooking. They are great for flipping pancakes, frying and scrambling eggs, and turning sausages. These cookware are great for preparing foods that would otherwise stick on the cooking surface.
Nonstick cookware are made from a material known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The compound was invented in the 1930s by Roy Plunket while working for a company called DuPont. This substances is corrosion resistance and provides a frictionless, smooth surface.
The company later saw potential in the material and trademarked it as Teflon. Teflon is a synthetic compound consisting of fluorine and carbon atoms. The resulting nonreactive, smooth, and frictionless surface has made the cookware coated with Teflon convenient.
Moreover, Teflon is easy to clean, use, and requires little oil when cooking, meaning an overall healthy cooking and frying. Apart from cookware, Teflon also finds use in a range of coatings such as wires, fabrics, carpet protectors, and waterproofing of outdoor clothing
IS CAST IRON NONSTICK?
Cast iron has been regarded as the original nonstick cookware. However, there is an insistence on well-seasoned cast iron pans. The biggest selling point of nonstick cookware is their ease of washing and how they reduce the use of butter or oil when cooking.
Usually, the oil is spread and heated to make the cookware nonstick. However, with nonstick pans, the food naturally slides off the cooking surface. Hence, your cooking involves the application of reduced fats for a healthy lifestyle.
The key to making cast iron cookware nonstick is to regularly season them. Seasoning of pans involves spreading a layer of oil onto the pans, then heating them up. The heating polymerizes the oil, creating a plastic coating. As the coating bonds to the metallic surface, giving the pans and skillets a nonstick property.
ARE NONSTICK COOKWARE SAFE?
Despite their popularity, nonstick cookware have come under strict criticism and investigation over potential health risks. These concerns arise due to the presence of the perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) acid in the PTFE coating.
The truth is, nonstick cookware are perfectly safe, unless the pans are overheated. Extreme cooking temperatures causes the breakdown of the PTFE. Heating the pan up to temperatures above 500 degrees Fahrenheit releases toxic and carcinogenic particles.
It may sound like your chemistry classes all over, but the process is essential in understanding the reasons why you should never overheat a nonstick pan. Whereas 5000 F may sound like a high temperature, it is actually quite easy to attain over a stove top.
The fact is, an empty nonstick pan on the highest heat setting takes just about 2 minutes to go past the 5000 F. inhaling the toxic fumes leads to polymer fume fever (Teflon flu). The symptoms of Teflon flu includes fever, headache, chills, and body aches.
These symptoms usually develop within 10 minutes of exposure to the PFOA fumes, and the condition eases off between 12 hours and 2 days. In extreme cases of overheating Teflon up to 7300F causes lung damage.
So, generally speaking, Teflon remains stable and harmless at moderate cooking temperatures. In fact 5000F is the highest cooking temperature attainable. As a result, you are less likely to subject a nonstick pan to those temperatures.
Moreover, PFOA was only used in Teflon until 2013. Also, most of the harmful substances are burnt off during the high temperature manufacturing processes. Thankfully, health experts agree that there are low chances of getting sick from the leached chemicals into your food or the air.
Still, using common sense while cooking helps to avoid the risk of exposure. Here a couple of tips to keep yourself safe when cooking with a nonstick pan.
- Never preheat an empty nonstick pan
- Always cook on medium heat and avoid over broiling
- Have your kitchen properly ventilated
- Do not use scouring pad/steel wool to clean nonstick pans
- Hand-wash all nonstick cookware
- Replace the cookware when the Teflon coating starts to visibly deteriorate
BENEFITS OF NONSTICK COOKWARE
The benefits of nonstick cookware goes beyond the usual reduced oil and butter uptake, especially with the current wave of obesity-awareness. Using a nonstick pan for your cooking, whether it’s Teflon coated or cast iron has a number of benefits including:
EASY TO CLEAN UP
Essentially, foo does not stick onto the surfaces of nonstick pans. This means that you don’t have to deal with scrubbing of stuck food particles. A simple use of soap and warm water does a perfect cleaning job.
Some manufacturers also specify that their cookware are dishwasher safe. However, for longevity, minimize the number of times you use the dishwasher to clean your nonstick pots. The rigorous action of a dishwasher hastens the rate at which the Teflon coating flakes off.
Both interior and exteriors needs just a gentle sponge, soap, and warm water to clean up.
LESS FAT, BETTER HEALTH
Cookware such as stainless steel require additional fats to first make their surfaces nonstick, then you add extra for cooking the food. However, with cookware that’s already nonstick, there is no need to have extra cooking fat.
Increasing fat levels in the body leads to energies that negatively affects the body’s working mechanisms. Too much calories takes away the wholesome characteristics of food. Hence, a low-fat cooking nonstick skillet is a perfect choice.
AFFORDABLE AND LASTS A WHILE WITH GENTLE CARE
Nonstick pans are available in a wide range of prices, with great options being available at low prices. Modern coating technologies ensures a durable Teflon nonstick coating, albeit with appropriate care routine.
CAST IRON WITHSTANDS HIGH TEMPERATURES
While Teflon coated nonstick pans aren’t supposed to be used for high temperature cooking, cast iron, which is nonstick works perfect. Therefore, cast iron skillets are the best for searing, browning, deep frying, and broiling foods since they do not degrade at high temperatures.
INCREASED IRON INTAKE
Well, cast iron cookware are made from iron. During cooking, some of this essential mineral leaches into the food, boosting your ingestion of iron.
When it comes to cast iron vs nonstick, there is no clear winner as each of them appeals to different cooking needs. Nonstick skillets are a go to for pancakes and eggs. Also, foods that require medium cooking temperatures are better prepared on a Teflon coated cooking pan.
For high temperature deep frying, browning, broiling, and searing, no cookware beats the shear ruggedness of cast iron cookware. Also, if the cooking is to take longer than 5 minutes, then a cast iron pan would be the ideal choice.