Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Frying Pan 101: Good Non-stick Options

Part 2: Basic Metals
Part 3: Teflon

Sarah, a representative of DuPont, has commented on the previous Frying Pan 101 post with information regarding PFOA, a cancer causing chemical emitted from when Teflon is overheated.  According to Consumer Report, the amount of PFOA emitted from the pan, in proper use at 400F, does not contribute much to your total PFOA exposure.  Various products such as waterproof fabrics and electronic part also releases PFOA. Nevertheless, extra precaution and care are still necessary when using Teflon non-stick cookware: always use ventilation, don't put empty pans over high heat, discard pans that has been scratched or started flaking.

There are two non-stick options (that I am aware of) that are completely free of PFOA and PTFE and are environmentally sound.

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 9-Inch Skillet with Iron Handle, RedEnamel Cast-Iron Skillet has enamel exterior and on the cooking surface. Enamel is a type of fused glass which is non-reactive, while the cast iron inside offers great heat retention. This would be the perfect frying pan for cooking up a thick piece of steak.  The pan will not cool down when the steak first meet the surface, so it would brown evenly and perfectly. Enamel is non-reactive on the ion level, so food actually tasted better and the cookware won't have the left over food smell from the last use. This pan is also more durable than aluminum or copper, and it is safe in dishwasher and oven friendly. Because of it's (light) weight, enamel is especially ideal for water-based cooking and camping. However, because enamel is a type of glass. It can be prone to chipping and cracking. For example, a low quality enamel pot may crack, when you shock it with cold water after cooking. The glass will end up in your food and the rust from the steel will end up in your body. Also, low quality enamel may contain cadmium, which is harmful for your body (this is illegal in Canada, but not regulated in places like China). I would recommend Le Cresuset and Chantal offers high quality ones with lifetime warranties on their enameled cookware.

The Green Pan:
GreenPan Stockholm Skillet - 8" - Non-stickThis is the new kid on the block.  Green pan is an aluminum based pan with ceramic exterior.  It is completely free of PFOA and PTFE, and its manufacturing process emits 50% less carbon dioxide.  Aluminum has better thermal conductivity than a cast iron skillet, meaning it heats up faster. The non-stick quality of the green pan is so good that you can cook an egg on this pan without any oil, making it perfect for any low fat diet.  It endure higher heat than Teflon pans, but it is not dishwasher safe.  Teflon is a form of plastic/silicon and is actually a heat inhibitor.  This is why it is recommended that people not fry or sear meat on Teflon pan. On the other hand, the green pan conducts heat super well and is oven friendly. I am not entirely sure about the differences between the different brands of the green pan, but look for Green Pan: The Original.

I would recommend having one of both pans.  A larger size enamel cast iron would cook larger cooking projects and/or large quantity of food evenly and consistently.  Then a smaller green pan for for smaller portion and lighter foods such as omelets and fish fillets.

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