How to NOT ruin a non-stick frying pan … and are they toxic?

August 7th, 2013

Appliance Talk Ovens & Cooking Small Appliances

A non-stick frying pan isn’t just for Christmas. So why the callous abuse and careless mistreatment of Teflon-coated utensils? Well, here’s where Appliances Online draws a line in the sand.

You’ve gotta treat these things with due care and attention. Or they won’t stick around for long.


First – what is a non-stick frying pan?

Unlike the ordinary type of pan, you won’t have to soak a non-stick cooking surface in enough oil to flood the Gulf of Mexico to avoid burning your omelette. That makes them a healthy, low-fat alternative – and one used in many professional kitchens.

The non-stick layer is commonly made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) … (of which the most famous brand is somewhat more catchily titled: “Teflon”).

Oh and incidentally, we stock a selection of Electric Non-Stick Fry Pans.

Here are our tips to avoid the tragic loss of non-stickiness:

1. Read the instructions that come with the cookware. Okay, this is so obvious a point you may think it isn’t worth a mention. But it is. Because no one with the slightest claim to sanity has ever bothered to read an instruction book in any great detail.

Still, check it out and you may find a few salient details. Things like: “don’t cook with this”, “don’t wash with that”, “don’t use your frying pan as a means of engaging in a comedy fight.”


2. Don’t use any metal or sharp cooking utensils – because they are likely to pierce the coating. Thereby decisively ruining the whole non-sticky vibe.

3. Don’t clean-up using anything too abrasive. Use mild detergents. Don’t use things like brillo pads, steel wool. Or the hind-quarters of a wombat. Just, don’t.


And when you’re done – don’t just throw your non-stick cookware into the back of the cupboard like you don’t care. These things are susceptible to being marked and scratched. And as we said, this is something you want to avoid.

4. Appreciate that the pan will actually require a minimal amount of lubricant (no sniggering, please). We’d suggest a small amount of oil or butter will sweeten the deal each time. And some people even recommend “pre-seasoning” the pan by first rinsing then drying and rubbing it with a little oil from a paper towel.

Here’s the thing: never heap globules of oil or butter on your food. It won’t be adhere to the pan and whatever you’re cooking will end up a bloated, soggy mess – which is likely to end up sticking anyway.


Also, there’s some thought that using nonstick cooking sprays may be kryptonite to a non-stick cooking surface. The theory goes they are likely to build up in areas where not properly burnt off, thus resulting in a sticky and pasty residue. We haven’t heard conclusively – but it’s something to bear in mind.

5. This is a pivotal one: don’t overheat the pan. Keep it on low or medium. Don’t leave it unattended. As soon as you’re done cooking, turn it off – right away! Aaaaand, if you see any flames spreading from your pan to engulf your kitchen, make a mental note not to do whatever you just did ever again.

Which brings us neatly to a (somewhat) controversial issue.

Are non-stick frying pans dangerous to your health?

Health concerns have stuck to the PTFE-coating cooking pan like a piece of burnt cheese – particularly when it comes to being over-heated.

According to a few sources, when the surface temperature of a pan is pushed beyond 350°C the PTFE coating will begin to disintegrate. The consequence of this is byproducts which have been linked to polymer fume fever in humans (and death … in birds).


There has also been word the use of non-stick frying pans can be linked to higher cholesterol levels in children and teens. And in one other instance, pregnant women were advised not to use them.

On the other hand, a manufacturer of non-stick frying pans such as DuPont says that any concerns are baseless and they’ll happily cite independent authorities such as the US Food and Dry Administration that have said the cookware is acceptable for conventional use.

Barring decisive information one way or another, we can only state some (mostly) obvious points: don’t crank up the heat on them too severly and make sure you turn your exhaust fan on over the stove. And if your bird does happen to keel over while you’re cooking with your Teflon coated wok, evacuate the premises immediately.

Richie is a Sydney based writer with sophistication, flair and hair. Aside from blogging and writing for Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he is also a new playwright who had his first play, ‘The Local’ performed last year at the Sydney Fringe Festival. He is also the wicketkeeper for the Gladstone Hotel Cricket Club and his favourite appliance is any 3D Blu-ray Home Theatre System that can be delivered to his house free-of-charge in the near future. He was the lead singer of Van Halen in 2002. Google+

4 responses to “How to NOT ruin a non-stick frying pan … and are they toxic?”

  1. Appliance fact! Apparently the inventor of Teflon was a fisher, who created a non-stick coating for his fishing rod. His wife saw this and then asked him to put the same stuff on her cookware. Yay!

  2. Don Neal says:

    Use caste iron, no stick, look after it no hassles

  3. Susan says:

    “cite”, not “site”. Sorry, grammar police in attendance here. Otherwise enjoyed your article.

  4. Richie Black says:

    Thanks Susan! It’s good to be stick-ler for detail when it comes to grammar!

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