With health at risk, home chefs are more worried about when to replace the non-stick pans or if it is okay to keep using scratched pans.
Slightly scratched pans in no way cause health issues. However, it’s an indication that you will soon have to go on a hunt to find a better replacement for a non-stick pan. Highly non-scratched pans tell another story of abuse and screams of replacing and throwing it out.
Is It Safe to Use Scratched Non Stick Pan?
In simple words it is not safe to use scratched non stick pan. Not just that it becomes ineffective to cook in a scratched pan with food sticking on it, but there are also speculations regarding ingestion of non-stick coating.
Myths and facts often get mixed up about non-stick pans’ safety, instilling fear among the consumers. Let’s bust the myths and differentiate them from facts and explain comprehensively about how bad scratched non-stick pan in reality is:
Myth # 1: Ingested Flakes from Scratched Pans are Harmful
Fact: The non-stick coating is generally made of Teflon (PTFE). According to research, PTFE has distinctive characteristics; it is non-reactive, non-toxic, and chemically inert.
According to Paul Honigfort, FDA consumer safety officer, “In any rare case when a person ingests flakes of the non-stick coating due to scratches, the flakes will pass out of the body without being absorbed or without having a harmful effect on health.”
It won’t react chemically in the body and won’t harm or interrupt natural body processes. So, you can even eat a spoonful of non-stick coating from scratched Teflon pans, only if you like the taste or chewing the coating, without being worried or landing in the ER.
In a similar manner, non-stick coating other than PTFE, such as ceramic coating, is also harmless even if the flakes from scratched ceramic pans are ingested by mistake.
Myth # 2: Inner Metal Exposure Due to Scratching Can leach Harmful Chemicals
Fact: Most non-stick pans have an inner core made of aluminum or aluminum alloys. As a result of scratching, the inner aluminum core gets exposed. The more scratched your pan is, the more exposed the inner metal core will be.
Aluminum leaching from aluminum cooking vessels is linked to various diseases. According to Pubmed, aluminum toxicities can result in Crohn’s disease, IBS, Alzheimer’s, infertility, breast cancer, and cyst, along with many other diseases.
That’s why ESFA has regulated a tolerable weekly intake of aluminum which is 1 mg of Al metal/kg body weight /week.
However, the worth-noting point is that lightly scratched non-stick pans only expose a smaller surface area of aluminum; thus, the amount of aluminum leaching into the food is less as compared to cookware which is entirely made of aluminum.
Moreover, research has also confirmed that the type of food and temperature also affects aluminum leaching. High temperature and acidic food increase aluminum concentration levels in food.
Takeaway: Slight scratches won’t expose a higher surface area of aluminum and thus won’t have adverse health effects due to aluminum toxicities. Even highly chipped non-stick cookware is not as dangerous, and fewer chances of exceeding the aluminum weekly permissible limit. Still, to be on the safe side, replace your highly chipped non-stick pan.
You may also like to find out are nonstick pans oven safe?
The Only Scare of Non-Stick Coating is Cooking on High Temperature
If your pan has PTFE, aka Teflon coating, the only scare of the non-stick coating is cooking at high temperatures. Despite being an inert and stable chemical, PTFE or Teflon coating begins to disintegrate at higher temperatures of about 570° F.
The high heat causes toxic fumes to emit, resulting in temporary flu-like symptoms, headaches, chills, or fever.
But even high heat doesn’t affect the food cooked in non-stick pans in any way.
The simple solution is to cook either on medium heat or use alternative Ceramic non-stick pans that are safe and don’t emit any toxic fumes at high temperatures.
How to Prevent your Pan from Scratches
To avoid your non-stick cookware ruining from scratches and food sticking, follow these preventive measures and enjoy cooking on the same non-stick pan for a longer period.
- Don’t use metal or silver utensils, forks, spatulas, tongs, or electric beaters on non-stick interior surfaces. Best spatulas for non-stick pans are made of wood, silicone, or plastic to avoid scratching.
- Don’t wash your non-stick pan with abrasive metal scrubbers, scouring pads, or steel wool.
- Don’t stack your non-stick pan together; it can cause chipping and damage the coating.
- Don’t cook anything on high heat. Always cook on low to medium heat on non-stick pans.
- Don’t hate your non-stick when it’s empty. It will affect the non-stick coating.
- Don’t use harsh washing detergents. It will dry off the non-stick pan and will eventually result in chipping and flaking.
For removing scratches from the non stick frying pan you can try this guide.
To sum up, the answer to the question “are non-stick pans safe” is yes, the non-stick pans are safe if you comply with preventive measures. Also, scratched non-stick pans don’t pose serious health threats, even if you accidentally ingest non-stick coating. However, we recommend replacing your non-stick pan before it gets highly scratched with more aluminum exposure through the scratches. It will also be useless because the non-stick quality gets compromised when the coating is chipped.