One sunny summer day, my husband spied a box of old cast iron pans at a garage sale. He purchased them, brought them home with a grin, and presented them to me as if he'd found gold.
I was less than enthused.
They were rusty, heavy, and not non-stick (at least, not at that point). Nothing compared to the shiny teflon-coated pans I loved.
But I should have known. You see, it had all started several weeks before while we were eating dinner. Travis noticed black specks in the mashed potatoes. He asked me about them.
“Oh, that's just my frying pan. The non-stick coating is wearing away.”
Oddly enough, Travis didn't like the idea of ingesting little black chunks of teflon. He did some research, and what he found encouraged him to buy the box of cast iron, rust and all, and promptly bring them home.
I tucked the box in a corner and told Travis that “one day” I'd find out how to clean them up. Several weeks passed while I lovingly cooked with my teflon pans.
But, as much as I tried to avoid the cast iron's rusty little cries to be loved and used, I couldn't. Travis's research wouldn't stop niggling the back of my mind.
Tell Me About Teflon
Teflon is the brand name of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Tests commissioned by the EWG (Environmental Working Group) showed that in just five minutes, teflon-coated cookware can exceed temperatures at which they emit toxic particles and gases linked to pet bird deaths and human illnesses.
Studies show that teflon chemicals break apart to form:
- chemicals linked to cancer or tumors in laboratory studies
- chemical warfare agents and a chemical analog of WWII nerve gas phosgene
- chemicals that are considered highly toxic relative to most other industrial chemicals
Even more disturbing is a study from John Hopkins Medical Center. Researchers tested the umbilical cord blood of 300 newborns and found a teflon chemical in 298 of them.
Teflon chemical coatings is also found in…scientists have studied mortality in rats and birds exposed to the offgas mixtures, but potential long-term health impacts have not been studied. The government has not conducted a safety study of Teflon cookware. Accumulation of the offgas chemicals in food has not been studied. The potential effects to humans of inhalation exposures have not been studied, but several of the offgas components are considered highly toxic to humans relative to most other industrial chemicals. –Environmental Working Group
Teflon Is Found in More Than Pans
And if that isn't enough, teflon is being discovered in more than pans. The non-stick coating can be found in:
- pizza boxes
- fast food containers
- microwave popcorn bags
- packaging for bakery items
- stain-resistant carpeting
- water repellent clothing
- firefighting foam
- computer chips
- phone cables
Teflon Is Out, Cast Iron Is In
That box of rusty pans did eventually find its way into my kitchen. Over the years I've come to love and appreciate their versatility and benefits.
- cast iron increases the amount of iron you consume, especially if you stir the food often or if you're cooking with highly acidic foods like tomatoes. Most people have an iron deficiency (anemia) so this can be beneficial.
- cast iron is easy to clean. If you take care to dry them off after washing, they'll probably outlive you.
- after a proper seasoning, cast iron is just as non-stick as Teflon.
- you can use cast iron with major cooking appliances. We use ours on the stove top (I've used mine on a glass stove top for over ten years), in the oven, the toaster oven, and over an open fire when cooking outdoors. I don't recommend using them in a microwave. Actually, I don't even recommend using food with a microwave… but that's another post.
- cast iron is inexpensive. When you compare the cost of quality stainless steel to quality cast iron there really is no comparison, especially when you consider the next point:
- cast iron is basically indestructible. You can use metal utensils without worrying about scratching it. They last just about forever. If you drop one, all you have to worry about are your toes. Many cast iron lovers are using the pots and skillets passed down from their grandparents.
- cast iron cooks evenly, at high or low temperatures, and creates beautiful loaves of sourdough bread.
- and finally, if you've seen Tangled, you'll know that cast iron is handy in case of intruders. 😉
- Teflon Kills Birds
- Canaries in the Kitchen: Dupont Has Known for 50 Years
- Study Finds Teflon Chemical In Newborn's Umbilical Cord
- Is Teflon Safe?
- 10 Reasons to Try Cast Iron Cookware
- Know Your Food with Wardee, episode #042 — how to shop for cast iron
- Amazing Cast Iron Seasoning
- Cast iron pans on amazon.com
Do you love cast iron, too? What's your top reason?
We only recommend products and services we wholeheartedly endorse. This post may contain special links through which we earn a small commission if you make a purchase (though your price is the same).