I am pretty sure that everyone reading this will be aware that the one thing that Teflon cannot stop sticking is tales of toxicity. Teflon, and other generic non-stick coatings made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) have a tendency, at high heat, to break apart and emit a toxic – and probably carcinogenic – gas that can kill birds and causes a delightful condition called `polymer-fume fever‘ in humans.
Great to know this, but what to do about it? Abandon all non-stick pans and dedicate ourselves to scrubbing? Or seek non-toxic, non-stick alternatives?
For me, it is a combination of the two. Fortunately I can scrub my stainless pans to death with the Lagostina abrasive stainless cleaner that I wrote about before. I have also been experimenting with – and will later write about – different ceramic frying pan coatings.
When it comes to baking, I use silicon sheets under my cookies. The best-known brand is Silipat. Another, possibly slightly cheaper, brand is Exopat. The sheets are around $20 each which is not cheap but they really do last (several thousand uses according to the manufacturer). They also do double duty as they are great for rolling out pastry etc; they grip your worktop not your food.
I used to use non-stick sheets from Lakeland in the UK, until I saw that these were PTFE coated too. (While baking sheets are unlikely to be heated high enough to generate toxic fumes, the whole idea of PTFE puts me off, especially since Dupont – Teflon’s maker – paid out on a class-action lawsuit for elevated birth defects surrounding a PTFE manufacturing plant). So look closely at the label when you buy.
For loaves I use silicon or stoneware but, as I hate greasing pans, I am still on the look out for an easy option.
For larger baking pans (think brownies), my new favourite is a line of non-stick glass bakeware sold under the President’s Choice label at Loblaws stores in Canada.
The pans are coated with silicone nano-particles
(are these nano-partcles we can love? I hope so), that go under the brand name Nami. A company named Green Apple used to sell similar pans in the US, although it looks as though they may have gone out of business. In Germany, Wesco sells a nice range of ceramic pans (including ramekins) with Nami-coating.
The President’s Choice Nami bakeware looks like normal pyrex (and is made of borosilicate glass, just like glass drinking straws), but with a lightly frosted surface. And it really works. No greasing required so no baked-on oil or food to scrub off.
The downsides are price
(pans range from $11.99 to $19.99), available shapes (bring on that loaf tin) and the fact that sharp utensils can cause scratches (though the label says this will not damage the Nami’s non-stick properties). Plus the carbon footprint of this range is likley to be high, since pans are heavy and made in China (much glass cookware is still US-made).
Oh, and the big catch: handwashing is recommend. So you take your pick: handwashing or greasing. I have to say that I prefer the former, though I may be alone in this (I have also risked the delicate cycle on my washing-up machine and seen no damage yet).