I have a confession to make.
I've been cooking on non-stick cookware for years and have only recently gotten really serious about getting it out of my house. Like, until three weeks ago. But the things I've learned in the last two weeks about nonstick cookware have bothered me. A lot. Enough that it got me out of bed in the middle of the night (it's 1:00AM!) to tell you: You need to get rid of yours, too.
For the last several years, if you would have asked me about buying cookware, I would have told you that nonstick is bad for you: choose stainless steel or cast iron. I would have told you that because it's true. While telling you this, though, at home I owned stainless steel and cast iron pots and pans - and also quite the collection of nonstick cookware. I felt guilty every time I used it but I used it nonetheless.
A decade ago, before I knew any better, I used cheap non-stick pans from Walmart. Then I sold Pampered Chef. During my five years as a Pampered Chef consultant, I amassed quite the collection of very high end non-stick cookware through winning contests, earning pieces during consultant promotions - to the tune of about $1000 worth of fancy cookware.
When I was a Pampered Chef consultant, something my cousin said to me at one of the cooking show demos she attended was "I don't want to cook on chemicals." She'd asked about pots and pans and I told her about the "super awesome" nonstick cookware and that was her response. At the time, I really believed these items, made with DuPont's Autograph 2 coating, were safe - and that's what I told my friends, family and cooking show guests. Her statement, though, still haunts me. I wish I'd known better and looked into the issue more closely at the time instead of writing it off as another of her eccentricities.
Fast forward 10 years
So here I am: 10 years later telling you that you absolutely must make this the year to get rid of your non-stick cookware. Yes, even if it isn't flaking off in chunks that you're trying to pretend are pepper. What changed?
In addition to plenty of news about new findings that PFOA, PTFE, and PFAS (the main chemical components in non-stick cookware, microwave popcorn bags and grease-resistant pizza poxes) are not actually as safe as once thought, I read this brilliantly well done piece from New York Times Magazine about the long and sordid history of these chemicals and the multi-decade cover-up that happened at DuPont. Reading the full history was the tipping point for me. This is the kind of stuff everyone needs to know - and I'm doing you a disservice if I don't tell you about it.
4 Reasons to Ditch Non-Stick This Year
While I've read so many thousands of words on this subject in the last month, I could probably write a 10 page paper on the subject, let me break it down and make it really simple. If you want more details, on these claims, please see the very long and very detailed articles in my "Further Reading" section at the bottom of this post
Four BIG reasons why you need to ditch your non-stick cookware ASAP:
1. Exposure to the signature chemical components in non-stick cookware (PFOA, PTFE and PFAS) - are linked to:
- Testicular cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Thyroid disease
- High cholesterol
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Weakened immunity
- Liver inflammation
2. Toxic fumes from non-stick cookware being used at too high a temperature can kill pets - birds are especially susceptible. I'm not talking about using it carelessly- in some cases, leaving an empty pan on the stovetop for just 2 minutes can create enough toxic fumes to kill birds - yikes!
3. Toxic fumes from overheated cookware can also called flu-like symptoms in humans - often called "Teflon Flu" by industry insiders. Symptoms of Teflon flu include diarrhea, headaches, nausea, fever and malaise.
4. Pregnant moms exposed to the chemicals in non-stick cookware have a higher incidence of:
- Low birth weight babies
- Birth defects
- Pregnancy related hypertension
Before You Throw It Out!
My friend, Leah, who runs Mamavation put out a call last week in light of these recent news stories about the DuPont cover up urging people to throw their non-stick pans away.
Before you do anything: Do not actually throw your pans in the trash!
Now, you should absolutely stop using them. But let me tell you why you shouldn't throw them away just yet: You might be able to use them to help you get better pans.
If you literally throw your pans in the trash, you are out whatever money you paid for those pans AND you will need to spend money on new pans. Many companies, though, have a guarantee on their pans. Here are useful guarantees and exchange policies I know about:
Pampered Chef: If you have Pampered Chef Executive Cookware, it comes with a lifetime warranty on scratches, dings, etc. Take a good look at your cookware. If you have scratches, dings, peeling in the surface, etc call 1-888-687-2433 and tell them you want to make a warranty claim on your piece(s). Then tell them that you are concerned about the durability or safety of the non-stick and ask if you can just pay the difference to have an equivalent stainless steel pan sent to you instead of a replacement nonstick pan.
I personally sent back 10 pieces of cookware and paid about $100 in upgrade costs and $50 for shipping to get some seriously high end stainless steel cookware and I couldn't be happier about it.
Bed, Bath and Beyond: Bed, Bath and Beyond has one of the most amazing and generous return policies. If you bought your pans at Bed, Bath and Beyond (even if you do not have the receipt), you can return them to any of their stores. Tell them you bought it there and are unhappy with it and want to exchange it for store credit to get different pans instead.
Nordstrom: Nordstrom doesn't actually have a return policy but they are always striving to satisfy their customers. If you bought your cookware at Nordstrom (even if you do not have the receipt), return it to any of their stores. Tell them you bought it there, are unhappy with it and want to exchange it for store credit to get different pans instead.
These are just the companies whose policies I know about. If your cookware manufacturer or vendor isn't on this list, call them anyway. Tell them you are unhappy with a pan (or cookware set...whatever it is) you bought from them and you want to know if you can exchange it for a different one - and then choose stainless steel or cast iron. And would you do me a favor? After you call, let me know how it went in the comments. I'd love to update this post with other companies who will work with you on exchanges to make you happy.
If you have tried to get the company you got your cookware from to exchange and they still say no, at that point you can throw your pans away. Check out what you should replace them with below!
So you're ditching non-stick (yay!). Replace your toxic non-stick pans with stainless steel, cast iron or glass pots and pans. Replace non-stick baking sheets and pans with stoneware.
Here are some of my favorite options:
Stainless steel pots and pans are easy to find but not all are created equally. My personal favorite pans are from The Pampered Chef (buy them here from my friend Terri. Tell her I sent you). They are admittedly pricey but they are fabulous and will last, literally, forever. If you are on a budget or want to hold them in your hands first (not a bad idea!), check out Macy's, Nordstom or Bed Bath and Beyond. If you just need the least expensive, non-toxic pans possible, check out Amazon, IKEA or Ross. The really inexpensive pans won't perform as well or feel as balanced BUT you'll have a healthy surface to cook on and that means a lot! Plus, you can always upgrade later as funds allow.
Cast iron is another great option in your kitchen. We personally own a 12" skillet, an 8" skillet and a Long Griddle/Grill and use them all the time. In fact, the 12" skillet is my favorite pan to make pancakes in. I always buy my cast iron items from Lodge because the pieces are not only high quality but affordable and made in America.
You can get vintage cast iron at thrift stores but beware of cast iron pieces if you don't know their history - before the dangers of lead were well known, lead hobbyists would use cast iron to melt down lead to use to cast their own figurines. To be sure a vintage piece is safe, bring some 3M Lead Check swabs shopping with you. If the swab turns pink or red, don't buy it! If it turns black or orange, that's just some of the seasoning wiping off. Only be concerned with a pink or red reading on a swab.
Not sure how to care for cast iron. It's easy! Let me teach you how.
I have not personally cooked with glass cookware on my stovetop so I don't have anything to say about its performance. I will say, however, that it is inert and a healthy surface to cook on. I don't think it's for me because I have two active boys and an occasionally clumsy husband and I just see these breaking in my house. But if you have more careful chefs, you may want to check it out.
From cookie sheets to casserole dishes, Pampered Chef has a stoneware dish that you can use to swap out for non-stick ones - and they will perform better, too! I've written a detailed review of Pampered Chef stoneware on Twined and they are the only brand of Stoneware I buy. (If you want your own, buy them here from my friend Terri. Tell her I sent you) You can get some of the Pampered Chef stoneware items on Amazon but truthfully, you'll get a better deal by going through Terri.
If you found this post, helpful, informative or insightful, please share it on social media.
For further reading, please also see:
- Despite Clear Dangers, DuPont Keeps Using Toxic Chemical (New York Times)
- Teflon Chemical Harmful at Small Doses: PFOA Found in 97 Public Water Systems in 27 States (Environmental Working Group)
- The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Worst Nightmare (From New York Times Magazine)
- The Teflon Toxin - DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception (From The Intercept)
- DuPont’s deadly deceit: The decades-long cover-up behind the “world’s most slippery material” (from Salon)
- Skip the Non-Stick to Avoid the Dangers of Teflon (from Environmental Working Group)
- Teflon Toxicosis is Deadly to Pet Birds: Are We At Risk? (from The Environmental Working Group)
- EWG's Guide to Avoiding PFCs (from Environmental Working Group)
Carissa is a green lifestyle expert, researcher, and mom to two boys. The owner and lead writer for Creative Green Living, she is also the author of two e-books including the best-selling beverage cookbook, Infused: Recipes for Herb & Fruit Infused Water, Tea and More. Her goal is to empower families to make healthier choices that are easy, taste great and are fun!
Follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or join the Creative Green Living community group on Facebook.
Follow her on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or join the Creative Green Living community group on Facebook.