Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Green Alternatives: Teflon
Green Alternatives is a series that shows you the green alternatives to normally wasteful/toxic products. I use all of the featured products in my own home. I am not being paid to endorse any of the products in this series, I just really like them! In my opinion, a green alternative falls into at least 2 of these categories:
1. They contain no toxic chemicals/fragrances/etc
3. They contain less or no plastic
4. They are produced by ethical companies who care about my health and the environment
Teflon is slowly becoming widely known as toxic, but is also the most commonly used coating on household pots, pans, and bakeware. The reason it is so undeniably popular is because it creates a non-stick surface on cookware, making cooking an apparent breeze. However, when Teflon is heated to high temperatures, it releases toxic fumes that will kill a bird if it is in the same room. Yes, that is correct. It will kill a bird. Well that was more than enough information for me to begin phasing Teflon coated products out of our house almost one year ago. Today I am proud to say that we no longer use any cookware that is Teflon coated. Yes, it has been a struggle to find some of the more commonly used items without this toxic coating, but I have managed to come up with a nicely stocked kitchen that functions just fine without it.
I find it disturbing that one must search out products that do not have a non-stick coating. It is as if they have taken over the entire cookware section, suffocating everyone with their vile contents. I believe that consumers should have a choice when it comes to selecting their products, and not have to search high and low for something that won't potentially poison them.
So what do I use as alternatives? For bakeware, I have a lovely set of aluminum muffin tins and cookie sheets. I have had no issues with the cookie sheets being "sticky", and do not grease them when I am making cookies. As far as the muffin tins go, I grease them, but I also always greased my non-stick muffin tins. I also have a glass brownie pan, glass bread pans, two glass casserole dishes that are great for crumbles, and ceramic pie plates. I have to admit that the glass bread pans are not my favourite, as the bread always sticks to the bottom, but we recently received four uncoated metal bread tins from D's family as a gift, so I am looking forward to using those. Otherwise, the glass is great. All of my pots are stainless steel. None of my cooling racks are coated, and neither are any of my kitchen utensils. I do not use a bread machine because one does not exist that isn't Teflon coated. I bake my bread by hand instead.
PFOA is the chemical that makes up Teflon
But my all time favourite Teflon alternative? Cast iron! Oh, I am in LOVE with my cast iron frying pans. We have two, one larger, and one quite small, and they are amazing. We have had them for about a year now, and they are perfectly seasoned, and a breeze to cook with. They also come with an added bonus that they add iron to the food you cook in them. This is a great way to get more iron into your diet, which can be a bit of a challenge when you are vegetarian. I honestly do not understand why we devolved past the cast iron pan. All of our grandparents and great grandparents used them, and they worked just fine. What happened? Yes, cast iron is heavy, but you get used to that. No, you can't put it in the dishwasher, but you shouldn't be putting your Teflon pans in there either! Over time, cast iron develops a great non-toxic, natural non-stick coating on it's own. Plus, cast iron lasts for years, even decades. How many people have gotten a Teflon pan passed down from their great grandmother?
Cast iron is also easy to clean. I simply run mine under hot water and scrub off any residue. If there is something particularly stuck to it, I simply rub some salt on it to scrub it off, and rinse. If there is something incredibly stuck to it (rarely happens), then I fill the pan with water, bring it to a boil on the stovetop for one minute, and then wipe everything out. Works like a charm! After every cleaning, I put it on the stove, warm it up, and spread a thin film of olive oil over the entire thing. It is then ready for the next use.
Cast iron also is wonderful at retaining heat, it is oven safe (unlike Teflon), and it is sturdy! There is no way you could hurt one of these babies! The handle will never break off or come loose. And it is cheap to buy! Our large pan was less than $25, and it will last a lifetime. We will never have to buy another pan that size again. I cannot say enough about how much I love cast iron. Seriously.
I encourage you all to begin phasing out the Teflon in your house. Don't feel like you have to throw everything out (don't throw any of it out actually, donate it!) right away. Begin by replacing one item at a time, and before you know it, your home will be Teflon free. It is a wonderful feeling.
Will you make your home Teflon free? Have you already begun?