Goodbye Teflon

browniesinskilletIt has been a goal of mine for several years to swear off non-stick cookware. I believe that the potential health risks are just too concerning. Knowing that people have killed their pet birds by accidentally leaving a non-stick pan on the stove, creating toxic vapors, just makes me wonder what it does to me.

And, the warnings that come with these skillets- to never use them on high heat- worry me too. Who can cook without ever going above medium heat? I feel that even using great caution with the pans still leaves the risk that molecules of non-stick chemicals are making their way into my food, every day, in small quantities. There are so many chemicals in our environment that we cannot avoid or control, I want to minimize the ones I can control.

So, we’ve been building an inventory of cast iron and stainless steel pans over the last year. Thus far, I prefer the cast iron, it seems easier to clean. It works great for baking- I’m tending to choose my 12″ skillet for brownies (shown in the photo) and cornbread over a 9″ square baking pan. The cast iron makes a nicer crust, and the product comes out clean and easily.

We’ve adjusted well enough to the new pans to have finally given away our old Teflon pans to a charity. The only trouble we’re still having with the cast iron is cooking delicate things, like fish and eggs-over-easy. They stick to the pan too much, and scraping them off the bottom gives them a rough, unattractive appearance. Teflon clearly wins in performance here. Anyone have suggestions on ways to cook fragile foods in non-non-stick cookware?

What I was suprised to learn is that cleaning cast iron isn’t as much work as I thought it would be. After the pan has cooled a bit, I give it a good scrub with a metal scrubber under hot water. I pat dry, then apply a thin film of olive oil, spreading it with a paper towel. We keep a bottle of olive oil out on the stove, with a pour spout, so oiling the pans to keep them from rusting is easy. Next, I’d like a nice over-the-stove ceiling rack on which to hang them. Since we use them almost every day, I leave them sitting out on the stove. But it’ll be nice to have a better place to store them sometime in the future.

2 thoughts on “Goodbye Teflon

  1. Linda Wendt says:

    Hi there! Really bummed out over the sheep. That is the hard part of farm life, isn’t it?!

    Re cast-iron pans: I grew up with them,got my own when I left home, and received my dad’s collection when he died (mom really dislikes cast-iron). Just in case you haven’t received dozens of suggestions for making your iron pans non-stick, here is how I do it. First of all, I keep a separate “egg” pan. My husband has finally learned not to wash it in soapy water! I clean mine in hot water with a “Dobie” cleaning pad, not steel. It cleans the pan well without removing the nice “no-stick” finish. When the pan is new, or has been scrubbed raw, I begin to (re)season it in the oven. After a wash and dry, I put a little oil, olive!, in the pan and wipe it dry with a paper towel. I then put the pan into a very low oven for about an hour. When the pan has cooled a bit and can be handled comfortably, I wipe it, again, with the oily paper towel. If it’s for preparing eggs, even over-easy, I cook nothing (!!) else in it. When cooking with the iron pans, I heat the pan, with or without, oil on high (don’t smoke the oil if it is in the pan), then turn the heat down to proceed cooking whatever is planned. I have found the food less likely to stick to a well-seasoned pan, heated very hot first, allowed to drop to a medium-high or medium temp, then food put in to cook. I do the same pan prep when I am preparing roasting meats as well as stove-top preparations. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

    Lamb chops work beautifully in them! mmmmm

    Take care,

    • workingcollies says:

      Yeah, losing sheep is tough- almost everyone I know who raises sheep has gone through this (or does continually if they have not found a complete solution) and I know statistically, coyotes and dogs are the cause of the biggest losses to the sheep industry in general. So, I’m in good company, though I hope to find a solution soon! I may have a lead on a guardian dog, I’m exploring my options there.

      Thanks for the tips on the cast iron pans! Dobie scrubbers huh? I have been using the harsh metal ones, so maybe I need to switch. And more frequently re-season my pans. I’ll give it a try!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *