Teflon is one cookware surface with a good deal of fuzziness around it. Many folks I talk to want to know if nonstick and Teflon-coated cookware is safe to use. The answer is mostly yes, these days, but it's not quite that simple.
Nonstick coating is a popular choice, especially for frying pans and skillets. But there are also Teflon-coated pots, bakeware, air fryer baskets and plenty more. The big draw is, of course, that food won't stick to it the way it does to other metal materials so it's easy to flip a pancake or extract an egg. It also makes cleanup a snap.
One downside is that nonstick cookware doesn't impart a ton of direct surface heat hot, so you won't be able to sear meat well and get that coveted crispy crust or seal in flavor. It's also sensitive, and the nonstick coating will chip off and wear out over time. But the biggest worry people have when it comes to Teflon and nonstick cookware is whether or not it's safe to use or potentially toxic.
Here's what you should know about Teflon, and how to tell if your nonstick pan is good to go or needs to be replaced.
What is Teflon, and is it safe to cook with?
Teflon is a brand name for a synthetic chemical called polytetrafluoroethylene that's used in many household products from wire coatings to fabric protectors and kitchen cookware, too. The knock on Teflon is that it's unsafe if consumed or absorbed into the body and can increase the chances of cancer and other diseases. While studies have shown some connections (more on that below), Teflon still exists and is used to make cookware, but the safety concerns around Teflon are mostly a thing of the past.