I’m not entirely certain that there are health risks associated with Teflon coated pans. It might well be that the amount of Teflon we eat over the years pales in comparison to the plastics that seep into our food when we microwave Tupperware containers, drink from water bottles or inhale in the street. So I’m making no crypto-scientific claims about our plan to rid our house of them. I mean, I’m not this guy.
What I will say is that I’m sick of changing pans every two years. Even apparently high quality non-stick pans don’t seem capable of surviving regular use (or my mother in law scrubbing them with wire scouring pads).
So a few months ago, I bought a couple of cast iron pans, and last week a couple of stainless steel ones. The cast iron pans are good for cooking meat: pork chops and steaks in particular always turn out perfect, while it was difficult to get the temperature high enough in a non-stick pan (which are predominantly made of aluminium, with a copper core designed to make them work on our induction hob). Cast iron needs to be ‘seasoned’ – effectively burning a thin layer of oil onto the metal at high temperature, though god knows if that’s any healthier than eating Teflon – in order to make it less sticky. Once seasoned, you wash it with hot water only (never any soap), dry thoroughly and then rub on a few drops of olive oil to help preventing rusting.
I haven’t used the stainless steel pans as much yet, but made a decent vegetarian couscous the other day and had no real problems. But this morning, I ventured into dangerous territory: frying eggs. Or I thought it was dangerous territory anyway. It turns out that common sense – using a little more oil and not getting the pan too hot – prevailed. In fact, it was bloody easy. It makes me wonder why Teflon pans ever caught on in the first place. I can only imagine that Colette Grégoire was an abysmal cook. Stainless steel pans, incidentally, need no seasoning and don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. I still apply a drop or two of olive oil after washing and drying, to protect the metal.