In the 1990s, non-stick cookware became popular in India to coincide with two social changes—the increasing number of working women who saw it’s easy, fuss-free cleaning process as a time saver and the huge consciousness about health and fat-free diets. Most often it is made of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a compound of carbon and fluorine. The brand name of PTFE is Teflon. In recent years, there have been grave concerns over the health impact of non-stick cookware owing to the leaching of the chemicals into the food.
What happens if non-stick-coated cookware is overheated? At high temperatures, the quality of the coating may begin to deteriorate—it may discolour or lose its non-stick quality. This can begin to occur at temperatures above 500°F (260°C)… the coating may begin to decompose and give off fumes. It's scientifically proven that use of teflon for cooking is carcinogenic for humans, apart from this it's causing innumerable other diseases. So is the case with aluminium cookware. Leaching of aluminium in the food happens over their prolonged use leading to Alzeihmer's and variou other issues.
To use non-stick cookware safely, DuPont (the company which manufactures teflon) recommends: Cook only on low or medium heat, empty pan to never be heated, scrub gently with a plastic scrubber so that the coating doesn’t come off, only use wooden and non-metal spoons to stir or scrape or flip. My question is simple: Is such caution practical in a regular Indian kitchen? With paranthas and dosas requiring us to first heat the tawa to a nice high, how can we prevent the Teflon coating from fuming? The wooden spoon is too thick to flip a dosa with. With a hurried maid servant cleaning vessels, it’s near impossible to ensure she uses the right scrubber and rubs the non-stick pan gently.
The shocking truth is that AT LEAST 90% of Americans have PFOA(used in teflon) in their blood. PFOA is an extremely hardy and stays in the human body for years. According to Environment Working Group, even if all new exposures to PFOA were stopped, it would still take over 4 YEARS for your body to get rid of half of the PFOA that's accumulated in your organs and tissues!
So what's the solution: Go back to the old-fashioned earthernware pots or cast iron kadais & tavas. Not only will the cast iron karahi fortify you food with iron, but also it's cheap, easy to care & nearly indestructible. It gives even cooking temperature & helps prevent you from accidentally burning dinner. Non-burnt dinner is always a win!
Choose your health over convenience. The risks of using non-stick cookware greatly outweigh the benefits. Cook healthy and live healthy!