What to Know About Ceramic vs Teflon

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People often wonder about ceramic vs Teflon when it comes to buying non stick pans. If you are in a quandary and don’t know whether to choose pans with Teflon or ceramic, which are non stick pans without Teflon, read on.

What’s better, ceramic or Teflon pans?

I cover the ceramic nonstick range in my article on what to look for when buying a ceramic cookware set.

Here I compare this ceramic type of nonstick cookware with that of Teflon.

Ceramic Pans vs Teflon Pans

It helps to know the characteristics of the materials and how best to care for and use them.

What is Teflon made of?

The manufacturers, Chemours (a spin-off of DuPont) describe Teflon as a synthetic resin of polymerized tetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). So, the main constituent in Teflon is this polymer, PTFE.

How Do They Make Teflon Pans

This PFTE formula is sprayed over a metal base to provide nonstick coated cookware. 

Discovery Channel shows the making of PTFE pans in this short video…

A Note About PTFE vs Teflon

Teflon is a trademark. You’ll see it written with a capital letter and sometimes with the trademark symbol. Cookware carrying this trademark will have a coating of PTFE.

So, in terms of PTFE vs Teflon…

Teflon is a brand of coating that contains the compound, PTFE. Whereas, PTFE itself is a chemical compound that has a number of applications.

How Do They Make Ceramic Nonstick Pans

Ceramic nonstick cookware is made in a similar fashion to that shown for Teflon. The main difference is the coating.

The ceramic nonstick coating is made from natural sand applied using sol-gel technology.

Why are ceramic pans non stick?

Instead of using the polymer, PFTE, to prevent food from sticking, the sol-gel sand formula is applied to give the pans a glass-like finish.

So, why is ceramic non stick? The resulting surface is smooth with no microscopic pores in which food particles can adhere. This is the feature of ceramic nonstick cookware.

For more details about the coating process, see my article on how they make ceramic cookware.

Similarities: Nonstick Ceramic vs Nonstick Teflon

  • Both are marketed at similar prices
  • Both products are non-reactive
  • Both claim to be free of PFOA (Teflon since 2012), which I cover below.

Teflon vs Ceramic Care Instructions

Both Teflon and ceramic non stick pans need certain care to extend the life of their nonstick surface. Deteriorating surfaces happen with ceramic coated pans just as easily as they do with Teflon pans with use over time.

Deteriorating PFTE coating exposing aluminium base

Similar to Teflon non stick, ceramic coatings can wear off over time depending on the amount of use and how well you treat the nonstick ceramic cooking pots.

Bare aluminum cookware is not what you want for cooking, as my article on choosing the healthiest cookware explains, whether it is a ceramic non stick pan or a Teflon one.

Use Non Metal Utensils

To avoid scratching Teflon or ceramic coated pans, use only bamboo or wooden spoons, nylon spatulas, or other utensils suited to non stick cookware.

This means stay away from metal tongs and egg-flippers with both Teflon cookware and pans with ceramic coating.

Hand Cleaning Is Recommended

With the nonstick surface intact, cleaning is simple. A light hand wash without abrasive scourers or a wipe with a paper towel is all that is needed for cleaning both Teflon and ceramic nonstick cookware. 

It’s always best to follow the instructions for individual cookware.

Read more in my article on how to care for ceramic cookware, non stick type.

Stick To Safe Heating Temperatures

There are health concerns about PTFE (see below) when heated at high temperatures. Whereas, cookware with a ceramic coating can be heated without health concerns.

In either case, very high-temperature use is unwise for both as this can quicken the deterioration of the nonstick surface and thus reduce the life of nonstick cookware.

Manufacturers tend to advise users to cook at low to medium heat for both types of nonstick cookware.

Is Teflon Safe?

This is probably one of the main questions people ask: Does Teflon cause cancer?

The concern with Teflon and cancer relates to using PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which is a strong acid and considered a carcinogenic to animals. 4

DuPont claims that since January 1, 2012, PFOA has not been used in their nonstick coatings for cookware and consumer bakeware.

Another often asked question: Is Teflon toxic? This is what the manufacturers, DuPont, say:

  • “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that Teflon™ nonstick coatings for cookware are acceptable for conventional kitchen use. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission rejected a petition in 2003 to require a label warning for nonstick coatings. The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not believe there is any reason for consumers to stop using any consumer or industrial related products.” — www.chemours.com, accessed Sept 2019 2

Is Teflon Bad for You?

It’s best to avoid cooking with Teflon at temperatures above 482 °F (250 °C), as some technical studies ¹ claim this is where the PTFE coating starts to deteriorate and become concerning for health.

The particles scratched from Teflon pans, however, are not considered harmful.

DuPont admits, however, that Teflon gas is toxic and this is emitted when the cookware is overheated. It has been said that this can cause a Teflon flu in humans.2, 3 In these cases, the toxic fumes are said to irritate eyes, nose, and throat and cause respiratory distress, with symptoms likely to last 24 hr.2

Does Teflon Coating Cause Harm to Birds?

Environmental harm is one of the concerns associated with Teflon.

As noted above, the coating deteriorates at temperatures above medium heat settings. The breakdown products emitted with overheating can be lethal for birds. ²

DuPont warns: “birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems, bird owners must take precautions to protect them” (www.chemours.com, accessed Sept 2019). 2

If you have birds, you may want to steer away from Teflon or at least make sure your birds are well away from the kitchen and the exhaust vents. Unless of course, you can ensure you maintain cooking heat at low to medium.

Is Ceramic Safe?

Is ceramic nonstick cookware safe?

The ceramic technology that offers a non stick pan without Teflon is said to be healthier because it is PTFE and PFOA free, as well as free from cadmium and lead, and hence considered toxin free.

You can read more about whether the ceramic coating is safe in my article on the safety of ceramic nonstick cookware.

Summing It Up – Ceramic vs Teflon

My thoughts on ceramic coated cookware vs Teflon is that it’s best to throw out that old scratched nonstick pan and check out your options.

Looking for non Teflon pans for reduced fat cooking as a healthy alternative to normal cooking? Why not consider ceramic non stick cookware. Or for a pan that lasts and lasts, a cast iron skillet, which when seasoned will provide the sought-after nonstick performance.

See also my write up on 100% ceramic cookware, made from all natural material.

What is the Best Non Stick Pan without Teflon

Why not check out my guide to the best ceramic non stick frying pans.

References

  1. Zapp JA, Limperos G, Brinker KC (26 April 1955). “Toxicity of pyrolysis products of ‘Teflon’ tetrafluoroethylene resin”. Proceedings of the American Industrial Hygiene Association Annual Meeting.
  2. Key Safety Questions About Teflon™ Nonstick Coatings. https://www.chemours.com/Teflon/en_US/products/safety/key_questions.html# Accessed Sept 2019
  3. Epidemic of Polymer Fever
  4. Lau C, Anitole K, Hodes C, Lai D, Pfahles-Hutchens A, Seed J (October 2007). “Perfluoroalkyl acids: a review of monitoring and toxicological findings”. Toxicol. Sci99(2): 366–94. doi:10.1093/toxsci/kfm128