People often wonder about ceramic vs Teflon when it comes to buying non stick cookware. 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.
Why would you choose one over the other?
It helps if you know the characteristics of the materials and how best to use them. For example, you should know the right cooking temperature and how to best clean the Teflon and the ceramic nonstick cookware.
Ceramic Pans vs Teflon
Here I compare the popular non stick cookware materials of ceramic and Teflon.
Differences As Far As Teflon vs Ceramic
First, the main different traits with regard to ceramic pots vs Teflon…
What is the ceramic coating made of? The ceramic coating is made from natural sand applied using sol-gel technology. You can read more about this in my write up on the pros and cons of ceramics.
What is Teflon made of? Teflon is made of a synthetic resin of polymerized tetrafluoroethylene, mainly PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene).
Compared to Teflon with PTFE, cookware with a ceramic coating can be used at higher temperatures (up to 840°F/450°C) without concern about product safety (see below). Thus, in terms of cooking temperatures, Teflon has a lower recommended temperature for cooking than the ceramic coated cookware in general. However, a note of warning…cooking at high temperatures can shorten the life of ceramic nonstick surfaces anyway. So, it is best to use both at low to medium heat settings.
Similarities Concerning Teflon vs Ceramic
Both are marketed at similar prices.
Both products are non-reactive. Both claim to be free of PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid (Teflon since 2012).
Both need proper care to extend their nonstick surface’s lifespan. Deteriorating surfaces happen with ceramic coated pans just as easily as they do with Teflon pans with use over time.
To avoid scratching Teflon or ceramic coated pans, for starters use only bamboo or wooden spoons, nylon spatulas, or other utensils suited to non stick cookware. For both Teflon cookware and pans with ceramic coating, stay away from metal tongs and egg-flippers.
Yes, so, just like other types of non stick coatings, like Teflon, the ceramic surface will wear off over time depending on how much you use it and how well you treat it. 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.
Definition of Teflon
What defines Teflon? First up, you need to know that Teflon is a trademark. Hence, why it is written with a capital letter.
Manufacturers, DuPont, define Teflon as a synthetic resin of polymerized tetrafluoroethylene.
PTFE vs Teflon
The main polymer, in Teflon, is PTFE, which stands for polytetrafluoroethylene. In practical terms, the cookware carrying the trademark, Teflon, has a Teflon coating made primarily of PTFE, which is sprayed over a metal base to provide a nonstick surface.
So, in terms of PTFE vs Teflon…
Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is a chemical compound and Teflon is a brand of product that contains that compound, PTFE.
Is Teflon Safe?
Does Teflon cause cancer? This is probably one of the main questions people ask.
The concern about cancer relates to PFOA, which is considered a carcinogenic to animals.
About PFOA, Teflon products may or may not contain it. DuPont claims that since January 1, 2012, PFOA is not 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.”
So, Is Teflon Bad for You?
Well, it’s best to avoid cooking with Teflon at temperatures above 482 °F (250 °C), as this is where it technically starts to become concerning for health.¹
DuPont admits that Teflon gas is toxic and this is emitted when the cookware is heated too high. DuPont warns: “birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems, bird owners must take precautions to protect them”. Bits released from scratching Teflon pans, however, are not thought harmful.
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.
Environmental harm is one of the dangers of Teflon. The coating deteriorates at temperatures above medium heat settings, ~500 °F (~260 °C), and the breakdown products can be lethal for birds, in particular.² It can also cause a Teflon flu in humans.2 The toxic fumes irritate eyes, nose, and throat and possibly cause respiratory distress with symptoms likely to last 24 hr.2
So in terms of safety, ceramic appears to lead the way.
Is Ceramic 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 the safety of ceramic nonstick cookware here.
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 here.
What is the Best Non Stick Pan without Teflon
Why not check out my guide to the best ceramic non stick frying pans.
How They Make Teflon Pans
Discovery Channel showed the making of PTFE pans in this short video…
How They Make Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic nonstick cookware is made in a similar fashion to that shown for Teflon. The main difference is the coating. I’ve covered how they make the ceramic cookware here.
- 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.
- “Key Safety Questions about the Safety of Nonstick Cookware”. DuPont, Retrieved 28 November 2018.