Ceramic vs Teflon | Which Nonstick is Best?

Xtrema ceramic cookware
My work is reader-supported; if you buy through my links, I may earn affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. Full disclosure here.

Are you wondering about ceramic-coated cookware, how it’s better than Teflon or is it better at all? What’s best, nonstick pans with Teflon or the ceramic type of non stick pans without Teflon? Or are you wondering about harmful chemicals in these? Here’s what I’ve discovered about Teflon vs ceramic non-stick cookware.

Which is better, ceramic or Teflon?

Ceramic non-stick is a newer technology in cookware compared to Teflon, which goes back to 1938. Where it’s superior to Teflon-coated cookware is that ceramic nonstick has no PTFE, making it is less worrisome for people who care about avoiding harm to the environment or to human health.

Is ceramic better than Teflon? The main reason people choose ceramic-coated cookware over Teflon is because it is PFTE-free, making it a ‘greener’ option and a ‘healthier’ choice for many. So yes, in important ways it is better.

Otherwise, these cookware types offer similar advantages and disadvantages in using non-stick pots and pans.

Similarities: Ceramic-coated vs. Teflon-coated cookware

  • Similar price range
  • Suited to a low-fat cooking style
  • Lightweight, so there’s no heavy lifting
  • A non-stick coating that’s non-reactive (doesn’t react to acidic foods)
  • Need care to avoid wearing away the cooking surface
  • Not best for cooking with high temperatures
  • Both claim to be free of PFOA (Teflon since 2012), which I cover below.

Let’s look at these two types of cookware in how they may differ or not in more detail, and then you can decide for yourself which is best for you.

Let’s start with Teflon.

Teflon

In their Teflon cookware overview 2, the makers of Teflon, Chemours (a spin-off of DuPont), describe how it is a synthetic resin of polymerized tetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).1

To make Teflon-coated cookware, this PFTE formula is sprayed over a metal base to provide a nonstick cooking surface for cookware suited to using less fat or oil. 

Video: How Teflon is made

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

Teflon is a trademark. That’s why I have written it with a capital letter and you’ll sometimes see it with the trademark symbol TM, like here.

Teflon is PFTE-coated cookware, but PTFE has many other applications, including in the automotive industry.

Are there toxic chemicals in this Teflon non stick coating? I go into that further on.

But for now, let’s look at ceramic.

Ceramic

Ceramic non-stick cookware is made in a similar fashion. The main difference between these types of cookware is the formula for the nonstick properties of the cooking surface.

Does ceramic non stick have Teflon in the mix? No. The typical ceramic nonstick coating does not contain Teflon. It is made from inorganic materials, natural silica sand, and applied using sol-gel technology. I wrote about the coating process in ‘how they make ceramic cookware‘.

But, just to cover it here…

Why are ceramic pans non stick? Instead of using the polymer PFTE to prevent food from sticking, a coating of the sol-gel sand formula gives the pans a glass-like finish.

Yes, but why is ceramic non stick? The smooth glass-like surface, the feature of ceramic coated-cookware, means food won’t stick because there are no microscopic pores to which the particles can adhere.

I cover more in my guide to buying ceramic cookware.

Teflon vs. ceramic durability

Both Teflon and ceramic non stick pans need certain care to extend the life of their non-stick surface.

Both surfaces deteriorate. Ceramic coated surfaces can wear just as easily as Teflon ones.

(If you’re wanting pans that will last you a lifetime, your better options are quality stainless steel cookware or cast iron cookware but you’ll need to use cooking oils, as with these, food sticks without lubrication.)

teflon vs ceramic cookware
Deteriorating PFTE coating exposing the aluminum base

See: My article on what to do with old teflon pans

How long the coating lasts depends on the amount of use and how well you treat the nonstick cookware.

Read my full guide here on how to get the most life out of your nonstick pans.

Without proper care, the nonstick surface might deteriorate within a few weeks to months even in both types of cookware.

Aluminum is the common type of base material in these lightweight nonstick pans and is exposed once the nonstick coating is damaged.

Bare aluminum cookware is not what you want for cooking because of the health concern it raises, as I explain in my article on choosing the healthiest cookware.

Use non metal utensils:

To avoid scratching ceramic- or PTFE-coated cookware, use a silicone utensil. Other suitable options include nylon, bamboo, or wooden utensils.

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

Hand cleaning is recommended:

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

I recommend following instructions that come with your purchase on how to care for ceramic cookware.

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 as this can quicken the deterioration of the nonstick surface. It will reduce the life of nonstick cookware.

Manufacturers tend to advise users to cook at low to medium heat for both types of nonstick cookware, except in designs where the nonstick properties have been enhanced with new technologies.

Now let’s cover the safety concerns.

What is safer, ceramic or Teflon

Is Teflon safe?

One of the main questions people ask is: Does Teflon cause cancer?

The concern with Teflon and cancer relates to PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), which is a strong acid and considered carcinogenic to animals 4. This dangerous chemical is no longer used in Teflon cookware sold in the USA.

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.

DuPont admits that Teflon gas, emitted when the cookware is overheated, is toxic. This is thought to cause ‘Teflon flu’ in humans.2, 3 The toxic fumes are said to irritate eyes, nose, and throat and cause respiratory distress, with symptoms likely to last 24 hr.2

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

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 on high heat settings. The breakdown products emitted with overheating can be lethal for birds. ²

There are health risks to pet birds. 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?

The ceramic technology that offers a pan without Teflon is said to be healthier because it has no toxic chemicals. 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.

FAQs

Summing It Up

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 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4544973/
  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
Share on: