Let’s Talk Teflon

Dear Home Ec 101,

My popover pan that has been with me through thick and thin (and one husband and a couple of boyfriends!) has suddenly started misbehaving. Where before I could simply tip the pan over and golden fabulous popovers will pop right out.. Now when I pull the pan out of the oven, all my popovers STICK TO THE PAN.

I never grease the cups (the recipe I used never called for that). It’s one of those black Teflon ones.

What could be causing this?

Love,

Hellz (and Popovers) NOT a’poppin

Heather says:

Teflon has a limited lifespan. There are several things you can do to ensure your pans meet their expected use, but the nonstick properties will only last a finite amount of time even following all instructions to the letter. Since your pan was used for popovers, which are cooked at high heat, I’m surprised it lasted as long as it did.

Eventually, even with perfect care the nonstick coating will lose its effectiveness. At normal cooking temperatures Teflon is inert. This simply means it is nonreactive. However, at high temperatures (572F) the PTFE (polytetrafluoethylene, the chemical name of the nonstick coating) will break down, releasing fumes that can cause flu-like symptoms that is fatal to birds. The bird owning community suggests that it can happen at lower temperatures, but I have only seen anecdotal evidence.

Here are five tips for ensuring your Teflon meets its expected lifespan.

  1. Never, ever, ever, ever (did I make that clear?) use metal utensils. Do not use them to stir, to cut, or to scrape your Teflon cookware. Seriously, put the fork down and use a nylon, rubber, or wooden utensil. I mean it.
  2. Keep the cookware out of the dishwasher. Most detergents are too harsh for the coating and will cause it to wear out prematurely. Hand wash with dish soap and use either nylon scrubbers or scrapers for particles that don’t wipe off easily.
  3. Carefully store your pans. If you must stack them due to space limitations, use a dish towel between pieces to prevent unintentional dings or chips.
  4. Do not use Teflon pans with acidic foods. Nonstick cookware is best used for foods such as eggs, baking, or foods that are pan fried. Avoid vinegar or tomato based sauces. Never use your nonstick cookware to store foods. Remember, it’s called cookware.
  5. Finally, avoid temperature extremes or sudden changes in temperature. If you have a hot pan, do not place it in cool water, these temperature extremes stress the coating.

If you are worried about cooking with Teflon, seasoned cast iron is a fabulous, if heavy alternative.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.