How to Get Unstuck from Toxic Non-Stick Pans

This article is reposted from the Mindful Momma blog with thanks to Micaela Preston

Do you have a non-stick pan or two lying around your kitchen? Even though you’ve heard that non-stick pans are bad for your health and not great for the planet either?

Maybe you’re afraid that nothing will work as well as your trusty non-stick. Maybe it’s just a habit that’s hard to break. Or perhaps you think that new cookware costs too much.

Whatever the reason, I’d love to show you how cast iron can be your new best cooking friend!

Why It Matters

I bet you probably don’t want to read a long, drawn-out blog about chemicals – BORING! So I’ll keep this short and to the point.

Non-stick coatings are made with chemicals, some of which are strongly linked to cancer, elevated cholesterol, abnormal hormone levels and other health issues. High heat is what causes the chemicals to break down and release toxins into the air. Plus these chemicals don’t biodegrade, meaning they will always be around in the environment. Studies have shown that nearly all of us have some of these chemicals in our bodies (we also get them from water and stain repellents found in furniture, carpeting and clothing), but we can reduce the impact by avoiding further exposure.

In terms of safety, both cast iron and stainless steel pans are the best alternative to non-stick. In terms of non-stick benefits, cast iron is where it’s at!

Benefits of (and Myths About) Cast Iron

First things first. Let’s dispel a few myths about cast iron.

Myth: Cast iron is not really non-stick.
Truth: A well seasoned cast iron pan has an excellent non-stick surface. Cast iron is fabulous for frying eggs – I do it all the time! A brand new pan may require a bit more oil or fat for frying, but over time, the surface gets better and better.

Myth: You can never use soap on cast iron.
Truth: Soap is not enemy #1. Even Lodge, the top producer of cast iron in the U.S. says a little bit of soap is OK. Start by rinsing and scrubbing off food bits and you’ll probably find you don’t need soap very often.

Myth: Cast iron is really hard to season and maintain.
Truth: Most cast iron pans sold these days come pre-seasoned, meaning there is no laborious seasoning process to contend with. And cleaning is simple – often just a quick scrape and wipe or rinse. Tip: always dry cast iron immediately – either by hand or by heating it up on the stovetop – to avoid rusting. When pan is dry, just wipe a pit of oil in the pan to re-season. This video shows you how in less than a minute.

Myth: You can’t cook tomatoes or other acidic foods in cast iron.
Truth: A well seasoned pan can handle tomatoes or citrus with no problem – just don’t simmer a sauce all day long.

Myth: Cast iron is expensive
Truth: You can get a new cast iron skillet for under $20. You can even find them at garage sales (if you’re lucky)! Sure, larger pieces can get pricey but they last a lifetime, so view it as an investment in healthy cooking.

A few other benefits of cast iron:

  • Super durable – as in last forever durable (can you say that about a non-stick pan?)
  • Great for so many types of cooking – from frying to baking to simmering. We use ours for everything from stews to eggs to cornbread. My husband even bakes sourdough in a cast iron pan.
  • Imparts a small amount of beneficial iron into food.
Pans to Consider

If you were to buy 1 piece of cast iron, I would recommend a 10″ cast iron skillet. There are so many things you can do with this one item – and it costs less than $20! Not a big investment for much safer cookware.

For a bit more money, I also recommend a 10” 3-quart deep skillet with a lid (mine came from a garage sale), and it’s great for chili, soups & stews, a big batch of cornbread, as well as everything you would do with a basic skillet. Love this thing!

And if you’re a pancake family, you’ll want a griddle for sure. We have a rectangular griddle that fits over 2 burners and doubles as a grill. Believe me – it gets a lot of use on both sides! But if you prefer something smaller, round cast iron griddles are available as well, at very affordable prices.