Most kitchens have at least one non-stick pan on hand, and some folks cook exclusively with a nonstick set.
The convenience of nonstick pots and pans is undeniable. For many kitchens these benefits greatly outweigh the limitations that come with nonstick.
Nonstick pans made with Teflon have been incredibly popular since their mass consumer release in 1960. The surge in popularity of this cookware was a major contributor to the decline in US-manufactured cast iron. Cast iron had been a staple in American kitchens for a century.
Over the past decade a new category of non-stick cookware emerged. These new products use ceramic coatings that are baked onto the cook surface in order to achieve a food release similar to Teflon.
In our search for the best non stick pan without Teflon, we found that distinguishing which products use it is actually quite confusing. In many cases a cookware brand will obscure this distinction with their marketing claims.
In this article, we’ll look at the core differences between Teflon and ceramic nonstick cookware, and why kitchens are choosing one over the other. We’ll also provide a straightforward and comprehensive list that identifies which non-stick pans are made without Teflon, and which products are made with it.
In This Article
Types of Nonstick Cookware: Teflon and Ceramic
There are 2 types of nonstick cookware, Teflon and Ceramic.
This may seem counterintuitive considering how many popular nonstick cookware products are marketed today. For example, you may have encountered some brands that tout their diamond, copper, titanium or stone coatings.
Within the category of nonstick cookware, these materials are simply additives to a ceramic surface or Teflon substrate. They provide a great marketing anchor that brands have employed to differentiate their products. In some cases these additives provide a marginal performance benefit.
It’s also true that many brands will refer to the nonstick coating used on their cookware products by a trademarked name such as Stratinum or Thermolon. With these two examples, one is made with Teflon and the other is ceramic.
Can you tell the difference? Without some digging, neither could we.
What Is Teflon Cookware?
Teflon is actually a brand name for a compound that was discovered by the Dupont chemical company almost 100 years ago, in a happy accident.
Over the years, the brand name Teflon has become synonymous with the compound it represents – Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Today PTFE is produced by a variety of manufacturers worldwide, and used in a variety of applications from plumbing to aerospace to home kitchens.
Yes, I’ll say it again. Teflon is PTFE.
However, only PTFE produced by the Chemours company (a spinoff of Dupont) is known by the brand name Teflon.
The PTFE polymer has a variety of useful properties, including that it is one of the slickest substances known to science. PTFE is incredibly inert, meaning that other molecules will not react with it or stick to it.
PTFE does melt around 620 Farenheit, and the compound may begin to break down as it approaches that temperature. We’ll discuss this point in more detail below. The primary takeaway here is that PTFE cookware isn’t suitable for high-heat cooking which is true for all types of nonstick cookware.
What is Ceramic Cookware?
Ceramic cookware has been around for just over a decade, and is widely regarded as a healthy alternative to traditional PTFE nonstick.
Like most PTFE-based nonstick cookware, ceramic coatings are often applied as a topcoat over a pressed or cast aluminum base.
There are a variety of manufacturer patents filed for “ceramic” cookware coatings, each with a proprietary recipe. All of them are essentially a sand-based silicon gel which is sprayed and then baked at high temperatures atop an metal base through what material scientists call a “sol-gel process” of hardening.
The result of the sol-gel baking process is that the gel molecules solidify into a hard and slick top coating. This type of surface provides a similar property-set to Teflon, without the use of controversial polymers.
The video below captures a live manufacturing process of ceramic being sprayed and baked. It’s low production value, but still a great representation of how the sol-gel process works in real life.
Why Some Kitchens Choose Ceramic.
As we mentioned above, ceramic cookware is widely regarded as a healthy alternative to traditional PTFE nonstick.
There is a lot of information (and misinformation) circulating about the health and environmental concerns of PTFE, some of which we’ll cover below. The topic is quite complex so we’ll focus on the broad strokes here, and if you want to dig deeper on the subject then please check out an investigative piece we wrote on the Teflon controversy.
Broadly speaking, many home chefs simply want to keep controversial chemicals out of their kitchen. Totally understandable. And many producers of ceramic cookware have gone to great lengths to brand their products in a way that relates to the concerns of a health-conscious customer.
The ceramic nonstick market also tends to be slightly more affordable than traditional PTFE non-stick alternatives, though there are some exceptions.
Why Some Kitchens Choose Teflon.
First of all, the brand recognition for Teflon is incredible.
PTFE pans, and specifically Teflon branded products, have been trusted in American kitchens for generations. Only recently have public controversies eroded some of that trust.
From a performance perspective, the nonstick food release quality of PTFE is unrivaled. Some ceramic products may come close, but none surpass the easy cook and clean ability of PTFE.
From a durability standpoint, neither PTFE or ceramic options last very long. Short lifespan is among the chief owner complaints across the entire nonstick cookware category. Just check any product’s negative reviews and you’ll see what we mean.
PTFE pans are generally more expensive than their ceramic nonstick counterparts, but you get extra durability for that money. A quality ceramic fry pan may last more than 2 years with regular use and proper care. A well-performing PTFE traditional nonstick product may last upward of 5 years.
Teflon can be dangerous when overheated.
PTFE nonstick cookware products can become dangerous when used at high temperatures, and most brands recommend limiting heat exposure to 500 F.
As the polymer approaches its melting point, the nonstick coating may emit fumes caused by the material breaking down under heat stress.
If you happen to inhale these gasses it may induce a flu-like sickness called polymer fume fever, which is also known commonly by the name “Teflon flu.”
Experts say that symptoms of Teflon flu onset within several hours of exposure, not immediately. If affected, you may experience chills, fever, body and headaches.
These symptoms typically dissipate within 48 hours.
Keep in mind that fume emission only occurs at dangerous levels upon severe overheating, mostly approaching 600 F. It’s highly unlikely you will be cooking at such high temperatures, and unadvisable for most home kitchens.
While the heat conditions that yield Teflon flu are rare when cooking, it isn’t uncommon for a pan to reach such high temperatures if left unattended while it’s preheating on a high setting. A good rule of thumb is to not leave your pans empty and alone on a heating element.
Teflon use is unhealthy for some pets, especially birds.
Scientists often refer to birds as being great “environmental indicators.”
Because birds are generally more sensitive to changes in their habitat, it makes them incredibly helpful for identifying the impact of environmental pollution.
Outside of a pet-context, scientists and restoration groups use this information to determine the health of ecosystems around the world, and organize their rehabilitation efforts.
Unfortunately for pet birds, their sensitive respiratory system is subject to environmental factors in the home. And birds are much more sensitive than a human might be to PTFE fumes, such as those that precipitate Teflon flu.
Pet birds may be susceptible to even low levels of inhaled toxins, such as those emitted from PTFE pans. Even if your pet bird is far from the kitchen, remote exposure to fumes may quickly become life threatening.
While low levels of fumes from PTFE may not impact humans or other animals, it is widely regarded that you should not own a pet bird AND a PTFE pan. They simply don’t go together.
PFOA-Free does not mean PTFE-Free.
When shopping for nonstick cookware, you’ll probably see a “PFOA-Free” label on most products.
In many cases, “PFOA-free” simply signifies that a product contains PTFE.
Historically, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was a chemical used in the production of PTFE. It was eliminated from most supply chains by 2013 following major lawsuits against manufacturers after health and environmental concerns were raised.
Many experts say that PFOA used in the manufacturing process of PTFE was not present in the final cookware products.
At the same time, PFOA was documented to have environmental and health consequences in and around the sites where PTFE was manufactured.
In short, if you see a “PFOA-Free” label it simply indicates that the product you’re examining followed the same changes in manufacturing that virtually everyone else did nearly a decade ago.
Ok, enough with acronyms. Let’s dive into specific products.
Library of Best Non Stick Pans With And Without Teflon
Below is our library of non-stick cookware brands.
It is a living document that we created to help you identify which pans use PTFE. We are starting with the most popular brands, and will update this page periodically with new information as it becomes available.
If you see that we missed a product please don’t hesitate to reach out.
In some cases it’s incredibly difficult to determine if a product includes PTFE. We also noted those cases in the table below.
The Final Takeaway
Non-stick pans offer an unparalleled level of convenience, but aren’t as durable as natural non-stick materials. You can also achieve a decent level of nonstick with a well-seasoned cast iron pan, but it does take a little more work to get there.
Our kitchen uses a century old Griswold cast iron fryer for eggs every morning, and we love it. We do have an All Clad nonstick pan (with PTFE) tucked away for especially delicate dishes like thin white fish.
If the convenience of nonstick cookware meets your goals and expectations, just know that the market can be exceptionally confusing. The advertising of some brands can get in the way (often by design) of understanding exactly what materials were used in the creation of their products.
Given the scale of the market, and new products entering all the time, our library is not comprehensive. We will update it periodically to reflect the ever changing brands and trends, and do our best to cover the most popular products that you may be seeking.
If we missed an item that you care about, please don’t hesitate to reach out and let us know.
We hope this guide has made your search for the best non stick pan without teflon (or with it) just a little bit easier. Thanks again for stopping by!