Teflon Hurts Eggs

Cooking with Telfon is like showering with a raincoat.  Your food will cook, but the experience will not be as satisfying.

I had a very long term relationship with Teflon so I know the comfort it brings, but the truth is, if you want eggs (or really any food) to take on that flame-kissed, golden hue that carries a slight caramelized, sweet taste, you’ll only achieve this by starting with a scorching hot pan.  Hotter than you think.  The food should sizzle loudly when plopped down! Steam and oil should fly upwards!

But here’s the rub: the official word on Telfon is that if you keep the pan under 500 degrees then the chemicals should not burn off and emit toxins into the air and into your food. But to bring out the best in food’s (especially egg’s) texture and flavor you need to go hot (or at least that’s the way I like to cook them).  And when I’m cooking on a hot flame, I don’t want to be worrying about whether I’m entering the “no-fly” temperature zone.

Then there;s the stick issue. Teflon is designed for non-stick. But in the natural state of cooking, stick happens.  The ideal pan to enhance flavor  allows (a little) browning and (short term) sticking.  From a “let nature be nature” stand point, Teflon simply gets in the way.

It’s a hard relationship to break but like all relationships, is easier when you have someone/thing to move onto … stainless steel and cast iron are available.

Your thoughts on pans you love?

Related Posts

Cast Iron Care Instructions
What’s Leaching Into Your Food From Cast Iron (And learn the #1 trick to making cast-iron non-stick)

Photo: Teflon skillet with victim. Copyright ©  Michelle Madden

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  • Audrey

    Great post! I admit I’ve become a little dependent on my Telfon, but am willing to reconsider ….

    • Sonya

      Me too …. I hate to see eggs being hurt :) I also love the idea that I don’t have to be gentle with cast-iron. I am always so concerned about scratching my Teflon.

  • Virginie

    Excellent excellent post and blog in general! Thank you for such great information!
    I love my cast iron but always struggle with how best to clean it and how much just let it be. I have one that has ridges at bottom (not a flat surface) so food always gets stuck. Would love to have any suggestions!

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com Michelle

      Hi V! I’m going to put a post really soon on tips for cast iron as I love using it but it can be a bit demanding … is your pan with ridges the one for bacon and other fatty meats? so the grease is not on the same plane as the meat? am trying to picture this pan…

  • tori

    mich – love the blog! good wake up call to get rid of the one teflon pan we have in the house (primarily used for morning eggs). On another note – Just ate a box of Nestle “smarties” that i bring back from Canada. Noted on the box that there are “no artificial colours”. If they could only get rid of the modified corn starch!

    • http://www.thesweetbeet.com/ Michelle

      no artificial colors (sorry, colours) in Canadian Smarties?! that’s impressive! it’s verging on a health food!

  • Eric

    I’m not sure I agree with this post (though I truly enjoy most others). While it is true that non-stick pans are a poor choice for browning meat for the reasons you mention, the cooking methods generally used for cooking meat and eggs are quite different. Eggs benefit most from a very gentle cooking, in which the proteins are allowed to denature slowly. High heat leads to rubbery eggs, which I certainly don’t enjoy, and which is usually indicative of poor cookery. Non-stick pans are ideal for the slow cooking required for proper scrambled, fried, over-easy, and sunny-side up eggs, as well as omlettes and fritattas. I will continue to use my non-stick pans for all of my egg needs, while relying on my clad or cast iron cookware for meats.

    • Michelle

      Thanks for this input and for making the clarification on meat v egg cooking. I think its also a personal cooking style issue, as I tend to cook my eggs on quite high heat (hence the health concerns with Teflon) so they really take on a brown exterior and then I take them off the flame and let them sit a minute or so which cooks the middle a touch more.

  • Natasha

    I am a huge fan of thick, hard-anodized aluminum frying pans. They are non-stick without Teflon. I remember reading that Teflon has been identified in blood tests, and I would rather avoid it.
    I highly dislike steel for frying/sauteing. It is just too sticky. However, I prefer it for sauce/stock pots (with a copper bottom especially).
    Awesome blog.

  • Maggie

    I agree with Eric and Mary, I like eggs cooked over low heat. It makes a very tender and creamy egg. And, I never use a non-stick pan, just a bit of butter in the pan. Something will stick. . . so I just wash the pan.

  • Shari

    I thought Scan Pan made their pans so that they wouldn’t release chemicals into the food. Their website says “We’ve also developed Green Tek, a coating 100% free from PFOA and PFOS chemicals.” Just curious if I’ve had a false sense of security about my scrambled eggs. Thoughts?

    • Michelle

      Hi Shari, So here’s the deal. Scanpan is a teflon pan (Teflon is simply a trade name for the chemical PTFE). With Scanpan, the PTFE has been embedded into the aluminum material (as apposed to the traditional Teflon pan where the Teflon coating is on top and can flake off). All non-stick pans are made with PTFE (only Dupont can use the brand name Teflon for this chemical). With Scanpan the PTFE can still come off and fumes can still be emitted at high temps which is what the concerns are with teflon which unfortunately this is.

      So what to do … everyone has to decide what feels right for them. I avoid all non-stick pans as I dont want to risk any possible contamination, but if that’s not right for you, here’s my reco:
      - treat your scanpan as if its teflon (since it is)
      - don’t let it over-heat ( ie. dont let the oil burn, dont fry meat in it, and don’t cook eggs at high temp to get a deep brown exterior (as i do in my cast iron!)
      - avoid using metal tools and scrub brushes (even though the PTFE is integrated into the pan and in theory should not come off, the more you aggravate the pan with scratches, the more likely it could leach)

  • http://www.largepot.net/information-news/pot-racks-a-great-way-to-store-pots-and-pans/ large pots pans

    This is the great blog, I’m reading them for a while,
    thanks for the new posts!

  • Maryarthars

    I was told that a layer of ‘teflon’ , the thickness of 1 molecule releases with the food– viola , ‘non-stick’.

  • Dionne

    Hurrah, I’m glad this has been recognised. I never use Teflon to cook, it just doesn’t make the food taste very nice and I’ve always been concnerned about the Teflon coming off onto my food. I’ve been on a search for a small egg pan, WITHOUT Teflon/non-stick, for years, and they’re virtually impossible to find (unless you pay close to £60, yes English pounds!). Evenetually a friend offered me her old non non-stick pan and I bought her a brand new non-stick one in return (she was tired of her eggs sticking). We’re both delighted and I now have lovely crispy eggs, that never stick – as I get the pan super hot. The food industry needs to get back to basics with cooking implements, not just the food.
    Great site btw – I love it!

  • Michelle

    Thanks Dionne! I am going to be doing a post soon on tips for how to cook with cast -iron w/o making it stick. I think many people think they cant cook eggs on cast-iron w/o leaving half in the pan but you can.

  • Mary

    I recently learned how to cook the perfect egg “over easy” from my daughter! I have stopped using non-stick and use a regular stainless steel or Calphalon fry pan on low. A good teaspoon of coconut oil and drop the egg in. Cover with lid and let iT slowly cook. Once “set” I flip over and shut off heat, still covered for a minute or two. Did I mention on “low”? No more “lacey” hard crispy edges!

  • Michelle

    Thanks for this ! I love the fact that you mentioned coconut oil … I have been seeing so much more of this in recipes, on grocers shelves etc and am going to do a post, very soon, on its virtues!

  • Jessa

    I hate cleaning cast iron and broke up with Teflon after college. Steel-lined copper pots/pans are the best thing ever. Even heat, delicious flavor and relatively easy to clean (just soak and scrub).

  • Mary

    I’ve recently started using coconut oil as my facial moisturizer! I just read a blog about “oil pulling” where you swish coconut oil in your mouth to get rid of bacteria and such and create a healthy environment. You do spit it out after 20 minutes!

  • Michelle

    Wow, never knew that but love the sounds of it! I’m going to do a post soon on coconut since it has so many virtues that are not nearly recognized enough…

  • Roxanne

    I can’t wait for your post on coconut oil. I take at least 2 T. of it a day in various ways. One of my favorites is to mix it with a scoop of plant fiber (odorless, tasteless), then add a scoop of Amazing Grass’s Chocolate Greens (at Whole Food). The combination of these 3 things makes a kind of dough that I use to satisfied my sweet tooth, while improving my health measurably. There is definitely a difference in coconut oils as I have tried a whole bunch of them! P.S. I love, love your blog and wrote on your FB page too, which I “liked” a lot.