Are Nonstick Pans Safe to Cook With?

According to a new report, certain nonstick cookware is releasing "forever chemicals" into the food we eat. Here's how to keep your family safe.

Whether you need a 13×9 pan to bake your favorite casserole or a skillet to whip up an easy one-dish dinner, chances are you reach for what you thought was perfectly safe nonstick cookware. But according to a recent investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), those pots and pans could actually contain harmful chemicals.

Here’s everything you need to know (and why you should care) about if nonstick pans are safe. Plus, we offer tips for spotting the difference between safe nonstick cookware and toxic nonstick cookware.

What the Study Found About Nonstick Pans

Based on its findings, the FDA reported that PFAs (a group of 5,000 synthetic chemicals that are also known as “forever chemicals”) are present in about 98 percent of Americans’ bloodstreams. And one of the major sources? The food we eat, the Environmental Protection Agency claims, noting that the dangerous substances are absorbed into food from things like nonstick cookware.

Here’s What You Need to Know About Nonstick Pans

While the FDA says that the levels of PFAs are not yet high enough to be harmful to our health, that doesn’t mean that the recent results aren’t troubling. After all, PFAs (which can flake off into your food when you’re cooking over high heat) have been associated with serious health risks including cancer, infertility and kidney or liver damage—to name a few.

And even though scientists don’t know the exact effects of PFAs on our bodies, it’s always smart to avoid exposing yourself to toxic, manufactured substances when possible (like by buying the organic versions of these fruits and veggies).

How to Choose Safe Nonstick Pan

As a result of the study, many PFAs have been banned from being used to produce pots and pans moving forward. But if you’re in the market for a new set right now, stay away from aluminum and Teflon materials, which can contain high levels of PFAs and other chemicals. Instead, follow our guide to buying nonstick pan and look for other cookware products made with nontoxic materials like ceramic, stainless steel or tempered glass.

What Are the Best Nonstick Pans That Are Nontoxic?

Some of our go-to nontoxic pans are:

And to make your safe nonstick cookware last longer (and prevent it from releasing any potentially harmful chemicals), make sure you clean it properly. Also, avoid chipping or scratching the pan surface with metal utensils or cooking over overly high heat, both of which can cause PFAs to enter your food or the air you’re breathing.

Want inspiration for what to cook in your new nonstick pan? Here are some of our top-rated skillet casseroles for busy weeknights.

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Amanda Tarlton
Amanda has more than a decade of media experience, specifically in product testing in the cooking and lifestyle space. As a freelancer for Taste of Home, Amanda writes mostly about foodie finds, home and lifestyle goods and cooking and baking utensils that make life easier (and more fun!). Outside of freelancing, Amanda is the executive editor of commerce at Field & Stream.
When she's not working, Amanda is on the lookout for the best pizzas in town or testing out secret menu items at restaurants and coffee shops.