Many people are now aware of the risks of using certain types of non-stick pans for cooking. Teflon is Dupont's brand name non-stick coating, connected to chemicals such as PFOA and PTFE (PolyTetraFluoroEthylene). Up to 260°C PTFE remains relatively stable but above 260°C, PTFE starts to decompose and is known to release a multitude of toxic chemicals.
What are the alternatives? Cast iron often comes out favourably in comparisons, and there is more about cast iron cooking here.
We'll list a few companies which make Teflon-alternatives. This isn't an endorsement of any of these products, and we haven't tested any ourselves, but we'll present what we have found. If you have any thoughts or experiences, please pop them into the comments.
A French company which sell a number of cast iron enamel products (grills, frying pans and so on). It's not fully non-stick, but it has an enamel that is less "sticky" than some other materials. This is what they say about the enamel:
"At the enamelling stage of production, all Cast Iron products are covered with a ground coat of enamel." "The interiors of our Grills and Grillits are black enamel (which is a different type of enamel to the cream coloured enamel you would find inside our casseroles, for example). The Satin black enamel interior is not non-stick, but can develop a natural non-stick layer or patina through seasoning - the same as a Wok. This means that to begin with, depending on what you are cooking and how you are cooking it, you may get instances of food sticking in the pan."
This blog post explains what enamel is: "Enamel is a fused glass surface overlaying a metal pot, be it cast iron or a lighter metal. With proper care, quality enamel cookware lasts a lifetime."
A Danish company that has often been presented as a good alternative to harsher non-stick chemicals.
"What differentiates Scanpan from other coatings is that the ceramic is burnt on to the aluminium of the pan forming an incredibly hard surface to which the nonstick coating is applied. Ceramic Titanium nonstick surfaces are safe for the use of all types of kitchen utensils, even metal spatulas. And the effective nonstick surface makes it possible to fry without fat." Cooks' Paraphernalia.
More about the Scanpan materials from their own site: "By using metal such as stainless steel and 100% recycled aluminium in the production of kitchenware at our factory in Denmark, we strive to minimise the environmental impact of the production process."
A Belgian alternative. They use Thermolon non-stick technology in their pans, such as this one. There is a lot of information in their (TM-filled!) FAQs:
"Thermolon is the patented non-stick coating that GreenPan uses on its products. Thermolon is completely PTFE-free, contains absolutely no silicone oil and uses no PFOA during its manufacture. It is a non-stick mineral-based coating with superior release properties. Mineral materials are natural substances that are safe to use. The ceramic mineral materials that are used in Thermolon are the same as used to make glass and pottery. Less energy is used when Thermolon is applied on GreenPan products, which means 60% less CO_2 emissions when compared with the production of PTFE-coated pans."
"During the manufacturing of traditional PTFE based non-stick coating, PFOA (PerFluoroOctanoic Acid) is used and can escape into the environment. PFOA is classified as ‘a persistent pollutant of the environment’. Besides that PFOA is a chemical that the body has the greatest difficulties in expelling and it is classed as a “likely human carcinogen”. PFOA is also sometimes called C8 but in some cases it is replaced by C6, which belongs to the same chemical group.During the manufacturing of traditional PTFE based non-stick coating, PFOA (PerFluoroOctanoic Acid) is used and can escape into the environment. PFOA is classified as ‘a persistent pollutant of the environment’. Besides that PFOA is a chemical that the body has the greatest difficulties in expelling and it is classed as a “likely human carcinogen”. PFOA is also sometimes called C8 but in some cases it is replaced by C6, which belongs to the same chemical group."