House & Garden

Teflon vs Ceramic Cookware: Which Is Better?

Named-brand word association runs this town we call the modern world. Has done so since the 30s when Coke became synonymous with soda (depending on where you live). Some crowns trade hands more often than others, so it goes with the legacy of non-stick cookware.

Not since who wore it better or what color is that dress has a question so divided the public as this one – Teflon vs ceramic cookware for the title of hassle-free and long-lasting non-stick technology.

In any match-up between two popular technologies, there’s a need to break down the pros and cons of each. How do they work, why do they work, and, most importantly, how much do they cost? 

Read on to get all these details and more answered as we uncover the definitive answer as to which is better. 

Cookware Type and Vital Stats

To determine which is the better of these two titans of the non-stick world, you’ll need a rubric. In this case, the focus presented to you includes the composition of each, how durable the materials are, how safe they are to sue, and finally, how easy they are to use and care for. 

We’ll start with the newer of the two technologies (sort of) and then get to the older one (again, sort of).

Teflon Cookware

The chemical makeup of the not so easy to spell or pronounce polytetrafluoroethylene better known as Teflon came about more or less by mistake. Much like erasers and rubber, the key to this polymerized goo came about when something was left on longer than it was supposed to.

The original discovery was in 1928, patented in 1941, and then put to work as a pan coating material in 1954.

The fluid, waxy substance manages to avoid sticking to things on the molecular level thanks to extra-strength carbon-fluorine bonding. Yes, getting to stick to a pan took some real know-how to pull off.

Before Teflon brought non-stick technology out of the realm of dreams into reality, cooking and cleaning were harsher experiences.

Durability

The durability of Teflon has long been a thorn for the same people excited to use it. The material works great for keeping grease and stickier substance from gaining a grip on the tight, smooth surface it provides.

The problem is that it doesn’t take a lot of force to chip the material away from the underlying bonding material. A scratch or chip in the Teflon coating of a pan quickly cascades into a hole that becomes a pan that doesn’t live up to its non-stick name.

Safety

Chipping and breaking Teflon bits are raw polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). You might not find eating these bits appetizing, but they aren’t harmful in the amounts you will encounter.

Heat, though, is another issue. After 327 degrees Celsius, the PTFE breaks down into noxious toxic fumes. Basically, the polymer sops being a polymer and reverts back to carbon and fluorine. Fluorine may sound familiar as it is parts of that whole freon gas that was such an ozone eating problem.

Usability

Teflon pans, used in the 260-degree Celsius range (500 Fahrenheit) pose no threat. Using nylon or wooden utensils keeps chips and scratches from occurring. 

Cleaning with soap and a sponge or cloth (with no abrasive edges) keeps the pans functional and non-stick for years.

Teflon pans aren’t for everything. Cast iron works better for enhancing flavors, especially of red meats, and copper cookware transfers heat better.

Ceramic Cookware

Ceramics as cookware actually predates Teflon by about 10,000 years but as a non-stick coating, it’s only existed for a decade. Read more to see the latest styles and improvements in this cookware.

Many early pots and pottery used the world over were made by baking and glazing different types of clay and soil. That’s all-ceramic is: fired hardened clay.

Ceramic non-stick cookware uses an anodized aluminium or copper base and then a thin coating of the ceramic material. Typically this material comes from a combination of several powdered clay mixtures which get melted with plasma torches onto the underlying surface.

Durability

Ceramic sports more durability to abrasion and chipping than its Teflon counterpart. That said, it’s not invincible. It’s still recommended to use nylon and wooden utensils when breaking out your ceramic non-stick frying pan.

Sadly, the surface layer of ceramic dissolves bit by bit with use. Acids and bases break away the silicon and oxygen bonds that make up ceramic material. Even the best ceramic coatings only last a few years. 

Safety

Chipping and scratched ceramic pans don’t present a hazard. It’s the same as eating a bit of sand because it’s the same chemical make up. 

Heat also doesn’t affect the ceramic coating like it does Teflon. Ceramic cookware rates up to 450 degrees Celsius in safe cook temperature. 

Safety concerns with ceramic are limited to heavy metal infiltrates. Substances such as lead and cadmium have been known to leech out of ceramics. Don’t worry, these heavy metals only occur in unregulated areas and even there mostly in older items.

Any European or American manufacture has definitive regulation for silica materials. Read here to learn more about these worry-free ceramics.

Usability

Ceramic non-stick pots and pans are easy to use and easy to care for. They handle gentle washing with soap and water well. Avoid the rougher ends of a sponge and the surface will last longer. 

Avoid heating or cooling a ceramic pan too quickly. Sudden jumps in temperature affect the underlying anodized aluminum and create warping which cracks the coating. This is good advice in general, a warped pan is unattractive and hard to work with. 

Since food glides easily out across a ceramic surface, you use less oil and butter to keep things moving along. In addition to making food healthier, this also makes it easier to control and perfect your omelet game.

Meet Your Style

Like most things, the right answer to the feud between Teflon and ceramic cookware comes down to your needs and preferences. Ceramic takes a clear lead across many categories but Teflon remains the non-stick master.

For more ideas on style, lifestyle, food and all the in-between keep coming back here for more. 

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