Food

So What's the Deal with Non-stick Baking Pans?

Why you might really need to go on a shopping-spree

Nonstick pans may be great, trust me, I'm a long-time baker who craves those perfectly sculpted sides of cakes and a hassle-free removal of muffins from the tin, but increasing evidence from research is showing that maybe we should ditch the non-stick pans for a safer alternative. Here are some of our favorite baking pans, what they're best used for, and a few great tips and tricks to keep you and the kiddos safe when indulging in those late-night brownies.


Ceramic

Even if ceramic pans aren't nonstick in nature, they can be lined with unbleached parchment paper to keep sides from sticking, are often beautiful in design (I'm looking at you Le Creuset) and finished products can be served right in the pan. That means an easier cleanup for you and more time to enjoy those baked goods! These pans are great for casseroles, baked French toast, or crisps and crumbles.

Cast Iron

These babies are non-stick and a favorite among chefs and home cooks alike. Not only can you use them for cooking, but they are beyond terrific for brownies, blondies, corn breads and Dutch babies. They make for perfect golden edges, and a super easy cleanup. Pro-tip: on a hot summer day, I love to make a giant skillet brownie and top it with scoops of vanilla ice cream for the best dessert.

Stainless Steel

These types of baking pans are the best for cookies. Since stainless steel conducts heat extremely well, they make for chewy cookies with crispy edges. Pro-tip: cookies like snickerdoodles, which have been coated in sugar before baking won't stick to the pan, but for other cookies, either grease the pan prior to baking with oil or butter, or place a sheet of unbleached parchment paper under for a magically fast clean-up.

Glass

Glass pans works wonders when baking for crowds. These are great for poke cakes or lasagna, and you can serve directly from the pan! Think about it, dinner and dessert solved in just two pans.

Silicone

Baking pans made of silicon are great because they can be molded into virtually any shape. I've seen Bundt pans, muffin tins, and even silicone liners for cookies.

Cheaper Alternatives

If you're not looking to spend a fortune on new baking pans, here are some cheaper hacks.

  • Unbleached parchment paper: since toxic fumes from non-stick pans are released at temperatures higher than regular baking temperatures, simply placing a sheet of parchment paper between your pan and baked good will keep your goodies chemical-free. We recommend this brand, which has promised a fluorine-free product!
  • Cupcake liners: Again, the same concept goes, but these liners are perfect whether you're making cupcakes or muffins.
  • If you know that you're going to be baking something at an extremely high temperature, it's better to safe than sorry and stick with stainless steel or cast iron, two types of materials that can safely withstand very high temperatures. Pyrex (or any brand of tempered glass) also works well, but make sure not to stick the cap in the oven, as that is not heat-resistant.
  • If you're a traditional baker that likes to stick with the classics, greasing pans and then coating sides with flour or cocoa powder helps to more easily remove baked items from the pan.

The hacks listed above are great ways to keep using those non-stick pans while still keeping the chemicals out, but if your pans are old, scratched, or a hand-me-down, best to think about investing in some new bakeware. Looking for inspiration? Check out our roundup of some of our favorite baking essentials.

Why should you make the switch today?

Non-stick baking pans contain perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) which although great at being nonstick, are not awesome for your body. We know these PFAS most famously as Teflon (maybe you remember your mom raving about these non-stick pans to make fried eggs in!). Despite PFAS being sprayed on a variety of different things, the main source of exposure is actually through ingestion of food, such as absorption of PFAS from cooking pans and baking pans (2). The gases released from Teflon can cause respiratory problems such as shortness of breath, chest pain and cough. The coating itself, once damaged can be easily mixed in with your food. Not good! Since this discovery, Teflon has been replaced with GenX, but increasing research is showing that it is highly likely that all chemicals in this class are no longer safe (3). The best thing you can do is to keep those non-stick pans out of the kitchen or avoid using them in a setting where food comes in direct contact with the non-stick pan.

A word about aluminum

Often, as a baker, the first thing that we reach for is the aluminum foil or pan. They're so easy for pies, lining the edges of a baked good to prevent excess browning, the list goes on and on. However, research has shown that ingesting too much aluminum can lead to adverse health effects. (1) Luckily, aluminum pans, if lined with paper liners or unbleached parchment paper should be safe. The only thing you need to worry about is if you're baking involved citric acid (a.k.a. anything with vitamin C). So, if you're making a baked good that contains lemon or orange, stick to baking pans made of silicon or stainless steel.

Non-sticks may be hard to let go of (I feel your pain, fellow bakers), but these easy hacks will allow you to keep indulging in those late-night desserts for years to come!

References

1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12302-017-0117-x

2. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-642-21872-9_2

3. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-017-0095-y

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