Tag Archives: teflon

gastronaut 2- the first good column. originally published 9/2004

Gastronaut 2

Pan-demonium

There are two kinds of Reedie cooks: those who feed themselves, and those who cook. I am not writing to the cooks this week. This column is dedicated to those who care the least about their kitchens, who scrounge every meal, who own pans that couldn’t stop a robber. The cooks out there have thought twice about the equipment they use. I’d bet even money that there are some who are beginning their off-campus careers, and, two weeks into the semester, don’t have any pans yet. This is the official, no-holds-barred, anti-teflon tirade. I want to save ye non-cooks from a terrible mistake.

Allow me to craft a useful analogy. If Teflon were a rock-star it would be… Prince. Prince is talented, no one will deny that, but Prince is not perfect. He’s moody, egotistical, fragile, and only useful in certain situations: if you do not treat Prince correctly, he’s liable to flake (ask Sony). Without constant vigilance Prince is likely to lull you into a false sense of security, to convince you he’s just as good without The Revolution, to get you to trust him, that, because Purple Rain was good, Under the Cherry Moon will be fabulous.

Teflon is a wondrous product, but it is not for everything. If it were, you’d find it in commercial kitchens. Ostensibly, Teflon creates a non-stick surface that allows the cook to reduce the amount of oil, and therefore fat, used in the dish. The catch is that Teflon does not make a good pan on its own. Good pans need to be heavy and well built in order to correctly and efficiently distribute heat. Teflon is also a coating that can be easily scratched, weakened or destroyed. A thin pan is likely to have a thin coating, which is likely to flake off and end up in your food. Dupont insists that Teflon is safe, but… well, believe them if you wish. Teflon must be cleaned instantaneously after use, without soap or anything that may scratch the coating. Cooks might do that, but not everyone else. If you still want a Teflon pan, and you want a good one, expect to pay more than $50

The moral of the story is that Teflon is not the cure-all that many think. I recommend cast iron. Cast iron has its problems, but it is perfect for those who don’t take their culinary endeavors very seriously. You can clean the thing with steel wool if you want. Cast iron is intrinsically heavy (automatic heat distribution) tough, and it will never, ever, wear out. If cast iron were a rock star, it would be BB king. A good cast iron pan will be less than $20. Or, ask your grandmother. She has some she would be happy to give you. Besides, you need to call her anyway.