Is It Safe to Cook with a Scratched Non Stick Pan?

Non-stick pans can be an incredibly handy thing. Not only do they allow you to fry off all sorts of ingredients without searing them to the base of the pan, but they allow you to simmer stews and soups for a long time without worrying that the ingredients will get too hot and, eventually, burn – how handy!

In this article, we’re going to talk about how a nonstick pan gets scratched, how to avoid that, and whether you can set a non-stick pan back to normal.

How to Prevent Pan From Getting Scratched?

The thing that makes a non-stick pan non-stick is the fact that there’s a Teflon coating on the inner layer of the pan itself. This thin layer of plastic sits between the metal of the pan and the food that you’re cooking, leading to a slippery barrier that allows you to easily cook without getting food stuck.

The thing that scratches a non-stick pan, typically, is metal utensils. Whether you’re using a ladle, a fish slice, or a spatula, the metal of a utensil can scrape along the surface of the plastic Teflon coating and, over time, lead to deeper and deeper scratches on the surface. This can lead to the pan losing its non-stick properties, which is obviously a problem.

To prevent a non-stick pan from getting scratched, therefore, the best course of action is to only use softer utensils than sharp, harsh metal ones. Silicone or wooden utensils are the most commonly recommended ones, since they’re very blunt, and are more likely to be damaged themselves than to damage anything else.

If you really have to use metal utensils for any reason in particular, then avoid cramping the bottom of the pan with them as much as possible – that’s where the scratches are most likely to happen since it’s the hottest part of the pan.

It’s also a good idea not to run non-stick pans through the dishwasher. This is because the water in a dishwasher comes to a high temperature, and then stays there for a relatively long period of time – the Teflon coating can deteriorate a little under these temperatures and conditions, leading to it becoming easier to scratch the surface itself while cooking.

While those won’t directly cause scratches, it is an important thing to bear in mind, as it degrades the nonstick coating of your pans.

How To Remove Non-Stick Pan Scratches?

The simplest way to remove scratches from a non-stick pan is to season the pan itself, meaning that a patch or scratch on the pan that is now a little more sticky than previously becomes perfectly seasoned.

The best way to do this is to clean the pan very thoroughly, first of all – any contaminants can get locked into the scratch during seasoning, so cleaning is important.

After it’s clean, apply some neutral oil to the pan. It’s best to go for a little too much oil, here, so opt for enough to cover the scratch in a thin layer, plus a little border around the pan itself.

Place the oiled pan onto a cooktop, and then bring it to low heat, ensuring that the whole pan comes to heat evenly. Turn the heat off, and allow the pan to cool completely. Then, wipe away the excess oil with a paper towel, and you’re good to go!

This method should remove any scratches from the base of your pan, though it may not be enough in truly exceptional circumstances. If a large patch or a huge gouge on the non-stick surface has occurred, then it may simply be time to replace the pan itself.

Is it safe to cook with a scratched non-stick pan?

Not really, no. It’s not the worst thing in the world that you could possibly do for your health, but it’s certainly not a good idea.

The first concern is that the non-stick coating of the pan could flake up from the metal itself and get into your food. This is dangerous and unhealthy because Teflon is a type of plastic that cannot be digested by your stomach – as with most types of plastic. Therefore, if the material is allowed to sit in your stomach for a long period of time, it is quite likely that it will make you sick.

The second concern is, thankfully, only a concern to be had if you’re using a non-stick pan that’s quite old. Older non-stick pans contained a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) within the non-stick coating. When the pans were heated to a particularly hot temperature, they would release that chemical, allowing it to get into your system, either through you breathing it in or eating it in your food.

PFOA is a particularly nasty chemical. It can cause cancer, as well as lead to infertility. It’s a wonderful chemical for creating heat-resistant surfaces, but it can have truly awful effects on your health.

Thankfully, international chemical regulators have unanimously voted to ban PFOA, so it certainly won’t be a chemical used to make modern non-stick pans. The only time it’s really worth being concerned about the presence of PFOA in your kitchen is if you’re using older non-stick equipment that you’ve picked up from a thrift store, garage sale, or inherited.

If you’re looking to be as safe as possible when avoiding PFOA, only buy and use pans that were manufactured after 2015.

Making sure to be safe in your kitchen is vitally important. Not only are you looking out for your own health, but you’re often looking out for the health of your whole family. With those lives in mind, you can never be too careful.

So, to sum it up, if there are minor scratches in your non-stick pan, you can use it again after it has been seasoned properly. However, if you think the non-stick pan in your kitchen was made before 2015, don’t use it!

With these helpful tips in mind, happy cooking!

Kunal Sharma
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