Pan-ic at the Williams-Sonoma
January 16, 2014 5:27 PM   Subscribe

I bought this pan today. I didn't think about the non-stick issue. Is this pan going to kill me?

A few weeks ago, my room mate destroyed a fairly nice six year old 12-inch Calphalon omelette pan that she uses to make me omelettes on weekend mornings. She has now replaced it with a nice stainless steel pan, for a mint of money.

A few weeks ago, my room mate ALSO destroyed a fairly nice six year old 3-quart Calphalon pan that we mainly used for steaming broccoli and whatnot. She was talking about replacing that as well, but in a fit of household generosity, I bopped down to the Williams Sonoma and bought this pan, which we had discussed and mutually agreed was awesome. Particularly, the steamer basket thingy is way more awesome than any steamer basket thingy we've ever come across before.

However, we have since discovered that it is non-stick in a way our OTHER Calphalon was not non-stick. Our other Calphalon is hard-anodized with no coating. This Calphalon (Elite) is hard-anodized, but DOES have a coating. Since my room mate and I are both incredibly paranoid, we're now trying to decide if this pan will kill us. (For instance, I'm typing this on her laptop, and I can see in the browser tabs a search window titled "CALPHALON ELITE POISONING." I can't mock her for this, because I did basically the same thing.)

The Calphalon Elite cookware series specifically says it is PFOA-free, (Textured Sear) and as I understand it, PFOA is what makes Teflon basically poison. But there is also a thing called PFTE - and we don't understand if PFTE is bad or not. We've seen that there exists in the world non-stick PFOA-free, PFTE-free cookware, but the Calphalon Elite is not that. It's ONLY PFOA-free.

So, how paranoid should we be? Are we over-thinking this? The web site says this pan is safe up to 500 F, and that's about 100 F hotter than we usually cook anything. But we're still nervous, and Google isn't all that helpful.

Is this stuff dangerous to our health? I can take it back tomorrow. Should I?
posted by kythuen to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No, it's fine. Don't overheat it, don't cook it empty, and don't scratch it, but otherwise use and love your awesome new pan.
posted by The Michael The at 5:39 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]

Williams-Sonoma is selling this product.

Williams-Sonoma does not want to get sued when people start dying left and right from nonstick pan poisoning.

Yes, you are drastically overthinking this.

Return the pan if it will genuinely set your mind at ease.
posted by Sara C. at 5:39 PM on January 16 [8 favorites]

Dude. Take a chill pill. Don't burn the pan or leave on the stove empty and you will be fine.
posted by smoke at 5:40 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]

Also, I had what I'm fairly sure is the frying pan from this same line in an apartment I lived in for two years. I am still alive. As far as I can tell, my health was not adversely affected in any way by cooking in this pan for two years.
posted by Sara C. at 5:41 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]

It's fine. The coating is not Teflon® or one of its cousins. Cook something nice for yourself.
posted by mudpuppie at 5:45 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

Just don't use metal utensils in it and you'll be happy with that lovely pan.

Or not. If it's going to make you anxious every time you use it, just return it.
posted by k8lin at 6:09 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify, Teflon is PTFE is polytetrafluoroethylene. Some processes for producing nonstick pans use PFOA, as is the case with Teflon, but this pan doesn't. You are correct that most of the current worry is about PFOA.

But honestly, if you're this worked up about it, just return it.
posted by advicepig at 6:20 PM on January 16 [3 favorites]

PTFE is Teflon. Or, rather, Teflon is a kind of PTFE. I don't use it, since it will kill birds (and I own one), and I don't think I would use it even if I no longer had a bird.

posted by Nyx at 6:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

PFTE is plain old Teflon. PFOA can be used in synthesizing PFTE, but many companies (including apparently Calphalon), have switched over to non-PFOA syntheses. Tell your roommate not to do whatever keeps destroying your pans, and it should be fine.
posted by kagredon at 6:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

That steamer tray looks like it will scratch the pan. I'd take it back for that reason, or I'd otherwise avoid using the tray.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:26 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

I hate nonsticks for a number of reasons, but I understand that people find them useful. Nobody will judge you if you return it for a non-stick variety.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:40 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

You know, I wouldn't necessarily trust Williams-Sonoma, or even Teflon. But, I would trust the state of California. Almost anything that could even remotely kill you has a warning required by the state of California's laws... even when other states don't require it. So, I give a mighty big thanks to California for at least making me aware, and you should too -- no California-required warning.
posted by Houstonian at 6:41 PM on January 16 [2 favorites]

Thanks, all! I think we're going to keep it. It's really very lovely, and you've all set our minds at ease. Roomie has vowed that she will actually use it, and she's way more paranoid than I am (which is saying something) - I think we'll be fine.

(Quick note to Blazecock: We're not that worried about the steamer basket scraping, because everyplace that would touch the pan is buffered in silicone.)
posted by kythuen at 8:06 PM on January 16

I think this gives more multitasking bang for the buck, and it's stainless: Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel 8 Qt. Multi Pot

Why would you need a steamer to be non-stick anyway?
posted by jclovebrew at 9:21 PM on January 16 [1 favorite]

The Calphalon Elite cookware series specifically says it is PFOA-free, (Textured Sear) and as I understand it, PFOA is what makes Teflon basically poison...

PFOA's bad (really bad) press has caused many manufacturers to stop using it, but a number of those simply switched from PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) to PFNA (perfluorononanoic acid) which has one more carbon atom in its backbone but very, very similar chemistry and is not known to be as toxic as PFOA-- probably, in my opinion, merely because PFNA is not as well-studied.

But PFOA has apparently never been present in significant amounts in non-stick cookware because it boils away in the manufacturing process, and seems not to be the causative agent in polymer fume fever, which you can get from heating a teflon-coated pan above 300 °C, or the acute lung injury you can get from heating it above 450 °C.

For comparison, an electric burner at dark red heat is ~700-800 °C.

A Teflon-coated pan does not seem like an ideal choice for a household which has burned up two pans in a month.
posted by jamjam at 10:50 PM on January 16

I came here to say the same thing as Nyx (ie don't use if you have birds).
posted by dhens at 12:37 AM on January 17

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