Scratches and Co.: When do you have to throw away coated pans?

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When do you have to throw away coated pans?

At first you’re amazed at how everything rolls off the waxy surface of brand new coated pans. But often the disillusionment comes later: Where has the Teflon effect gone?

The non-stick coating of frying pans offers advantages: it saves fat and makes the pan easy to clean. But this effect does not last forever.

And then? Does the pan have to be thrown away after just a few years? And if so, how can the raw materials be kept in circulation in the interests of sustainability?

“Pans that are coated with the plastic polytetrafluoroethylene are also generally referred to as Teflon pans. However, there is no precise indication of how long they can be used,” says Daniela Krehl from the Bavarian Consumer Advice Center. From their point of view, it is more about the care. “You should dispose of the pan at the latest when the coating comes off.”

Take it to a recycling center or have it recoated

A new pan every few years – where’s the sustainability in that? The pan should not be thrown in the residual waste, but handed in at the recycling center, says Daniela Krehl. However, there is another option: “You can also have the pan recoated.” Some manufacturers offer this.

But there are also suppliers who offer a new coating regardless of the brand. Krehl advises asking in specialist shops or looking for a provider on the Internet who offers the service. The prices are between 15 and 50 euros.

Some pans may not have a coating peeling off yet, but as they age, they tend to have more and deeper scratches. Are these pans also ripe for disposal? “The scratches are not harmful to health, but reduce the non-stick property,” says Krehl. So too many scratches mean that the food sticks to the bottom, the pan loses its advantage.

Pan and health suffer from 360 degrees

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) also gives the all-clear if the smallest, barely visible particles come off a scratched coating and are swallowed while eating. Since polytetrafluoroethylene is inert, these particles are not digested and are excreted from the body unchanged, the risk assessors reassure. The polymer only begins to decompose at a temperature of around 360 degrees.

But then they give off toxic fumes that can lead to flu-like symptoms, also known as polymer fever. Therefore, the coated pan should generally not be heated up too much. Under no circumstances should the food be left empty for more than three minutes, consumer advocates advise; with induction cookers, it shouldn’t even be a minute. From 230 degrees, the coating changes color and can peel off.

As long as the pan is filled with food, overheating is very unlikely. Water or food containing water cannot raise the temperature significantly above 100 degrees, i.e. the boiling point of water.

No cold water in the hot pan

Manufacturers exclude damage due to excessive heat from warranty claims. The companies also warn against two other common mistakes:

First, an extreme thermal shock, like what happens when you take the hot pan straight off the stove after it’s sizzling and run cold water in it to soak. Instead, you should “let the pan cool down before rinsing so that it doesn’t warp due to the extreme temperature shock,” writes a brand manufacturer.

And: Do not push or pull the cookware back and forth on the hob, as this can damage both the cookware and the surface of the hob.



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