For years I turned a deaf ear to reports that nonstick cookware is unsafe. I knew it was probably true, but I was quite enamored of my Teflon-coated pans, and I told myself that I didn't use them for that much cooking, and that I didn't use them over high heat, and, well, I just didn't want to do without them.
But then I read the section in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything on outfitting your kitchen , and when I saw that concerns over safety had made him abandon his nonstick pans, I rethought the whole thing. I mean, here's a guy that doesn't care a bit whether his veggies are organic or not, but he's convinced that nonstick pans are bad for your health.
And indeed they are: try here, here, and here, if you want the details. The nonstick coating releases some nasty stuff into the air, and while DuPont says that normal use and normal cooking temperatures won't result in gases being released, there's lots of evidence to prove that cooking with it just as you're supposed to will still allow those perfluorochemicals out.
So I'm getting cast iron cookware. Now some people are concerned about iron being released into the food, saying that we know too much iron is bad for men and postmenopausal women. I'm not too worried about it, because I won't be cooking anything acidic in these pans--I'll use my stainless steel for those recipes. And I question how much iron actually leaches out in a well-seasoned pan.
According to devotees of cast iron, a well cared for, well seasoned pan becomes, in time, pretty much nonstick itself. The cast iron I purchased is pre-seasoned. Seasoning a pan requires putting a coat of oil on it and letting it bake in the oven for a while. It's not that hard, but I thought, heck, if the pre-seasoned is available, then why not?
Cast iron has some real advantages, too: it's extremely durable if handled and cared for properly, and it distributes heat very evenly. You can take it from stovetop to oven without a worry.
My daughter has been using cast iron cookware and loving it. She has an enormous skillet--I think it's 15" in diameter--that she loves for browning things. If Bittman hadn't convinced me, I would probably have eventually made the move just due to her enthusiasm.
So it's farewell to nonstick pans. Now if only I hadn't had my furniture stain-protected ...