How does Nonstick Coating Work?
If examined under a microscope, essentially nonstick cookware will reveal that the surface is covered with thousands of tiny nooks and crannies that expand when heated. In fact, the fluorine atoms in PTFE provide a low-friction barrier between the food and the actual metal surface, preventing the product from sticking to the surface when heated.
The nonstick material basically fills in those little nooks and crannies, smoothing the surface and providing the functionality of a nonstick pan. The same functionality can be achieved by using oil on surfaces that are not industrially coated with nonstick materials such as PTFE or ceramics.
What are The Concerns about Nonstick Coatings?
While some concerns have been raised about the chemical composition of PTFE and its various adverse effects, especially when heated to temperatures above 500°F, most of these have not been found to be harmful to humans. Some other concerns have also been raised about the environmental unfriendliness of certain coated surfaces, but these are extreme views, and the industry has been able to address most of the issues.
In short, all kinds of nonstick cookware are perfectly safe, and most are now produced sustainably with minimal harm to the environment. In fact, most major chemical manufacturing companies have pledged to stop using PFOA - perfluorooctanoic acid, which is thought to have harmful effects on humans.
Stay safe and enjoy cooking!