Waffles are the perfect go-to breakfast for many families, pleasing children and adults alike. There is no better way to start your day than with a light and fluffy batter topped with strawberries, whipped cream, or maple syrup. But is your non-stick waffle maker safe?
Non-stick waffle makers are not safe, as they are made with a coating called Teflon, which is proven to cause health problems over time. When exposed to high temps, Teflon coatings peel off and get into your waffles. It is known to cause some cancers, high cholesterol, and other health problems.
While it is true that waffle makers coated in Teflon are toxic, there are plenty of safe alternatives to choose from. This article will talk about Teflon, how you can avoid it, and the different waffle make options out there, including our recommendations. Let’s get cooking!
What Makes Non-Stick Waffle Makers Unsafe?
Teflon is a non-stick coating that was invented about 80 years ago for use in other industries, such as automotive and industrial. About 20 years after it was invented, it was approved by the FDA for kitchen use and ended up on many of our kitchen products by the 1960s.
Teflon was an incredible breakthrough for cookware manufacturers, as it was also used in other industries, such as pharmaceutical and home furnishings manufacturers. You likely have Teflon in your home somewhere other than the kitchen, such as in stain-resistant carpeting or lightbulbs.
Teflon-coated kitchen products, including waffle makers, became extremely popular because virtually nothing sticks to them, and they were effortless to clean. Beyond the added ease of cleanup, it was thought to be healthier because your dishes did not require copious amounts of butter or oil to prevent sticking.
What Is the Problem With Teflon?
It is important to note that Teflon is a brand of non-stick coating, so not all non-stick products use this product.
Two main chemicals are used in non-stick surfaces, which are polytetrafluorethylene (PTFE) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). These chemicals have been under suspicion for several years for having carcinogenic properties, causing illness in humans and death in pet birds. PFOA is used in the manufacturing of PTFE coatings.
In 2005, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report stating that PFOA meets its criteria for a substance that might be likely to be carcinogenic. The biggest problem occurs when the pans get too hot (above 500 °F or 260°C) or when the pan begins to deteriorate. When these events happen, the coating emits harmful toxins into the air.
What Is Happening Currently?
Products with PTFE are still made but contain recommendations not to heat them above 500 degrees (260°C). While it is possible to use these products safely, the only way to be completely safe is to avoid them altogether. To err on the side of caution, you may want to replace your waffle maker if it shows any signs of wear and tear, especially if you have had it a while.
In 2006, the EPA launched a plan called the PFOA Stewardship Program whose mission was to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of this toxic chemical. You might be wondering why the EPA was involved. Not only is PFOA harmful to humans and birds, but it is toxic to the environment as well.
The program was successful, and, as of 2013, PFOA is no longer used in kitchen appliances.
However, PTFE is still used on a lot of kitchenware, including waffle makers. The EPA does not currently understand the long-term impact of ingesting PTFE, but it has concluded that PTFE cookware, including waffle irons, emit some level of toxic gases into the air when exposed to high temperatures, commonly used in cooking.
There are plenty of people that continue to advocate for the use of Teflon and other PTFE products where the toxins are only released at a temperature above 300°C (572°F), hotter than average cooking temperatures.
The group also says that if users follow the guidelines, such as not using them on high heat and throwing them out at the first sign of breakdown, that using them is perfectly safe for humans.
How Do I Know if My Waffle Maker Is Non-Stick?
Since discovering the harmful effects of Teflon products, manufacturers revisited their formula in the hopes of eventually eliminating this harmful toxin.
In 2013, thanks to research and encouragement from the EPA, they stopped making Teflon coatings and other non-stick coatings with PFOA, which made Teflon and other non-stick products dangerous.
While your newer waffle iron is likely to be free of harmful chemicals, a quick look will help you determine if it has a non-stick coating.
A non-stick waffle iron coating will most commonly be a dark gray and have a shiny, smooth surface. You might also want to look up the manufacturing information to determine for sure if your waffle maker is made with harmful chemicals.
What if It Is Non-Stick?
The potential health risks can be a little bit nerve-wracking, but identifying these coatings and learning the best alternatives is an excellent first step. However, if you want to keep your current waffle maker, there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk.
You’ll want to cook your waffles at the lowest setting, as exposure to high heat is how the toxic gases are released. Minimizing the exposure is the best way to avoid the release of these chemicals. Make sure that your kitchen is well-ventilated to help filter out the chemicals more quickly.
Keep an eye on the surface of the waffle maker. If you notice any scratches or damage to the surface, you should replace it. As the coating begins to peel or deteriorate, it can flake off into your waffles.
Alternatives to Teflon and Other Toxic, Non-Stick Coatings
You might feel a bit anxious that this type of toxic material might be on your favorite cookware or waffle maker. While that is a perfectly reasonable fear, there is some good news. There are plenty of safe and accessible alternatives to Teflon and PTFE non-stick technology for your waffle makers, such as:
- Cast iron
There are plenty of waffle irons coated with safe alternatives, such as ceramic, stainless steel, and titanium, which are some of the more common options available today. This section will share some recommendations on some of the best and safest waffle makers on the market.
The Calphalon Intellicrisp is a stainless steel waffle iron with a ceramic coating. It has five settings, marked by a dial indicating how light or dark you want your waffle.
Even an amateur waffle maker can make perfect waffles, thanks to the bright LED screen and beep to indicate when they are cooked to the ideal level. The ultra-durable waffle maker is an excellent safe alternative to your Teflon coated one, as it can make two square waffles at a time.
The dura-ceramic coating of this Oster Titanium-Infused DuraCeramic Waffle Maker is much more durable and long-lasting compared to traditional non-stick coatings, like Teflon, and it has an adjustable temperature knob to control the doneness of your waffle.
It is more efficient and cooks waffles 30% quicker than many other waffle makers. Most importantly, the surface requires only a bit of cooking spray to get the non-stick quality everyone wants.
The Rome Industries Cast Iron Waffle Maker will bring you back to your childhood. While this old-fashioned waffle maker doesn’t have many bells and whistles, it is tough, durable, and makes a great waffle. Cast iron products last for decades, so you will only have to buy this once.
It does not have any flashy buttons, audible buzzers, or LED screens, but that just means those things won’t break on you. Cast iron is a very safe product, so you can use this waffle maker without panicking about health issues.
Not only does the ZZ Hear Waffle Maker make your waffles into cute shapes for your loved ones, but it also avoids any PFOA or PTFE coatings.
This stainless steel waffle maker is coated with a newer non-stick coating, called quantanium, a safe alternative to toxic coatings. It has multiple settings, makes up to ten waffles at a time, and is easy to clean.