Do you remember the last time you bought a frying pan or a nonstick skillet? No? That might be a problem. Many of us have our kitchen cabinets stocked with towers of pots and pans, but we don’t put much thought into their age-related safety or quality so long as they can sear a piece of chicken or boil pasta water. So when should you start asking the question, “is it time to throw out your pan?”
While some pots and pans can be salvaged with a good scrub (for that, there’s Bar Keepers Friend), others would be better off in the trash. Below, we’ve gathered three tell-tale signs it’s time to finally get rid of that who-knows-how-old cooking pan. Once you’ve reevaluated your cookware, find out what to tackle next in our report on The 17 Dirtiest, Grossest Things in Your Kitchen.
The Cooking Surface is Warped
“An old pan that needs replacement can really affect the quality of your food. For example, if the pan’s handle is loose, or the surface gets warped, the pan won’t lay flat on the burner, and your food won’t cook evenly,” Chef Zipora Einav, founder of Chef Zipora Enterprise: Comfort Food in Harmony with Your Health, tells us. “You’ll start to burn your creations because the food isn’t sauteing the way it should.”
The Surface is Scratched
“Scratches on the surface of your pans can also be a real problem,” Einav says. “Depending on the material, potentially dangerous chemicals can actually begin to seep into your food.” In fact, Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or C8, is a man-made chemical used in the process of making Teflon and similar chemicals (known as fluorotelomers), which are found in nonstick pans’ cooking surfaces, according to the American Cancer Society. Besides mistaking chemicals specks in your food for black pepper, PFOA has been linked to an increased risk of cancerous tumors.
“Rusted and discolored pans are also a tell-tale sign that it’s time to buy a replacement. This also goes back to food safety. If rust or other materials begin to flake off into your food it can pose a health risk,” Einav says. If you can’t scrub off the discoloration (try a salt scrub or washing with warm vinegar), your best bet is to replace the pan. For more kitchen tips, healthy recipes, and supermarket shopping guides subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price—click here!