The Safety Of Non-Stick Cookware And My Scrambled Tofu Recipe

Since I recently re-read “The Engine 2 Diet” by Rip Esselstyn and some of my other books by Dr. John A. McDougall (including “The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook”), I have been experimenting with non-stick cookware to cut my intake of oils. As you may know, Dr. McDougall and Rip Esselystyn are advocates of a healthy low-fat diet which keeps vegetable oils to a minimum. Dr. McDougall suggests using nonstick silicone-coated muffin tins and bread pans to prevent sticking and parchment paper to line baking pans.

For many years, I have been cooking with All-Clad’s stainless steel pots and pans. Although they are excellent, I found that I needed to cook with oils to prevent foods from sticking to the pans. I recently bought a large saute pan made of hard anodized aluminum at Costco. Although I am enjoying the saute pan and believe it to be of excellent quality, I couldn’t stop wondering about the safety of using any type of non-stick cookware; so I searched the Internet. Here is what I found…

Although DuPont maintains that Teflon coated non-stick surfaces are safe, a team of experts known as the “Environmental Working Group” found that this type of cookware, when heated, releases chemicals and tiny, toxic Teflon particles that can kill birds. This tidbit of information is more than enough for me to suggest replacing your Teflon coated cookware if you can. If you can’t afford to replace your Teflon coated pans, I would suggest using rubber utensils while cooking to prevent scratching or cracking the surface. I would also keep the heat to a minimum, not cooking above a medium heat.

Research done by others suggests that anodized aluminum cookware (similar to the saute pan I recently bought at Costco), is a safer alternative. The electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the cookware’s base metal aluminum so that it can’t get into food, and makes for what many cooks consider an ideal non-stick and scratch-resistant cooking surface. “Calphalon” is the leading manufacturer of anodized aluminum cookware. Again, I would suggest cooking with rubber utensils with this type of cookware and keeping heat to a minimum. I still feel skeptical about cooking with this cookware at high heats, although I have no scientific basis for this skepticism.

Cast iron remains a great alternative to non-stick cooking surfaces and, according to the Environmental Working Group, can withstand oven temperatures well above what is considered safe for non-stick pans. Cast iron is extremely durable and can be purchased pre-seasoned and ready to use.

Ceramic titanium and porcelain enameled cast iron, such as those made by “Le Creuset,” seem to be the finest non-stick cookware of all. It will safely allow the use of higher temperatures and still clean up easily. I have had my eye on Le Creuset’s 12 inch non-stick skillet with the matte black interior for quite some time. Although it is quite expensive, I will probably purchase this skillet in the near future. For the record, I am hereby dubbing the Le Creuset non-stick skillet as my #1 pick for safe non-stick cookware. There are other less expensive brands of this type of cookware, such as those made by Martha Stewart; but I love my two Le Creuset pots for making soups and beans, so I intend to add the 12 inch non-stick skillet to my small collection.

Since we are talking about cooking with non-stick skillets, I thought that this would be a good time to give you my favorite recipe for scrambled tofu. Although I used one tablespoon of light sesame oil in this recipe, you can use two tablespoons of vegetable broth instead. You could also make scrambled tofu with any vegetables you like, but I always use onions, mushrooms and peppers. The turmeric seasoning makes this dish look like authentic scrambled eggs.

At the outset, please note that preparing the tofu is the most time consuming part of preparing the dish. The first thing you have to do is drain the tofu and place it on some paper towels on a plate…

Then, press the tofu between two plates to remove the excess liquid. You should press the tofu for 30 minutes, at least. You will have to put some type of weight on the top plate while pressing. I use a tea pot filled with water. You can also purchase a tofu press (there is one called “Tofu Express”) which I intend to buy soon. You should also replace the paper towels with new ones as they become saturated…

I served my scrambled tofu with Smoky Tempeh “Fakin’ Bacon” by the brand “Lightlife,” which I prepared in a cast iron skillet with a bit of oil and tamari sauce. I also love to toast the Sourdough Rye bread by the brand “Bread Alone” which is sold at my local Whole Foods. I prepared the scrambled tofu in my new anodized aluminum skillet from Costco, which I will be replacing with a Le Creuset skillet in the near future. These photos are a little scary looking because I was experimenting with photoshopping. A photography class is also in my near future …

Anyway, here is the recipe…



1 block of firm tofu, pressed and crumbled (today, I used soft tofu and it was fine)

1 cup chopped peppers (I used 3 different colors)

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon light sesame oil

1 to 2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric


Saute the onions and garlic in the sesame oil in a non-stick skillet until tender. Add the mushrooms and peppers to the skillet, stir everything together, and sautee for about 5 more minutes. Add a little water to the pan if the veggies start to stick to the pan. Add the crumbled tofu, turmeric, salt, pepper and tamari soy sauce, stirring everything together until heated through.

Garnish with parsley, chives, cilantro or scallions

*Note: After this post was written, I purchased a Tofu Xpress Gourmet Food Press to press my tofu and I love it! No more tea pots or plates! Click here to read my review of the Tofu Xpress.


  1. Thank you for the information on the non stick pans, its very confusing out there as to what is safe and what is not. I will look at the Le Creuset you mentioned as I am in need of a good tofu pan. I have found a great tofu press called EZ Tofu Press, it works great on Firm and Extra Firm Tofu and costs only $25 on Amazon.

  2. The Le Creuset pan you mention does have a black non-stick surface applied to the porcelain
    cast iron pan. Is that non-stick surface any safer than any other non-stick surface???
    I love your site. And love your recipe collection. I hope to actually make some of your
    Thanks for all your effort to get the good word out there.

    • I did do some research, and this particular black non-stick surface on this Le Creuset pan is apparently safer than all the others. However, having recently watched Dr. Neal Barnard on TV talk about Alzheimer’s Disease, I think I will follow his recommendation and use stainless steel cookware only. Thanks so much for visiting the site. Feel free to contact me with any other questions.

      • Hi. I have the 12″ pan. It isn’t really non stick. They have a non stick 10″ pan that I use for eggs but the 12″, while good for vegetables, isn’t really the same. It’s a glass fused onto the cast iron. I love it and use it for lots of things and if something sticks to it, it comes off easily if soaked for just a few minutes. For everything else, I use stainless, but these two pans are my go to favorites.

  3. suzanne luke says:

    Hi Debbie
    Thanks for the great site. I am motivated to do some of your recipes.

    The only non stick option I m aware of that is truly safe is the SCANPAN. Costs a bloody fortune but has a lifetime warantee. Gets a wee bit less sticky with age. They sell it at Sur La Table. Must be other options now, but that was what I was told.

    I would also say that my serious chef friends feel that well tended cast iron is as good as non stick and they say that if it is old, well cared for and working – you can do omelettes. I fried eggs in cast iron this morning and frankly, i think they work as well as anything. I do most of my cooking in cast iron now. Cheap pans and great for everything. AND SAFE!


    • Thanks for this useful information, Suzanne! I am definitely going to check out those SCANPANS. I have read similar things about cast iron skillets. However, I recently saw Dr. Neal Barnard on a daytime talk show stating to use stainless steel skillets only because metals from other pans could get into the brain possibly leading to Alzheimer’s. But, I have also heard more great things than not about well-tended cast iron skillets.

  4. Cookware such as cast iron, copper and aluminum is NOT safe. See the research and advice of Dr Neal Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and author of many books including Power Foods For The Brain.

    Excess iron can build up in the brain, sparking the production of damaging free radicals. Sources of excess iron include cast-iron cookware, meats, and iron supplements.
    Excess copper impairs cognition—even in mid-adulthood—and ends up in the plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. It comes from copper pipes and nutritional supplements.
    Aluminum has been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, so it pays to err on the side of caution. Avoid uncoated aluminum cookware and read labels when buying baking powder, antacids, and processed foods.

  5. Excellent article especially the 4th paragraph! I am actually writing a comparable blog post on this same subject. With your consent could I quote a section from this post? I attempted to contact you directly via your contact form web page, but anytime I try to access it I receive this error “TCP ERROR ENCOUNTERED WHILE SENDING REQUEST TO SERVER” I am unsure if this a problem on my only side or if other readers are having this same problem? I hope to hear from you whenever you are readily available.

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