Nonstick surfaces are made of plastic (polytetrafluoroethylene to be exact; PTFE for short) plus hardeners — chemicals that make the surface, well, hard. As long as the surface is unscratched and intact, the nonstick surface does not react with food.

Nonstick pots are a dieter's delight. They enable you to cook without added fat, but using them may also lighten your wallet. They scratch easily. Unless you stick scrupulously to wooden or plastic spoons, your pot can end up looking like chickens have been stomping on the surface.

Note: Scratched nonstick pots and pans are not a health hazard. If you swallow tiny pieces of the nonstick coating, they pass through your body undigested.

However, when nonstick surfaces get very hot, they may i Separate from the metal to which they're bound (the sides and bottom of the pot)

i Emit odorless fumes

If the cooking area is not properly ventilated, you may experience polymer fume fever — flu-like symptoms with no known long-term effect. To prevent this, keep the stove flame moderate and the windows open.

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