It is in every home kitchen in the world. We use it daily to cook our food. It was sold to us as a nonstick, easy-to-clean, unburnable magic that will simplify our lives.
What am I talking about? If your guess was polytetrafluoroethylene (or PTFE for short), you are not only 100% correct but also a God. For the rest of us everyday folks, we are taking a closer look at Teflon today, specifically at rice cookers without Teflon.
If you stopped by just for a quick tip:
To stay on the safe side, stick with any rice cooker with a ceramic bowl, like the Aroma Housewares ARC-6206C Ceramic Rice Cooker, which you can buy here on Amazon.
Now that you know what rice cooker without Teflon you should aim for, let’s take a closer look at the whole topic.
Originally I wanted to include more different types of rice cookers without Teflon. I have found out that even my favorite brand Zojirushi has some form of Teflon on their rice cookers. In most cases, it is a coating that is over either aluminum (in cheaper models) or stainless steel (in more expensive) ones.
This news slightly bends my views on one of my previous articles about rice cookers with timers. But after some brainstorming and the information, I am about to tell you it doesn’t change what I have written.
The issue behind other types of rice cookers without Teflon is the fact that it is tough to find out if they have one or not.
Now, most manufacturers won’t mention this, but they will say that the rice cooker pot is nonstick. That can mean pretty much anything because under nonstick also falls anodized aluminum, ceramics, silicone, enameled cast iron, and seasoned cookware.
It is hard to imagine a rice cooker bowl made out of silicone, but still.
So what to do if you are not sure? Dig. And dig deep, as this information tends to be well hidden. In comments, manufacturers documentation, asking on forums, friends, and so on.
For example, it took me a couple of hours to confirm that Zojirushis nonstick rice cooker pot is covered in Teflon.
What’s the Teflon fuss about?
The whole business is about health concerns. Here I have to say that in general, Teflon is safe if used correctly.
What should you be focusing on when handling anything that is covered in or made out of Teflon? Let’s see.
I mean not overheating the Teflon-coated cookware past 500°F (260°C). At this temperature, the Pyrolysis, a Teflon compound, starts to release. This chemical can kill birds and is dangerous to humans. It can cause an illness called informally Teflon-flu about which you can find more information on the Wikipedia page.
About the birds
Do you remember the story about the canary in a coal mine? In short, between the years 1911 and 1986, the canary birds were used for safety testing in coal mines. When a hole was found or created by miners, they sent a small bird in a cage to the shaft to check for toxic gases that could put the lives of miners in danger.
You might think it is quite hard to get to the 500°F (260°C) mark, but trust me, it is more straightforward than it might seem. You drop your focus for a minute, and the toxic gases start releasing.
For a more practical example, check out the video below.
Another valid point is the rough handling of Teflon cookware. I mean using anything that can scratch the surface – forks, knives, spoons, and pretty much any other metal objects.
With physical damage to the Teflon, the dangers come much quicker. When you scratch the surface, you create a hole in layers, which starts acting as a gate for moisture. Over time as you reheat the cookware over and over, you are allowing more and more liquid to get into the layers, breaking them apart.
Have you ever noticed with your damaged rice cooker bowl that it sometimes burns the rice or you find little black bits in your rice? Both of them are signals of the damaged and deteriorating container. You might be totally fine eating the rice that is spoiled this way, but I would do my best not to give it to a child.
What to do
I guess that now you would like to throw away your rice cooker and buy one with a ceramic bowl. Before you do that, let me tell you a bit more.
You should not be worried about using your current rice cooker even if it has a Teflon coating. Why? Well, all rice cookers work on the same principle. When the internal temperature gets to 212°F (100°C), the sensor detects it and switches the rice cooker off or to keep warm.
If you are interested in rice cookers in more detail, check out my article on how they work here.
For the second concern about the scratches, I do recommend making sure that you are using a plastic spatula that is shipped with most types of rice cookers these days. That way, you will protect your rice cooker from the dangers of physical damage and allow it to serve you for a long time.
Now, whenever you choose to get yourself a rice cooker with a ceramic bowl, or you decide to stick with your current one, it is up to you.
However, keep in mind my two tips.
Don’t overheat it – this can be done by messing with the electrical wiring of your rice cooker to disable a heat sensor, for example.
Don’t damage the surface – forks, knives, spoons, and anything else sharp is not your friend with a rice cooker.
I hope that I have been able to help you with your decision and that I have cast a bit more light on the whole issue.
Until next time have fluffy and nontoxic cooking.