Bird Safety, Teflon, and a Teflon-free Rice Cooker

According to Dupont’s Bird Safety Tips brochure, when overheated, cookware containing Teflon non-stick coating emits toxic fumes that can prove fatal to your pet bird.  These fumes are not necessarily healthy for you either.

Dupont, the maker of Teflon, recommends that you remove your pet bird from the kitchen while cooking to avoid the possibility of “Teflon toxicosis,” the official name for the poisoning that occurs in pet birds from these fatal fumes. When the same fumes make people ill, it is called “polymer fume fever.”

The Environmental Working Group says:

“In two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group (EWG).”

“DuPont studies show that the Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 464°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens, two global pollutants, and MFA, a chemical lethal to humans at low doses. At temperatures that DuPont scientists claim are reached on stovetop drip pans (1000°F), non-stick coatings break down to a chemical warfare agent known as PFIB, and a chemical analog of the WWII nerve gas phosgene.”

Sounds tasty!

Rice cookers without non-stick coating

I no longer use cookware that contains non-stick coating of any type, especially after watching the non-stick coating peel off inside my former Panasonic rice cooker due to a vagrant piece of dried apricot.  While it’s easy to find alternatives to standard non-stick cookware, it’s tough to locate a rice cooker free of non-stick coating in the inner pot. There are plenty of rice cookers with stainless steel outer pots, but few with stainless steel inner pots. To save you the hassle of a search, here are two options.

I use the Suppentown SC 866 3-cup Stainless Steel Rice Cooker & Steamer, which is the perfect size for an individual or couple.  It does cost an arm and a leg, but it is a worthwhile investment if you are a voluminous rice eater like I am.

This rice cooker contains no non-stick coating whatsoever.  The outside and inside of the outer pot, inner pot, and cover are stainless steel.  The handles, the knob on the top, and dial panel are plastic, as you can see from the photo, so there will be off-gassing of these plastic parts during the initial period of usage.

This rice cooker makes perfect rice every time.  As recommended, I add extra water for softer rice and soak the rice in water for 15-30 minutes before cooking.  You will need to experiment to find the right ratio of rice-to-water to meet your preferences.  Clean up is a breeze if you simply let the stainless steel inner pot soak for awhile before hand washing it.

The Suppentown SC 866 has one unusual feature.  About one cup of water is added to the outer pot at the start of the cooking process.  Standard rice cookers generally release steam, but this one releases more due the evaporation of this extra cup of water.  Be forewarned in the event that a bit of extra steam might be a problem for you.

All around, it’s a well made, substantial counter-top appliance, but it’s not petite like other 3-cup rice cookers.  Smaller is nicer for traveling, but the stainless steel is what sets this cooker apart and makes it worth the investment.

A second option is the 8-cup Miracle Exclusives ME81 Stainles Steel Rice Cooker & Steamer, a better choice for a larger family and a more reasonable price as well.  I’ve never used this one so I can’t vouch for it myself, but it does get rave reviews on Amazon and appears to be fully stainless steel.

Is non-stick coating really unsafe?

Now you might wonder, “Will a little non-stick coating really hurt me so much?” 

Theoretically, non-stick coating is safe if you carefully follow use instructions and never overheat or scratch it.   Fat chance, in my kitchen!  In any case, do you really want to take a chance?   No one knows for certain the cumulative effect of toxic chemicals in the body.  Environmental toxins are now associated with the staggering increase in cancer in adults as well as the radical burgeoning of chronic disease and illness among children.   Currently, four out of every 10 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.  Adding it all up, my vote is for better living without chemicals.

Dupont kindly alerts us to the fact that in addition to toxic fumes from overheated non-stick coating, pet birds are also highly sensitive to a variety of fumes such as aerosol sprays, perfumes, smoke, pesticide sprays, glue, paints, self-cleaning ovens and cooking gas.  More theoretically “safe” stuff for humans.

Have you made the switch from non-stick coating?  Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

[Note:  This article contains an affiliate link.]

Thank you for reading and sharing!  If you enjoyed this article please subscribe for free updates by email.  With love, Sandra

13 thoughts on “Bird Safety, Teflon, and a Teflon-free Rice Cooker

  1. Wow, what a wake up call! I had no idea about this. Granted, I’m a lot bigger than a bird, but still . . . I seriously need to pay more attention to what I allow into our home!

    • Hi Jean, The wonders of synchronicity…I was just over at your blog (Virgin Blogger Notes) reading through your ‘Start Here’ page with all that juicy beginning blogger basics. Fortunately, we are all a lot bigger than birds or we would be dropping over a dozen at a time…especially the way I cook. I’m notorious for burning pans.:) Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I appreciate it a lot.

  2. Makes me think of the canary in a coal mine… I, too, have banned Teflon from my kitchen. Makes for a little more work scrubbing, but it’s worth it…

    • Barbara, that’s a very relevant image that you suggest – the canary in the coal mine. Just like canaries and other birds that have a highly sensitive nervous system, I think in time research will reveal that this is also the case with a segment of the population that is more prone to becoming chemically sensitive. Thanks for your comment.

  3. I like that bit “fat chance in my kitchen”. The fact is they always get scratched in the end and then you end up with bit of teflon in your food. Ewwww. I’ve never owned a rice cooker but thanks for the tips on the best ones. I have found that it never pays to buy cheap saucepans and while I often cut corners in other areas I do insist on the best for cooking! It’s easier to wash up too and lasts a lifetime.

    • Annabel, Nice to “see” you here again! Thanks for adding your very accurate perspective. It’s true, scratches are inevitable. Stay well.

  4. i want to know what happened? rice cookers were always made with no non-stick coating. and in just a couple of years all of them are now non-stick.

    i refuse to use non-stick coatings anymore. i’ll just make rice the old fashioned way. in a sauce pan. stainless steel of course.

    • Hi Walter,
      It’s amazing, isn’t it! I would just make rice the old fashion way too, but it’s my main staple. I eat it several times a day. So it’s handy to use the rice cooker and not have to watch the pot. Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. This reminds me of canaries being used in coal mines… I already knew that Teflon was bad, but I didn’t know that the fumes killed birds. Thanks for the info.

  6. Hi – I was researching non-teflon rice cookers & came across your blog (nice stuff here!) & cross referenced to the reviews on amazon. Unfortunately it turns out you are wrong about this product. According to this review, all of Suppenton’s rice cookers are coated with non-stick materials.

    Here is the link to the review:
    http://www.amazon.com/Sunpentown-SC-886-Stainless-Steel-Cooker-Steamer/product-reviews/B001AFL22E/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1
    Thank you for a lovely, well-intentioned blog. Hope I didn’t ruin your day. I send you my best. -Michelle

    • Hi Michele,

      That review and information is not accurate. I was confused by that review too when I originally read it before I bought my rice cooker. I personally own this particular model and I can say without hesitation that there is no teflon coating in the inner cooking pot or anywhere else on this model. This is only one review out of many positive reviews that verify the ricecooker is stainless steel. The reviewer doesn’t own the model themselves, they only called the company and spoke to a customer service person. Apparently, they were given inaccurate information.

      So you haven’t ruined by day at all! I use this rice cooker every single day. I am delighted that it is indeed teflon free and that it works splendidly.

      Thanks for taking the time to leave the message. I know you wouldn’t want people to be steered in the wrong direction and that your intentions were well meaning.

      Stay well!

  7. Using a stainless pressure cooker for rice works well and very quickly. I put water in the pressure cooker and a stainless bowl with the rice on a rack above the water.

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