What is Teflon?
What’s that stuff lining your favorite nonstick pan? You probably know it by the brand name Teflon.
Teflon is certainly easier to say than polytetrafluoroethylene, its scientific name. Like many long and complicated names, polytetrafluoroethylene was shortened to the acronym PTFE.
This fluorinated plastic coating was discovered by accident in 1938 by DuPont chemist Roy Plunkett. (DuPont still manufactures Teflon through Chemours, one of their subsidiaries.) Generations of cooks grew up loving Roy Plunkett’s accidental discovery. And still today, the majority of skillets and frying pans sold in the United States have a nonstick, PTFE coating.
Why does a skillet coated with PTFE prevent eggs and other food from sticking to the bottom of your pan? Polytetrafluoroethylene prefers to socialize only with itself. The unique properties of PTFE keep food from sticking to nonstick cookware because it has an amazingly low coefficient of friction.
That low friction means things like butter or oil aren’t needed to keep food from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The molecular structure of the nonstick coating bonds with the cookware, but not with the food you’re cooking.
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