Is your skillet healthy for you? Chef shares how to care for your cookware

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Piedmont Cancer Wellness Center dietician Shayna  Komar says be mindful not terrified of your cookware. She points out that old non-stick pans had a chemical known as PFOA. The substance was suspected of causing cancer, and has been phased out of cookware since the late 20th century. Komar suggests the pretty pot or bowl your picked up on your overseas vacation should probably be just a souvenir. Different safety standards in other countries may mean the paint used in your vacation find may have lead in it. Komar says most of the cookware you use is safe, but you need still need to take care of it.

Nancy Waldeck, a healthy chef and self-described "partyologist" at Piedmont Cancer Wellness Center in Atlanta, relies on her cookware to pull off her favorite recipes. So, with your health in mind, we asked her for some tips, on keeping our pans in shape, starting with non-stick skillets.

"So first all, if you have a Teflon pan, a non-stick pan, what you want to do is always use plastic utensils," Waldeck says.

Metal tools, she says, can scrape or nick the pan's non-stick coating, causing tiny flakes to peel off, and end up in your food.

"The other thing you want to be careful of with these non-stick pans is, you don't want to use any of those non-stick spray coatings."

The pans are already coated.

Waldeck says spraying them can cause a sticky film to build up on the surface of the pan.

Once it's on there, she says, it's almost impossible to clean it off.

She holds up a pan covered in residue.

"And then look, this have been washed, and you still can't get that off," Waldeck says, pointing at the film

Avoid high heat with Teflon pans, which can release fumes if they get too hot.

Waldeck's favorite for higher heat are her stainless steel pans.

But, she warns, keep those pans out of the dishwasher.

"Over time, the dishwasher soap can pit the surface of the pan," she says.  "It also can cause the pan to warp, just because of the water, and it's in there over and over again. So you want to wash these by hand and dry them as well. Never put them in the dishwasher."

If you're lucky enough to still have grandma's cast iron skillet, Waldeck says, keep it seasoned with a little oil, and never let it sit in water.

"You never want your cast iron pans to be rusty," she says.  "They're easy to re-season. You can actually take a very fine piece of sandpaper and run it over the whole pot and then re-season again."

To do that, Waldeck recommends setting your oven at 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. 

"Rub a little oil in the pan, and put that cast iron pan in your oven.  Let it sit for about 30 minutes in that hot oven, and then turn it off.  When it's cool enough to take it out, then you're good to go again."

If your pots and pans are showing wear and tear, Waldeck recommends retiring them. 

When you're ready to replace them, she recommends investing in a few higher-quality cookware pieces that will stand the test of time.

Of course, you still have to take care of them, but you've got that covered.