What is the safest cookware?
I find that people are really confused about what cookware is safe and what isn’t.
There are so many new products on the market, each with wonderful marketing campaigns! Non-stick has been a feature in our homes for some time for its ease of use. However, there are concerns about the safety of some cookware and it’s good to know the facts so you can make an informed decision about what to use in your kitchen.
I have double checked my information with the experts (see the end of the post) and am doing a quick round-up of what is good and what is not so good. Having worked in a kitchen store for three years, I have picked up a little bit of inside knowledge and tips about cookware, so I will share those with you as well.
What not to use:
Aluminium wears down, leaches out and is absorbed into the food you cook in it. Excess aluminium has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It can also cause problems for our digestion and interfere with our absorption of vitamins. Anodized aluminium has had a treatment to create a more durable layer so it’s harder to leach into food. However, there is still the risk of this coating breaking down over time and leaching. I prefer to skip it.
The issue with some non-stick cookware is the presence of PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene). These chemicals are suspected in a range of health issues including cancer, increased cholesterol levels, abnormal thyroid levels, inflammation of the liver, weakened immunity, ADHD in children and smaller size in newborns. They may also disrupt hormones and delay puberty or bring on early menopause. The problem occurs when the pans are heated to a high temperature or the coating is damaged and releases the toxins into your food.
PFOA was found in the blood of over 90% of Americans!
Unless the copper is contained with a stainless pan, cooking in copper pans is not recommended as it can cause copper poisoning.
♦ Old glazed pottery and earthenware
Older style pots like casserole dishes should be avoided because of the danger of lead in the glazes. Any acidic food that comes into contact will exacerbate the leaching.
What to use:
♥ Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is virtually indestructible! Many companies offer a life-time guarantee. Try to get a good, food grade stainless steel. Pay that bit extra for quality.
Mostly for oven use, glass or Pyrex is great to use. Just don’t use lead crystal glass.
♥ Cast Iron
Cast iron and enamel coated cast iron are great to cook with. Cast iron can leach a little bit of iron if you haven’t seasoned it properly (see below for tips). To be on the safe side, don’t use acidic foods like tomatoes in cast iron.
Nicole Bijlsma says “Whilst silicone baking moulds should be safe – heating of plastics of any kind is not recommended because of the risk of chemicals leaching from them.”
My thoughts? I always err on the side of caution. Better to be safe than sorry!
What about the new cookware?
Yes, I know. The shopping channels love to spruke their magic cookware. I am very wary. Are they just replacing the bad chemicals with other chemicals we don’t know about?
Working in the kitchen store, I noticed that a lot of the very expensive non-stick ‘safe’ cookware still got returned to the store because the coating wears out unless you are super vigilant about caring for it. When that coating wears, you are still in danger of whatever is in it leaching into your food.
On the other hand, stainless and cast iron was never returned! So I know what I stick with.
My hot tips:
♥ Never, ever, ever use cooking spray.
Like never ever. Not only has it got questionable ingredients and is bad for the environment, cooking spray contains sugar and when you heat sugar at a high temperature it will stick like glue to your pans and become a nightmare to get off.
♥ Use the right oil or fat.
Use an oil that will take a high heat (like coconut or macadamia) or fat (like ghee, lard, tallow or animal fats) when frying in your pans. If you like to use butter, add a splash of oil with it to stop it burning.
♥ Stick to a medium-high heat.
If you have good quality cookware, you only need to use a medium-high heat because the heat is conducted so well and so evenly. High heat will burn the crapola out of your food.
♥ How to make your cookware non-stick.
For stainless steel, heat your pan first and then heat your oil before putting food in. Food is not ready to be turned if it is still sticking. Use a good amount of oil or fat from the ones mentioned (especially if you are making pancakes or fritters).
For cast iron, season the pan before use. It’s easy to do – just heat up the pan on the stovetop until it’s really smoking hot. Rub in some oil and let it cool. Wipe out with paper towel. Do this a few times and your cast iron pan is seasoned!
What brands are good?
♥ Scanpan (stainless steel range only). I have the Scanpan Impact stainless steel range of saucepans, frypan and steamer and find them to be excellent. I love that the handle is riveted on and there are no plastic components. This means all pieces can also go in the oven and dishwasher, which is handy. I also love the glass lids, so I can see what is going on in the pot, without lifting the lid.
Check out the Scanpan Impact 10 piece set below, it’s less than half price!
♥ Solidteknics – A new Aussie brand of quality cast iron pieces. These frypans and sauce pans have a lifetime guarantee and are indestructible! They are formed from one piece of iron and when seasoned, they are non-stick. I have the small frypan and love it!! Find them here.
♥ Chasseur or Le Creuset. These are beautiful French cast iron and enamel cast iron pieces. They will last you a lifetime. I have a frypan, grill-pan and french oven and they are so beautiful to cook with. This online store has some great prices on their Chasseur range with up to 60% off!
♥ If you try to multi-task while cooking like me and have little accidents, here is my tip for rescuing burnt pans.
♥ “Before you ditch your scratched-up frying pan, check out your city’s recycling guidelines or give its recycling hotline a call. Old non-stick pots and pans cannot be placed in your recycling bin. Chances are you will need to drop them off at a depot that accepts scrap metal.” David Suzuki
Sources and further reading:
Healthy Home, Healthy Family by Nicole Bijlsma
Changing Habits Changing Lives by Cyndi O’Meara