When the health risks associated with making Teflon and non stick pans first became known, many cooks got rid of their cookware and went back to using their old stainless steel pots and pans. What many people didn’t realize was that even stainless steel is not immune to controversy regarding health impacts. Below are basic facts about each type.
Stainless Steel Cookware Combines Different Metals
In fact, stainless steel is really a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all of which can trickle into foods. However, unless your stainless steel cookware is dinged and pitted, the amount of metals likely to get into your food is negligible.
Hard-Anodized Aluminum Cookware is a Safer Alternative
These days, many health conscious cooks are turning to anodized aluminum cookware as a safer alternative. The electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the cookware’s base metal, aluminum, so that it cannot get into food, and makes for what many cooks consider an ideal non-stick and scratch-resistant cooking surface. Our favorite is Cuisinart’s’ Green Gourmet cookware.
Cast Iron Cookware May Actually Improve Health
Another good choice is that old standby, cast iron, which is known for its durability and even heat distribution. Cast iron cookware can also help ensure that eaters in your house get enough iron, which the body needs to produce red blood cells, as it seeps off the cookware into food in small amounts.
Unlike the metals that are released from pots and pans, is considered a healthy food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Consumers should beware, though, that most cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned* after each use and as such is not as worry-free as other alternatives.
*After every wash make sure the cookware is completely dry. To “season” your pans, use enough vegetable oil to coat the surface and give it a nice sheen. If it looks ‘sticky’, use a paper towel to remove the excel oil.
Ceramic Cookware Is Similar to Cast Iron – Except “Seasoning”
For those who like the feel and heat distribution properties of cast iron, but don’t want to deal with the constant seasoning process, ceramic enameled cookware is a good choice. The smooth enamel comes in many colors, is dishwasher-friendly and somewhat non-stick, and covers the entire surface of the cookware to minimize clean-up headaches.
Copper Cookware is Excellent for Certain Uses
One other surface favored by chefs for sauces and sautés is copper, which excels at quick warm-ups and even heat distribution. Since copper can leak into food in large amounts when heated, the cooking surfaces are usually lined with tin or stainless steel.
Sticking With Your Non- Stick
We hope this list will help you decide which works best for your family. However, if you are presently unable to replace your non-stick pots and pans, the most important thing to understand is that the cooking temperature is crucial. You should never super-heat the pan. That’s what causes off-gassing of the chemicals and the potential for those substances to get into your food or the air. Overheating will also cause the teflon type coating to release from the pan.
Never, ever use sharp utensils to cook with in a non stick pan. You want to avoid all possibilities for scratches to the surface which can eventually break off into your food.
Lastly, hand wash your non-stick cookware after it has cooled to the touch. There’s nothing worse you could do to your non-stick surface than to put it into a dishwasher. The chemical and temperature effects on the surface is devastating over time. The great thing about non-stick is how easy it is to clean. Hand wash.