Cookware Safety

Cookware Safety

by Michelle on April 19, 2011

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While we know that the quality of food we put into our bodies is important (as well as the containers we use to store them), another item to be considered is the cookware used when heating. I personally have two stainless steel pans that I use often and a large set of non-stick cookware (which I have just discovered to be aluminum) that I generally use for frying. When I acquired these pans I wasn’t aware of potential health issues surrounding them and thus recently decided to explore the safest options.

To start, I referenced my trusty Nourishing Traditions cookbook which recommends stainless steel cookware and baking pans as opposed to aluminum even though it is more expensive. The book states the reason is that when cooking salty or acidic foods, aluminum (a toxic metal) can be dissolved into the food and thus consumed. Ingesting aluminum is considered dangerous and has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Cast iron skillets are recommended as a safer alternative to these types of pans.

Non-stick cookware is also problematic as PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), a synthetic chemical used in the manufacturing of coatings, is known for producing fumes that can actually kill birds when subjected to high temperatures. These fumes are not something I want to risk breathing in every day! In addition, studies have shown PFOA presenting a danger to exposed workers. I would never want someones health to suffer so that I could have a non-stick pan! In addition, Natural News reports that PFOA has been linked to 150% increase in infertility, an increased risk for ADHD in children, and even the risk for thyroid disease.

While I can’t very well just go out and replace a whole set of cookware at this time, at least I know that when I do (even if piece by piece) there are safer options. I did note some findings where stainless steel is said to leach nickel, but since the overall combination of metals used is more stable than other cookware, there is less chance for this to occur. In addition, iron leaching from cast iron pans is also notable as although it’s an important mineral, some people may be at risk for ingesting excessive iron and may want to pursue other options.

Whatever material you use, it’s important to follow the manufacturers instructions for washing and care. Also, avoid scrubbing hard which can damage the pan and expose buried layers thus increasing the danger of contaminating your food.

I want to hear your thoughts on the different types of cookware. What are your recommendations and are there any types that you avoid in particular?


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

emili April 19, 2011 at 1:06 pm

We use the Calphalon Hard Anodized Iron cookware. I cannot find any concrete evidence for the safety on these… I’m assuming they’re just like cast iron, or at least close to it?? They;re very sturdy, and have lasted us since we’ve been married, with no wear. I like them, but of course would like to know for sure that they’re safe!

I would love to start buying stainless steel, piece by piece. It’s a shame, but understandable, why cookware sets are so pricey!

Michelle April 19, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Emili, I think your cookware may be similar to my non-stick set. Mine says hard-anodized non-stick and we also got this for our wedding. According to the Calphalon FAQ page, these are aluminum and my understanding is that the anodizing process makes it harder/stronger. The other link below from WiseGeek has some information that might interest you about this cookware surface and states that this particular finish is “chemically stable, will not decompose, and is absolutely non-toxic. Since hard anodized nonstick cookware will not chip and wear exposing the aluminum beneath, it is arguably even safer than standard nonstick cookware.”

I agree about buying stainless steel piece by piece, but hope this makes you feel better in the meantime!

emili April 21, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Thank you! It certainly does. It’s amazing how you take these small things for granted, and then finally start thinking: What are you cooking? What are you cooking on? How are you cooking it?

It has the potential to drive one mad, but it’s all good to take it in stride, yes? Piece by piece.

Michelle April 22, 2011 at 12:11 am

I know! Ignorance is bliss, right? But it seems like once you know so much, you can’t turn back.

I agree with you completely- piece by piece, one thing at a time. Otherwise it’s just plain overwhelming!

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