Despite the ease and convenience of non-stick pots and pans such as Teflon, many health conscious people are tossing their non-stick and replacing them with healthier options.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH TEFLON?
Non-stick pots and pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), toxic fumes from the Teflon chemical released from pots and pans at high temperatures may kill pet birds and cause people to develop flu-like symptoms.
TEFLON: THUMBS DOWN
SAFER ALTERNATIVES TO NON-STICK
Aluminum from pots and pans can leach into food when the foods being cooked or stored are highly basic (like baking soda) or highly acidic (like tomato sauce, lemon juice, oranges, or vinegar). Aluminum is on the list of top priority toxins in the United States (a list put out every year by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), and aluminum has been clearly identified as a toxin for the human nervous system, immune system and genetic system. Aluminum has also been linked to Alzheimer’s.
ALUMINUM: THUMBS DOWN
Some health conscious cooks are turning to anodized aluminum cookware as a safer alternative. The aluminum is treated with a non-reactive hard coating of aluminum called aluminum oxidation, so that the aluminum can’t leach into food, and makes for what many cooks consider an ideal non-stick and scratch-resistant cooking surface. But questions about aluminum in general remain. If the pan is scratched it can leach -so get rid of it. Also, be prepared to spend some big bucks on these pans.
ANODIZED ALUMINUM: THUMBS SIDEWAYS
Another good choice is going back to the cookware that your grandparents probably used, cast iron, which is known for its durability and even heat distribution. The downside of cast iron- most cast iron cookware needs to be seasoned after each use and this makes it not as worry-free as other alternatives.
CAST IRON: THUMBS UP WITH A LITTLE EXTRA EFFORT
Glass, Ceramic and Stoneware
Glass, ceramic, and stoneware cookware are grouped together because they all have similar cooking and handling characteristics. This type of cookware is considered healthy as long as it has zero lead content-check any pans with glaze for possible lead. These pans are simple to clean since they can safely be washed in the dishwasher.
GLASS, CERAMIC AND STONEWARE: THUMBS UP
When this first came out I was immediately skeptical. All of those fun, funky colors are attractive-but are they safe? The jury is still out. Some claim that silicone does off-gas, and raise concerns that additives may include petroleum or other harmful ingredients. Others claim that there are no known health hazards. I say err on the side of caution.
SILICONE: THUMBS DOWN
Stainless steel is a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all of which can trickle into foods. Leaching will happen only if your stainless steel cookware is dinged and the amount of leaching would be small. It is definitely NOT non-stick. Soaking after use and before scrubbing is a must. Stainless steel cookware is considered one of the best and safest choices in cookware.
STAINLESS STEEL: THUMBS UP
Most nonstick coatings presently on the market contain the problem chemical PTFE. Gradually get rid of your non-stick and replace with healthier options. I love All Clad stainless steel-although pricey they will last a lifetime and beyond. Glass Cookware is my go-to for baking. There are all sorts of “green” alternatives coming out that claim to be PTFE and PFOA free. Just be sure to do your homework before investing in these.
Any other cookware you would suggest?
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photo credit: Sharon Drummond via photopin cc