Photo from Love Made Me Do It x
As more and more people come around to the benefits of eating healthily and from the source, it struck me recently that there’s little information surrounding the benefits of choosing the correct and healthiest cookware on the market today.
We all know that somewhere lurking in our kitchen is at least one old saucepan that perhaps had its heyday in the 90’s and is hanging in there, just by the skin of its teeth.
Although for many of us it can be a struggle to say goodbye to what is a reminder of a delicious meal created with a special person or a trusty rusty pan that has seen many a day, for a lot of us the time has now come for cookware update.
Not only do old cooking pots and pans often look battered and bruised, they can also be a source of leeching chemicals which infiltrate our food and negate the benefits of all of the wonderfully fresh, organic and healthy produce we are purchasing.
When choosing new cookware it’s important to look at a number of factors, the usability, the price and most importantly, the materials used.
Here’s my lowdown on the types of materials used in cookware;
Plastic is not an option. Full stop!
Aluminum is widely used in cookware as it is a good conductor of heat, lightweight and an inexpensive material. When cooking with acidic ingredients however, small traces of aluminum may be released into the foods. Older aluminum pots can also harbor traces of arsenic and fluorides. A better alternative is the slightly more expensive anodized aluminum cookware, which locks the aluminum, preventing it leeching into the food. Again, an aluminum or steel pot that is coated with a strong porcelain-enamel can similarly prevent the metal from leeching out.
Ironware, although heavy and cumbersome to use, is a better cookware choice than aluminum. Although some iron is released into the food, it is not easily absorbed by the body, there is a bit of debate lurking about this though and the pan needs to be seasoned often. Here’s a guide about how to season your cast iron pan with flax seed oil. I think that the best way to use cast iron is to have cookware that has the cast iron surface covered with enamel to protect it.
Copper pans are used for their excellent thermal properties; however they are often coated with another metal to prevent the copper from coming into contact with food. Stainless steel/copper cookware is often considered one of the safest types of cookware. One thing to be wary of is the metal coating dissolving when high acidic foods are cooked in the pans and when the coating becomes scratched, allowing the copper to leech into the foods.
Stainless steel is one of the most popular types of cookware. The metals nickel, molybdenum, titanium, aluminum and carbon steel can be released into food that is cooked in stainless steel pots and pans, in low quantities. It’s not completely comforting to know that most researchers claim that these quantities are not hazardous to the average person, but may slightly affect those with sensitivities. Problems arise with using stainless steel when the pots get scratches and marks. Bacteria such as E. coli may grow in these crevices so it is always important to keep pots scrubbed clean with soap and water.
Steer clear of non-stick cookware as it is made using a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which starts emitting toxic fumes that you inhale every time you cook with a non-stick pot or pan. Mercola talks about it here.
Treehugger lists nine non-toxic cookware brands for safe and healthy home cooking here.
So what do I cook with? I use glass casserole and roasting dishes which conduct heat well, and they also have the advantage of being non-reactive, so food tastes delicious minus the metallic flavors. I like to cook and serve dishes in pottery, ceramic bowls. If I’m making a stew or hot pot I’ll use my enamel covered cast iron such as Le Creuset to cook with. When you’re choosing enamel coated cookware, look for good quality with an extremely hard finish so that it won’t scratch, rust, fade or peel. There are some lower-priced cookware choices around which are made from porcelain like enamel finishes but these can be easily-damaged and not worth investing in if you are looking for longevity.
Once ceramic, glass or enamel cookware becomes chipped, cracked, or broken on the surface, it’s best to replace it. But don’t throw it away, use it as a herb or flower pot. Recently I’ve making the most of my slow cooker as I find that cooking at low temperatures for longer means you are less likely to have heavy metals migrating into your foods. If I’m steaming I will use a bamboo steamer as bamboo is a non-reactive renewable resource, and although it has a short lifespan, its environmental impact is relatively small.
Cleaning your cookware is also an important fact to think about too. Remember that abrasive scourers and cleaners should not be used on any cookware as these can easily scratch the metal, allowing a breeding ground for bacteria.
I am going to leave you with a couple of questions….have a thought for the state of your baking dish, fry pan or saucepan?… maybe it’s time for an upgrade?