PANdemonium! - Is Your Cookware Safe?

We always hear that cooking a good meal at home is a great way to stay healthy.  I must say that I completely agree.  However, just physically being in your kitchen while you are cooking does not make your meal healthy.  Sometimes even your pan can play a role in making your meal unsafe to eat.

For a number of years we have heard the warnings about Teflon and non-stick pans, especially when they become damaged.  Yet, they are still produced daily and sold to thousands of consumers.  As usual, I decided some research was necessary.  Some of my findings surprised me while other findings only confirmed my fears.  Take a look.


TEFLON/NON-STICK

PROS

  • Good weight
  • Non-stick
  • Easy to store
  • Reasonably priced


CONS

  • At various temps the pans can release at least 6 toxic gases, including 2 carcinogens
  • Key Chemical has been linked to cancer, organ damage in lab animals
  • Plastic and leached aluminum cling to food when pans are scratched
  • Teflon lasts in the environment forever, it has been found everywhere from babies in the womb to whales in the ocean
  • In 2-5 min when pan is heating on a conventional stovetop temps exceed the point when the coating stays intact.  Coating breaks and emits toxic particles and gases.
  • Teflon Toxicosis – Toxic reaction in birds to the chemicals released from heated Teflon, often deadly.
  • Polymer Fume Fever – Toxic reaction in humans to the chemicals released from heated Teflon.  In people the disease has flu-like symptoms.  It is rarely fatal, although it can cause serious illness, especially in people with underlying respiratory disease.


SUGGESTIONS

  • If you use the product keep it in very good condition
  • Do not clean with abrasive products
  • Do not use metal utensils inside the pan for cooking
  • Do not use if you have a bird in the house
  • Do not overheat
  • Cook foods on low heat


STAINLESS STEEL

PROS

  • Durable
  • Good weight
  • Easy to store
  • Easy maintenance
  • Reasonably priced


CONS

  • Food tends to stick to pan
  • If handles are plastic they can emit toxic fumes
  • Acidic foods and un-dissolved salt can pit the pan if left for long periods of time
  • Contains Chromium - 18/10 (chromium steel/nickel steel) is the best type of stainless cookware.
  • Contains Nickel and Chromiun - Small amounts of nickel are not poisonous but, it can cause an allergic reaction.


SUGGESTIONS

  • Use a light oil to avoid food sticking
  • Clean immediately after use
  • Avoid acidic and un-dissolved salt that can cause pitting
  • People with nickel allergies should avoid cooking with stainless steel cookware
  • Do not clean with abrasive material, if done so frequently it can release small amounts of chromium and nickel.


COPPER (LINED WITH METAL)

PROS

  • Great conductor of heat/energy saver
  • Good weight
  • Easy to store


CONS

  • Contains nickel
  • Must be polished frequently
  • Expensive
  • Copper alone is highly reactive with food so pans should be lined with metal (usually stainless steel or tin)


SUGGESTIONS

  • Avoid if you have a nickel allergy
  • Do not clean with abrasive material, if done so frequently it can release small amounts of the lined metal.
  • Do not use uncoated or badly scratched cookware to cook or store food
  • Use pans lined with stainless steel not tin.  Tin is cheaper but needs replaced more frequently.  Stainless steel is a better decision in the long run.


CAST IRON

PROS

  • Adds iron to your food
  • Retains and redistributes heat for long periods of time
  • Perfect for beginners or professional cooks
  • Excellent for browning, searing, braising, and caramelizing
  • Can be used to safely cook outside on a grill


CONS

  • Heavy weight
  • More difficult to store
  • More time and energy to heat due to thickness
  • Requires seasoning to prevent food sticking and rust


SUGGESTIONS

  • Keep cookware well-coated - To prevent rust damage, the inside of cast iron cookware should be coated frequently with light unsalted cooking oil or seasoned.  To season your pan put 1/4 to 1/2 inches of cooking oil over the surface of the pan and heat it either in the oven for 1 hour, or on the stove top.
  • Use detergents sparingly - It should not be washed with strong detergents or scoured and should be wiped dry immediately after rinsing


ALUMINUM

PROS

  • Low Cost
  • Light Weight
  • Thermally responsive
  • Easy to store
  • Easy maintenance


CONS

  • If handles are plastic they can emit toxic fumes when heated
  • Reactive - foods can react with the metal to form aluminum salts associated with impaired visual motor coordination and alzheimer's disease; however there is no definite link proven
  • Acidic foods and un-dissolved salt can pit the pan if left for long periods of time and cause the aluminum to leach.
  • Food tends to stick to pan


SUGGESTIONS

  • Get pans with metal handles
  • Keep pan in good condition
  • Clean immediately after use and minimize food storage time
  • Avoid acidic and salty foods that can cause more aluminum that usual to enter the food
  • Use a light oil to avoid food sticking


CERAMIC

PROS

  • Good weight - While it can be available in a wide range of weights, ceramic cookware tends to be lighter than cast iron cookware
  • Durable (if it is enamel based)
  • Easy to clean


CONS

  • There sometimes is controversy over the chemicals and materials that are contained within the ceramic and glaze that is used to protect the cookware.
  • If the glaze contains lead, than any cooked food could contain traces of this hazardous element.  Although lead is dangerous, if the ceramic cookware is properly created and sealed, than the lead does not pose a danger to the consumer. It is, however, extremely difficult to determine if it was properly created.
  • Can break and chip easily if it is clay based


SUGGESTIONS

  • Clean using warm water, a mild detergent and a sponge, and doesn't stain as easily over time as some other materials can.
  • Online companies tend to have a much better selection of ceramic cookware than in traditional stores because ceramic cookware is not as popular as some other types of cookware in the United States.
  • If you want durable ceramic cookware sets, get enamel based ceramic cookware. This kind of ceramic cookware is manufactured by coating enamel on a metal physique, generally cast iron. The enamel utilized is mainly porcelain, which is really molten glass powder. The ceramic cookware is completed with a porcelain glaze.


If you have any suggestions about which pans are best or have comments please post them so others can benefit from your advice as well.  Also take our pan poll on our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/wholesomemother.


Happy cooking!

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