What is the Safest Cookware to Use?

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Finding the safest cookware to use is fundamental if you strive for preparing healthy meals for your family. But doing it, is not as easy as it seems. Not every cooking utensil that is advertised on TV is good for you. A lot of them are convenient, but are they making your life easier or endangering it?

Maybe you have heard about the uproar that Teflon caused when several studies found out that heating it at a high temperature causes it to break down and leach toxic perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) into the food, or how high doses of aluminum can accumulate in the brain tissue increasing the risk of Alzheimer.

Furthermore, aluminum and pfc's are not the only threats present in cookware. Heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, nickel, copper, iron, and chromium are often used as materials to mass-produce cooking utensils.

Healthy cookware is available in many stores, but you must know what you are looking for. The key for finding it, is to pay attention to the manufacturing materials and how likely they are to leach into your food.

Avoid these Types of Kitchenware

I mentioned in the previous paragraph the two factors you need to consider before picking any pan, pot, or skillet for your kitchen. It is also important to know what not to buy and why. I touched the topic a while ago, but I want to make sure you understand the problems of using aluminum and Teflon cookware.


- Aluminum

Almost everybody has at least one utensil made of aluminum. Why? Well, it is cheap and heats well. This material is excellent for making saucepans and skillets due its high thermal conductivity. That is fantastic, except for the fact that aluminum is toxic and it may be responsible for weak bones and serious neurological disorders.

So how does this metal gets into your food? If the surface of your pan is made from this material, it will sprinkle your meals with tiny but consistent particles (yeah that is one seasoning you don't want). By cooking acidic foods at high temperatures for a long time, more and more of this contaminant will sneak into your table putting you at risk.

What you should do

Pay attention to the bottom of your pots and look for scratches. Throw out all old aluminum cookware found in your kitchen that has them.


- Teflon

non stick pan

Who doesn't love non-stick pans? You can fry potato wedges and anything else you love without the torture of endless scrubbing afterwards. Sadly, that comes with a hefty price. 

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is a toxic substance, is the main component of Teflon. PFOA's can escape from Teflon when exposed to high temperatures (400°F is more than enough) over a long time and can even kill your pet birds with its toxic fumes. 

Thyroid, liver problems, and cancer are possible consequences of exposing yourself to this dangerous substance. Even the EPA called for the elimination of this chemical from all cookware.

What you should do

As soon as you notice the breakdown of the Teflon coating from your skillets, toss them in the trash and get good quality cookware. Don't worry, I will get into which pieces are the best ones for you and your loved ones.


In the following video, Dr. Axe explains how Teflon cookware may be responsible for a vast number of health issues and what you can use instead.


10 Healthy Cookware and Bakeware Alternatives:

Don't feel disappointed if you find yourself getting rid of most of your pans. It may hurt at first, but it is for your own good.

You will find the new alternatives in the market quite enticing, and I can assure you they deliver. And now, it is time for me to tell you what is the safest cookware to use. I'm so excited to share this with you because it will boost not only the quality of your meals but also your health. A few of the choices you will see are pricey for sure, but plenty of low-cost options are up for grabs.


1- Ceramic

White casserole

Ceramic is considered the least reactive and one of the safest cookware to use. It preserves the yummy flavor of your dishes to prevent them from tasting similar to metal or some other less appetizing material.

Ceramic pots are naturally non-stick, so you won't have to scrub endlessly to take food remnants from them. Cleaning them is no problem, and unlike Teflon, they can withstand heat without leaching anything into your food. 

They heat evenly and last for many years as long as you take good care of them (please don't let your children near ceramic or it won't last as long). Want to bake or microwave your food? No problem. Ceramic bakeware will not only heat your meals properly, but also make them taste better.

Finding ceramic pans is an easy task; however, not all of them are safe. A lot of the decorative pieces of this material contain high levels of lead in the glaze and if there's something you don't want in your food is lead.

Imported ceramic cookware from countries such as China and Mexico are likely to have the dangerous poison as well, so pick domestic pieces to be on the safe side. You will know the good ones when you see the price as they are quite expensive.


2- Stainless steel

Stainless steel pans

Stainless steel is an alloy made of iron, carbon, molybdenum, nickel, and chromium. It is highly durable and resistant. One of the best things about it, is that it is cheaper compared to other quality materials such as ceramic or glass.

However, stainless steel pans have their flaws. You will need to scrub a lot to clean them as they don't have the nonstick benefit, although there are ways to get around it.

If for some reason the bottom of the pot gets damaged, it may leach nickel, chromium, and iron. Chromium and iron are not that much of a problem unless taken in excessive amounts. Nickel on the other-hand, may cause a lot of issues in people sensitive to it.

Before you go to the store and take home the first piece the salesperson pushes you, recognize that there are varying degrees of stainless steel in terms of quality. While the good ones are more expensive, they have fewer pores resulting in less food particles that may get stuck during cooking making them easier to scrub.

Cheaper choices have more pores, are tougher to clean, and may present a health risk if bacteria grow on trapped food. Additionally, good stainless steel has a copper core that doesn't touch the food, but helps distribute the heat for better cooking.


3- Enameled cast iron

Cast iron with enamel

Looking for the highest quality bakeware and don't care about the price? Enameled cast iron is what you need. It retains the flavor of anything you are cooking in it, cleans without scrubbing, needs no seasoning, and even looks like it was taken from a movie!
 
The layer of enamel protects your food from coming into contact with the metal of the pan and acts as a barrier against any possible contaminants. For example, cooking tomatoes in a cast iron skillet (without enamel) can cause a chemical reaction that affects their flavor, but that doesn't happen with the enameled type.

Be wary that not all enameled cast iron cookware is the same. Pans of low quality chip easily and should be discarded once that happens.


4- Cast iron

Cast iron pan


Pans made from cast iron are way better than Teflon and aluminum. They are inexpensive and you get the improved flavor that only iron pots can provide. Before using them though, you might need to stretch your muscles as they are a bit weighty. Don't scream yet, they aren't 100 pound weights.
 
Being naturally non-stick (as long as you season them right), you can fry food in them without worrying about the cleaning. Stove, oven, or fire, it doesn't matter, cast iron gets the job done! If you need iron in your diet, this is a fine way to fix the problem.
 
But nothing in this world is perfect. To cook with them, you need to season first. It is a lengthy process that requires oil and heating for an hour or so in an oven but is worth it. The cleaning is tricky as you shouldn't use soap or you risk ruining the seasoning.

Like any other piece of cookware, it has to be thrown out if the surface layer gets damaged (you don't want that much iron). Keep in mind that an iron overload is possible and may cause vomit, diarrhea, and stomach cramps among other health problems. Remember, acidic foods and cast iron don't mix well so if you don't want weird tasting sauce don't cook tomatoes in it.


5- Stoneware


If cast iron gets you a workout, stoneware is a complete weight lifting routine. This piece of cookware is ideal for roasting, baking, and making casseroles. It is heavy metal and chemical free (as long as it is a good quality one) and the heat distribution is simply excellent. Seasoning it is a must. It has to be done with fat or oil a few times until it turns into a fine non-stick layer you can use every time.

Another problem with stoneware is that you can't clean it with soap or every dish you make will have a distinct soapy flavor. Stoneware also has the same issue of ceramic as some manufacturers load them with lead.


6- Titanium


One of the best materials for cookware is titanium. As opposed to ceramic and stone, it doesn't weight a ton and is tough.

It won't leach metals into the food, lasts for a long time, and resists corrosion. Similar to ceramic, you might need to make a budget to get this superior cookware. Sadly, it doesn't conduct heat like copper or aluminum. Cheap alternatives are available, but be wary as they could contain aluminum and other non-desirable metals.


7- Glass

Glass baking pan


Glass pans are ideal to use for cooking in the gas stove and oven. They are non-reactive and won't mess up your food in the same way aluminum pans do. I love that they don't absorb the odor of the food, plus heat proof or tempered glass is an excellent choice for food storage as it is better than using plastic containers or aluminum foil (which ruins your healthy food).
 
Pots made out of glass have a few drawbacks. They are heavy and vulnerable to impacts, so you must be careful when handling them to avoid breaking.


8- Silicone

Silicone mold


An interesting material often used in cookware is silicone. It is claimed to be good for the planet as it doesn't pollute. Additionally, it is durable, flexible, and non-stick, so it is ideal for all kinds of baking. But does that mean it is safe? In theory, silicone is inert, which means it shouldn't react with food or release anything toxic.
 
Still, that doesn't mean it stays the same way when exposed to high temperatures or that any silicon-based ware doesn't have other fillers that are hazardous.

If you really want to try it, use low to moderate temperatures. Personally, I consider silicone safer than Teflon and aluminum.


9- Copper


Copper pan

Pure copper cookware is loved by professional and amateur cooks alike. Why? It conducts heat evenly which guarantees a well-cooked meal with little effort. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to it.
 
Copper can leach out from the pot to the food and provoke massive digestive discomfort. Though this may not happen if the layer exposed to the food is made from another material, but even then, you must avoid scrapping it.


10- Anodized aluminum

aluminum cookware


Aluminum has a reputation of being unsafe and I happen to agree. However, anodized aluminum pieces are slightly different. They are made by using an electro-chemical reaction to bind the aluminum particles and prevent their release into the food.

The pieces have a non-stick coating resistant to scratches separating the aluminum from your food; this makes it safe for your cooking, but if the coating gets chipped, the pan should be thrown out immediately. The price for this type of cookware is similar to the one of stainless steel. Be aware that cheap versions of anodized aluminum may contain Teflon-like coating and that defeats the purpose of the healthy cookware.
 
I'm not completely convinced the binding will keep every aluminum particle away from my food, yet it is way better than plain aluminum.


Beyond the Cooking Pans

Deciding to use non toxic cookware in your kitchen is not only a matter of selecting the right pans made from the best materials: it means you have to use and care for them as instructed by the manufacturer as well, so they remain safe and functional for years to come.

If you are considering acquiring new cookware, you must have in mind the stove or appliance in which it will be used. Kitchen utensils such as forks, spoons, and spatulas also play a role in cooking healthy foods as their material can have an effect in the scratching and scraping of pans. 

Now that you know what is the safest cookware to use, it is time to do what you must: prepare a budget, pick the pans and pots you want, and throw out your toxic cookware.



Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144270/
https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=190&tid=34
http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13181-012-0225-3
http://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/packages/help-around-the-kitchen/photos/solutions-for-common-issues-with-stainless-steel-cookware?vty=how-to/articles/solutions-for-common-issues-
with-stainless-steel-cookware.html
http://goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/does-cooking-cast-iron
-pots-and-pans-add-iron-our-food
http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA400274
http://saveourbones.com/stop-doing-this-with-your-cookware/
 









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