Owning healthy cookware is the first step to healthy cooking. Do you need nickel-free cookware or are you concerned about hard-anodized cookware? From glass and ceramic cookware to aluminum cookware health, here’s what you need to know…
Cookware health has long been an area of heated debate. The power of fear in the minds of consumers has been exploited over decades with false claims and accusations, meanwhile diluting the real health concerns when it comes to cookware. Secretions of aluminum, nickel, Teflon, and other materials into food and the resulting side effects are an ongoing conflict within the cookware community. As a cook concerned for you and your family’s health, you really just want to know the truth about what cookware is the best and healthiest choice…so here it is!
Top Healthy Cookware Materials:
- Cast-iron Cookware
- Glass/Hard-enamel Cookware
- Stainless Steel Cookware
Aluminum is a very popular metal used in cookware, because of its desirable qualities of rapid, even heat distribution (2nd only to copper) and lightweight. However, aluminum is reactive with foods, in particular acidic foods such as tomato, wine, or vinegar-based dishes. The longer food is cooked or stored in an aluminum pot or pan, the more aluminum will be released into the food resulting in metallic taste and aluminum absorption into the body.
The danger of aluminum’s effects on the body has risen with the discovery that Alzheimer’s patients were found to have elevated levels of aluminum in their brain tissue. However, experts agree no conclusive links have been formed between environmental aluminum exposure and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, exposure to aluminum is impossible to avoid as it is one of the most abundant elements, and is found in drinking water, cosmetics, food dyes, and many other substances we use every day.
Tip: Hard-anodized aluminum cookware has gone through an oxidation process creating a non-reactive, hard surface that prevents any reaction between the food and aluminum, therefore preventing aluminum absorption into food. It is a more healthy cookware alternative to aluminum while retaining its desirable cooking properties.
Copper is the best and most expensive material for fast and even heat dispersion. However, you will not find copper cookware without either a stainless or tin coating on the cooking surface to protect the food from reaction with the copper. The body does need small amounts of copper, but unlined copper cookware results in unsafe amounts of copper in food and is warned against by the FDA. Copper also reacts with the oxygen in the air requiring frequent polishing and care.
Tip: It is not advised to use copper cookware if there is significant scratching or damage to the lining of the cooking surface as this will lead to copper absorption into food while cooking.
Stainless steel is a very popular cooking surface material because it is very durable and safe. It is often bonded to more conductive metals to create ideal cooking properties, heat distribution, and a non-reactive safe cooking surface. Stainless steel contains nickel and chromium, which the body uses in small amounts.
Some people are allergic to the nickel contained in stainless steel and need to choose nickel-free cookware.
Tip: Harsh scrubbing with abrasive cleaning tools can cause scouring and pitting in stainless steel cooking surfaces. If the damage is evident, reactive metals underneath the stainless steel can be released into your food. This is a good time to invest in new pots and pans.
Cast-iron cookware actually has some health advantages! As the name suggests, iron is introduced into food cooked in cast-iron which is a wonderful way for the body to get the dietary iron it needs. The iron content of food cooked in cast-iron may as much as double. Enamel-coated cast-iron, although a safe cooking surface, does not share in these benefits since the food is not in direct contact with the cast-iron surface. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is a wonderful cooking surface for both flavor and well-being.
Tip: If food cooked with cast-iron has a metallic taste, your cast-iron should be re-seasoned. See cast-iron seasoning.
Glass cookware is the most inert (non-reactive) cooking material. It is the lowest risk in terms of the health hazards of all cooking materials available. However, it does not distribute heat evenly, and therefore may not best serve all of your kitchen needs.
Ceramic cookware is also a healthy cookware choice. It is easy to clean and lightweight compared to stainless steel and cast iron cookware. However, some ceramics have glaze coatings made with harmful metals such as cadmium and lead. Over time, these harmful metals can leech out of the glaze in trace amounts. Beware of glazed ceramics from countries with less regulation.
Do you have a tip on healthy cookware?
We are very interested to hear what your experience has been with healthy cookware. Whether knowledge of a particular brand or tips in the kitchen, your experiences can help other visitors to the site!