If you are a health-conscious person, you might have time and again get concerned about the utensils you use to cook and prepare your healthy meals! Whether they are made from aluminum, stainless steel, copper, cast iron, or coated with Teflon.
I'm very conscious about the material I use for cooking, and like you, I've struggled a lot to find the best choice. I learned a lot while researching for this article. The information gathered here will help you, too.
If you have yet to think about this as an issue, or if you have, but haven't found a solution, this article will help you decide about the cookware.
You're about to discover:
- Types of cookware.
- The critical health concerns associated with some cookware.
- Cookwave alternatives.
With advanced technology, we've got a variety of cookware to choose from. However, chemicals used in some cookware and kitchen appliances have been known to contain carcinogens and even toxic gases when heated to high temperatures.
Choosing a good utensil is not always an obvious thing. Unfortunately, the most dangerous cookware is the most common, available, convenient, and cheapest!
Most common cookware in the market
Today in most shops, you'll have a choice among these cookware;
- Cast iron
- Inox/Stainless steel
- Steel iron
Critical health concerns associated with some cookware.
Due to their convenience, non-sticky cookware have become popular in recent years. It's easy and enjoyable to cook with cookware that food doesn't stick to and is easy to clean.
However, non-sticky cookware has health concerns that you should be aware of.
Aluminum is the most abundant metal on Earth, and aluminum cookware is popular because it's lightweight, conducts heat quickly, and is relatively inexpensive.
During cooking, a small amount of aluminum leaches into your food. The longer you cook or store foods in aluminum, the more it dissolves in food.
Leafy vegetables and acidic foods like tomatoes and citrus products absorb the most aluminum.
Aluminum is found in nature, so you inhale and consume it through food and water. Your body excretes most of it through feces and urine.
However, there are too many ways you can be exposed to aluminum; water, food, air, medicine, deodorants, cosmetics, packaging, many appliances and equipment, buildings, transportation industries, and aerospace engineering.
Exposure to high levels of aluminum compounds leads to aluminum poisoning, which can lead to health problems like blood content, musculoskeletal system, kidney, liver, respiratory, and nervous system. It can also disrupt enzyme activities and cell membrane permeability, thus inhibiting DNA repair.
Most people opt for ceramic in search of a better alternative to Teflon. It's one of the oldest manufactured materials by man.
Natural ceramic is safe to use. The cookware heats quickly and evenly and tends to weigh and cost less than most.
However, the term ceramic can be confusing! Not all ceramics cookware are made from 100% ceramic.
There are two categories sold under ceramic cookware.
- Pure ceramic cookware: It's made from molded clay, then heated at high temperatures, and can be enforced with other raw materials like kaolin, feldspar, and quartz sand. The product can then be glazed to give a shiny aspect and toughen the ceramic.
- Ceramic coated cookware: Is generally made from an aluminum base, then coated with a synthetic gel (sol-gel) with the same appearance as ceramic but with higher nonstick properties. Unfortunately, there's no clear information on the composition of these ceramic coatings, and the industry has no obligation to mention them. However, in my research, I came across a document from a Swiss brand mentioning leachable cadmium and lead. Low-quality coated ceramic wears off within months of regular use and can leach cadmium and lead, two toxins you do not want in your body.
Copper was the first metal known to man and was discovered more than 10,000 years ago.
It's a highly conductive metal that's very responsive to heat changes. It absorbs heat quickly and evenly. Copper heats much faster than aluminum or inox, but it cools as fast!
Copper cookware is on the borderline and should be chosen consciously and maintained as the industry recommends.
Pure copper oxidizes, giving out a toxic compound. It also leaches into foods in contact with acidic foods like tomatoes. While this could be great news for someone with copper deficiency, copper overload in the body can lead to metal toxicity. A high amount of copper in the body will decrease zinc, leading to health issues.
Traditionally, copper was coated with tin (metal), which could prevent copper from leaching into food. However, the coating has to be renewed.
Today's copper cookware is coated/lined with inox or nickel. While Inox is safe, some people do have a nickel allergy. Another issue with nickel-coated copper cookware is that the lining/coating isn't that much, and copper will leach out if scratched.
The most popular nonstick cookware you might have in your kitchen is Teflon. Teflon was an accidental discovery by Dr. Roy J. Plunkett. After freezing a compressed sample of tetrafluoroethylene, he discovered that it had changed into a white, waxy solid to form polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
PTFE is inactive to virtually all chemicals and is the most slippery material that exists. It's a specialized plastic material that has a high melting point.
Teflon brand is remarkably known for its superior nonstick properties and incredibly corrosion-resistant. It can withstand both extremely cold and hot temperatures.
NOTE: Teflon is a brand, not a product or substance
PTFE is non-toxic at moderately low temperatures. However, PTFE-coated cookware releases various gases and chemicals that present mild to severe toxic gases when heated to 446°F/230°C, which is easily attainable after 2-5 minutes of regular heating!
PTFE has a melting point of about 500F, but even at lower temperatures of about 450, it starts to break down.
High-heated Teflon produces toxic gases known to cause death to birds and signs of flu to humans. Unfortunately, only a few studies describe the toxicity of PTFE, but without solid conclusions.
Even though PFOA (a man-made compound used to make PTFE) is banned, the cookware doesn't mean it is PTFE-free!
In reality, PFOA was replaced with GenX polymers, which cause liver, pancreas, and testicle tumors in rats after long exposure and are suspected to affect the liver, kidneys, blood cells, and immune system in humans.
Better cookware alternatives
Cast iron (La fonte en français)
Old and convenient, cast iron has been used over the years and has proven reliable. They're durable and resistant to scratches. They can be passed from the stovetop to the oven without any problem.
As the name indicates, cast iron contains iron but is not 100% iron. Made by heating iron, carbon, and silica, the skillet is molded in the sand, giving the grainy aspect. A cast iron skillet is quite heavy compared to other cookware.
The particularity of cast iron is its capacity to maintain heat for a long time. It's therefore suitable for long cooking at low temperatures. Prefer using cast iron cookware when the recipe calls for more than 10 minutes.
It demands high maintenance, such as seasoning the skillet, but it offers more flavorful foods compared to the enamel-coated mentioned below.
However, you should never boil or cook acidic foods in cast iron as they will alter the natural coating.
Cast iron skillets should always be cooled before cleaning with hot water because a thermal shock will cause damage.
Classic cast iron will leach iron into food. Therefore, people with iron overload should avoid this cookware.
Enamel-cast iron is made like cast iron but is coated to prevent rusting while removing the need to season the cookware. It's easy to clean and doesn't leach iron into food.
Enamel reduces some qualities found in cast iron, such as resistance to sticking and high heat.
While generally safe, enamel-cast iron can break down when heated at high temperatures. The coating (enamel) will come off with time if the cookware is scrubbed or used a lot, which can eventually expose food to enamel fragments and other metals like cadmium and lead.
Carbon steel (fer en acier en français)
Carbon steel is most comparable to cast iron, though unlike cast iron, carbon steel contains 99% iron with about 1% carbon.
It has no coating/lining, making it the most healthy cookware. During manufacture, the skillet is polished with oil and beeswax to offer protection before the 1st use.
Unlike other cookware, you must season the skillet several times before cooking with it.
Due to its light weight and thinness, it's easier to pick up and transfer carbon steel from the stovetop to the oven.
Similar to other materials, iron will leach into food when cooking with carbon steel.
Inox/Stainless steel (WITHOUT NON-STICKY COASTING)
Inox and stainless steel are used interchangeably and stand for the same thing.
Steel is an alloy (mix) of iron and carbon, while stainless steel contains at least 10% chromium and less than 1.2% carbon.
Stainless steel can further be enhanced by adding other metals like nickel, molybdenum, titanium, niobium, manganese, etc.
Inox is a safe alternative cookware. It's non-toxic, durable, heats evenly, and is easy to maintain. It can be heated at very high temperatures, up to 800°C, without emission of toxic fumes.
It's much lighter than both cast and carbon steel, with a shiny aspect.
Inox resists corrosion and rust without reacting with food. Because it's not non-sticky, it requires oil or a small amount of water while cooking; otherwise, the food sticks to the cookware.
High-quality Inox cookware is composed of 4 layers.
- The base is composed of high-quality iron.
- Then a layer of aluminum alloy (mix) that contains magnesium and manganese to strengthen and harden the aluminum.
- Almost a pure aluminum layer is added for bonding/sticking with stainless steel.
- The top layer is stainless steel. It does not leach compounds when in contact with elements like water or food.
For a better choice, go for stainless steel cookware with a heavy-solid bottom.
As you can see, finding the best cookware takes work. Be cautious when buying cookware because low-cheap qualities are highly available, and you can easily find yourself with toxins overload.
Enjoy your reading. Githu