Description: Non-stick cookware refers to pots and pans lined with PTFE, or, polytetrafluoroethylene. Commonly called Teflon or Caphalon, non-stick cookware as a modern convenience is both dangerous and toxic, and recent studies link the use of such cookware to cancer. As the non-stick coating ages, usually in 1-3 years time, it becomes scratched and eventually releases bits of inert plastic into cooking foods. This cookware also releases toxic fumes when cooked over high heat. Studies have shown that when heated to temperatures over 446?F, pans release at least six toxic gases including two carcinogens. The fumes can potentially sicken people with a condition called “polymer fume fever,” and household pet birds, particularly small ones like finches and cockatiels, can die in short order from those kitchen fumes. In humans, flu-like symptoms include aches and pains. Avoid exposure to the fumes from non-stick cookware by phasing out your home use of these products. If you can replace your non-stick cookware with quality alternatives, consider doing so now.
Avoid: Non-stick cookware is best avoided. To the best of your ability, consider recycling, throwing out and phasing out the use of non-stick cookware. Non-stick coatings are a risk when overheated. Do not leave an empty pan on a burner over high heat, as the fumes released into the environment are both irritating to mucus membranes and a general health hazard. Non-stick cookware should be discarded, and not used if scratched.
Warning: The EPA has ruled that even low-level exposure to perfluorinated organic chemicals, and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) which is used in non-stick coatings, is a health threat. An essential processing aid used to produce fluoropolymer high materials could pose a potential risk of developmental and other adverse effects on human health. Even though this ruling is preliminary, it’s significant because it could help determine if the government will regulate the use of this chemical. In addition, the EPA has already fined Dupont some $300 million for failing to report its studies of the possible dangers linked to the Teflon-processing agent.
Enameled cast iron, cast iron, stainless steel, carbon steel, and glass are all considered efficient, useful, and safe options for cookware.
Type: Enameled Cast Iron Cookware
Description: Once hot, cast iron cookware requires only a low heat setting to maintain good cooking performance. Heat is lost very slowly from cast iron. In cooking certain foods, especially whole grains such as brown rice, the pan can be removed from the heat before all of the water has been completely absorbed, and left to continue to cook in its own heat. Although enameled cookware is quite heavy, it is well worth its weight in life expectancy. Consider building a collection of quality pots and pans piece-by-piece, phasing out old, toxic non-stick cookware for higher quality pots and pans.
What to look for: Brightly colored pots that have been cast, polished and sanded by hand. The base, sidewalls and lid should all be of the same quality and thickness, offering balanced cooking surfaces. The best quality enamel cast iron cookware is sprayed with two separate coats of enamel and fired twice at a temperature of 800?C. The enamel becomes extremely hard and durable, rendering it almost completely resistant to damage during normal use.
Uses: Immensely versatile, enameled cast iron can go from refrigerator to stovetop, to oven, and can even be used on the grill. It is suitable for use on all heat sources including electric, gas, ceramic, halogen top and induction. The cooking surface is completely hygienic and impervious to acids and other chemicals, making it safe for marinating or for storing raw or cooked food in both the refrigerator and freezer. It is even safe to use such cookware if the enamel is worn or chipped. Chipping does not affect the performance of the product. Cast iron is a very energy efficient material.
To care for: To clean cookware, wash in hot sudsy water, rinse and dry thoroughly. Pans with plastic or metal handles may be washed in a dishwasher.
Where to find: Cooking specialty stores, housewares stores, catalogs, department stores, online resources and select natural food stores.
Avoid: Cheap imitations of enameled cookware made with improperly applied enamel coating. Some of the older cookware of this type contained cadmium in the color pigments used in the interior of the cookware. Primarily foreign manufacturers used cadmium, though most have since discontinued using products containing such toxins, and consumers are not in danger of cadmium poisoning from enamelware being sold today.
Cast Iron: Cast iron is a great alternative to non-stick cookware. It is naturally non-stick when seasoned and cared for properly. Keep it well coated with cooking oil, wash with a minimum of gentle dish soap or just with plain water, and never scour your cast iron. Wipe it dry after rinsing. Cast iron can be preheated and will withstand temperatures well above what is considered safe for non-stick cookware. It is very durable and can now be purchased pre-seasoned and ready to use. Foods cooked in unglazed cast iron contain twice or more the amount of iron they would contain if enameled, giving you the extra benefit of added natural iron in your diet.
Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is the most economical choice for cookware. It is not thought of as the best conductor of heat, though can be improved upon by buying steel cookware with copper bottoms or exteriors, which improves the conduction and distribution of heat.
Avoid: Cleaning stainless steel cookware with abrasive cleansers. Stainless can be easily scratched, and chromium or nickel which are used in the stainless coating, may leach into your food in very minute amounts. Nickel is not poisonous in small quantities, though it can cause allergic reactions. People with nickel allergies should choose another kind of cookware.
Copper: Copper pots with stainless steel linings are considered among the best choices in cookware. The downside is that copper exteriors require upkeep. They need to be polished regularly to maintain the patina of the copper. To cook or store food, avoid badly scratched or uncoated cookware.
Anodized Aluminum: Aluminum is a good conductor of heat, lightweight and inexpensive. It has been treated to develop an aluminum oxide, an extremely hard and non-reactive surface coating on the surface of the cookware. Manufacturers claim that the final stage in the anodization process seals the aluminum, preventing any leaching of aluminum into food. Although there is no proven link, there are many questions regarding its safety. Consider aluminum as a last choice, as it is reactive. Foods cooked in aluminum can react to form aluminum salts that are associated with impaired visual motor coordination, and Alzheimer’s disease. Anodized aluminum effectively seals aluminum, but harsh chemicals are used to create anodized aluminum. In addition, it can scratch easily; thus, exposing aluminum that can get into your foods.
Avoid: Aluminum that is pitted or worn leaches greater amounts of aluminum into your food. For the same reason, avoid storing food or cooking highly acidic foods such as tomatoes in aluminum cookware.
Carbon Steel: Carbon steel is a tough alloy of iron-containing carbon. It is not painted or coated steel. Carbon steel is an inexpensive alternative to stainless steel and non-stick cookware, and is light and durable. Like cast iron, it must be seasoned properly before using to prevent rust. After seasoning, carbon steel will provide a non-stick surface that responds quickly to changes in temperature. It can tolerate very high heat and is especially useful for quick-cooking items such as eggs and stir-fried vegetables. Carbon steel can also be used in the oven. Until well seasoned, carbon steel can be reactive to acidic foods, so first well season it prior to using with acidic-based foods.
Care: When seasoned properly, cooking with and cleaning carbon steel is a breeze. To season, coat pan inside and out with a quality vegetable oil such as safflower oil, and bake in a 250 degree oven for 2-3 hours. Each time you clean it, recoat both the interior and exterior with oil until pans build up a nice, thick natural coating which represents a well-seasoned pan. To clean, use hot water and a soft sponge or brush. Avoid, or use a minimum amount of gentle detergent, or it will break down the seasoning. Dry completely and coat lightly with cooking oil for storage.
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