Safest Cookware and Bakeware
Whether you’re a foodie or just someone who is interested in cooking good, healthy meals for you and your family, you might be confused by all the cookware options out there. Walk into almost any store and you’ll find an array of pots and pans made from aluminum, stainless steel, Teflon, ceramics and other materials.
Non-stick cookware is the most popular cookware in America.
How can you choose the best, non-toxic, non-stick cookware for your cooking needs? Which cookware and bake ware options are safest? Which ones deliver the performance you deserve?
What Might be Wrong With a Non-stick Cookware?
Teflon is the brand name of a non-stick finish or coating used on pots, pans and other products. The DuPont Company makes it. Teflon pots and pans are engineered from man-made metal, polymer/plastic materials and other chemicals known as polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE while boasting a non-stick cooking surface. They are popular because they are very inexpensive and the manufacturer promises that the cooking surface will provide for an easy clean up.
However, there are many safety concerns regarding Teflon and other non-stick coatings.
For one, Teflon doesn’t always stand up well to heat, and heating is exactly what you’re going to do with your cookware. At high temperatures, Teflon emits toxic fumes. The maximum temperature you can use with Teflon cookware is 500°1)http://www.lovelowfat.com/ceramic-vs-teflon/, but some cookware includes handles or parts can only withstand temperatures of 350°. At 689°, Teflon emits six toxic gases2)http://www.healthnewslibrary.com/non-stick-ceramic-cookware-versus-non-stick-teflon/, including two carcinogenic (cancer-causing) gases, according to some studies.
Even DuPont suggests you should never heat your Teflon-coated pots and pans above medium heat — but what happens if a recipe calls for high heat? The makers of Teflon have a high number of recommendations for cooking with Teflon cookware. For example, they recommend only using low or medium heat and never heating an empty pan. The makers of Teflon claim these precautions are so the cookware lasts longer, but many consumers are concerned. The reality is Teflon can emit many harmful gases when heated, among them:
- Carbonyl fluoride (COF2)
- PFIB (Perfluoroisobutene)
- Carbon tetrafluoride
- Carbon dioxide
- Trifluoroacetetic acid (TFA)
- Difluoroacetic acid (DFA)
- Monofluoroacetic acid (MFA)
Some of these are used in chemical warfare agents and in pesticides not exactly what you want to be serving with brunch. Sure, you can avoid some of the off gassing by keeping the heat under your Teflon pan low. But you may be surprised at just how quickly Teflon cookware can overheat.
A study by the Environmental Working Group3)http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-6-skip-non-stick-avoid-dangers-teflon found Teflon could release toxic gases after only two minutes on a conventional stovetop. And since different stovetops in different homes can heat differently, it can be hard to figure out just what levels are “safe.” How can you know when your pan enters that “danger” territory unless you’ve got a thermometer on the pan at all times?
The American Cancer Society4)http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/teflon-and-perfluorooctanoic-acid–pfoa claims Teflon isn’t suspected of causing cancer, but they do state the materials used in the making of Teflon are potentially dangerous.
Fumes Can Kill Your Bird
They also note the fumes which are emitted by overheated Teflon can cause “polymer fume fever,” which leads to flu-like symptoms and can be fatal for birds5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15638009. If you can’t use a pan safely in your home without killing a bird, do you really want to be serving food made on the pan to your family?
It may get worse. Teflon is made using petroleum-based perfluorooctanoic acid and polytetrafluoroethylene, a synthetic chemical used in production that creates a soap-like slipperiness and non-stick finish. Small bits of Teflon will flake off during cooking and end up in your food, meaning you’re swallowing the non-stick coating in very small amounts. DuPont has claimed6)http://www.healthnewslibrary.com/non-stick-ceramic-cookware-versus-non-stick-teflon/ eating these tiny amounts of Teflon is safe. What do you feel?
Once heated, the PFOA non-stick pans will quickly reach temperatures that will release toxic fumes into the air and inevitably into your food. And it doesn’t take much heat to do this – the coating begins to break down and release gases and toxins at a temperature of only 446° F.
PFOA has become very controversial because of potential health dangers and metal non-stick cookware can be right in the middle of the controversy.
In animal studies, PFOA posed health hazards. According to Environmental Working Group, PFOA pose the following risks:
- Heart attack and stroke
- Breast cancer
- Testicular cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Immune system damage
- Pituitary gland damage
- Increases odds of infertility
- Thyroid disease
The pituitary controls growth, reproduction, and many metabolic functions. Changes in the size of the pituitary indicate toxicity.
CDC stated7)http://www.cdc.gov/exposurereport/PFOA_FactSheet.html “PFOA can remain in the body for long periods of time. In laboratory animals given large amounts, PFOA can affect growth and development, reproduction, and injure the liver. More research is needed to assess the human health effects of exposure to PFOA.”
One study in Human Reproduction8)http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/den490v1 found that PFOS increased the odds of infertility anywhere from 70 to 134 percent, while PFOA was linked to a 60 to 154 percent increase in the chance of infertility.
There has also been some very concerning research regarding PFOA and thyroid function9)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20089479?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=1. People with the highest 25% of PFOA concentrations (above 5.7ng/ml) were more than twice as likely to have thyroid disease than those with the lowest 50% of PFOA concentrations (below 4.0ng/ml).
The makers of Teflon have reached an agreement10)http://www.webmd.com/news/20060127/epa-urges-teflon-chemical-ban with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to phase out the use of PFOA in the manufacturing process.
The American Cancer Society — however think Teflon pans and pots likely don’t contain PFOA since the material is burned away during the manufacturing process.
Despite this, if you consider buying Teflon, you might want to know the cookware is made using this material, and it may have an impact on the environment. PFOA does not break down easily and remains in the body. If it leaks into the surrounding area, it can have an impact on local ecology. In 2004, DuPont reached a $343 million settlement11)http://www.healthnewslibrary.com/non-stick-ceramic-cookware-versus-non-stick-teflon/ after being accused of polluting drinking water near a Teflon manufacturing facility.
What About Aluminum, Stainless Steel, Copper and “Green” Pots?
Just take a look at this chart of a Heavy Metals Leaching Test12)http://www.titaniumcookwarecollection.com/images/pdf/Heavy-Metals-Leaching-Test.pdf performed on common types of cookware you probably use everyday.
Even after you stop using your unsafe non-stick cookware, you may still be harboring danger – this time in the form of aluminum, iron, stainless steel and copper cookware. Aluminum pans are no longer recommended for cooking if you wish to enjoy your golden years. Aluminum is a causal factor suspect in Alzheimer’s disease and possibly Autism.
“Greener” cookware are not necessarily safer
The companies may claim that the cookwares do not contain PFOA. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t leach. They offers a non-stick ceramic coating. With a little digging, I found out that it has an aluminum core. It is made of aluminum alloy.
Aluminum is a “Reactive” Soft Metal
It reacts with salty or acidic foods and during the cooking process releases the heavy metals into your food. This heavy metal is easily absorbed into food. Aluminum is a strongly suspected causal factor in Alzheimer’s disease, so the less contact with aluminum, especially for cooking, the better. Even anodized aluminum with an oxide layer to help thicken the surface of the pan may have the potential for aluminum toxicity. Dietary sources of aluminum leaching include cookware, containers, foil, and utensils. You can also face exposure to aluminum when the non-stick surface chips and flakes off a coated aluminum pan.
What about an Iron Pot
Do you own a iron pot? How about a enameled cast iron? I own a couple of enameled cast iron and use it often. I love cooking in them. They are heavy enough to tone my arm muscles and they conduct heat very well. As long as you don’t scrub it with soap and a brillo pad, a good cast iron skillet can be an excellent non-stick surface to cook on and cooks evenly and retains and enhances the foods natural flavor. It is so versatile. It can be used on the stove, in the oven and over campfire. Make sure you season your cast iron pot well before using it so that the food won’t stick to the pot. Cast iron pots come in a ferrous and a ferric form. Our bodies cannot assimilate the iron (ferric) from cast iron cookware. This means that iron from cast iron cookware is not bioavailable and it has no value to our bodies at the cellular level. In fact, it can be very harmful to people who are allergic to heavy metals and it can lead to autoimmune problems. According to Dr. Weil13)http://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/balanced-living/healthy-home/cooking-with-cast-iron/, “It is a particular risk for those with an inherited metabolic disorder called hemochromatosis or iron overload disease”. I wouldn’t be alarmed if you are using a cast iron pot properly and if don’t carry a genetic disposition to hemochromatosis or consume already enough iron. Additionally, I choose to use only quality enameled cast iron. Enameled cast iron cookware is a safer option as they don’t leach metals or chemicals into your food. However, they can be a more expensive option, but they are durable, and high-quality enameled cast iron cookware will last a long time. These are safer to use than regular cast iron cookware that can leach iron into your food. Cast iron has been used as a reliable cooking surface for roughly 2500 years. It hasn’t shown obvious harm.
Stainless Steel May Not be Safe
One of the most common cookware alternatives is stainless steel, accounting for one-third of U.S. cookware sales. Contrary to popular belief, stainless steel may not be an inert metal either. All stainless steel has alloys containing nickel, chromium, molybdenum, carbon, and various other metals. These metals can also leach into your foods during the cooking process.
The lower the quality (most likely less expensive) the cookware is, the more likely it will contain a higher proportion of nickel filler that can leach into your food. The higher quality stain steel may cost more but it may be a better choice if you’re looking for safer cookware.
Benefits of Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic cookware is made from all-natural inorganic non-toxic materials and is designed to be 100% non-scratch. 100% ceramic pots and pans are popular because they contain no metals, lead, cadmium, plastics or chemical of any kind. Ceramic cookware is both attractive and extremely versatile. Here are some of the benefits:
- Greater moisture retention. Foods do not dry out like they do when cooking on top of the stove with metal cookware or using metal baking pans in a gas an electric oven.
- Meats, fish, vegetables and baked goods are juicier even after long
- periods of time.
- There is little or no food shrinkage.
- Natural flavor is enhanced and there is never any toxic metal flavor in the food.
- The unique ceramic formula generates far infrared radiant heat and energy. It’s healthy and non-toxic ceramic minerals like Silica Oxide (SiO2), which is used in a special clay mixture, absorbs and emits far infrared radiant heat (FIR), which is the best heat for cooking foods.
- The retained heat in the ceramic walls of this cookware does the cooking and keeps on cooking and heating long after the heat has been turned off. Thin walled stainless steel and aluminum metal cookware cannot cook by retained heat because the thinness of the metal cookware is not capable of storing any heat. When the heat is turned down and off in metal cookware the cooking stops.
- Its insulation characteristics are very unique. The thick ceramic walls of the cookware isolate as well as retain the heat.
- When heated on top of the stove the heat penetrates all the way through the sides of the cookware right to the ceramic cooking surface. With metal cookware, you turn the flame or heat up to high to get the pan hot and then turn it down for cooking. The metal pan loses heat almost immediately. With this ceramic cookware you turn the flame or electric burner to the proper cooking temperature and then leave it set at that temperature. No wasted energy.
- The heating capacity of this cookware enables the pots to retain the heat for several minutes so you can reduce the heat earlier, which cannot be done with metal cookware. Once again there is no wasted energy.
- There is no need to season or prepare our this ceramic cookware; just a little olive or coconut oil for cooking is all that’s needed when using our skillets.
- The entire outside and inside cooking surface can’t be scratched. However we recommend using nylon or silicone utensils since our ceramic surface is so tough it will remove the metal from metal utensils. Also many metal utensils can also leach heavy metals when used for cooking.
- This ceramic works on all types of stoves: gas, electric burner, glass cook-top (both coil and halogen) and inside all types of ovens. To use it on an induction stove make sure you have an induction heat source.
- It is dishwasher safe
- Made of lightweight ceramic 100% inorganic materials – this innovative non-reactive material is the key element in cookware performance.
- Meals will taste better and be healthier – there will be no heavy metals or toxins in your foods.
- You can’t scratch the cooking surface
- Cookware can withstand very high temperatures (2500° F) – steel melts at 2200° F You don’t have to be concerned about damage due to meltdown of the cookware – helps reduce risk of stove damage and fire.
- Cookware surface will never chip or flake off into your food
- Cleanup is a breeze – keeping your cookware in top shape is a key factor in having it potentially last a lifetime
I want the best for you and for your family.
Start with the safest cookware. This is the ceramic cookware I am switching to. Know the potential risks of using reactive aluminum, iron and stainless steel cookware. Switch to a safe non-toxic cookware.
Meanwhile if you do have non-stick cookware and can’t or don’t want to get rid of it right now, here are your option to keep your exposure limited to the toxic fumes:
- Do not use your non-stick cookware if has scratches on it.
- Never preheat non-stick cookware at high heat.
- Use low to medium cooking temperatures.
- Don’t put non-stick cookware in an oven heated to over 350°F.
- Use an exhaust fan when cooking with non-stick.
- Slowly replace your pots and bake ware one by one with this safe ceramic ware.
Here is a 15-year study, conducted with over 2,600 products from over 62 scientific testing laboratories from all over the world.
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References [ + ]
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