Toxic Cooking: Choosing Safer Cookware

Non Toxic Cooking: Choosing Safer Cookware | SustainableSuburbia.net

Did you know chemicals can leach from your cookware into your food? Not just from plastics in the microwave or from Teflon either. More about that below.

First, safer choices for your cookware:

Stainless Steel – as long as you don’t have a nickel allergy, that is. Avoid cleaning frequently with abrasive materials which may scratch the surface, as chromium and nickel may then be released. Though, if you get “18/0” stainless steal it is nickel free (though therefore no longer truly stainless). See below for details.

Glass (including pyrex) – except for lead crystal of course, which contains lead!

Procelain or Ceramic – but watch out for old handmedowns and products not intended for cooking, which may contain lead or cadmium (see below).

Cast iron – is generally thought to be okay, though if you suffer from haemochromatosis or similar conditions you may want to steer clear as it can leach small amount of iron, particularly if it has not built up “a patina of seasoning”.

Ceramic coated cook ware – “The Nutrition Coach” Emma Skourakis chose Silit cookware when replacing some of her old pots and pans, as the safest option. If you’re in the right part of the world you can buy it on Amazon for a reasonable price. If you’re in Australia I found it here or here, currently on amazing specials – which is good because their RRP in Australia is somewhat exorbitant! But maybe this is one of those brands you can always find on special.

Next, what to avoid:

Non-stick cookware

You have probably heard something about non-stick cookware being potentially dangerous, but what does that mean? Teflon – and the same basic coating under many other trade names – is made from a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE).

When heated to high heats (and this happens more quickly than you might suppose) , this emits chemicals that can course “Teflon flu”, and can kill a bird in seconds.

Of course, even if you don’t have (noticeable) symptoms, it may be doing longer term damage. According to the Environment Working Group (EWG) “The long-term effects of routine exposure to Teflon fumes, and from Teflon flu itself, have not been adequately studied.”

EWG also recommends that you ” Skip the self-cleaning function on your oven”, which may release toxic chemicals from non-stick parts of the oven’s interior.

Aluminium –  anodised or non-anodised.

Aluminium cookware these days is generally anodised to prevent the aluminium leaching, but frequent exposure to acid foods can cause deanodisation.

Aluminium has been linked to brain and bone damage, can interfere with the central nervous system, and has even been linked by some studies to breast cancer. (source)

Copper Cookware

HealthyChild.org also cautions against using coated copper, as the coating can break down over time. Older copperware is likely coated with tin or nickel and should definitely be avoided.

Stainless Steal?

Stainless steel pots and pans are generally a good option, if you are not allergic to nickel, however some people prefer to avoid true stainless steel altogether, to avoid the nickel. HealthyChild.org notes that frequent cleaning with abrasive cleaners can damage the surface and release small amount of nickel and chromium.

How can you tell? If it’s marked

  • 18/10 – it’s 18% chromium, 10% nickel
  • 18/8 – it’s 18% chromium, 8% nickel
  • 18/0 – it’s 18% chromium, no nickel

You can also tell with the magnet test – if it’s 18/0 a magnet will stick to it. Of course, if it’s 18/0 it also won’t be truly stainless. But, on the up side, it will likely be cheaper!

Older ceramics or those not intended for cooking

These may contain lead or cadmium in high levels. There are home test kits you can use, but they may not pick up low levels of these contaminents, which can still be dangerous. This also applies to older enamel on cast iron, as the enamel used to contain lead. (source) Also be cautious of ceramics bought in another country, which may have different standards.

Do you have a favourite cookware choice? Is it safe?
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This post will be shared over at Essentially Jess, for IBOT.

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Image by Ryan Detzel

  12 comments for “Toxic Cooking: Choosing Safer Cookware

  1. February 11, 2014 at 11:24 am

    You know this is something I had truly never thought about! Now I’m gonna have to go through my cupboards and check everything! Thanks for sharing. #teamIBOT
    Kylie Purtell, A Study in Contradictions recently posted..When is a joke, not a joke?My Profile

    • Kirsten
      February 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      You’re welcome!

  2. February 11, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Oh man!!! Now how am I going to cook pancakes? I love my non-stick pans!!!
    EssentiallyJess recently posted..Which Peppa Pig Character Are You? #IBOTMy Profile

    • Kirsten
      February 18, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      I know 🙁

  3. B
    February 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Hi,

    Thanks for the post. I have been wondering about the safety of Aluminized Steel? Apparently the aluminum is oxidized and I was told it was no longer reactive, however I have been unable to find any evidence regarding this.
    I hope you can help me out with this question.
    Thanks

    • Kirsten
      February 18, 2014 at 10:34 am

      Hi B,
      I am doing some research, and will get back to you!

  4. February 14, 2014 at 6:04 am

    Kirsten,

    My heavy iron ceramic coated pot is the one that we use the most. We call it our ‘magic pot’. I love it.
    Tania Belkin recently posted..Is your Organic / Eco Friendly Dry Cleaners Poisoning You and Your Family?My Profile

    • Kirsten
      February 18, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      That sounds great Tania!

  5. Bec s
    February 18, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Oh ths is a bit scary – I love my non stick pan! It’s what the “experts” tell you to use when trying to lose weight to cut down on oils/butter etc.

    • Kirsten
      February 18, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      I know.
      I have non-teflon semi-non-stick pans, but it turns out they still have the PTFE – but, is it as bad? I still need to do more research, as there is a lot of conflicting information out there. Limiting my use for now 🙁

  6. December 6, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I’ve been looking for a new pan. I will have to check this one out!

  7. AG
    October 17, 2016 at 8:26 am

    I’m also wondering about aluminized stainless steel. Logic dictates it shouldn’t be any better than straight aluminum. Is it as bad?

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