Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's not just what you eat - it's what you cook it in

We usually get our pots & pans based upon sales or what our mom used for our childhood meals. We don't much think about it again but as we get healthier in what we eat, we start to also look at the tools we use to prepare our healthful meals.

Most cookware on the market is coated with Teflon to make the fat-free cooks happy. Teflon and Silverstone coating is convenient for sticky food and things like eggs, but there are real dangers when not used properly:
  • Never use it on high heat - only put it on a medium to medium low heat.
  • Never heat it dry - always have something in it before heating, like oil or butter.
  • Never use it once scratched - if you scratch it discard it because those chemicals will get into your foods.
When heated dry, particles become airborne and embed in your lungs. The fumes are lethal to birds. And let's face it, they scratch easily and are therefore not an economical or environmentally sound way to cook meals.

Aluminum is also popular since it is a great conductor of heat and is cheap. Most restaurants use aluminum cookware to prepare food but aluminum is a poison and leaches into our foods (and you'd better believe those aluminum pans used in restaurants are all scratched up so pieces of aluminum are surely in the foods prepared for our enjoyment - which is another reason we tend to not eat out.) Anodized Aluminum does effectively seal the chemicals but harsh chemicals are used to create the anodized aluminum. In addition, it can scratch easily and then you get the aluminum and the black specs (toxic chemicals) into your foods. And it is definitely not dishwasher friendly.

Stainless is the most economical choice but is not a good conductor so is always plied with other metals. You can easily scratch it and some of the chromium or nickel may leach into the food, but very minute amount. If a magnet sticks to your stainless steel cookware, it has less nickel and is therefore a safer option.

Instead choose cast iron (preferably not pre-seasoned and season it yourself that way you know what kind of oil you are using), enameled cast iron, ceramic, glass, or a safe stainless steel cookware.

My preference is the enameled cast iron. Le Crueset is expensive but you can sometimes find good buys at discount stores like Marshall's and Mercola has his own cookware and great information too.

This is part of today's carnival for:


  1. Excellent tips, Annie. I'm a die-hard cast-enamel fan. Yes, they can be expensive, but I'm glad you pointed out that there are more affordable options and places to buy. I've got a couple reviews of Mario Batali's Everyday Essentials Pot, and Emeril Lagasse's Cassoulet model.

    I'm glad you mentioned the finer points of using conventional non-stick pans. I know lots of people who let them heat up dry until they are blazing hot; all the while unknowingly unleashing all sorts of invisible chemicals in the air.

  2. yes- I got many of my pots and pans from my dad but they are all CAST IRON:) I have the vintage set of cast iron with the numbers on the bottom...10, 8, etc... all made in the USA- I also have several Lodge pieces and an entire vintage Le Cruset set- the only other thing that goes on my stove top is a Piral stoneware piece- it's an Italian made stone pot that can go from range to oven- and of course my Tunisian made hand hammered copper couscoussier! For baking I have all stoneware and one stainless steel sheetpan. thanks for the post- It kills me to see organic food with microwave instructions or good food in a teflon laced pan- ack!

  3. Great safety tips - thanks for joining in on Real Food Wednesday! I stumbled your post. :)

  4. At last someone else saying similiar to what I have been saying for a while. People are so conscious of eating organic, local and fair trade produce though not exactly how they are cooking the food.

    I came across the NakedPan which is a recycled (75%) cast iron, recyclable, non rust, naturally occuring non stick (due to traditional firing and modern production methods), stylish to even serve from the table and are great in the oven, on top of the stove - whether it is gas. induction or electric.

    They are also handmade by artisans. They will send you the pans from Japan and the service provided is excellent.

    Been using the two handled pan and Wok for the past 8 months and really love it. Hardly use my stainless pans - unless I am steaming some veg.

    Happy cooking and lovely to read your article!



  5. Vehement - that sounds like such a great collection! I love Lodge too and yes, made in the USA. I saw recently a bunch of cast iron made in China, I passed on it. Lodge is one of my fave brands and the older ones are better. Oh gosh - I didn't even think about the microwave directions on organic food, that gets me too!

    Faye - yes, I'm also partial to my Le Crueset.

    Thanks, Kelly and Jane for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

  6. Over a year ago I chucked out my teflon pans and switched to the following:
    2 le crueset dutch ovens (3.5qt and 7qt)
    2 le crueset buffet pans (2.5qt and 3.5qt)
    3 Lodge Cast Iron skillets (8", 10", 12")
    2 cuisinart stainless steel sauce pans.

    I love my set. It is all I ever need. I do think I could do without the 2.5qt buffet and would like a 5qt dutch oven (preferably le crueset) some day. But this set should last me a lifetime!

    In addition to the health benefits (cast iron actually adds iron to our food :D), I love the nostalgia and relating to pioneer women (with strong biceps) who cooked everything from stews to bread with their cast iron skillets and dutch ovens.

  7. Oh gee. When I saw the tweet i thought I would read a blog about what sort of cooking oil, not pans. But pan choices are an important point. Thanks.

    And . . . I vote for org. sunflower or org. olive oil. We really don;t need anything else. Gay/


thanks for your comments! If you submitted a question or position on one of the points, I'll do my best to research that and respond promptly. Thank you for your part in creating a healthier world for us all.