Thursday, April 12, 2012
Pantry Raid #15: Pots and Pans
I've had a lot of readers ask me about what type of cooking and bakeware I like to use. I have to admit, my selections were mostly on accident. When I read up on it, I realized I was all good...whew! My absolute preferred cooking surface is cast iron. I really bucked using cast iron for years. The hubby was raised on it, but the whole not washing it with soap and "seasoning" thing just scared the crumbs out of me. When I finally caved, I couldn't help but wonder why in the world our generation seemed to have disregarded this amazing cooking surface. Aside from the weight, the perks are endless. My two favorite reasons to use cast iron--they are non-stick (when seasoned correctly) and indestructable. I could go on forever about cast iron, but first, let's talk about what cookware options you have and which ones you may or may not want to be using if you are concerned about your health and/or the environment.
Non-Stick: In 1961, a new, technologically advanced cookware was introduced to the market with the claim that stuck on food was a thing of the past . The cookware gained popularity as the "fat free" diet fad rose to its peak giving dieters a way to use less oils when cooking. How does it work? Most types are coated with a chemical called Polytetrafluoroethylene, which is most commonly known as the brand Teflon. This chemical was accidentally discovered in 1938 when Roy Pluckett of Kinetic Chemicals was working on a new refrigerant using Tetrafluoroethylene. Unfortunately, when heated to tempatures above 200 degrees, the coating begins to deteriorate. Most cookware is used at these tempatures on a daily basis. Unpublished studies show that the deteriorated Teflon creates a by-product that has been tested to be lethal to birds and causes flu-like symptoms in humans.
Aluminum: Aluminum cookware can be purchased in two forms--anodized and non-anodized. Anodized aluminum cookware has a coating that is created by placing the cookware in a bath of electrolytes like sulfuric acid and running an electrical current through the bath. The result is a protective layer that keeps the aluminum from ozidizing which causes corrison, rusting and pitting. My thoughts...the less chemicals the better. Sulfuric acid is a highly hazardous chemical that, with high exposure, can cause nervous and respiratory system damage. In regards to the environment, I give it a big thumbs down. As far as your health, the coating (if undamaged) restricts the leaching of aluminum into your food. Studies have shown that testing in Alzheimer's patients reveals a common link of aluminum found in their blood streams.
Stainless Steel: Stainless Steel is deemed a safe cookware. Look for cookware marked 18/10 stainless steel, which means 18% chromium and 10% nickel. This type of cookware releases about 45 micrograms of chromium into each meal cooked, which is less than the published "safe" intake. If you have a sensitivity to nickel, steering clear of stainless steel cookware is suggested.
Cast Iron: Cast iron cookware is made by heating iron to extremely high levels and casting it into the desired form. When seasoned properly, it is non-stick and will not rust. It distributes and holds heat evenly through the cooking process. It can withstand being placed in direct flames without being damaged. I am telling you, these pots are indestructable!! If I mess one up, I run it though the self cleaning oven cycle and reseason it. Cooking in cast iron can actually be healthy because it leaches additional iron into your food as it cooks. Before aluminum cookware was introduced, cast iron was pretty much the universal choice of cookware. All over the world, people are using cast iron cookware that is generations old, because it last forever!
Glass, Stoneware and Ceramic: Cookware made with glass, stone and ceramic materials are all perfectly safe cooking options.