Is Your Cookware Toxic?
If you're like most, you've got an arsenal of pots and pans in the kitchen. But do you know which ones are actually better for your health? Find out!
Healthy cooking starts with healthy cookware. And there are so many choices of cookware available today. What influences your buying? Do you opt for the colorful set that matches your kitchen decor? Should you settle for the sale item, or purchase cookware endorsed by your favorite celebrity chef?
Deciding which cookware to use requires some research. Understanding which cookware is durable, difficult, or easy to care for, which is the best conductor of heat, and which metals react with certain foods are important factors to consider. Most importantly to know is what impact your cookware could be having on your health. Did you know that certain cookware can leach harmful chemicals into your food? Before putting a pan on the stove, read the pros and cons of these basic types of cookware to determine which is best.
Teflon nonstick pans are coated with PFOA, a petrol-chemical used in the manufacture of non-stick cookware to reduce sticking. No scrubbing required, Teflon pans are easy to clean with a sponge. The downside, when heated Teflon pans can leach toxic chemicals into your food. When scratched, the problem escalates. Consumer Affairs warns that the chemical PFOA has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, cardiovascular disease, birth defects and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. Do your health a favor and discard that harmful Teflon pan.
Aluminum is a great conductor of heat, but it should not be used to prepare food. Aluminum is not needed in the human body, so any amount ingested is harmful. Avoid aluminum cookware and disposable aluminum pans as well. When ingested, aluminum can penetrate and accumulate in the brain and harm other organs such as the kidneys. Aluminum depletes the body of calcium and phosphorus, thus weakening the bones. Aluminum toxicity has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders. It has also been reported to contribute to chronic systemic inflammation in the body which can lead to heart disease, diabetes and cancer. If you have a keepsake aluminum kettle or cake pan from Granny, like I do, use it solely for decoration.
Anodized aluminum cookware is a nonreactive, scratch resistant and non-stick alternative to traditional aluminum. However, if the anodized aluminum cookware becomes scratched, acidic foods such as tomato, lemon or wine sauces will react with the exposed metal and leach toxins into the food.
Cast iron is a classic cookware that is built to last. First used indoors on wood burning cookstoves, cast iron remains a longtime favorite in country kitchens, and among outdoor enthusiasts. It is highly durable and able to conduct and retain heat extremely well. Rinse cast-iron cookware under hot running water after each use, and scrub if needed with a stainless steel pad or sponge only, no soap. After rinsing, place wet cast-iron cookware on a hot burner to dry, prevent rusting, and disinfect. Rub the dry skillet with a little cooking oil.
Cooking in iron pots and pans may increase your iron absorption, especially when preparing acidic foods. If your iron levels are low, this can be beneficial to your health. If you have high iron levels in your blood, excess iron can accumulate in the brain, impairing memory and attributing to Alzheimer’s. If you use cast iron daily, you may consider having your iron levels tested.
Enameled cast iron cookware adds a modern day non-stick surface to this age old classic, and eliminates the need for seasoning. Quality enameled cast iron comes in a variety of decorative colors that won’t chip or discolor. It is heavy, and takes time to heat up, and is more expensive than most other options, but it will last and last.
Copper pots and pans were originally made with a tin lining to avoid a reaction between the food and the copper. Most copper cookware on the market today has a durable, easy-to-clean, stainless-steel lining to avoid possible copper poisoning. Copper not only looks spectacular hanging from your pot rack, but is a great conductor of heat.
Stainless steel is the most popular cookware used today. It is durable, scratch-resistant and affordable. It isn’t a good conductor of heat, so manufacturers may use a copper or aluminum core. Stainless steel is made using a combination of metals, including nickel and chromium to give it a rust resistant surface. Although stainless steel is not reactive to acidic foods, worn cookware may leach nickel or chromium into the foods prepared, which may pose a problem for those with nickel allergies. Otherwise, it is generally considered a healthy cookware choice.
Carbon steel is the metal of choice for woks and paella pans used for stir-frying. These large pans are made of thin and lightweight materials that are very resistant to high heat. Over time, the pan is said to develop a nonstick surface. Carbon steel requires seasoning before its initial use and should be seasoned before storing, to prevent rust.
Enamel-on-steel is carbon steel coated with a thin layer of enamel, making it superior to carbon steel. The enamel gives it a low-stick surface, eliminating the need for seasoning. It is lightweight and more affordable than enameled cast-iron. It is generally used for boiling and cooking at medium heat, as it is not resistant to high heat. It is also prone to chipping, which can lead to rust.
Ceramic is the newest nonstick cookware on the market. Unlike its petroleum based, Teflon counterpart, ceramic cookware is highly valued for its healthy and environmentally friendly cooking surface. It requires less cooking oil or butter than most cookware options, and food practically slides right out of the pan. Pairing healthy with ease in cooking, ceramic cookware offers the best options.
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Pearls of Garden Wisdom: Time-Saving Tips and Techniques from a Country Home, Pearls of Country Wisdom: Hints from a Small Town on Keeping Garden and Home, and Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. Tukua has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.
Is pitting on stainless steel pots (mostly boiling water to get the putrid chemical taste out) bad for you?
The science in this article is very questionable. Look at the ingredients in your deoderant: mostly aluminum. But no one is saying dont use it! Metals like aluminum and stainless steel oxidize instantly when exposed to air. The oxides are inert and will not react further if ingested. This article is a repeat of discredited, uninformed opinions written by companies trying to sell you new cookware!
A lot of studies how aluminum-containing deodorant has been found to be contributing to masses in breast cancer, from armpit use. My grandmother had breast cancer. Several years of studies, people have been hearing about aluminum dangers for decades. No need to knock the author’s beliefs. If you don’t like it, simply don’t read it.
A lot of people are saying to not use aluminum deodorant. There are several deodorants specifically marketed to be aluminum-free, the one I use is Arm & Hammer (and smells amazing).
Completely left out of the equation, and probably the most inert and non-reactive of all: GLASS. Why ?????
Hi Wayne and Jeremy, while glass is available, you’ll find that it is not a popular choice for most stove top cooking. While Pyrex is tempered glass is good for certain things, it doesn’t brown foods, so you won’t find many glass skillets for high heat stir frying, etc. Most chefs sets are made of the elements listed, and we tried to target the story based on what is the most popular.
Way to do any current research before posting decades old myths and lies.
From the Alzheimer’s Association’s own website:
Myth 4: Drinking out of aluminum cans or cooking in aluminum pots and pans can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
Reality: During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.
Hi “I Love Facts:” We indicate in the story that “Aluminum toxicity has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s and other neurological disorders” so that people can decide for themselves. We felt it important to mention the connection.
I often cook soups in a three or four quart pot that isn’t magnetic and is grayish black on the inside. Sometimes when it sits unused a white powder forms on the inner surface. What should I think of this?
THATS ALUMINUM STOP USING IT
Organic coconut oil would be the better option (if not the best) which was not mentioned to season cast oil pans with. This oils is able to be cooked safely at high temps and also is not polluted with chemicals or preservatives in the oil as lard for example is when commonly bought at the grocery store. Self rendered lard though is another story but assuming when mentioned above they were not slaughtering their own and rendering it down. Same anyhow as other vegetable oils- they are not as safe to consume as many people think. For example rapeseed (commonly referred to as its market name of Canola) is total crap and worth some fun research as it shouldn’t even be consumed but its a cheap filler and well the stores and processed food businesses are about the all mighty dollar sadly so over true heath of its consumers.
HOW SAFE IS STONEWARE FRYING PAN
Cast iron is the best you can use, if you can handle the weight. If buying it used, take a magnet with you — it won’t stick to cast aluminum (which is often passed off as cast iron). I would use it exclusively if my hands didn’t hurt. Most of the time, however, I use a good-quality stainless steel set for stove top and stonewear in the oven. Admittedly, I do have non-stick pans, but rarely use them. They were gifts, and hubby prefers them. I always pitch them in the trash as soon as there are scratches.
Typical uninformed Internet BS. How many people have you heard of that have been harmed by cookware?
my first comment would be stay away from microware cooking… distroys your food… russia went as far as banning them from their country! myself I have been using and collecting cast iron for 40 yrs…. 3″” to 14″ pans…dutch ovens are the best… but that’s just my opinion… oil doesn’t work on seasoning them… a solid oil… bacon grease, cocanut oil.. etc… not fond of shortening… transfat… margerine… one molecule from plastic… flys won’t even land on it… makes you wonder what they are putting in our food system??? if you can grow your own
I use ceramic coated stainless steel. Magma with Ceramica for Induction Burners. I buy it from Novatech Development on Ebay. I love it plus the entire set nests into only 1 Sq foot!
Thanks for this informative article! I would like to ask if you have considered the connection between aluminum in cookware(even in small amounts) having toxic effects on the body, and the current use of aluminum in vaccines given to infants? I”d appreciate any information you have in this matter! Thanks!
No vacs ever
I have been searching for Ceramic Cookware but can only fined the aluminium coated ceramic type. Is this as unsafe as pure aluminium? or does the coating make it safer? Is this something that you would recommend please?
How do I know what the cookware in my cabinets are made of?
Someone said glass is completely safe above but it can leach lead!!!
I had problems too with foods sticking to ceramic fry pans, but read an article that said invisible food particles could be clogging the ceramic nonstick. The suggestion was to use soapy water with a cleaning pad (nothing with metal like SOS) and really scour. I did as was suggested, seasoned it with a bit of canola oil and no problem. Now I make sure I really scour after each use.
What about stoneware?
I use ceramic the most. Uses very little oil. I use cast iron also
I saw no mention of glass cookware. The only problem with glass cookware is that it can be broken. Otherwise there are zero harmful chemicals to leach into your food and it is non-porous. It’s available in everything from skillet to stock pot, casserole dishes, food storage that you can pull out of the fridge and pop straight into the oven, cake pans, loaf pans, and on and on.
It’s my favorite, I just wish the kids knew how to handle it without breaking and chipping it.
Exactly! I’ve loved mine since the 80s. I keep an out at rummage sales for replacements
When it oomes to cooking or heating, most metals and all plastics should be avoided. Glassware is your best alternative. Personally, I don’t trust any of the “coated” cookware. I have stainless steel and one aluminum pot for when I’m going to use metal.
Wow this is awful I bought a new set od pans from Paula Dean…What do you suggest people to use…Maybe that’s why I have a thyroid problem since 2011…
Good old fashioned lard is the best thing to season cast iron with. My family has been doing it for generations and their cast iron is some of the most beautiful I’ve seen. Vegetable oil definitely ruins them, and can’t say for shortening, as my family doesn’t believe in it.
Even bacon sticks in my ceramic pan!
Ceramic pans stick a lot even with added oil!
There was no mention of Corning Ware but I still use mine for heating and cooking foods on stovetop or in microwave; and I love the teapot (no metal). I often buy Corning pots and bake ware at second-hand stores. With all the talk about metals, isn’t this a good time for Corning to get back in the stove-top cookware business?
What about silicone coated cookware? I have a frying pan from IKEA that has this sort of non-stick surface and at low to medium temps it works very well. I haven’t baked in it yet. And, of course, IKEA no longer carries it, either.
good advice, but you need to replace “attributing” with “contributing”/ (can’t help it, recovering English teacher)
I cannot coat my cast iron in unsalted shortening, since shortening is not a food and is not in my household.
Thank you so much for this article. I love my Corning Ware and glass pyrex. Non-stick cookware has also been mentioned with Thyroid problems.
I have a set of Saladmaster cookware that I purchased over 30 yrs ago. Is it still safe to use?
I use Saladmaster 316Ti – AWESOME cookware – Your food actually taste like its supposed to – ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT.
Why is 316 Ti Better?
Saladmaster takes pride in the products we provide to our customers and as the leader in the industry, Saladmaster consistently invests in advanced technology and specially selected high-quality materials for manufacturing Saladmaster cookware.
So why does Saladmaster use 316Ti stainless steel on the interior surface of Saladmaster cookware? Why are 316 and titanium metals used in the medical industry for replacement implants and surgical equipment? Why does the wine and dairy industries use 316 and titanium metal for storage tanks?
Here’s your answer: Type 316 alloys are more resistant to general corrosion and pitting/crevice corrosion than the conventional chromium-nickel austenitic stainless steels such as Type 304. The combination 316Ti stainless steel provides excellent resistance to reactions with salts.
Saladmaster sets the standard for technology, benefits, quality, value, and integrity. The truth about Saladmaster and our 316Ti stainless steel construction is astounding. Please click here and check out the facts yourself about this amazing material.
Melamine is not for cooking. That statement is on the bottom/backside of all the products. It’s not even for microwave use.
I wish it was, though.
seems EVERYTHING is lethal………….
I have been working in the cookware industry for almost 20 years. I would like to offer a little additional information to that given in the artide.
Teflon has become a generic name for all non-stick surfaces that are slick and dark in color looking much like the original Teflon. There are new, similar surfaces on the market that do not contain PFOA and are much more scratch resistant.
Neither enamel cast iron nor anodized aluminum are non-stick surfaces. Both forms of pans can be found with a nonstick surface which may or may not be Teflon. Both of these types of pans stick less than bare metals but would more acurately be described as stick resistant or easier to clean.
Even stainless steel pans come in various levels of quality. You get what you pay for.
I own all of these types of pans except bare aluminum. They are all “best” for different purposes. Buy the type that is best for what you like to cook. Mix and match as needed.
I have MANY cast iron pans and have used them for years. I would not suggest anyone using “cooking oil” in them to season them or after they are washed and heated to be put away. The oil becomes a sticky, gooey mass that you cannot get out of the pan. Use unsalted shortening. Not oleo or butter….all vegetable shortening is all I use to season or coat my pans to store them.
Please include microwave cooking containers. What about melamine?
Very good information,wish I had known all this when I started cooking!
Why is everyone asking what cookware they recommended? The article clearly states that ceramic is the best option.
Hard to tell.
What type of cookware do you give the highest recommendation to?
What type of cookware does Ms. Tukua recommend?