Modern pots and pans are made in a variety of materials, from the ubiquitous and cheap Teflon-coated aluminum to high-end copper and stainless steel. These materials not only differ in price, but they also provide varying levels of quality in terms of durability, conductibility, and safety. Consumers who are looking for the safest cookware should consider the following information.
Studies show that Teflon-coated pans contain – and emit – chemicals that are potentially dangerous. They have been associated with a range of health problems from flu-like symptoms and inflammation to birth defects and cancer. One of the most prevalent chemicals in non-stick cookware is perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. Aluminum poses another health risk because it leaches into food and has been associated with increased risks of cancer, respiratory problems, and even dementia. Fortunately, there are some healthy alternatives to aluminum non-stick cookware.
One of the best materials for cookware is stainless steel. The metal is an iron alloy that contains small amounts of other metals that protect it from corrosion and give it extra strength. Because stainless steel is non-reactive, it cannot contaminate – or be contaminated by – the food it cooks. While most stainless cookware is made with an aluminum or copper core, since those metals are better heat conductors, the steel is strong enough that it can’t be worn away through scrubbing.
Cast iron is one of the healthiest cookware materials. Iron is very durable, and it retains heat well, making it an energy-saving cooking option. Furthermore, even if trace amounts of iron leach into the food, it doesn’t pose a health risk since iron is an element that the body contains naturally and can use. The only people who shouldn’t use cast iron are those who have certain health conditions that require a limited iron intake.
One of the safest options is granite cookware. These pans are made of a steel core that is coated with a glass enamel that has a speckled appearance, like granite. The coating is inert and non-toxic, and it is a naturally smooth, non-stick surface. Other advantages of graniteware include its ability to absorb heat and distribute it evenly.
In addition to stainless steel, cast iron, and granite, some other healthy cookware materials include ceramic, glass, unglazed clay, and bamboo. Each has different advantages in terms of heat conduction, ease of cleaning, and appearance, and none of them contain harmful chemicals that can contaminate cooked food.