Are you sure that your cookware is safe? I wasn't, so I made my research and ended up replacing all my cookware over the last few months! Selecting the right type of cookware is as important as choosing the healthiest food for cooking.
What to avoid?
I say avoid traditional non-stick and aluminum pans completely…
Non-stick surfaces are metal pans coated with a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE). Toss your Teflons. Teflon is a coating made from chemicals from the perfluorochemical (PFC) family. These chemicals used to make nonstick pans have recently been linked to a number of health problems, in addition to producing fumes that are toxic to birds.
So, if your nonstick pans are starting to wear out, it’s a good idea to replace them.
And as for aluminum cookware, it can very toxic as this heavy metal is absorbed into all food cooked in it and excess aluminum has been associated with cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. The sale of aluminum cookware is prohibited in Germany, France, Belgium, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Hungary and Brazil.
So what choices do we have?
Cast iron remains a great alternative to non-stick cookware. This all-time classic is strong, inexpensive, and great for frying and baking foods. Cast iron is extremely durable and will withstand oven temperatures well above what is considered safe for non-stick pans.
The only downside of cast iron is that it requires special care. When cleaning your cast iron pans use a a soft cloth or sponge and no soap. Once the pan is clean, dry it right away and put it on the stove for a few minutes to evaporate any water left from washing. After it cools, put a tiny amount of oil on the pan and rub it over the full surface.
Cooking with cast iron also provides a source of an important nutrient. Foods cooked in unglazed cast iron may contain twice the amount of iron they would otherwise. Iron is a vital nutrient, but for some people excess iron can be a problem. If you suffer from haemochromatosis or similar conditions you may want to avoid cooking in cast iron.
Lodge cast iron pieces are great.
Stainless steel is another good choice.
When chosing stainless steel cookware, you want the highest-quality, which contains less of the cheap heavy metals like chromium and nickel. Nickel is of primary concern, because it is toxic and can leach from the steel into your food. High-quality stainless steel will have low levels of nickel, and will be constructed in a formulation which makes it resistant to leaching. And to be on the safe side, avoid very long-term cooking and storage of acidic foods in stainless steel, as acids are what can react with the metal causing it to leach.
I do not own any but it seems like All Clad is generally considered to be the top of the line when it comes to stainless steel.
Enameled cast iron. Again, quality matters. High-quality enamel coating is non-reactive and safe for all types of cooking. Lesser-quality enamel may contain lead, or may chip, allowing unsafe material underneath the coating to leach into food.
Perfect for soups, stews, roasts, casseroles and almost anything else you can think of—the cast iron retains heat more efficiently than just about any other cookware material. And the enamel coating keeps it non-reactive and non-stick.
Enameled cast iron skillets have all the benefits of cast iron, And, they are low-maintenance, as they’re naturally non-stick without any seasoning to maintain.
Le Creuset and Staub are the best brands and they both have amazing color choices. The only downside is they are quite expensive! If you are thinking of investing in one, I recommend you get the 5 or 6 quart dutch oven first, they are well worth it:) Le Creuset have outlet stores, so make sure you check out if you have one in your area.
Ceramic-coated pans are PFOA and PTFE free, easy to clean and very affordable. Their surfaces need to be protected as most non-stick cookware, so use plastic or wood utensils and they last longer if hand washed and not in dishwasher. I have the CeraStone CeraCast Wave Fry Pan and I am very happy with it for every day cooking like eggs, pancakes, etc.
Ceramic cookware has the benefits of being easy to clean and heated to fairly high temperatures. However, the health concern with ceramic cookware is its glaze. This glaze may help resist wear and corrosion but can often contain traces of lead or cadmiun.
I recently bought the Ceramcor/Xtrema 6.5" skillet, using it to warm up cooked meals and so far I am quite happy with it. They have their lead and cadmiun testing results and their Ceramcor Cookware Lead Free Certificates on their website.
The pressure cooker. I use my stainless steel pressure cooker (Fagor Splendid
6-Quart) all the time and can't recommend it more highly. Pressure cookers reduce cooking time by as much as 70% and enhance the richness and natural flavors of foods.
How about baking?
Regular aluminum that isn’t coated with nonstick chemicals isn’t ideal, but, you don’t necessarily have to toss your aluminum just yet. The only real danger with aluminum bakeware is that it can leach the toxic heavy metal into your food—but you’re only at risk for that when food is touching the aluminum. So, for baking/cookie sheets and muffin tins, an easy fix is to use parchment paper or Silpat baking mats, and unbleached paper cupcake liners or reusable silicone ones.
If you are looking for a better option then aluminum bakeware and if you are not on a budget, Le Creuset enamel-coated stoneware is amazing.
Pyrex glass dishes are always a good choice, too.
Most round cake pans and springform pans are also made with aluminum. There is a silicone springform with a glass base which is a better choice.
Most cookware recommended on this post are on the blog's store where you can shop using your own Amazon account.