Monday, November 23, 2009

We're heading into the kitchen ...

With Thanksgiving later this week, many people are getting ready to cook a family feast. If your celebration is anything like mine, the meal will be abundant ... and that means using practically every pot and pan in the house.

Before we start stirring, simmering and baking ... let's talk about our cookware and find out which options are safe and Eco-friendly.

Non-Stick Pans (Teflon & Silverstone)

You've heard me say this before ... whenever a product offers "convenience", it bears further investigation. In this case, non-stick pans are definitely convenient ... less fat is required to cook most foods and the clean-up is easy. But, the synthetic coating used to create that slick surface (PFOA) is a known toxin and carcinogen in animals. In some studies, it has been linked to birth defects, cancer and infertility in humans. Most experts will say that, when used properly, there's no danger. So ... how many of us know what "used properly" means? I sure didn't. It means never scratching the surface because that releases the PFOA into the food. It also means never using higher than a medium heat because at higher temperatures, the PFOA releases gases into the air which causes flu-like symptoms called polymer-fume fever. My conclusion on non-stick pans is that, if possible, replace them. If you have them, be sure to read the manufacturers recommendations for use and use them properly.

Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum pans are usually inexpensive and lightweight. They are thermal responsive, meaning that they heat up fast. The problem with these pans is that they react with acidic and/or salty foods (tomatoes, sauerkraut, etc.) causing the formation of aluminum salts which get into the food (and our bodies). These salts have been associated with impaired visual motor coordination and Alzheimer’s disease (although that hasn't been definitively proven). As with non-stick pans, I would pass on these. If one wishes to use them, however, be sure that there aren't any dings or nicks in them ... the more beat up these pans are, the more chance of aluminum contamination. Don't cook acidic or highly salted foods in them and never use them as storage devices.

Anodized Aluminum

The surface coating of these pans (aluminum oxide) is very hard and non-reactive. Basically the aluminum is sealed, preventing any exposure to food. It doesn't react with acidic and/or salty foods so is considered safe to use. Calphalon is probably the best known of these pans. But, when buying them, be sure they are, indeed, anodized aluminum and not one of their non-stick varieties.

Stainless Steel

These pans are created by mixing steel, chromium and nickel. The result is a tough, corrosion resistant pan that is easy to clean. It is considered safe, however, one should not use abrasive materials to clean these pans because doing so may loosen and release small amounts of metals. While a bit of nickel is not poisonous, it can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Cast Iron

Most chefs, who have learned to cook with Cast Iron, swear by it. It holds the heat well, cooks evenly and, if cared for properly, is easy to clean. It also has an added benefit by providing us with an important nutrient ... iron. The only caution with cast iron cookware is that, if not maintained properly, rust can accumulate ... and rust is not something we want in our food. So, proper maintenance is important with these pans.

Glass and Ceramic Cookware

Glass cookware doesn't react to food and is considered safe to use. Ceramic cookware is also a good option provided that lead wasn't used in the glaze.

The general rule for most cookware is to use it according to the manufacturers directions and keep it in good shape. Doing so will provide us with cookware that lasts a long time and is safe to use!

As always ... I would love to hear from you!


  1. That's the problem with teflon types, people simply don't know, use only wooden utensils, never allow hard plastic, or metal near them.

    Cast Iron is great, but after washing, a thin coating of cooking oil stops any rust.


  2. I just received some Green Pans, I will have to tell you how they are! Thanks for coming by my site and entering my Explorer's Bounty giveaway! I will be hosting a Green Pan review shortly, keep your eyes peeled!

  3. if i didn't already have a set of all-clad i'd be totally on those green pans you recommended...wondering what the all-clad footprint is like...a favorite item of mine is the bamboo steamer - no metal required :)

  4. I was eco before eco was cool! LOL I love my cast iron and I swear by it. I do not know how people live without it. I also only use anique pyrex. I actually collect it. I love it, and for many years people have thought I was crazy.

    If you want to know how to get rust off your pan please let me know. My grandmother taught me how to care for my pan.


  5. I'm an anodized girl and cast iron to boot!! The cost of convenience! You're right to shout it out loud! How else can we get manufacturers to change?

  6. Must post about our curb found Hackmann cast iron heavy duty pan some day. It's the BF's favourite and was brand new when we found it. I couldn't believe it was cast out!
    Otherwise it's stainless or glass for me. I keep Teflon out of my kitchen.

  7. Wow! I never put that much thought into my pans. I tend to buy whatever is on sale and I like the no-stick. But i'll be more careful next time.


    Just posted on recycling glass.

    I like my casserole toughened glass. Some have lasted me a lot time.

    Have read plenty about non stick pans, but some of them come off, I agree with Small Footprints, not the best.

    On the stove, I use stainless steel.

  9. Also wishing you a great Thanksgiving

  10. So great! I have also been wondering about our Wilton Armetale dishware too. It is metal and wonderful and I love it - but have wondered if any metal comes off of these when using a knife or whatever. Always something to consider :) Thanks for the info on the pots and pans.

  11. We found this amazing line of cook and bake ware calld Earth Chef : It is amazing and when you buy their non-stick pans, they plat a tree for you! :-)

  12. I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there's so much misinformation out there about Teflon, I'm not surprised that you are concerned. I'm a representative of DuPont though, and hope you'll let me share some information with you and your readers, so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    In regards to PFOA and cancer - The weight of evidence gathered from a number of significant health studies continues to indicate to us that there is no health risk to the general public from exposure to PFOA. Additionally, no authoritative body has designated PFOA as a human carcinogen. The U.S. EPA stated that it is premature to conclude that PFOA causes cancer. For more information, please visit and can provide you with additional information.

    In terms of Polymer Fume Fever... Over the past 40 years, there have been only a few reported accounts of polymer fume fever as a result of severely overheating non-stick cookware. It should be noted that butter, fats, and cooking oils will begin to smoke at approximately 400°F (204°C), producing fumes that can irritate eyes, nose, and throat and possibly cause respiratory distress. DuPont non-stick coatings will not begin to deteriorate in appearance or performance until the temperature of the cookware reaches about 500°F

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at Teflon. This article highlights what they found -- the bottom line is that you can use Teflon without worry.

    I'd truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Ross.

  13. it's amazing how some things that we take for granted have a big impact on us and the environment.I'm from some where there is clay crockery is still being used for cooking, though not so much now, but one disadvantage of them is the heat loss.