If you’ve been on a mission to remove chemicals from your everyday environment, you’ve probably already targeted the obvious sources such as personal care products, household products and pesticide- and chemical-laden foods.
But, have you considered the impact your cookware can have on the food you prepare in it — and on your health?
Depending on the type of pots and pans you use on a regular basis, you could be exposing yourself and your family to unnecessary and harmful chemicals.
And the most toxic cookware is …?
… Anything labeled “nonstick” that has been coated with a slick, chemically-formulated coating, such as Teflon. This brand and other nonstick cookware are marketed as being easier to cook with, easier to clean and requiring less fat during cooking — so, one would think that’s healthier, right?
Wrong. For starters, those shiny nonstick coatings are made from potentially toxic and harmful chemicals, including known carcinogens.
Prior to 2013, Teflon was formulated with PFOA – a chemical the World Health Organization has labeled “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
Teflon is no longer made with PFOA, but nonstick coatings are still chemically-formulated.
It’s all in the chemical breakdown.
These chemicals can break down at high temperature (high-heat cooking!) and can end up producing toxic fumes you may inhale or getting into the food you’re about to eat.
Does that sound yummy to you?
Most studies have found the release of these nonstick chemicals during cooking to be minimal or to occur only at temperatures hotter than what most home kitchens are capable of producing (for example, greater than 570 degrees F).
Nonstick cookware is easily damaged by metal utensils and regular wear and tear. If you notice scratches, chips or flaking in your nonstick cookware, chances are the function and safety of your pots and pans have been compromised.
What’s the bottom line on nonstick pans, and what’s the best alternative?
If you don’t want unnecessary chemicals in your life, ditch the nonstick cookware. The best natural alternative cookware is CAST IRON – yep, just like that beat-up ‘ole skillet that Grandma used!
Here are the top 7 benefits of switching from nonstick cookware to cast iron:
- It is durable and long-lasting. Cast iron doesn’t chip or scratch like nonstick cookware.
- It gets good and hot and then retains the heat – great for keeping food warm if you serve food straight from the pan!
- Affordability. You can score a standard 10-inch cast iron skillet for $15 to $20.
- It is chemical-free. Nothing but iron here, folks!
- Versatility. You can bake, fry, sauté, roast, grill, sear meat and braise in a cast iron pan. Think of all the cabinet space you can save with a couple of trusty cast iron pans on hand!
- A well-seasoned cast iron pan is naturally nonstick, meaning you can still cook with less mess and less fat — just like other nonstick cookware!
By the way, seasoning means oil that has been baked into the iron. The more you use cast iron, the more “seasoned” it becomes.
The best way to keep your cast iron pans clean and seasoned for years of nonstick cooking is to rinse with warm water, dry thoroughly over low heat on the stove, and then rub a bit of plant-based oil (like avocado) onto the pan with paper towel.
- Cooking using cast iron pots fortifies your food with a bit of extra iron, which is especially important since iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies.
A 2013 study found foods cooked in cast iron had a 16% increase in iron content compared to the same foods when cooked in Teflon pans.
And it’s important to note that iron is important for healthy blood cells. Iron is part of the makeup of red blood cells and hemoglobin, which are responsible for carrying oxygen through the body.
Getting enough iron from food is especially important for vegans and vegetarians who don’t consume heme iron, the most absorbable form of iron found in animal foods.
What we haven’t mentioned thus far are stainless steel and anodized aluminum pots.
Because stainless steel pots and pans aren’t naturally nonstick, they usually require greater cleanup (such as soaking for several hours or overnight), particularly after some greasy, messy and/or burned-on food cooking. And they’re generally more expensive. However, stainless steel cookware with aluminum and copper bottoms conduct heat evenly, which may be highly desired.
Anodized aluminum pots (Calphalon, for example) are dishwasher safe and nonstick but on the pricier side.
So what are you cooking with? What are the benefits and negatives of your cooking choice? Personally, I like my stainless steel pots though I’m careful with high temps – anything that’s easy appeals to me. However, my guy Ed swears by cast iron. He likes the way it heats evenly and both the heating up and cool down times. The negative I find is that it feels too heavy so I have difficulty manipulating the cookware under certain circumstances.
Please take a few moments now to write in the comments box below and let us know, what you’re using. Are you willing to toss your Teflon or other nonstick labeled cookware? Would you consider cast iron (if you don’t already own it) because of its benefits? Your thoughts mean a lot to us so we’d love to hear from you, as always.