Ever wonder why there are so many types of cookware to choose from? A wide range of materials, prices, and styles make it more difficult to figure out what’s best for your kitchen.
Some home cooks need a specific material that is compatible with the surface of their stove or the type of dish they’re preparing, while others need to carefully consider a budget. But did you ever consider the safety of the cookware you’re using to carefully prepare all those delicious meals? If you haven’t, then you should add this to your list of criteria for choosing the best cookware.
While you don’t necessarily need to throw away your pots and pans after reading this article, we’ll touch on safety risks some materials pose and hope you’ll consider taking a closer look at your cookware collection. The good news is that there are only a few types of cookware we don’t recommend or use in our own kitchen.
Non-Stick (Teflon Coated)
Non-stick cookware coated with Teflon, a manmade chemical, is popular in part because it’s normally very cost effective. Many consumers also choose it because they don’t have to worry about scraping baked on bits from their pots and pans. However, this non-stick coating scratches easily, releasing particles of Teflon into food. While these particles are reportedly inert and not found to pose a health risk, they should not be consumed. (source) The American Cancer Society identifies the following as the main concern related to non-stick coatings:
The major health effect linked with Teflon is the potential release of dangerous fumes from coated pans that are overheated. These fumes can cause flu-like symptoms in humans (a condition known as polymer fume fever) and can be fatal to birds. (source)
Many will argue that normal cooking temperatures will very rarely reach the temperature at which the dangerous fumes are released, but…
…EWG-commissioned tests conducted in 2003 showed that in just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. (source)
If you’re still not convinced non-stick surfaces are dangerous, this graphic from the Environmental Working Group puts the dangers of Teflon into further perspective.
The American Cancer Society also warns that another chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is used in the production of Teflon. While this chemical is burned off during processing and not present in significant amounts in the final product, “Some studies have suggested that higher than average PFOA blood levels in humans is linked to higher than normal cholesterol levels, thyroid disease, and reduced fertility.” (source) Results of these studies were concerning enough for the Environmental Protection Agency to urge companies to completely eliminate PFOA from production of products by the year 2015.
There have been many studies done on Teflon in recent years, but more is needed to determine the extent of its health risks. The above information was enough motivation for us to kick non-stick cookware out of our kitchen.
Sure, it’s light and durable, but it also comes with some health implications. It’s true that aluminum is everywhere – it’s found in food, drugs, vaccines, personal products, and uncoated aluminum cookware. While most of us aren’t exposed to enough aluminum while cooking to be of great damage, it’s the accumulative effects of aluminum that can have serious long-term health consequences.
Aluminum damages brain tissue and also prevents our bodies from naturally detoxifying. (source) In the past there has also been some research that supported the Alzheimer’s/aluminum link, but at the same time a lack of solid evidence that aluminum could be a cause of neurological diseases. However, there is some very recent research with comprehensive data that shows a direct relationship between aluminum exposure and Alzheimer’s disease.
Considering all these things, we choose to eliminate aluminum anywhere we can in our daily lives. It’s not possible to avoid all aluminum in the environment, but our cookware is one place we can definitely control our exposure.
In my opinion copper is the most beautiful type of cookware available and many cooks use it based on its superior performance. However, the beauty and performance of this cookware should be overlooked when considering the dangers copper may pose to health.
Copper and nickel, both toxic heavy metals, are found in the finish of copper cookware and can be leached into food. When heavy metals like these build up in the body the dangerous effects on the mind and body include mental disturbance and chronic illnesses.
To avoid the negative health effects of copper and nickel toxicity, it’s advised that you only purchase pieces that have copper on the outside or sandwiched between layers of another safe metal like stainless steel. Never purchase copper cookware in which copper has been used to line the inside surfaces.
What types of cookware SHOULD you be using?
The good news is that there many materials used in the production of cookware that are completely safe. We cover several types of safe cookware/bakeware here in this article if you’d like to learn more!
What are you cooking with?
Are you avoiding these dangerous/controversial types of cookware?
References & Suggested Reading