Following on from my first post, it’s time to talk about…

Pots and pans, what you need to know.

Did you know that what you cook in is as important as what you’re cooking? A lot of us rely on cheaper, no-fuss cookware, like pots and pans that we can buy easily and are cheap to replace when they wear out. 

But like most things in life, the quality will always tell in the end – a lot of cheaper pots and pans can contain lead in the materials used to make them. And some ‘non-stick’ coatings, like Teflon, are made from nasty chemicals.

  • Teflon – Manufacturers come up with a plethora of different names for their non-stick coating, but that’s mostly all marketing, and it’s the same substance. Non-stick pans can either be Teflon or ceramic, and 99% of non-stick pans are Teflon.

The Perfluorooctanoic chemical acid (PFOA) was used in non-stick Teflon pans up until 2015 and has been linked to many diseases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, liver tumours and reduced fertility. This chemical was found to build in peoples bodies so daily use was eventually seen as an unacceptable risk.

Teflon has been linked to giving people short term flu-like symptoms and headaches, known as polymer fume fever. This is due to the gases released when heating the pans. Manufacturers have said this isn’t possible due to the 375C temperatures the pans undergo when made, but many still report feeling unwell especially with new pans. 

  • Cast iron – a great cooking material, but can be annoying for cooking things that you don’t want to stick like eggs. Ideal for stir-fries, slow cooking, pan-frying and roasting. It’s a good idea to keep your cast iron pots or skillet well seasoned to prevent excessive iron leaching – which is often argued wouldn’t be a bad thing, given anaemia is so prevalent today. 
  • Glass – Glass is a completely chemical-free and eco-friendly material. Glass baking dishes are considered safe for contact with food because Glass is a nonporous and chemically inert material. Glass will not leach chemicals or metal traces into your meals and won’t react even with highly acidic foods. A nonporous glass surface is easy to clean and sanitise after the use, as it doesn’t catch food particles or absorb food odours and flavours. 
  • Enamel/porcelain cookware – As long as the coating remains in good condition, the surface of these pots is durable, with no metal leaching into the food. Good quality cookware will have an extremely hard finish that is fused to the metal and won’t scratch, rust, fade or peel. However, some lower-priced cookware, which resembles porcelain-enamel, has an easily-damaged baked enamel finish. Baked enamel is fine for serving plates and simple roasting but not very reliable for everyday cooking unless you really keep an eye on those scratches where the metal can then leach.
  • Aluminium – It might be true that it is a great heat conductor, lightweight, inexpensive and easy to clean. However, some aluminium is dissolved into food when you are cooking acidic foods like fruits and tomatoes or anything containing vinegar. Even if there is little risk from exposure to the levels of aluminium released into food from cooking, we are exposed to aluminium cumulatively from many other environmental sources. Also, salty water or food can affect aluminium cookware, making older aluminium pots a possible source of trace amounts of substances like arsenic and fluorides. 
  • Stainless steel – Wonderful, although some scientists suggest, there are very low levels of various metals released over time into the food. The better the quality, the tougher the pan, so always again think ‘investment and long term’ when it comes to stainless steel. The potential issue with stainless steel is nickel leaching. 
  • Copper – Copper is both a toxic heavy metal and a mineral that is essential to good health. Symptoms of copper toxicity include trouble concentrating, tender calf muscles, unexplained nausea, irritability, hyperactivity, constant fatigue, and chronic joint pain. So, for cooking it’s a bit like aluminium in that if you have something acidic, best use something else to cook it in. 
  • Silicone – Just feels unnatural to me. To make silicone cookware silicon is bonded with oxygen and then died and moulded into shape. Just that process turns me off the idea. Having a natural kitchen but using silicone cookware just don’t mesh. 
  • Clay Pot Cooking is coming back into fashion for it’s 100% lead-free, chemical-free, low tox and is very appealing. But you will need to research how to maximise cooking in clay pots and what recipes are best suited.
  • Stone pan cooking – you will have to ask what the manufacturer claims is the ‘reinforced non-stick technology’ as many profess this feature without backing up with any evidence on their websites. If it smells iffy to you, it probably is.

My next post is all about baking and storage, keep a lookout, it’s a must-read!

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