Mother of 2 daughters and grandmother of 7 I strive daily to achieve an optimum level of health and happiness. Life is all about the balance
Finding the safest cookware is not quite as simple as it might first appear to be. I was shocked when I discovered that Teflon and other older non-stick cooking surfaces could contain a toxin (Perfluorooctanoic Acid aka PFOA) that is transferable not only through the surface of the pan itself but also through the air that permeates out from the cooking process.
This knowledge frightened me more than a little and I decided to investigate healthier cookware alternatives. I chucked my non-stick pans the same day that I learned exactly how harmful they could be.
To my surprise, I quickly learned that many of our safe cookware alternatives can also have health risks associated with their use as well. So after much research this is what I have discovered to be the safest pots and pans to cook with. Note: The toxic chemical in non-stick cookware was to be replaced by 2015 so newer pans should now be free from this chemical.
Narrowing Down the Facts to Find the Safest Options for Cooking
Aluminum is a metal that is not required in any way by the body and it has a nasty tendency to settle into the bone and brain of those who ingest it. Knowing that aluminum pots and pans leach their contaminants into food during cooking and that they are currently under investigation for a number of serious health issues, I quickly retired all my aluminum cookware as well.
That left me with glass, stainless steel, and cast iron pots, pans, and sheets that I felt safe to cook with. It is these that I have used in my cooking and baking since. My further investigations into even these alternatives had me once again re-evaluate my cookware choices. There are many factors that go into making a pot or pan safe for use.
Maybe grandma was right to cook with those heavy old pans she used. I discovered that Cast Iron which is one of our oldest and most well known forms of cookery may actually turn out to be one of the safest cookware material for us to use. Glass, although a close second in safety still carries with it a number of safety risks particularly if it is older glass or if its country of origin is not known.
Glass Cookware Is Quite Safe
Glass cookware is quite safe if it is new and handled to prevent breakage. Some not so healthy components used in the production of glass such as lead and cadmium leach into food during the cooking process. It is also important to note that the various pigments and paints involved in the decoration of early glass and ceramic products can also leach unhealthy chemicals into the foods we then consume.
Canada and the U.S.A. have strict production standards and most products now made in these countries are deemed safe and acceptable for human use. However, older glass products did not have to comply with these regulations as they were manufactured before these regulations came into being. As well there are many glass cookware products that have been brought into country as personal effects by immigrants from neighbouring countries.
This means that there are unfortunately a lot of glass baking and serving dishes out there that do not comply with today's stricter health standards. I know that I have older glassware that I have inherited from my mother and I am sure that a lot of you do to.
The other health risk associated with glass baking dishes is the risk of the glass itself shattering suddenly, and with a tremendous force, thus causing serious personal injury. Glass in cookware can have a tendency to break into large jagged pieces rather than to shatter like tempered glass. My advice to you is to keep those older pieces of glass cookware on the shelf. They are lovely to display but may not be something you should be preparing food in.
The Old Fashioned Way to Season Cast Iron Cookware
What Is the Cookware Material of Your Choice?
The Leaching of Stainless Steel Cookware Shocked Me
Stainless steel pots and pans are one of the most popular forms of cookware in America, but they are also formed from a compound that can leach chromium, lead, nickel, and iron into the food that is prepared in them.
Newer stainless steel pots and pans will have more leaching than older cookware. Generally with the highest leaching occurring in the first ten uses. Tomato based dishes will also cause stainless steel to release more chromium into the food.
It is estimated that a safe daily human intake of chromium is between 50 to 200 mgs a day. Eating just one meal prepared in stainless steel cookware may cause a person to ingest approximately 45 mgs of chromium.
This is a little frightening when you stop to think that we are preparing meals for young children in these utensils and they are much more vulnerable to these toxins than we are. I am always concerned about toxins where kids are concerned. Kids are still developing and cannot tolerate nasty stuff to the same degree that we are able to.
Once again, the age of our cookware and company of origin must be taken into account as to the degree of possible contamination that may be in the product. I also suggest boiling water in new steel cookware a couple times before you utilize the product in your kitchen. You will probably not have to be concerned with the degree of iron that you absorb from this cookware. Iron is an element that our bodies require and the amount leached from stainless steel cookware is generally extremely low.
You can read more on the Canadian government's page about leeching, safety, and alternatives.
Did You Know That New Stainless Steel Pots Can Leach Chromium?
My Preference Is for Cast Iron
Cast Iron cookware has been around for hundreds of years, and with evidence stacking up as to its safety, it may remain around for hundreds more. It has a high heat retention and is basically non-toxic.
Cast Iron cookware leaches iron into food but this is generally a health benefit rather than a health detriment. Our bodies require iron on a daily basis, regularly cooking with cast iron will provide approximately just less than 20% of our daily iron needs.
The only people who should be affected by this degree of iron intake would be individuals who suffer from iron issues. People who have iron deficiencies rather than suffering ill effects would actually benefit from this form of cookware.
Cast iron may also increase your strength and perseverance due its weighty nature. So grab a pan and do a few arm lifts before you start preparing dinner.
Keep Your Kitchen Safe for Those You Love
Remember: Almost all items that you use in your home are now regulated by government standards. Canada and the U.S.A. have strict production standards and most products now made or imported into these countries are deemed safe and acceptable for human use.
Unfortunately older cookware products and items that have been brought into country as personal effects by immigrants from neighboring countries may not comply with today's strict health standards.
Make your home as safe as you can for yourself and those that you love. Use the safest cookware pots and pans in your cooking.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Lorelei Cohen
Which Is Your Favorite Cookware to Use?
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on April 21, 2018:
Cast iron is on my list to finally purchase. My mom has cast iron pans, and they make food taste so good!
Lorelei Cohen (author) from Canada on March 05, 2018:
Cast iron is one of my favorites too. I use a combination of cast iron, steel, and glass cookware. What shocked me was that new steel pans have such a chemical leakage. For those with a sensitive immune system that is scary.
Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on March 05, 2018:
Wow, Lorelei, this article was a real eye-opener for me! I had thought that non-stick cookware was safe to use as long as it wasn't scratched. After reading this, I'm really glad that I replaced our most-used non-stick pots and pans a few years ago! I'm using my cast iron pan more and more, so I'm relieved to hear that it may be the safest type of cookware. Thanks for an extremely informative and well written article!
Kenna McHugh from Northern California on February 19, 2018:
Interesting. I never thought of copper. Thank you.
Lorelei Cohen (author) from Canada on February 19, 2018:
Copper seems to be another clean option in cookware. With steel the piece has to be boiled a number of times to remove the toxins. I believe it was after 8 uses that it is safe from the metals chemicals.
Kenna McHugh from Northern California on February 18, 2018:
I am so into cast iron, love it. Next, I like Pyrex. However, finding a non-toxic kettle is tough.
peachy from Home Sweet Home on January 05, 2015:
i use roichen, korea cookware, very lasting and useful, heat up easily
Blackspaniel1 on October 13, 2014:
I had heard heating Teflon, as in leaving an empty pot on a heat source causes a toxic gas release, if I recall correctly.
At least we are past the Romans using lead dishes. But the better we can do the healthier we should become.