Let’s talk cookware. With chillier months and the holiday season ahead, you may be spending a little more time in the kitchen. You probably invest time, energy and money seeking out the best ingredients for the foods you’re preparing. But have you ever considered what the best options are for nontoxic cookware? Join us in learning about what to look for and how to find safer cookware options.
With love, from our kitchen to yours.
Want to skip the nitty-gritty and go straight to safer solutions? Jump to What to Look for When Shopping for Safer Options.
Ingredients of Concern Commonly Found in Cookware
Aluminum – Found in aluminum pots, pans, and foil, this heavy metal can be transferred to food from cookware and foil. Aluminum is a neurotoxin in high doses. Did you know that the maximum acceptable amount that an adult can safely consume each week as established by the European Food Safety Authority is easily surpassed by consuming food items that come into contact with aluminum cookware? This is especially dangerous for children who, because of their smaller size, can surpass these weekly limits more easily.
Nanoparticles – Found in some quasi-ceramic cookware labeled “nonstick,” these teeny little guys can be 1,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair – code for: VERY small. It is this small size that may make nanoparticles more chemically reactive and therefore more bioavailable, meaning they can be fast-tracked into the body. Nanoparticles have yet to be properly assessed for their potential health effects. However, what little information we do have has us wanting to know more, so we think the precautionary principle is put to good use here until further research has been done.
Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) – Found in cookware labeled “nonstick” and Teflon cookware produced before 2013, PFAS refers to a group of over 3,000 different related chemicals. Prized for their resistance to water, stains, and grease, they have been heavily capitalized on in the nonstick cookware market. The dangers of PFAS chemicals have been widely documented, and are implicated in many health effects including increased risk of thyroid disease, liver damage, and risk of decreased fertility. Two PFAS chemicals, PFOA (also known as C8) and PFOS, have been found to be potentially carcinogenic.
But wait, there’s more! PFAS have also been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, endocrine disrupting capabilities, and immune suppression. We know, it’s a lot. Want to learn more about PFAS? Check out the movie Dark Waters, which is based on the true story of a legal battle between a small town and a chemical company illegally disposing of toxic waste.
What to Look for When Shopping for Safer Options
- Look for safer cookware, such as stainless steel, glass, cast iron, and carbon steel.
- Avoid products labeled as “nonstick,” even those labeled as “green.”
- Pro tip: a well-seasoned cast iron skillet resists sticking!
- Avoid cooking acidic foods in cast iron, as this can strip the seasoning off the pan and release more iron than you may want in your food.
- Avoid aluminum cookware (coated or entirely aluminum). Note: Stainless steel pans with an aluminum core are a safer option. However, take care to prevent scratching as an exposed aluminum core could come into contact with your food.
- Not ready to say goodbye to your aluminum cookware, food storage containers, or foil? While we don’t recommend their use, we know it may be a necessity. If that’s the case, avoid using them with acidic, really salty, or really sugary foods, as these can all increase leaching.
- Start small. We know that swapping out all of your pans is expensive, so start by identifying the pan(s) you use the most. Is it a skillet? Swap that first. Your stockpot? Switch it out. Over time, you’ll build up to a set.
- While we can’t stress the importance of skipping nonstick pans enough, if you must continue using them, make sure your kitchen is properly ventilated while you’re cooking by opening a window and/or running the hood or microwave vent. And stop using your pans right away if they get scratched or the coating starts to flake.
Safer Cookware Solutions*
- All-Clad: Stainless steel cookware and bakeware
- Lodge: Cast iron cookware
- Pyrex: Glass bakeware
- Xtrema: Ceramic cookware and bakeware
*Brands are staff favorites and do not offer MADE SAFE® certified products.