Most natural mamas are concerned with cooking or creating the healthiest meals possible. We may have our own ideas of what constitutes the optimal diet.. macrobiotic, vegan, vegetarian, raw, nourishing traditions, primal… but most of us all have a basic start place in creating our meals and that place is usually with good quality pots and pans. Okay maybe not so much if you are 100% raw. ;)
There is much more to consider when buying pots and pans beside how well they heat food, how easy they are to clean, or how pretty they look on your range. We also have to consider the safety of these pots and pans as they are essentially the surfaces upon which our food will sit. No one wants to cut veggies on a dirty cutting board and no one would want to cook if they thought that nasty chemicals were leaching into their food as it cooks. But yet many conventional pots and pans do just that… they leach and they potentially contaminate the food they cook and the air in our home.
Here us the scoop on what to use and what to pass up as far as healthy kitchenware is concerned:
Aluminum – This material has really lost its luster in recent years as it has become aware that aluminum reacts to acidic foods like tomatoes and causes leaching. Since aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and we already get doses of it from other sources (soda cans, vaccines) we don’t need to add even more of this potentially toxic substance. FAIL
Cast Iron – An old classic that has been used for generations. It is durable and easy to use if you have a nicely seasoned cast iron pan. There are some varying opinions on whether or not the iron leached into the food is helpful or harmful but either way it has been used for many decades without any connection to ill effects so this option is likely to stick around. PASS
Clay – Clay is made from earth and how much more natural can you get? You soak the pot or tangine with water first and then you heat low and slow until the food is steamed or lightly cooked through. They are very safe and pretty easy to use. Plus I just love the whole earthenware concept and the idea that women in tribal areas probably make their own cooking pots from mud in their area… its all very basic and simple. If you get a pot with a glaze make sure it is made with safe materials and no lead. PASS
Copper – Copper looks lovely in kitchens and it gives off this whole Julia Child vibe. It also conducts heat very well. Yet it is hard to care for and keep looking nice and it leaches as well. We need copper in our bodies but we get sufficient amounts from our diet and overdoing it can cause problems. Copper would be nice for occasional or decorative use but not for every day cooking. NEUTRAL
Glass – Glass is awesome for baking and oven cooking, perhaps the best material to use for these purposes even. It is safe and easy to use and cleans up very well. There are also colored glass options that give us decorative options to. And while there are some glass pots and pans for stovetops… glass doesn’t conduct heat all that well so in the oven cooking is your best bet. The best thing about glass is that it is EASY to find at yard sales and thrift stores and know exactly what you are getting and its not to expensive to buy new. Enamel pots would fall under the glass category as well, since its made from powdered glass. PASS
Silicone – This material has really made a splash in recent years from baking sheets to muffin tins and cupcake pans. The attraction is mostly due to the fact that it is a non-stick surface that isn’t Teflon. It is said that Silicone doesn’t leach but it is also suggested that you don’t use it at 420 degrees or above or it could melt. Personally I find the material unattractive feeling and stinky sometimes when you cook with it. Its not for me but it is relatively safe. NEUTRAL
Soapstone – This material is pretty heavy and thick since it is made from quarried granite or marble usually.. also expensive and not as easy to find as the others. I can’t remember ever seeing any in conventional stores… just online and at Pampered Chef parties. It is durable, heats well, and stays hot. I would love to have a nice Soapstone pot one of these days. PASS
Stainless Steel – Safe for cooking but perhaps not the easiest for no-stick cooking. Cooked on scrambled eggs are going to require some serious soaking in my experience. It can also become scratched and dingy looking very fast but safety comes first right? It may not be the most convenient but it certainly works where it counts. PASS
Teflon – Everyone came to love the non-stick surface of Teflon but quickly it lost its luster in our eyes as studies showed that toxic PFOAs can leach and they have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and obesity. In addition Teflon has a tendency to scratch and chip easily making the pot or pan unusable. Teflon is sooooo yesterday. ;) FAIL
There are also new materials coming out all the time. I own a couple “green” pans that claim to be safe and non-stick alternatives to Teflon and they are okay I guess but perhaps not as good as some of the traditional favorites. I use my little GreenPan skillet for eggs usually once a week and I have a new ceramic skillet from Xtrema that I will be breaking in over the next few weeks.
What do you prefer to use?