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Safe Cookware

Safe cookware is foundational for a healthy kitchen. But how do we know which types are truly safe? Here is a brief overview of the three basic categories of cookware.

Safe Cookware

  1. Reactive Cookware.

    This type of cookware is the most hazardous. The compounds react with food and can allow harmful chemicals to leach into foods and therefore our bodies.

    Aluminum

    Aluminum conducts heat well but is highly reactive, particularly with acidic foods. Aluminum is toxic to humans, and while proponents of aluminum cookware contend that the aluminum molecules don't get into the food, is it worth the risk? Aluminum foil is also best avoided for cooking purposes.

    Teflon-coated

    Nonstick chemicals have been linked to birth defects, liver toxicity, cancer, and more. The maker of Teflon warns consumers to keep pet birds away from the kitchen when cooking because "cooking fumes, smoke and odors that have little or no effect on people can seriously sicken and even kill birds, often quite quickly." Even the EPA admits that one of the chemicals, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA):

    • is very persistent in the environment
    • is found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population
    • remains in people for a very long time
    • causes developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals

    If nonstick cookware must be used, cook at a lower temperature and avoid cooking on high. One additional note: Microwave popcorn bags are commonly coated with nonstick chemicals and are best avoided.

  2. Less Reactive Cookware.

    Stainless Steel

    Stainless steel is durable, resists cracks, and is the least reactive of all metals. Good quality stainless steel is essential. Less expensive stainless steel cookware may contain nickel and cadmium, which leach into food. To test your stainless steel, combine 1 teaspoon baking soda with 1 cup water and bring to a boil, then taste the water. If a metallic taste is present, the cookware may not be suitable for your kitchen.

    Most stainless steel pots will have a number on the base. Look for 18/8 or 18/10. (18 indicates the level of chromium; 8 or 10 is the amount of nickel.)

    Cast Iron

    Cast iron is durable, a supreme heat conductor, and naturally nonstick. It must be maintained properly to avoid undesirable leaching of iron into foods. Some suggest this iron is desirable, while others say it's not. Either way, it is best to be diligent in cleaning and maintaining your cast iron. One of the best ways to clean your cast iron is with coarse salt. Add some water and scrub with scrubbing cloth or sponge. Rinse and season. See this article for more on the chemistry of cast iron seasoning.

  3. Non-Reactive Cookware.

    Glass

    Glass is quite safe but does not conduct heat well and does not adapt to dramatic temperature changes. Hot glass cookware should not come in contact with wet counter tops, nor be placed in water while still hot. Options for glass cookware include CorningWare, Pyrex, and Visions cookware.

    Enameled Cast Iron

    Enameled cast iron cookware has been used for more than a century, merging the wonderful heat conductivity of cast iron with the safety of protective, chemical-free glazing (assuming the old-fashioned methods are used). Enameled cast iron can withstand high cooking temperatures, and the heat is evenly spread throughout the cooking surface. This cookware is quite heavy and more expensive, but it can last a lifetime! Options for enameled cast iron include:

    • Le Creuset

      All of Le Creuset's enameled cast iron products are made in France. Their bakeware is made in Thailand and their mugs in China. All are guaranteed to be free of lead and cadmium. Don't hesitate to contact the company with any questions about the manufacturing process. For a fascinating look at the finishing process for enameled cast iron, see this informative explanation page. Le Creuset is available online and at many culinary and home stores.

    • Staub

      Staub is also made in France, is also of highly reputable quality, and is slightly cheaper than Le Creuset. It can also be purchased online and at many culinary and home stores.

What about baking? Aluminum and nonstick cookie sheets can react with foods and are best lined with parchment paper to avoid direct contact. (Parchment paper is commonly found in most grocery and big box stores.) Glass is always a safe option for baking, and porcelain is often used as well. The German company Villeroy & Boch makes top-of-the-line porcelain bakeware.

Whether you cook a lot or a little, safer cookware will go a long way toward improved health and simpler living.


In the following video, Andrea takes a look at the various types of cookware
and demonstrates an alternative magnetic test for metallic content.

Quotes

"My symptoms persisted and eventually turned into lethargy and depression. At the age of 26, I required a nap every evening after work."

– Jennifer

"The entire time we lived in our (mold-infested) house the kitchen sponge would get musty smelling within 3-4 days. It was so strange. I had to buy a pack of sponges nearly every week."

– Anonymous

"We all suffered from headaches, hormonal body temperature fluctuations, brain fog, fatigue, difficulty breathing, thrush, rashes, and yeast infections... we vacated our home two weeks ago."

– Anonymous

"...at age 35 or 36 I started to become allergic to everything, and I got asthma at age 36... I went to doctor after doctor after doctor and was desperate for help, but nobody could help me."

– Mia

"I knew it was mold, but doctors kept telling me I had anxiety. I was sitting in my office and could not remember who I was talking to, or what we were talking about."

– Brenda

"Our family has been out of our home for 9 months due to mold... I am so scared and weak from all of this. We have lost friends; family members don't understand."

– Anonymous

"I have been sick for almost 6 months now and doctors were not able to figure out why. I finally put it all together after going away for vacation for a week and suddenly my symptoms were going away."

– Anonymous

"We were having a lot of health problems and had been to the doctor countless times... we had large circles of slimy greenish-black mold on the bathroom ceiling, where it had caved in a few months before."

– C.

"My daughter has had many blood samples taken to test for everything imaginable and her doctor just seems puzzled. Everything comes back normal."

– Anonymous

"I was skeptical at first that these (natural cleaning) products would work, but they work better than the stuff I buy at the store! We will soon be moving to the personal care products as well!"

– Jennifer

"I had been struggling with headaches, head fog, breathing difficulties (unable to get a full breath), constant scalp tingling, migraines, nausea, feeling spacey/detached, and severe itchy skin."

– Anonymous

"In my moldy home if I left the wet clothes in the washer they would get musty very quickly and I'd have to re-wash... Sometimes I'd run a load, go to work, and they'd be musty when I returned that evening."

– Anonymous

"My daughter started having digestive problems... heart palpitations... coughing episodes... muscle/joint pain... asthma/allergies... Her doctor finally advised me to check for mold in our home."

– Anonymous

"Both of my sons went downhill quickly and coughed for months... They both lost their ability to read, had profound vision disturbances, and had phenomenal gastric issues."

– Lee

"I'm new at this, but today I cleaned my bathroom with baking soda and vinegar. It's much better not having those strong chemical smells afterwards."

– Anonymous

"We had some water leaks in our home... we never thought we needed to clean out and remove the floor, the ceiling, or the drywall... my two small children and I have remained constantly sick for years in this home."

– Mia

"The ERMI mold test as well as your helpful articles and Toxic Talk Tuesday programs have helped us avoid a terrible mistake in purchasing a new home."

– Angela

"I started finding myself sitting on the floor in rooms of my house and not remembering how I got there, what I was doing before, or how long I had been there."

– Brenda

"I've been living in a mold-infested home for 13 months... I was going CRAZY! Finally figured it out... Just a few days of recovering in a mold-free home and I feel AMAZING!!!"

– Lauren

Dedication