Food & Drink
The Ultimate Guide to the Best Cookware
If you’re worried about chemicals leaching into your food in your own kitchen, you’ll want to stock up on the safest types of pots and pans.
Cast iron cookware is an old-fashioned favorite for a reason—not only is it super durable, but it’s also one of the safest options out there because it doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that could leach into food. In fact, the one “ingredient” that may find its way into your meal (hint: it’s in the name!) may actually be of benefit: these pans may add a bit of extra iron to whatever you’re cooking, though no one knows exactly how much. Another bonus: Cast iron is naturally nonstick once it’s “seasoned” properly with oil, so it requires very little cooking oil or butter, slashing your fat intake. (These are signs you might be eating too much bad fat.)
Titanium cookware sets are fairly pricey, but they’re one of the safer nonstick varieties available. “Titanium is a safe metal,” says Robert Brown, MD, author of the new book Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A Mindful Approach to Wellness at Home. “The nonstick surface may be derived from silicone, a nonporous ceramic coating, titanium, or a combination.”
If you prefer to cook with aluminum pots and pans, be sure it’s a version that specifies that it’s “anodized.” “Anodized cookware has a thin layer of aluminum oxide on its surface that makes it more durable and less likely to flake off and corrode, making it the safest aluminum option,” says Dr. Brown. Non-anodized aluminum products pose the risk of introducing trace amounts of aluminum into food.
Copper cookware not only conducts heat well, but it’s also attractive, durable, and free of harmful chemicals. Just steer clear if you have Wilson’s disease, a rare inherited disorder. “People who have Wilson’s disease should avoid copper, a disease in which people cannot metabolize dietary copper, and consequently, it can accumulate in organs,” says Rosemary Trout, department head of Drexel University’s Culinary Arts & Food Science programs. That said, copper isn’t always the best option. Here’s the scary reason to avoid copper cups for your Moscow Mules.
As long as your ceramic cookware isn’t overly glazed or decorated (some health concerns about ceramic stem from components used in those processes), it’s a “generally safe” option.
Glass containers are excellent to use when baking, as long as one uses a heat-tolerant glass such as Pyrex,” says Dr. Brown. Just be sure not to heat food in glass on the stovetop—it could crack and even shatter. Be sure you’re not guilty of these ways you’re using your kitchen appliances wrong, either.
If you’re going to use stainless steel cookware, be sure to treat it well. This variety is a mix of various metals such as nickel and chromium, which can migrate into food if your pan is damaged or worn, according to mnn.com. Luckily, the amount is negligible and probably harmless unless you have certain allergies. “If you or someone in your family has a known nickel allergy or suffers skin rashes due to allergic contact dermatitis, you should not prepare a meal with nickel-plated stainless steel cookware,” says Dr. Brown.
Nonstick (but not all kinds)
Nonstick pans got a bad rep when a popular coating used to make them—polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), commonly known as Teflon—was found to degradeat high temperatures, releasing fine particles from the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) into the air, which could be potentially toxic when inhaled. The good news: Teflon stopped using the problematic PFOE in 2013, so if you’re a nonstick lover, it’s probably OK to stay that way, as long as you’re using a pan manufactured after 2013 and that specifies it doesn’t contain either PTFE or PFOA.