Healthy Cookware – Part 2
Last month we looked at various types of unhealthy cookware, this month we see the alternatives.
While nothing is perfect, on the market today are several healthier options for your cookware, we are going to explore them individually for their benefits and challenges so you can choose for yourself what would work for you and your household.
I know last month I said I’d offer 4 choices but in writing this article I considered a few additional so enjoy!
I consider something a best option when the material is basically inert or non-reactive meaning it emits very little or nothing harmful.
OPTION 1 – TRULY 100% CERAMIC COOKWARE
100% ceramic cooking options are as close to inert as you can get (as long as they are not mixed with metals so check the label).
Ceramic can be terra cotta glazed and unglazed (check for glazes to make sure no metals), porcelain and a favorite of mine – stoneware.
CAREFUL though as these can be hard to handle and break easily – I cracked my ceramic pot right down the middle once.
HIGH heat works great with these as well as they can withstand supposedly up to 1800 degrees!
Note: this is not the same as the cheap green-coated ceramic cookware – the green coated cookware is usually a thinly-coated layer of ceramic or a ceramic-like substance over aluminum (which is why it’s inexpensive) and is not really all ceramic.
Note 2: A main problem with some ceramic cookware – especially if purchased from a manufacturer outside the US – is that lead is prominent in some glazes so seek out lead free only (it should say it on the label).
OPTION 2 - Enamel coated cast iron cookware
This is cast iron cookware coated with a fused glass surface overlaying the cast iron–pot. This is expensive cookware because if properly taken care of it can last to be handed down to your children.
My favorite brand is Le Crueset. Some of the cheaper brands are actually not enamel-coated but chemically coated.
Note: Inexpensive enamel cookware has only a thin layer of enamel and is not as durable as that with two or more layers.
Note 2: It is recommended to discard any pots with chipped enamel as after the underlying metal is exposed, it can react with food and enamel fragments can fall into your food.
OPTION 3 - GLASS COOKWARE
Glass is basically inert as well as being much cheaper than many other options. I believe it's a win - win.
I bought a glass tea kettle a few years ago for my tea and anytime I need to heat water. I can honestly say I taste the difference between my old steel kettle and the glass kettle. I taste my tea more. While steel can be another choice, my glass tea kettle cost $25 and has been a great addition to my kitchenware.
Another use of glass that I find wonderful is glass containers for storing food. Plastic and aluminum containers both leach chemicals and can change the taste and form of the food. Glass doesn't do this. My glass containers have been a wonderful addition to storing food from grains to soup (I actually use mason jars now to carry soup - a trick I learned from Erin at New Leaf in Capitola, California).
Note: Glass actually can explode (happened to me last month actually - interesting experience). It's rare but you never want to pressure cook with glass as it expands slightly and can explode quickly without any heads up.
Note 2: Glass doesn't always cook evenly.
OPTION 4 - BAMBOO
Bamboo, when not treated with chemicals as much bamboo is, can be a great option for steaming food that is non-reactive (though not inert and at times even the best bamboo steamer can cause a food to taste differently). I personally find it can go bad at times and can be more of a short-term option and also a very inexpensive one.
Note: I'd limit bamboo to steaming, other types of cooking don't work well with bamboo.
OPTION 5 - CAST IRON
Many years ago cast iron made a strong comeback. Cast iron is great for many things, and it is a different type of cookware that can take time to take care of properly. When you first purchase cast iron, you need to season it properly.
Some people don't realize that you actually do get extra iron from using cast iron. (If you don't want this, consider cast iron with an enamel coating (see above). Personally, I believe this can be a serious issue for some people and especially for children with weakened immune systems. I've asked parents at times what they are cooking with when their children are not feeling well for long periods and have often asked them to have their child take blood tests to test for excess iron and/or stop using cast iron. (symptoms of iron overdose can be similar to thyroid disorders and chronic fatigue)
Also, cast iron is very heavy, not something for someone who would have a hard time lifting it because it gets VERY hot and could be dangerous if dropped unexpectedly. Also, oils go rancid in cast iron, this is a topic often overlooked and very much a problem, especially for arthritis, fatigue and stomach disorders (and excess iron can cause stomach symptoms).
My thoughts are if you wish to cook in cast iron, do so as part of your cooking regimen switching off with other non-metal-based options.
OPTION 6 - STEEL
Most people don't know that most steel kitchenware is not one metal but several. A steel pan can have nickel and other metals in it that seep into food easily.
Steel has different grades to it. It's best to cook in surgical grade stainless steel. As most people don't know of brands for surgical grade stainless steel, here are a few you may wish to check into: Salad Master, Maxam, Belkraft.
I hope you found this article helpful and a great starting point for helping you to find healthy cookware for you and your family.
Happy Tweets begin January 2013!
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