Monday, March 30, 2009

It's easy to avoid non-stick cookware and bakeware

Healthy pots: cast iron, stainless steel, enameled cast iron, stainless-lined copper.
Long before I ever researched non-stick coatings they made me uncomfortable. It always seemed that no mater how careful you were, that smooth black surface always ended up scratched and you know that all those black bits got scraped right into you food.

The abbreviation for the non-stick coating chemical is PTFE, and it’s found in most non-stick coated cookware and bakeware. It is also found in fast food packaging and microwave popcorn bags. As it turns out eating the stuff isn’t the only worry. Inhaling the fumes it gives off when heated too high (680 degrees F) is toxic too. Whatever your exposure, once you ingest this chemical it’s with you for life and accumulates in your body over time. The chemical has been linked to thyroid damage and an independent panel advising the US Environmental Protection Agency calls it a “likely human carcinogen.”

For me it’s easy to avoid non-stick cookware. Good old cast iron hardly needs any oil to keep things from sticking and enameled cast iron is even better. Stainless steel-lined copper and regular stainless steel pans both work beautifully.

When it comes to baking though, you need to go on a determined search to find alternatives.

In my hunt for uncoated muffin tins I came across some brands made of aluminum. But that’s not a preferred option either. Food cooked in aluminum absorbs aluminum and while some intake of the element is considered safe, we all ingest aluminum in other ways. Adding to this with the use of aluminum cookware and bakeware might put you over the safe limit.

Fortunately there is no shortage of healthy alternatives for cooking and baking:

To limit the contact your food has with non-stick coatings and aluminum (including foil) line cookie sheets and baking pans with parchment paper. It reduces the need for greasing pans and keeps things from burning. Plus cookies and scones slide off easily and cakes lift out with little effort.

The Pampered Chef sells unbleached parchment paper which is more eco-friendly than the regular bleached variety you find in the grocery store.

Choose stoneware for your baking pans. The Pampered Chef offers cookie sheets, square and rectangular pans, pizza stones, bread pans, cake and pie pans, even muffin pans. Their products aren’t cheap but they do come with a three-year guarantee.

Candy-coloured silicon bakeware is considered a safe alternative. But I will add that there seems to be little independent research available and user comments on various websites talk a lot about a nasty plastic smell coming from the oven and funny tasting muffins and cakes. I had the same experience a few years ago and never used them again. Silicone itself is inert - it’s non-reactive, and withstands very high heat. All I can say is that it appears there could be quite a range of quality among brands.

Choose cast iron bakeware (you can tone your arms while you bake) or look for stainless steel baking pans. Both options can be found online. Using cast iron cookware and bakeware is especially healthy, since it provides a source of dietary iron.

And one more thing, swap out your non-stick pans with one of the alternatives listed above.

A version of this article was previously published in KV Style (

No comments: