Friday, February 23, 2018

COOKWARE - what not to use and why


The safest cookware you can use is properly seasoned cast iron.  It works on all cooking surfaces, including induction, and it's inexpensive.  Older pans, found on eBay and at garage sales, are thinner and lighter than new pans but most require serious cleaning and re-seasoning.  IMO it's a pain to create and maintain the seasoning so I don't use mine often.

Enamel is also safe.  It's inert, it doesn't leach, and it's stick resistant (NOT stick-free).  It does wear off over time so don't use metal utensils (I use wood) and don't scrub too hard when you clean it, let it soak first.  Le Creuset and Staub are enamel on cast iron and made in France.  Chantal Copper Fusion is enamel over tri-ply-steel, made in Germany.  These three are the brands I use.  Le Creuset is light colored enamel which I prefer as it's easier to see the color of foods browning, and when the enamel is wearing thin.   All three brands sell ceramic baking dishes that are made in China and are NOT SAFE.

Enamel wearing away on the bottom of my 20-year-old white Le Creuset (compare the bottom to the sides).  I hope to get another five years out of this pot...

NOTE: Cooks Illustrated just released a review praising the Cuisinart Enamel Dutch Oven:
"This model costs a third of what our favorite Le Creuset Dutch oven does and performed almost as well. With a very similar design—low, straight sides and a broad, off-white cooking surface—it allowed us to easily move food, sear in fewer batches, and monitor browning. The trade-offs: The Cuisinart pot is 3 pounds heavier and has slightly smaller handles than the Le Creuset pot, and its rim chipped during abuse testing."

Some people claim that ceramic is the safest, but the most popular brand, Xtrema, has a red 'label' on the bottom that is very high in lead and will off-gas into the room when you use it.  It won't work on induction.  I wouldn't use it until they remove that label and the new label tests safe.

Glass is safe; but, like ceramic, it won't work on induction.

Titanium is safe but it's prohibitively expensive.  You can sometimes find used pieces on eBay.

The worst cookware you can use is bare aluminum.  It will leach into everything you cook.
If you have an aluminum pressure canner DO NOT USE IT FOR COOKING!

In between is everything else:

Stainless steel can leach nickel.  The higher the nickel percentage, the more 'stainless' the steel. 18/10 is high, 18/0 is low.
We use 18/10 and don't worry about the nickel content.

Anodized aluminum, like Calphalon, is supposedly safe but if the finish rubs off it will leach aluminum into your food.  I got rid of all of ours.

Copper reacts with acid.  It needs to be lined or toxic amounts of copper can leach into food.  It's usually lined with tin, which wears over time and needs to be replaced.  Some high-end brands are lined with stainless, which can leach nickel.  Copper also needs care to look good (i.e. it tarnishes easily).

A note about cooking surfaces

Gas cooktops MUST be vented.  

According to a study done by Lawrence Berkley Lab:

"The Berkeley researchers concluded that 62 percent of households using gas burners without venting are routinely exposed to excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde gases that can trigger respiratory problems and aggravate asthma and cardiovascular disease, especially in young children and older adults."

“If these pollution levels were outdoors, the state would be required by law to submit a plan for how to clean up the air,” Singer said. “But they are inside a home.”

Many people use gas because it's favored by restaurants and it makes them feel like a 'chef'.  Here is the best write up on why that reasoning is erroneous, and it's HILARIOUS.  Please read it.

I had gas cooktops most of my life. Then ... we moved to a house which had an electric Jenn Aire with a (useless) downdraft.  We intended to replace it with gas but the conversion was too expensive so I lived with it.  When the Jenn Aire finally died we put in a smooth top GE electric.  I hated that, too, so when we redid the kitchen we put in a Miele induction cooktop and ... I LOVED IT!  I will never cook on anything else, if I have a choice.   They are super responsive and a dream to clean.


Most bakeware is non-stick.  DO NOT USE NON-STICK BAKEWARE! 

Some people say it's OK to use silicon bakeware, others disagree.

Clear Glass is OK (colored Pyrex is NOT OK).

Apilco and Pillivuyt plain white porcelain baking dishes are OK.  I would not use Chinese-made copies like HIC.  It might be OK - the Chinese invented high-heat-fired porcelain (which is why we call dishes 'china') - but why risk it?

Xtrema ceramic will be OK once they remove the red label.

I use aluminum jelly roll pans lined in either a silicon mat or parchment.  I cannot find a stainless jelly roll pan and that's the size I use the most!

I found three sizes of stainless roasting pans at Golda's Kitchen.  I've asked them to make jelly roll pans but it's been years and they haven't done it.

Lehman's makes a stainless cookie sheet but not a jelly roll pan.

If you know where I can get a stainless 11 x 16 jelly roll pan, please let me know!


Even though I hate - HATE - washing dishes, I wash all our dishes by hand, and always have.  Even if the manufacturer states the product is dishwasher-safe, using a dishwasher will reduce the life of the pan and having to replace cookware reduces the amount of money available to spend on healthy food.

I also will not put any pan or dish away until it is as clean as when it was new (or as close as I can get it).  Keeping my pans clean also extends their life.  When I gave away my 20-year-old All Clad set because it wasn't induction compatible, it looked new.  I am still using the 30-year-old enamel bakeware that came with our toaster oven.  (Yes, our toaster oven is 30 years old!  It was made by Delonghi but I don't know if their current line is as well made.)

These are the cleaning products I use:

Because we have so much salt in our water from the water softener I always dry our pans after I clean them so the salt doesn't leave a deposit or eat through the finish. 


Ab Devilliers said...

In other words, pizza, cookies, and bread can all be cooked in a cast iron skillet. My Skillet Chef There are valuable kitchenware that you need in your kitchen that can be anywhere from some fine cutlery knives or cookware sets or even some nice frying pans.

Biodynamic Barb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marissa Marta said...

Great guide. Will help new cook to choose the right cookware and use it in the right way.

Biodynamic Barb said...

Ab Debilliers: Yes, pizza cookies and bread can be cooked in a cast iron skillet; but, your words would carry more weight if you weren't trying to sell something, which I do not condone. The rest of your message is totally irrelevant to this topic.

Biodynamic Barb said...

Thank you Marissa! I never thought about how this would be relevant to new cooks, but you are right!