Many people are concerned that non stick coatings that manufacturers apply to cookware such as Teflon are causing health hazards. Teflon is basically a synthetic polymer polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE) that is applied to metal pans such as aluminium. This keeps the cost down and offers more economical alternatives.
Studies have shown that the Teflon releases toxic fumes at high temperatures that can affect human and animal health.
Due to these concerns it is inevitable that many cooks are looking for safer alternatives. Lets look at the different options and I’ll give you my opinion from my experience of cooking with each material.
Studies have shown that aluminium from pans can end up in food especially when cooking with acidic ingredients like ketchup and lemon. Although the amounts that actually leach into your meals is extremely small. That said, the thought of any aluminium leaching into food is enough for people to steer away from aluminium pans. Aluminium intake has been linked to diseases like Alzheimers and may affect the human nervous system. It might be a very small amount that is leached into food but for me that is enough to completely put me off using untreated aluminium pans.
Anodized Aluminium is aluminium that is treated with a process called aluminium oxidation which is basically creates a hard coating of aluminium that is non-reactive. Anodized aluminium therefore stops any amount of aluminium leaching into food but creates an ideal non-stick surface that is also extremely scratch-resistant. So what’s the downside of anodized aluminium? The pans are still aluminium so some health concerns still remain however for me personally I am happy to use anodized aluminium. The only problem for me is as soon as anodized aluminium is scratched then it’s time to replace them and with a high price tag this could be very frustrating for most cooks.
Cast iron cookware generally doesn’t look as modern as the new pans that are being released. When most people think of cast iron they will probably associate them with grandparents. Personally I love the rustic feel of using a set of cast iron pans and the heat distribution is very good. The main downside for me is the added effort it takes to maintain cast iron cookware. After each use cast iron should be seasoned to prevent rusting and to make sure they are fine to use the next time. For busy moms with big families this can be extra effort that is not worth the benefits.
Stainless Steel contains chromium which produces a thin layer of oxide which prevents corrosion on the surface. Other metals included in stainless steel are carbon, silicon and manganese. Nickel and Molybdenum are also usually added to pans to provide extra durability and prevent corrosion. The amount of nickel should be something you look for when buying stainless steel pans. If your pans have been dented or have been through the wars then studies suggest a small amount of these metals can leach into food although the amount are extremely small and shouldn’t cause any problems. Stainless steel may not be as non stick as anodized aluminum but by learning to season the pan first this shouldn’t be an issue. Personally I am a stainless steel advocate and stainless steel cookware is my preferred choice.
Although the amounts of teflon that leaches into food is extremely small it is enough for me to look at alternatives. Anodized Aluminium is a good alternative if your budget is higher, cast iron can be used if you don’t mind the extra effort but for me I prefer to cook with stainless steel.