If you are like me, you spend A LOT of time in the kitchen. The seemingly endless cycle of cooking and cleaning there led me to consider, carefully, the products I use there. For this post we will focus on the cookware.
I grew up using Teflon and PAM, neither of I use anymore. Teflon is Dupont’s trademarked name for the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It was created in 1938 by Dr. Roy Plunkett, who has won worldwide recognition for this phenomena.
Dupont’s website offers this warning to bird owners:
Bird owners should be aware that there are potential dangers in the kitchen. Cooking fumes, smoke and odors that have little or no effect on people can seriously sicken and even kill some pet birds, often quite quickly. Also cooking fumes from any type of unattended or overheated cookware, not just nonstick, can damage a bird’s lungs with alarming speed. Dr. Karen Rosenthal, DVM, offers tips to keep pet birds safe.
The Environmental Working Group warns that these fumes can also affect humans, causing flu-like symptoms. The long-term effect of “routine exposure to Teflon fumes has never been studied. An EPA advisory panel determined that it is as “likely to be carcinogenic in humans.” There are also concerns that the chemical compound is part of a family of plastics with a fluoride backbone (I known neurotoxin).
If you are stuck with your Teflon for now, check out this link for tips on how to reduce your exposure to toxins.
If you are ready for new cookware, there are several options available to you.
Glass – This is a great option for storage and backing. It is durable and does not leach chemicals into your food. One warning, when removing a hot pan from the oven, make sure to put it on a dry towel of pad rather than onto a hard,cold surface to prevent breakage.
Stainless Steel – These pans are great because they can go from the stove-top to the oven. It is durable, dishwasher safe and cleans up easily. Sticking can be a problem if sufficient fat is not added to the pan before use. Adequate preheating can also help with this issue.
Cast Iron – Cast iron pans have been around for hundreds of years, can go from the stove to the oven and is nearly indestructible. It does require some care however. Cast iron occasionally needs to be re-seasoned to maintain its “non-stick coating”. It can also leech small amounts of iron into acidic foods such as tomatoes. For those of us with iron deficiency this can be a good thing.
Enamel – Enamel-coated cast iron has become a favorite of mine. My dutch oven makes fantastic soups on the stove and perfect roasts in the oven. The enamel coating does stain, but cleans up as well as any Teflon-coated pan I have ever used. The only downside is that it is pricey. If you are going to look in this direction, I would recommend a dutch oven and a skillet. Those two pieces should meet most of your cooking needs.