Comparison of Non-toxic Cookware

Non toxic cookware

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve become aware of the negative affects of using toxic cookware. Unfortunately, a lot of the cookware given to me for my wedding four years ago was toxic, so I’ve slowly been replacing one thing at a time as it wears out. I’ve been researching the different types of non-toxic cookware, so  I though I would share about it all in a post to hopefully to help people who, like me, are hoping to replace their toxic cookware.

Firstly, what materials do you want to avoid? There are two types of substances in cookware that are detrimental to your health: aluminium and Teflon. (I won’t go into what is bad about these substances because plenty of other people, like Sarah Wilson, already have.)

As a foodie and health nut, cooking performance as well as toxicity levels are important to me when it comes to choosing non-toxic cookware. It’s also important to consider how the various types of cookware can be cleaned and maintained. The main advantage which applies to cooking with all of the following materials is obviously that they won’t transfer chemicals into your food. The second advantage is that most of these pieces will last forever, unlike non-stick pans which need replacing as soon as they get a scratch (about every 2-4 years).

Cast Iron

Popular brands: Solidteknics, Chasseur, Le Creuset, IKEA.

Pros of cooking with cast iron:

  • Even heating
  • Retains heat very well (you may even need to drop the heat while cooking!)
  • Your food is supplemented with the important mineral iron
  • Practically non-stick when well-seasoned
  • Can go straight from stove-top to oven
  • Quite attractive for serving on the table
  • Lasts forever! (I’ve heard of people who pass down cast iron from generation to generation. You can’t permanently damage a big piece of solid iron! If you have some minor damage in your pan, such as something majorly burnt or some rust, you can just give it a serious clean and re-season it in the oven and it will be as good as new. There are some good youtube videos that show you how to do this.)

Cons of cooking with cast iron:

  • Not for cooking dishes containing acidic ingredients (e.g. tomatoes, citrus, vinegar.)
  • Extremely heavy
  • Not dishwasher-friendly. (It must be hand-washed with just a sponge and hot water. Detergent removes the nice layer of seasoning oil you build up over time.)
  • May rust if you don’t season and dry your cookware after use
  • If your cast iron pan has an enamel coating on the outside (like my Chasseur pan, pictured below) it will get stained and there is nothing you can do about it; however, this only affects the appearance and not the cooking or health properties of the pan.

Use and Care Tips:

  • To avoid food sticking to your pan: always season after every use, heat it well for at least 1 minute before adding any food, and always coat with enough oil to fully coat the surface (about 1 tbs).
  • You will need to use plenty of oil for frying (e.g. when making pancakes, you will need to add a tablespoon of oil in between each batch).
  • To season after use: 1) Wash with a cloth and warm water. 2) Dry with a paper towel (a tea towel will get dirty) or by heating it on the stove on low heat for 1-2 minutes. 3) Add 1-2 teaspoons of liquid or spray heat-stable oil (e.g. coconut, avocado, ghee, tallow) and rub in using a paper towel. 4) Heat over low heat for 1-2 minutes to allow the oil to blend into the metal (I sometimes skip this step).
  • It’s fine to use non-stick utensils or steel utensils. Apparently the scraping of steel against the pan is good for it, as it enhances the bond of the oil to the pan. (If you do remove a little of the seasoning, it will be fixed with normal seasoning care anyway.)

Ideal for:

  • Searing steak, chops and salmon
  • Skillet cornbread
  • Frying and sautéing
  • Frittatas
  • Stews

My personal experience:

I have had my Chasseur fry pan for about two years now and I love it! I like to use it for steak, bacon, salmon, frittatas, zoodles and sautéing veggies in coconut oil or butter. The only thing I’ve had trouble with is frying eggs. Some people say it can be done, but even though I always season it after use, I’ve found I can’t fry eggs without getting them to stick. As a result, eggs are the only thing I still use my Teflon fry pan for. Obviously, you can poach or boil eggs to avoid fry pans altogether, but some mornings I just don’t have the time for that.

Sauteed vegetables in my cast iron frypan.

Sauteed vegetables in my cast iron frypan.

Enameled Cast Iron

Popular brands: IKEA, Le Creuset.

Pros:

  • All the same pros as for bare cast iron.
  • Don’t require seasoning (the enamel coating is already non-stick and protects against rust)
  • Can be washed with detergent and put in the dishwasher
  • Enamel is made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate (in this case, cast iron) using extremely hot temperatures, so it’s totally natural and non-toxic.

Cons:

  • Coating may become damaged and wear off over time
  • Often more pricey than bare cast iron
  • Metal utensils may cause damage
  • Deglazing may cause damage.

Use and Care Tips:

  • Clean with hot soapy water and a sponge.
  • Note the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding whether or not their particular type of enameled cookware is recommended for washing in the dishwasher.

Ideal for:

  • Omelettes
  • Pancakes
  • Meals containing acidic ingredients

My personal experience:

I have recently bought an IKEA enameled cast iron frying pan for the incredible price of $49.95. It looks really gorgeous with a lovely modern cream coating and a wooden handle. The upside of the wooden handle is that it doesn’t get very hot, however it does mean that you can’t put it in the dishwasher. I find I can cook omelettes in it in only a teaspoon of oil without them sticking like they used to in my cast iron pan. My fried eggs still stick in this pan, though, even with a tablespoon of oil. Omelettes are the only thing I’ve used the pan for so far, as I tend to cook everything else which requires a fry pan in my cast iron pan. As I have an omelette almost every day, I am very pleased to have been able to make this little healthy switch from Teflon recently. 🙂

enameled cast iron

Cooking an omelette in my enameled cast iron pan.

Ceramic

Popular brands: Xtrema, greenlife.

Pros:

  • Can clean with soap
  • Totally non-stick
  • Extremely durable and scratch-proof
  • Cooks evenly.

Cons:

  • Some brands contain lead in the glaze, so check for this before purchase.
  • Expensive
  • Only for use on low to medium heat
  • Can shatter if dropped.

Use and Care Tips:

  • Ceramic pans must be handwashed.

Ideal for:

Based on my research, it looks as though you can cook just about anything without any problems of sticking or staining the pan.

My personal experience:

I do not have any ceramic cookware as it is very expensive! I also don’t see the need for it as professional chefs have cooked with cast iron and stainless steel for years.

Glass & Porcelain

Popular brands: Pyrex and Maxwell & Williams

Pros:

  • A totally natural, stable material to cook in.

Cons:

  • Poor heat distribution. This is why it is used to make baking dishes but not pots.

Use and Care Tips:

  • You don’t have to be afraid of damaging this type of cookware during washing. Detergent, scrubbing or the dishwasher are all fine.

Ideal for:

  • Baking

My personal experience:

I love to make cauliflower cheese bake and desserts such as apple crumble and chocolate pudding in my glass baking dishes. I also like to occasionally make savoury and sweet pies in either a baking dish, pie dish or individual ramekins.

A glass baking dish

A glass baking dish

 Stainless steel

Popular brands: Scanpan, Arcosteel.

Pros:

  • Good for browning (searing) and making sauces
  • Deglazes cleanly
  • Dishwasher friendly
  • Can go straight from the stove top into the oven.

Cons:

  • Is not a good heat conductor, so choose a pan with a copper or aluminium core, as they conduct heat very evenly.

Use and Care Tips:

  • To prevent salt stains, do not add salt until the water is boiling.
  • Spots and marks can be removed with a little vinegar diluted in lukewarm water.
  • Do not clean with steel wool or anything that will scratch the surface.
  • Leave the cookware to cool before cleaning it. This helps the base retain its shape.

Ideal for:

  • Chilli Con Carne
  • Bolognaise
  • Soup

My personal experience:

I have a saucepan I use for boiling and poaching veggies and eggs. I also have a massive Scanpan stock pot I use for making soups and bone broth. I also have a Thermomix which contains a stainless steel bowl. Recently, I replaced my large non-stick pot with a stainless steel one from IKEA. It only cost $29.95! It has an aluminium core and has made some beautiful meals so far. At first, things do stick, but when you add the liquid it makes it easy to scrape the browned bits from the bottom. I’ve found the browned bits enhances my meals with a delicious added boost in flavour.

Making my chilli con carne in my stainless steel pot.

Making my chilli con carne in my stainless steel pot.

Feel free to share any experience you have with the different types of cookware I’ve discussed in this post. Don’t feel too bad if you currently use quite a few pieces of non-stick cookware. As they wear out, you can slowly replace them with good quality alternatives which will last you many years.

Holly x

2016-03-28T11:05:18+00:00 28 March 2016|Categories: LIVE|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments

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