In the past, it was not something we gave much thought to.
But now that we can find out so much more about our cooking utensils - and what harm the could cause, we can ensure a safer environment in our home.
Teflon non stick pans
Top of the list has to be Teflon non stick pans.
This cookware is a major source of PFCs, (and in particular perflurorooctanoic acid or PFOA). It is when these pans reach high temperatures (680 degrees F or 360 C) and the non-stick coating begins to break down that six different toxins are released into the air. The hotter the pan gets, the more chemicals are released to be absorbed by your body and into the food you are going to eat.
In our home, we have changed to a ceramic pan (when we need a non-stick element) plus stainless steel for our other cooking utensils.
But even stainless steel is not without risks. You need to watch out for products from China as there is a chance that recycled metal has been used. However, good quality stainless steel is a healthy alternative, protected by a microscopic layer of durable oxides (as opposed to aluminum on which the oxides are fragile and can be reactive). When you scratch stainless steel it almost instantly "heals" itself, staying shiny. But the higher the grade of stainless steel, the better it is.
The concern with aluminum pans for cooking is that aluminum is a causal factor suspect in Alzheimer's disease (AD), reacting with salty or acidic foods to release itself into your food.
Cast iron is said to be a very safe cooking utensil and we have a big lidded pot which we use for slow cooking on the gas. Takes a bit of cleaning and then has to be oiled afterwards (for example with olive oil) to prevent any rusting.
How to care for cast iron ware after use:
You should never use soap to wash your skillet or or other cast ironware because soap will wear off your fresh coating of oil and even make your next meal taste a little sudsy. After you finish cooking with your skillet, immediately rinse it out to remove any burned on bits.
1. Set your cast iron skillet in the sink and sprinkle a teaspoon or two of natural salt in the bottom.
2. Slice off the top of a raw potato, leaving enough to take hold of easily. Then use the cut end of your potato to scour the skillet, grinding the salt into any rusty or crusty spots. As you work, rinse off the skillet (and the rust) and add more salt if it requires more scrubbing.
3. Once all of the rust has vanished, dry your skillet with some paper towel.
4. If you don’t need to re-season your skillet, just add some healthy oil onto its surface and rub it in, so that most of it absorbs. Don’t let your skillet soak for long periods of time and finally...
5. NEVER put it in the dishwasher.
The one drawback of cast iron is its weight with many finding it a real challenge to lift and to use.
Microwaves also have a hard time in the safety stakes. We have written about these ovens
before. But if you really want to continue using one, here are some safety points to remember.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual carefully for recommended operating procedures and safety precautions for your own model.
• Never operate the oven if the door does not close firmly or is bent, warped or otherwise damaged.
• As an added safety precaution, don’t stand directly against an oven (and don’t allow children to do this) while it is operating.
• Never heat water or liquids in the oven for excessive amounts of time.
• Microwave ovens can heat liquid and solid foods unevenly, leaving some cooler parts and some scalding hot spots: Hot spots
can mean that babies who are given formula heated in a microwave oven have suffered bad mouth burns. Don’t use the oven to heat milk for a baby. Cold spots
can lead to uncooked spots in which bacteria can survive and result in food borne illness.
• Take food out of the freezer to defrost naturally several hours before you need it rather than using the microwave oven to defrost it.
• Clean the oven cavity, the outer edge of the cavity, and the door with water and a mild detergent (such as an eco friendly one). A special microwave oven cleaner is not necessary. Do not use scouring pads, steel wool or other abrasives.
And while we are on the subject, plastic storage is really not ideal especially when used for left overs and more.
Although plastic is unbreakable and comes in all those different shapes, sizes and colors, it can contain a hazardous mix of chemicals and additives. These include:
- PBDEs (which cause reproductive problems)
- Phthalates (another group of reproductive toxins) and
- BPA (or bisphenol-A), which disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking the female hormone estrogen.
All three can leach from the container into whatever food or beverage you put in them.
Please change to glass instead for all types of storage in your more environmentally friendly and safer kitchen