Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

Monday Mission: Choose Safer Cookware

September 10th, 2012 · 61 Comments · Green Living

safer in september

Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to stop using one piece of potentially unsafe cookware, either temporarily or for good.

We live in a world, unfortunately, where we’re exposed to all sorts of materials that can cause our body harm, from BPA in plastic food storage containers to pharmaceuticals in our water.

This means that while we’re already worrying about getting the right food into our mouth, we also have to make sure we’re cooking our real food in the right pots, pans, and casserole dishes.

Safer in September: The Series

This month we’ll be talking about all sorts of places we could make a little safer choices, from the stovetop to the cutting board, the skin to the teeth, and even some ideas for safe wart removal.

This week, we’ll hit mostly cookware, starting with this mission, including a review of a new pan and how to season cast iron.

But how do you decide what the safer cookware IS in your kitchen, anyway?

The Players: Cookware and Bakeware Materials

Your kitchen is probably stocked with numerous materials in your pots, pans, baking sheets and casserole dishes. Here are some of the most common and whether they’re keepers or get-rid-of-them-ers, in alphabetical order:

1. Aluminum

You’ll find aluminum right on the cooking surface of pots and cookie sheets most often, and as part of the heat conducting element in many pots and pans. I’ve written about aluminum pots and pans and the risks of aluminum before, including the many diseases that have been linked to aluminum.

There was some speculation/research years ago about aluminum being a major cause of Alzheimer’s, but even the Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Society cite research demonstrating no link between aluminum and the disease.

Although I grew up eating out of aluminum pots almost exclusively, I do try to avoid cooking with it as much as possible now (a better safe than sorry technique). It’s unclear whether aluminum has any truly valid health risks, but there’s definitely a complication with aluminum cookware:

In part because any acidic foods, like tomatoes, wine, vinegar, and citrus foods, will leach aluminum into the food, I don’t trust it. I don’t want to have to think about which pot or pan I can  use for a certain recipe. If you’ve ever stored anything in an aluminum pot, especially something acidic, you can practically taste and smell the metal in the meal.

For me, aluminum is a no-go. If you’re unsure whether a surface is aluminum, one test is that aluminum is not magnetic. You can also call the company that makes your pots and pans and ask them if there’s aluminum and if it touches the food or not. (Since aluminum is a good conductor of heat, it’s often used in the base of a pot, but sandwiched between layers of stainless steel or copper.)

2. Anodized aluminum

Anodized aluminum is a bit of the new kid on the block. Aluminum is processed with electrical charges and an acid bath, causing the surface of the pot or pan to oxidize, or anodize, becoming much harder and more durable, as well as  not leaching into foods.

I think I agree with Dr. Weil:

I don’t care for the idea, but I haven’t seen any scientific research suggesting that anodized aluminum cookware specifically is harmful. Anodization subjects the surface of aluminum pots and pans to a process that builds up the metal’s natural coating of oxide. This should yield a hard, nonreactive substance that forms a tough coating. As a result, an anodized aluminum cooking surface is non-stick, scratch-resistant and easy to clean.

According to manufacturers, anodization seals aluminum so that the metal cannot leach into food. Anodized aluminum shouldn’t react to acidic foods, so you can theoretically use these pots and pans for preparing rhubarb and sauces with tomato, wine or lemon juice – ingredients that you shouldn’t cook in traditional aluminum pots.

More here

Read more on the safety of anodized aluminum cookware: 1, 2, 3, 4

3. Cast iron

farmhouse chicken gluten free one-dish meal (7) (500x375)

As one who eats traditional foods in part because they’ve been around a long time and aren’t as altered/processed by humans, cast iron fits right into my worldview.

My cast iron pan is old, heavy, and has plenty of rules that come with it, but I love cooking in it.

The iron can and does leach into the food, but in this case, it’s a trace mineral that our bodies need. When folks are fighting low iron, doctors often recommend cooking in cast iron. UPDATE: This may be an old wives’ tale. The iron in cast iron is likely not bioavailable, i.e. it isn’t usable by our body, and the best way to get iron is to eat appropriate whole foods. The metals taken in via pots and pans are expelled as waste products, and some people’s systems (auto-immune diseases in particular) cannot expel the heavy metals and they become harmful. (This is from email conversation with the founder of Ceramcor. My official statement: Oh, phooey.)

The downfalls:

 

  • Heavy
  • Can’t use soap
  • Have to “season” with oil after each washing
  • Can be difficult to cook/clean things like scrambled eggs – I’d never bother with cast iron pancakes, for example, because I’d have a sloppy mess on my hands. It’s not that I’m afraid to add fat; it’s just that you have to add it so much and so often. I always hit this point where suddenly the scrambled eggs, which had been moving over the surface as if it was Teflon, being to stick. Then I have to spend 5-10 minutes washing one pan. Annoying. I’ll be attempting to properly season my cast iron pan today and let you know later in the week how it goes!

 

The upside:

  • Adds iron to your diet (maybe?)
  • No adverse health effect known
  • Can easily cook something dry, then wipe out (no dishes!) and use again
  • Can cook at high temps
  • Holds heat really well

The recipe in the photo, by the way, is the free download for my next eBook, “Better than a Box!”

Do you cook with cast iron? What maintenance tips and tricks can you share?

4. ceramic ware

xtrema pan by ceramcor

Ceramics include casserole dishes like Corningware and coated pots and pans like Xtrema brand, also found at Mighty Nest and Amazon.

Ceramcor, the company that makes Xtrema (pictured above), uses a proprietary ceramic clay, so I can’t say exactly what’s in it, but it’s tested free and clear of lead and heavy metals. This is the type of pan Mercola recommends (but he also sells it, so…). I’ll share more on Xtrema pans later this week – here’s my Xtrema pan review.

The important point to remember when using ceramic is to make sure the company guarantees lead-free glaze – it’s worth a Google search or phone call to check out the brand you’re using.

5. enameled cast iron

One of the downfalls of cast iron is the need to “season” it with oil after each washing (and some people – my husband, ahem – get thrown that you can’t use soap).

Enameled cast iron coats a cast iron pot or pan with porcelain (glass) so that you get the even cooking and heat retention of cast iron, the safety of non-reactive glass, but the convenience of being able to wash it as you would any other pan (you still can’t use metal utensils though).

I had a huge enameled cast iron pan kind of like this one, but I found that it was (a) very heavy, (b) hard to store, and (c) I only used it for tomato-based dishes (and no lid fit it) and defaulted to my regular cast iron 99% of the time. I gave it away when we moved last summer.

Mine was white inside and not non-stick at all, but I see the updated version is black and looks like Teflon – I wonder if it’s any more non-stick or if it’s just an illusion. I really need something to cook eggs in!

I can see the appeal of enameled cast iron if a family just hated to season the cast iron, but for me, I just stuck with the status quo.

If you look into one, you may want to choose a size that will fit a lid you already have, since that will have it more versatile in the kitchen.

6. glass

Glass is wonderfully non-reactive, rarely scratches, and although it doesn’t conduct heat amazingly, it does an acceptable job for cooking oatmeal or soup. I don’t see many glass pots 0r pans sold nowadays, but my MIL has a set with lids and everything. In fact, hers looks exactly like this “vintage” pot at Amazon (don’t tell her that her stuff is already “vintage,” ok?)

I choose glass for storage, mixing bowls, and casserole dishes. I particularly love my Pyrex casserole dishes with lids – I put leftovers directly into the fridge and can heat them up again in the oven or toaster oven if the whole family is eating. You know how I hate dishes!

UPDATE: a note from a reader who experienced the “exploding Pyrex” firsthand reminded me to pass on this note: don’t heat your glass dishes over 350F, or they could explode. For real. This from me, who just baked 3 glass dishes of gluten-free cornbread at 400F tonight. Hmmm…

7. teflon/non-stick

We’ll be spending the whole day on Teflon and non-stick surfaces tomorrow with Teflon-free Tuesday, so for today, a Cliff’s notes cheat sheet:

  • Teflon has an adhesive in it called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
  • PFOA has been found in the blood of 9 out of 10 Americans and even breastmilk.
  • In high doses, it’s linked to cancer, low birth weight, and a suppressed immune system, and it may even raise LDL (bad) cholesterol in children.
  • At temps over 450/500F, carcinogenic fumes from Teflon kill birds.
  • When scratches get in the non-stick surface, the material beneath is exposed, usually aluminum. Plus, Teflon could get directly into your food.

Sources on Teflon: 1, 2, 3

8. silicone

I’ve really run the gamut on silicone, first being a huge proponent of the baking mats as a safe alternative to scratched, non-stick, aluminum baking sheets, then being wary of the material, then doing more research and deciding silicone was safe

Now almost another year later, I received a comment from a reader sharing the following:

Silicone is actually not safe at all. I’m an erstwhile analytic chemist so even though I am not a polymer chemist I still have some small knowledge of how this area of science more or less operates.

Sidestepping for the moment the issue of contaminants, in order to make any plastic, solvents are needed, along with heat, time, and a reaction vessel (container). Once heated, mixed, reacted, poured and molded, some solvent always, always, ALWAYS remains. It is embedded in the plastic – yes, silicone is a type of plastic – and this solvent will immediately absorb into food from the surface, and over time those solvents will leach out from the inside of the plastic and continue to absorb into your food. For a very long time, like for the life of the bakeware you are using. Some of these solvents are what keep the plastic flexible, so when they’re mostly gone, so is your bakeware. Do your own research on hexane and methylene chloride (aka: dichloromethane) which I once used in massive quantities in labs. You will not like what you read on the MSDS and yes, I’ve read them. And I don’t like it either.

Silicone chemistry is not trivial, and it is big, huge, enormous business. These compounds permeate our lives in this post-industrial, age of chemistry era in which we live. Are these chemicals safe? More importantly, are they safe for life, especially human life? Well, as for silicones, they are entirely man-made; nowhere in nature have any ever been found. There is an entire, very large book written on the analysis of silicones: The Analytical Chemistry of Silicones (Chemical Analysis: A Series of Monographs on Analytical Chemistry and Its Applications). A. Lee Smith (Editor).

Do keep in mind that even in the face of overwhelming evidence, manufacturers of a product or a group of products will go to their grave insisting that the evidence is flawed, that it’s anecdotal at best, that it’s skewed, and that it’s just plain wrong or fabricated. They will sell out the health and the life of anyone who gets in their production way. Always. The only time a company ever does the right thing is when the government finally gives in to the truth and forces them to change. Change costs money and time (money again) and no business willingly changes just because it’s the right thing to do. Ever.

It all really comes down to this question: Who do You Trust?

Do you choose to trust the makers of products who want your money at all costs? If you really believe that businesses exist not to make money, then maybe. Or do you trust your own skepticism? I’ll tell you what, I trust YOUR skepticism more than I trust any manufacturer on this planet. I trust mine even more than yours. You should trust yours as much as I trust mine, you don’t need a degree in chemistry (or anything else for that matter) just to question.

This was the second or third such comment I’d received over the years talking about this subject, and it finally hit home. I threw out my silicone mats was going to throw out both of them but ended up only pitching the ugliest, stained up one. I think I wanted to keep one for covering casserole dishes without lids like I demonstrated in 7 Ways to Avoid Plastic Wrap. I’m weak!

UPDATE: Maybe it’s okay that I kept it – another point of view from Ceramcor: Silicone is not a plastic, but a rubber material from inorganic compounds. (I have heard this before, that it’s not plastic; that’s why Life Without Plastic, for example uses silicone in their food storage lids.) He also quotes Rebecca Woods, renowned in the field of health and wellness (and quoted in The Everything Beans Book, I might add), as supporting food-grade silicone as safe. What to believe?!

What do you think about silicone? Whom do you trust?

9. stainless steel

garage sale glass dishes (4)

For quite some time, I’ve been thinking stainless steel was a perfectly non-reactive metal and an excellent choice for my pots. I even bought the ones you see above at a garage sale, because the pot set we received for our wedding was all non-stick, and I wanted to move away from that. I use my stainless steel mixing bowls a lot, too…

However, now I keep seeing little things like this:

Stainless steel is really a mixture of several different metals, including nickel, chromium and molybdenum, all of which can trickle into foods. However, unless your stainless steel cookware is dinged and pitted, the amount of metals likely to get into your food is negligible.

I know Dr. Mercola is against stainless steel because of the leaching properties, for nickel in particular. (He does say it’s a better choice than aluminum, if you’re keeping score.)

I think I’m heading to the kitchen to test some magnets on my pots; Dr. Mercola also shares:

There are two kinds of stainless steel — one kind is attracted to magnets, the other kind is not. You want to buy only the magnetically-attractive type of stainless steel, which apparently has a very low nickel content and does not leach nickel into food.

I’ve been wanting to get stainless steel baking sheets to replace my nasty ones, but now I don’t know. I may just continue using my old ones and cover them with parchment paper (which is coated with silicon, le sigh).

10. stoneware

soaked granola (1)

As long as there’s no lead in the glaze, stoneware is an awesome, traditional option. Pampered Chef sells high quality stones and even casserole dishes, although I have more trouble with them because you’re not supposed to use soap on stoneware.

However, I cannot live without my TWO stoneware rectangles. I make the best rolls, biscuits, cookies, pizza, and soaked homemade granola (although I usually do it in the dehydrator now)  on them. Huh-yum! With my ugly non-stick, scratched up cookie sheets, I burned the biscuit bottoms every time. No more!

If you’ve never tried stoneware, I highly recommend it.

UPDATE: A reader recommends Rada Cutlery as another brand with incredible stoneware.

Added bonus: It even keeps your pizza warm longer once out of the oven.

How to Make the Switch

Pots and pans can be some of the most expensive items in your kitchen, I realize that. When I started learning about safe surfaces vs. unsafe ones, I was appalled to realize that almost 100% of the pots and pans I used regularly had a non-stick surface. I hadn’t had them that long and didn’t have a few hundred buckeroos (or more) to drop on a nice new set.

I decided to take it one day at a time. I was already using my mom’s old cast iron pot sometimes, so I decided to try to default to it more. I chose the large pot that is stainless steel instead of the Teflon-lined one for most of my soup cooking.

It was a series of simple switches that did it. I didn’t really look to buy anything, but I kept an eye out for stainless steel pots at garage sales and put a second cast iron pan on my birthday list. I still use my Teflon pans ONLY for eggs, but I’m not proud of it or comfortable with it.

I’m seriously on the hunt for something safer (and we never turn the heat up). When I used my Teflon griddle for pancakes, look what the air purifier taught me.

I’m not at the end of my journey, but I’m still working on it. Wherever you are in the move toward safer cookware and bakeware, choose one unsafe material you have in the kitchen to omit (or use less often, at least).

What surfaces are in your kitchen today? What are you going to try to avoid this week?

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61 Comments so far ↓

  • Rebekah

    I’ve got a lot of stainless steel pots and pans (the majority of which are magnetic), a bunch of stoneware for baking, and one Teflon skillet. I can make perfectly good scrambled eggs in stainless steel, so as soon as I can afford to replace the Teflon, I will.

  • Katie G.

    This is something that’s been on the back of my mind for so long! I did research it, but whatever cookware I was researching there seemed to be someone who thought it was deadly. Thank you so much! Right now my favorite pan is ceramic coated, although I still use my teflon sometimes, I’m working toward getting rid of it so I don’t have the temptation anymore (it’s what I did with the microwave!).

    I do have one questions about lead, though: you said that people should google to see if a pan is “lead free” and from what I’ve read, a company can say a pan is “lead free” as long as it has less than a certain amount. Sort of like “no trans fats” on potato chips. What you have to do is call and ask if the glaze is completely lead free, or if it’s under the government-allowed amount of lead. Do you know if Xtrema is actually lead free?

    Anyways, thank you again for all of this information!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Katie,
    There’s one I didn’t know – highly unfortunate! I looked up Xtrema’s lead testing, and it’s “less than 0.05 micrograms per liter,” under the acceptable level of 2.0 mgl. (http://www.ceramcor.com/media/wysiwyg/static-content-pages/product_testing_pdfs/FDA-Lead-Test-Results-06-06.pdf) But. I don’t know that that means zero. Are there any that are actually zero, do you know? Crazy!

    Thanks so much for querying!! :) Katie

  • TawniM

    I use my cast iron for eggs and pancakes all the time. I just have to make sure there’s always enough oil in it to keep the surface shiny. I just tested my stainless steel, and they’re magnetic! Whew!

  • AmandaLP

    What do you think about graniteware, or enamel coated cheap pans? Im looking for a large stock pot, and the stainless steel ones are both expensive and heavy. But, I also have seen a few graniteware ones that have rusted, so I am wary of those.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Amanda,
    That’s a very good question, and this mission is making me rethink the huge pot I sometimes use for large batches of stock. It’s one of those $20 enamelware thingys, and I think it’s quite a bit worse for wear. I also use it as my canning pot. Beginning to think I need to bite the bullet and buy a huge stock pot – can you believe I returned a massive $50 stainless stock pot after our wedding b/c I thought we “wouldn’t need it?!” Ah! I would have used it 100x by now…

    To answer your question, without the rust, I am thinking (hoping) the graniteware pots are non-reactive. I think I looked it up to try to figure out what I was even using…

    :) Katie

  • Jamie

    I use a stone for our bread and pizza. This year we started using cast iron a lot. My husband helps with cooking often now, he loves the cast iron. He made scrambled eggs in the cast iron with very little sticking, but he did spend a lot of time seasoning the skillets really well before we started using them. I prefer making scrambled eggs in the stainless steel skillet, but cast iron is great for fried eggs.
    Years ago we had anodized pots and pans. When we learned they might not be so great for us we started looking around for stainless steel. As you said, that can be an expensive change. We did find a good deal on a set not long after deciding to switch for which I am very grateful.
    I recently borrowed a pot because I needed two for the big batches of applesauce I was making. The one I borrowed said stainless steel but felt different as I handled it so I grabbed a magnet from the fridge. It stuck to the pot but loosely. I put the magnet to my pot and it jumped and stuck. I did need the other pot so I used it, but as little as possible especially for the heating process.
    I still have not switched to a stainless steel cookie sheet. They seem to be very expensive and we just haven’t made it a priority yet.
    The only silicone we have is in our scraper spatulas. I’m not sure about other options there.
    I feel like we have done a pretty good job in making our kitchen safer. I know we still have a few things to change and we will as soon we can. I’ll have to research scraper spatulas now.

  • Julie

    I also use cast iron for everything including eggs and pancakes. The key is enough oil, but I usually only oil once while making pancakes. I’ve heard “warm pan, cold oil,” meaning you heat up the pan, then add the oil. That really helps to keep things from sticking.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Julie,
    Yep, I knew that one…but it seems as though the oil just keeps disappearing as I scramble the eggs! I’d have to re-grease the pan twice to get them cooked! I think I’m just a cast iron failure…BUT…I need to season them properly in the oven, too, not just rely on making french fries every so often to get them really greasy. ;) Katie

    Pam M Reply:

    Cast iron is just about all I cook in. I’ve found that a well-seasoned pan is the key. The more seasoned it is, the less it sticks. The more you use it the more seasoned it becomes. I have skillets that have been passed down that are really well seasoned. Then, I got a new Dutch oven for Christmas last year. Big difference. But, I know the more I use it the better it will become. Even on eggs. :)

    Bridget Reply:

    “’warm pan, cold oil,’ meaning you heat up the pan, then add the oil”
    Yes, my mom’s been using cast iron her whole life to do most of her cooking, and this is how she taught me to do it.

    Brianna Reply:

    I don’t have a ton of experience with cast iron, but my MIL taught me that the pan needs to be HOT to keep things like eggs from sticking…maybe you’re heat’s not high enough when you start your eggs?…..

  • Diana

    I’m surprised that so many people can make scrambled eggs easily in a stainless steel pan! I always get a huge sticky mess when I try :)

    And Katie, I didn’t make good pancakes until I made them in our cast iron pan! As long as it’s well seasoned (more on that in a minute), I only have to add butter/coconut oil at the beginning, and I don’t have any trouble with sticking.

    For scrambled eggs, I only have trouble with sticking if I’ve cooked bacon or sausage in the same pan first. I think the meat leaves tiny pieces stuck to the pan, so the eggs get stuck in the “grittiness” and build up on the pan. If it’s a clean pan, well-seasoned, and hot enough when I add the eggs, I can just swish them around for a few minutes and not too much sticks. Also, something scratchy (a nylon srub brush with a scraper or a plastic scrubby) will make quicker work of getting the stuck-on eggs off, in my experience.

    And here’s how I season mine: rub with bacon grease (I’m sure any solid fat would work well) and set in the oven while I’m baking bread or something that takes longer than 30 minutes to bake. Leave the pan in during baking and afterwards, and then you should have a nice black pan. I don’t rub it with oil after every time I wash it, but only if I’ve cooked something that has started to affect the seasoning (like polish sausage and sauerkraut).

    Anyway, this was a long comment! But that’s what works for me, and if you try pancakes or eggs again, I’d love to hear the results! :)

    Bridget Reply:

    Diana, I’m with you on the stainless for scrambled eggs. Doesn’t work for me, either. And I think you’re right about the eggs sticking to the tiny bits stuck to the pan. I’ve found the same thing.

    Amy B. Reply:

    The key to non-stick stainless steel is to completely heat your dry pan before you add any fat…then melt fat, then add your food. It has something to do with the molecules in the steel expanding and creating a smooth cooking surface, I understand.

    Also, stainless cookware cooks hotter — so use a lower temp than you might for Teflon.

    I learned all of this from Amazon reviews of stainless cookware! It’s amazing what you can figure out from those…

  • Christine H. Farlow, D.C.

    I too use my cast iron skillet for eggs. I generally use coconut oil in the pan and have no problem with scrambled eggs. I also have a cast iron dutch oven which I use for roasting chicken. It makes the best chicken I ever tasted and I roast it at 250 degrees F – so low temp too.

    I appreciate the info on the silicone. While I had not been able to find definitive evidence that it was unsafe, I never trusted it to be safe, knowing that there had to be chemicals, possibly toxic chemicals involved to make it flexible and able to withstand heat. So, I was not willing to try it until I knew for sure – and now I know. I’m glad I trusted my intuition.

    As far as the safety of aluminum and those saying it is safe, I generally look to find out where those organizations who say it’s safe or unsafe get their financial support. Very frequently those organizations that are supposed to be consumer advocates and say certain things are safe or healthy – things that I tend to question – I have found receive financial support from the industries that benefit from the sale of those products. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association sponsors include numerous big drug companies (http://www.alz.orgjoin_the_cause_19090.asp) who benefit from drug sales to people with Alzheimer’s disease. So I personally would never trust their advice.

    Christine H. Farlow, D.C. Reply:

    Here’s the correct url …
    http://www.alz.org/join_the_cause_19090.asp

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Christine,
    I never thought of it that way – makes sense that pharma cos. would sponsor health based organizations, but it also makes sense to “follow the $.” I don’t trust aluminum as far as I can throw it, either. :) Katie

  • Jenn B

    I know everyone says not to use soap on cast iron, but we do all the time with no trouble. Maybe it’s because we use weak eco-friendly dish soaps. My best trick for cleaning cast iron, especially after scrambled eggs, is to get hot water on it ASAP. I pour water from the kettle into the pan right after serving. That sits while we eat and then cleans up easily after breakfast.

  • Heather

    I only used teflon for eggs too and then I finally decided I’d had it! I now use an 8″ cast iron pan (Lodge brand…it was a second and cost a whopping 8.50) and I LOVE IT! I have no stuck eggs ever…scrambled, fried, how ever I cook them. I use bacon grease and warm it over med-high heat. While cooking I watch the temp a bit and turn it down as they cook. I shut it off a bit before the eggs are totally set. Then the eggs go out on the plate, the pan gets wiped out and then a smidge of bacon grease on a clean rag gets wiped around until the inside has a sheen again. It goes into the oven (where I store the ones that won’t fit in my dishwasher used as a storage cabinet for heavy pots) and waits until it is needed again. I use cast iron, stone wear and glass bread pans too and love them. We are getting all the aluminum out and I’m just finishing switching to my cast iron griddle instead of non-stick one too. It is going pretty well…I think the key is how you heat it and how high you keep it. The first pancakes were rough, but after a batch or two I’m doing really well.

    Love cast iron! Go Lodge brand seconds…cheap and wonderful.

  • RJ

    I only use cast iron for pancakes, I rub a very thin layer on when it warns up and nothing more. Eggs too, as long as your pan is seasoned well scrambled, fried, and all that is a breeze. It took me about five tries to get scrambled right in my stainless though, hot pan, cold oil is the trick, as someone above mentioned.

  • Mandi

    This is something that has lingers in the back of my mind while I cook for my family each evening. And while important, my brain seems to purge any thought of it immediately after a long grueling dinner clean-up. The last thing I care to do is research pots and pans. :) So, would you do me a HUGE favor and make a list of worthy products, their brands if nothing else.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Mandi,
    Honestly, I’d just grab a Lodge Logic cast iron, a Pampered Chef stoneware baking sheet, and maybe Ceramcor/Xtrema if you want something easier to care for than cast iron. Le Creusset enameled cast iron is another good company. That’s about all I know! Good luck! :) Katie

  • Esther

    I use cast iron for almost everything, and I wash it and my stoneware with regular dishwater. The soap has never given me any problems. I spray on a light coating of olive oil after washing, and they are practically nonstick!

  • Bridget

    As long as you keep the cast iron well seasoned, it functions similarly to a non-stick. (It’s important that the pot be heated before you add the ingredients).

    Cast iron restores well, too. We inherited one that had layers of stuff stuck to it. While we were having a bonfire one night we put the pan right in the fire. The next day we pulled a brand new pot out of the ashes. All it needed was a little seasoning.

  • Lindsey

    I replaced my anodized aluminum a while ago because I read that if it’s scratched (which mine was) then it leaches aluminum into your food. I primarily use cast iron, stainless steel and enameled cast iron. I bought a cast iron griddle that actually works great for pancakes and fried eggs, I usually only butter it before I cook the first pancake. I still use my silicone baking mat for bread and cookies, I figure it’s better than my aluminum pans. I had a hard time using my teflon pan when the tag on it said the fumes may kill birds. Yikes!

  • Kathleen

    I would love it if you could do a post on using, cleaning, and seasoning cast iron. I have one big giant cast iron skillet that I love, but really have no idea how to care for it. I wash it with soap, I never season it, and I know it’s starting to suffer for that, but I just don’t know what I’m actually supposed to be doing! There are so many conflicting sources of information!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Yes! It’s on the list for this week!

  • Tsandi Crew

    As for Cast Iron: you say one of the downfalls is stuff sticks… not if you season it properly and use it regularly. If you soak it in soapy water, you will have trouble with food sticking. But if you wash it right away, you will only have to oil it each time after washing it, for a month or so. By the time you have used it every day for a month, then it is seasoned. If it sits for a while and something happens that you want to completely clean a cast iron utensil, put it into the fireplace and burn it. Then wash off the ash and start seasoning it again. It takes use to keep cast iron seasoned and non-stick. That’s not a downside.

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Tsandi,
    Everyone tells me that…we never use soap, almost always season with oil while it’s still hot/drying off, and use it nearly daily. After I do french fries in it, it is more “non-stick” but that only lasts until I have to get it wet once. ??? Im’ just not a cast iron pro!

    As for your other question, I guess the only way to really figure it out is to speak with the company. Or get a really old one secondhand!
    :) Katie

    lexee Reply:

    hi katie,

    i seasoned our cast iron skillets (a wedding gift to my mom 30 years ago that she NEVER used, so she gave them to me) according to the method listed on GNOWFGLINS:

    http://gnowfglins.com/2010/03/12/how-to-season-cast-iron/#

    we’ve used them numerous times and never had to re-season them. maybe the problem is that you are “washing” them… even if it’s just with water. i never use water on ours unless i ABSOLUTELY have to. (that’s happened maybe twice.) i simply use a metal spatula to scrape off whatever is on the pan when it’s still hot, and then leave it! no water, no scrubbing, no drying. (talk about a major benefit to using cast iron!) i have noticed that when i’ve used water, it’s like all of the oil is gone and the pan almost seems a little rusted. the couple times i’ve had to do this, i just coat it as soon as it dries with a layer of butter.

    i’ve never, ever had pancakes stick, and i’m surprised to hear you say yours do! i don’t even use that much butter. hmm. they just always slide right out of the pan for us.

    so first, a good seasoning should DEFINITELY help, and second, maybe try not to use water unless you have to? even when i saute things like peppers, onions, garlic, or after pancakes, etc… i just remove the crumbs (usually just with my fingers but a towel or paper towel would work, too) and then leave the pan on the stovetop ready for its next use. no water!

    hope that helps! :)

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Hmmm, flax oil! I never would have seen that coming…thanks!

  • Joy

    I was so interested on that comment about silicone. I was waffling about, but now I am convinced! Traditional cookware is best!

    Also, I love my Le Creuset SO much. I never could quite get the hang of cast iron.

  • Tsandi Crew

    But what I would like to know is where to get cast iron ware that is not made in China and is pure iron, without any aluminum filler. How can I tell if a pan is made of only iron?

    PamiE Reply:

    Most cast iron is stamped with the “made in” location on the bottom. If it doesn’t say where it’s made, avoid it. Lodge is still made in the USA.

  • Debbie

    What do you think about the ceramic coated pans? Would they be a good alternative to teflon???

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Debbie,
    Safer, for sure, but they’re still not actually non-stick, not like you can clean them in 1 minute even after cooking eggs… ??? :) katie

  • Nicki Crawford

    Cast iron it is! We were fortunate enough to inherit some pieces from both families. Also found some pieces at yard sales and thrift stores. We have a dedicated egg pan, a dedicated cornbread pan (southern style, can’t be beat, don’t ever cook anything else in it!!!) and a griddle pan that cooks pancakes like a dream with little to no added fat (we had them for dinner tonight!) and a big square “fry” pan that we use for bacon, fish, etc. The cornbread pan just gets a good wipe with a clean cloth. The griddle pan the same. These get oiled only as needed. The egg pan gets a rinse in hot water and swished out with a brush. After drying it gets a wipe of oil. The “fry” pan gets cleaned while still hot by heating water to a simmer and swishing loose any bits with a brush (deglazing). Then rinse, dry and swipe with oil. We haven’t used “nonstick” in a couple of years.

  • Nicki Crawford

    I forgot to mention the stone bakeware!

  • Rhonda

    Katie, what do you think of the issue of lead in crockpots? I read how most slow cookers have small amounts of lead in them. Not good when I cook broth for days in a time! :-(
    I recently read where a blogger replaced her crockpot with an enameled cast iron pot and a hot plate! I’m thinking of doing of this and I would love to know your thoughts!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Rhonda,
    Ah, good one…I keep seeing stuff about that, and it’s on my post drafts list to look into it. I made a note to read further in this discussion on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Lead-free-slow-cookers/forum/Fx2F9OPM23HF88J/Tx2DTC7T7D2ORBB/1/ref=cm_cd_dp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=B0028Y4FWU

    No idea if the hot plate/cast iron is the way to go…so tricky!
    Katie

  • Diane | An Extraordinary Day

    It’s amazing how many types of cookware are so unhealthy. I wanted to share with you that Longaberger is now making top quality ceramic cookware called Flameware. I sell it at my website: http://www.longaberger.com/lifestyle. It’s fabulous to cook with….it’s beautiful….comes in a wide array of colors to go with your tableware too. Let me know if you want to know more….
    Blessings!!

  • Krysta

    I have the best cast iron seasoning trick ever…. Make homemade popcorn in it. Seariously. My husband came with a huge expensive cookware set and some of the lids fit my cast iron (2 10″, 1 grittle and and one huge pan). So whenever my pans start looking a bit iffy (or I make eggs…, or just feel like it) I make popcorn. The heat (I use med-high) and oil (I have used olive, coconut and butter. Coconut is best) required perfectly seasons my pans. I like to use butter when cooking my pancakes, it adds a great flavor. Just make sure the pan is hot and don’t fiddle with them until the edges start crisping. Same with eggs. Scramble room temp eggs in a bowl and let them cook a minute before you move them and the pan must be HOT! :). I love cast iron. Funny thing is that my hubby can’t cook with cast iron (everything sticks!) and I can’t cook in his expensive Wolfgang Puck pans (it burns or sticks)! :D

  • Anastasia @ eco-babyz

    Oh Katie! You read my mind, I have a similar post in the works because people (readers and friends) keep asking me about what’s safe to use for cooking and baking. My post definitely isn’t going to be as thorough! Would you mind if I sent my readers your way if they are looking for more in depth info?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Anastasia,
    Of course! Any sharing is good sharing. :) Katie

    Anastasia @ eco-babyz Reply:

    Thank you!

  • Rebecca

    I am so depressed. I sold all my stonewear this summer as I was sick of the storage/clean-up issues but what do I use. Aluminum. Sigh! I guess I have more than just my non-stick to replace. Lottery anyone?

  • Debbie

    I can’t remember where I heard it from, (it may have even been here), but someone mentioned that cast iron from China is known to have lead in it. So be sure that your thrift store cast iron is made in the US.

  • Deb

    Hi,

    I haven’t read the comments but did want to shoot you my own experiences.

    I’ve been using cast iron for approx. 36 years…..some of them were my grandmothers and may have even been my great-grandmothers.

    For *decades* I did NOT know that you weren’t supposed to use soap on them! In other words, I handwashed them w/dish soap for a long, long time.

    I did dry them w/paper towels. I had been told not to let them air dry as they rust.

    Also, I have NOT seasoned mine with oil very often: perhaps one or two times in my 36 years per pan.

    On of the above is my own experience. And, again, I’m dealing with antique cast iron. I can’t speak of the newer cast iron pans.

    Oh! I forgot to mention that as soon as I’m done cooking eggs (or anything that tends to stick) I put hot water to soak the pan. After half an hour the stuff comes off like a dream!

    Thanks for reading and for your blog,
    Deb in NE

  • sarah

    I was in same boat as you with the cookie sheet/sheet pans. I got this http://www.amazon.com/Lodge-Double-Reversible-Grill-Griddle/dp/B002CMLTXG/ref=wl_it_dp_o_nS_nC?ie=UTF8&colid=3B91Y7VMR205X&coliid=I3EV1VHVUM926Y ans love it. Does anything I need a cookie sheet for. The surface is a bit small so that is a factor, but also does great for indoor grilling and a griddle replacer.

  • Kassia E

    I’m so glad to see this post! Some of the cookware we received for our wedding 10 years ago is starting to wear out, and I want to take the opportunity to switch to a safer cookware. I’ve been going back and forth between the stainless and enameled options. I use my Pampered Chef stoneware ALL the time, and (*gasp*) yes, I have been known to use soap on my well seasoned pieces from time to time. Just so you know, it’s fine (I’m a consultant). It just may remove a little of the seasoning if you’re not careful. I don’t want people to think it’s ruined if soap touches it. ;) I’m thinking that I may try one of their new enameled cookware pans to see how it works for us. I’ve had a hard time with eggs in my stainless pan. But the nonstick coatings in my other pans are starting to make me nervous. I look forward to your other reviews and more information!

  • Kathleen K

    I LOVE my cast iron pans. I own 3 skillets–small, medium and large. The first two are hand-me-downs from my grandmother, who had used them for 50 years prior to me getting them (and I’ve had them for 16+ years). My care methods may not be perfect for everyone, but I’m happy to share what I do:
    1) They don’t always need washed. Grilled cheese, pancakes, fried eggs, etc, can be wiped out and put away for later. Strong flavored foods, such as onions and garlic will flavor the next thing cooked unless washed.
    2) If food is stuck, such as scrambled eggs, once you’ve scraped out what you can, while the pan is still hot, pour in a little water (warm water better). Scrape, let sit while you eat, then come back, finish scraping out.
    3) I DO use dish soap when needed. Dry immediately afterward with a papertowel as some black marks may stain dish towel. If pan is dull and gray, wipe it down with some oil before storing it away.
    4) Cast iron is great for baking in the oven too. Be sure to oil the pan well before you put the bread dough/batter in!
    5) I store my pans in the oven. Sometimes I forget to pull them out before turning the oven on, but it isn’t a problem.

    A cast iron pan isn’t that expensive. Target sells a Lodge Cast Iron 12″ skillet for less than $20. Take care of it and pass it down to your grandchildren. That is cheaper than buying and replacing Teflon-type pans.

  • Amy D

    I’ve found an easy way to clean cast iron pans, even scramble- egg-messed ones, is to put about 1/4 inch of hot water in it, stick it on the stove and bring it to a boil briefly. If you’ve got it seasoned well, the oil underneath just lifts the crusty stuff right off. You can use a lifter to assist the process. (I don’t like using extra electricity just to clean one pan, but it doesn’t take much if you use a minimum of water and boy is it worth it. Besides, you’re saving on the hot water you’d be wasting trying to scrub it clean over and over.)

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  • Miranda

    Does anyone know anything about the “Orgreenic” skillet that is sold on TV? It’s supposed to be ceramic-coated.
    This post was very helpful as well as all the comments. Thank you!

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Miranda,
    That Orgreenic is ceramic is about all I know, too! :) Katie

  • Casey

    Hi! I recently found your site and love it! I’ve been trying to make healthier changes this past year. I have been reading your new and old blog posts about cookware, storage, etc and I have a question. At the beginning of this year I bought Pampered Chef’s small and large micro-cookers. They are made of plastic & meant to be used in the microwave. Has anyone heard if these are safe? Thank you! http://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=251&catId=96&parentCatId=96&outletSubCat=

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Casey,
    I hear you – have (had) one of those too. As far as “is it safe” try to figure out what number plastic it is. If it’s a BPA-free one, you’re in the right direction. But. Heat increases leaching.

    Personally, I came to the conclusion that I just wouldn’t microwave any plastic, period…and then I just stopped using the microwave, period…so the micro cooker went into the garage sale box.

    Good luck making your decision! (& welcome to KS!)
    :) Katie

  • Kelly

    Have you checked the parchment paper sold by If You Care? It might not have a coating?

    Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship Reply:

    Kelly,
    That’s what I use, actually, and it is coated in silicone: http://ifyoucare.com/product/fsc-certified-parchment-baking-paper-fsc-c005046

    Ah, well….Katie

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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