Beatriz Garcia is my guest blog post writer this week. She reached out to me recently about sustainable cookware and I found her information useful. We often look at packaging as sustainable or not but what about our kitchen cookware? Summer is also a time for weddings and purchases for college dorms. I happen to be a fan of cast iron. Yes, they are heavy but I find them easy to clean and I like the even heating. What type of cookware is your favorite and why? Beatriz and I would love to hear from you.
Beatriz Garcia found out about the sustainable side of cookware when researching healthy cookware for her site Clan Kitchen. You can find her writing there in the rare moments she isn’t busy looking after her family. Beatriz is keen to cook healthily and sustainably, but also has to balance this with quickly cooking foods her kids want to eat!
Whatever material you choose, you need to beware of the coating. If, for example, you want to avoid Teflon, then you should look for “PTFE free”. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) is the active ingredient in Teflon. Unfortunately, many pans are advertised as PFOA free. This is not helpful – PFOA was banned years ago. Other chemicals are now used to manufacture PTFE! Unfortunately, when reviewing different pans, I’ve found many ceramic or stone pans actually have a coating that includes PTFE. People buying those bands could be misled by this. I certainly wouldn’t expect a ceramic or stone pan to include Teflon. Dr. Mercola, the number one holistic wellness expert, and site in the world, says this about Teflon coatings:
“In fact, the convenience of a nonstick or stain-resistant surface comes at a steep price, as such chemicals persist in the environment, are contaminating water supplies and have been linked to developmental problems, cancer, liver damage, immune effects, thyroid problems and more.”
My advice here is that if you are buying a pan that advertises itself as non-stick; check if it is PTFE free. If it doesn’t state PTFE free, then it probably does have Teflon. This is especially the case with ceramic, stone, aluminum pans, or any pan with a special coating. Here’s the problem with coatings in general: They wear away over time. And when they wear away, the pan loses any non-stick properties it had. The underlying layer/body of the pan is also exposed. This is often not healthy. For example, Aluminum exposure may cause Alzheimer’s. Once the coating of any pan starts to chip, I’d recommend throwing it away. And here we are back to the durability issue! One coating that you can repair is the seasoning on cast iron or carbon steel pans.
It’s not just the energy used in creating the pan that counts, but also the energy used every time you cook with it! The miles per gallon metric for cars is unachievable and unrealistic. But at least it allows you to compare different cars. Yet cookware doesn’t come with anything like that. How can we compare? The overall conductivity of each material to get an idea of which cookware is best. This isn’t perfect, but it’s something.
Examining this factor suggests copper and aluminum top the charts, followed by cast iron. Stainless steel is the worst of the typical cookware metals. You don’t normally expose food directly to copper or aluminum for safety reasons. One option is a copper or aluminum core to help conduct and spread the heat. Some pans even have a copper bottom. I can’t imagine a layered pan would make the job of recycling any easier though!
This might also depend on how you cook though. Cast iron is in the middle of the conductivity range and takes ages to heat up. But there is a way around this! Heat the cast iron pan before putting the food on it, then turn it off the stove when the food is almost ready. The pan keeps its heat a while and carries on cooking. With a little bit of practice, you can get the timing right on this.
So, you’re sold on sustainable cookware but you’re not sure what to do next! Perhaps you don’t have money to just go and buy another cookware set. Keep using the pans you have for now, and watch out for my next article, where I will give you 10 tips on how to buy and afford, sustainable cookware.
Thanks, Beatriz, for sharing the above information on how to look at our cookware sustainably. Next week Beatriz offers 10 tips for buying sustainable cookware.
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