My Cookware is Toxic?

Let’s review which pans are the healthiest to cook with and why.

Well, the probability is not good and the pans you thought were perfectly safe, might not be the best choice. It is most likely that a part or all of your cookware leeches metal and other toxic elements: Fluoride, Aluminum, Tin and Nickle. We are used to associating these things with cookware but we have forgotten how “poisonous” they really are. Additionally, mostly non-toxic elements can leech in unsafe amounts from cookware too like Copper and Chromium.

We might want the convenience of “dishwasher safe” cookware and not want to bother with the care of cast iron. Maybe you feel like non–stick cookware is essential for your kitchen survival. Perhaps functional performance is your top priority while health implications may take a secondary role. A little understanding of what your current options are and their value, performance and health impact may help with more informed choices.

We can create for ourselves less toxic metal exposure just by choosing better pots and pans. I have metal toxic patients that we could only associate cookware as their exposure. This is becoming more common.

While the medical establishment recognizes the acute toxicity that may occur from high levels of metals/toxins in your body, far more people suffer the adverse effects of low-level, chronic exposure. Cookware may be a main contributing cause. Nickel and other metals and poisons flood the environment and invade your system. Managing how you cook your food can give you some control over your toxic load.

High toxic levels leads to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain and neurological disorders. But clinically we find these toxicities problematic to many systems and over all functioning.

Many products are developed for the sake of convenience without concern for human health, cookware has been no different. Teflon coated, non-stick cookware has proven to be a primary source of a dangerous toxic fluoride derivative, specifically, per fluoridated chemicals (PFOAs) when heated. Teflon cookware is probably the worst cookware of all time and yet, so many people still seem to use these pans.

Copper cookware is also toxic and are not a good option. When you heat uncoated copper – it leeches! Even copper cookware that is coated can also contain and leech nickel. Too much copper in the diet will depress zinc levels which is linked to malfunctioning of the adrenals and the thyroid glands. And Zinc is most essential for immune functioning.

So, let’s reap the benefits without the ills! I discuss the below cookware based on least leeching, heat responsiveness, warping and price.

The most healthful choices for stove-top cookware

100% Ceramic Cookware (non – coated) is very safe and functional cookware to use and to avoid these toxic issues. Ceramic however, even 100%, does chip and that would be an issue in my kitchen.

Enameled Coated Cast Iron cookware is virtually heavy metal free on the cooking surface with superior performance and durability. Though this cookware can be heavy to use on a day-to-day basis and it is also pricy. Along with the 100% ceramic cookware these are two very good choices.

Cast Iron is another healthful option. This cookware minimally leeches iron – a micronutrient that we need. High blood levels due to cookware are rare. This can also be managed by discontinuing use. Whereas it is much more difficult to rid the body of toxic, heavy metal build up as the body does not utilize or easily discard these substances.

Stainless steel can leach small amounts of nickel into your food. This has always been a concern of mine. For a long time stainless was one of the top “health” picks. How is that metal mixed and bonded? The optimal Nickle /Chromium ratio for the least amount of leeching for stainless steel is 18/10 and the 316 grade. You should be able to see these product details on the labeling when buying. I noticed online they are usually well noted. This is the last choice among all these other mentions.

My overall best and most healthful pic is carbon stainless steel (css). These fry pans are made of a strong, durable, 12 gauge carbon steel. The leeching/oxidation factor is far less then stainless. Some brands come pre-seasoned with soy oil which offers a natural, easy-release/low sticking finish that only improves with use and additional seasoning. You’ll be cooking healthier by limiting the overall amount of added oils needed. They have been a staple in most commercial kitchens world-wide but are just being utilized in American home kitchens more recently.

These metal pans of course, do not chip. There is no type of surface covering them to damage and peel. Some brands producing thinner pans have been known to warp. Buy smart!

Good brands to choose from

Matfer Bourgeat is a family owned, French business established in the 19th century. They sell carbon stainless steel pans globally and with a commitment to sustainability. All of their manufacturing sites are ISO – environmentally certified and target minimal carbon footprints. And of course, I rated them for overall performance too – A solid choice for css.

And my top pick for a carbon stainless steel pan brand is Lodge. They are well known for their cast iron products but their carbon pans are getting great reviews. The only con is this cookware, all css, is not stainless steel shiny and they do not come in matching sets. You buy for instance, a crepe pan, for its use. They are all about their function.

This choice is based on manufacturer’s quality, superior price point and these pans are made in the good old U.S. of A.

See for many informative YouTube videos for their use and care.

Jensen CS, Menné T, Lisby S, Kristiansen J, Veien NK. Experimental systemic contact dermatitis from nickel: a dose–response study. Contact Dermatitis. 2003;49:124–132. [PubMed]

A-J Manufacturing. “304 vs. 316 Stainless”.

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