Healthy cooking is not just about what you cook and how you cook; it is also about the cookware you use. When pans and pots release harmful molecules that reach your food, your healthy lifestyle can be negatively affected.
The cooking method determines the type of cookware you use. This automatically affects a meal’s nutritional content. Unfortunately, it is not easy to figure out what is healthy and what is not. New research is being done and some materials we thought safe in the past are now proven to be harmful.
Fortunately, we do know of many important things that can help you make informed decisions when you want to buy healthy cookware. Here is what you need to know.
Be Careful With Aluminum Cookware
Numerous pans and pots are made out of aluminum because the material is very cheap. The problem is that, when this metal is heated, it can easily leach into the foods you are cooking. While the medical community agrees that the amount of aluminum that can leach into foods doesn’t pose health risks, when aluminum leaches, it can also alter the taste of food, especially when you cook with highly acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes or lemons.
Despite being considered generally safe, it is best to avoid aluminum pots and pans if you cook acidic foods, as the food will have an unpleasant metal taste. Alternatively, you can use aluminum cookware that has been anodized because the surface will be nonreactive.
Be Careful With Non-Stick Coatings
Up until 2013 Teflon non-stick coatings contained PFOA, a harmful chemical that was linked to numerous health conditions. While today all Teflon products are PFOA-free, if you have non-stick pots and pans manufactured before 2013, it is best to stop using them.
The non-stick coatings used by manufacturers today are generally considered safe. If you are looking to use it to cook things like omelets then modern nonstick pans will do, but don’t cook the likes of steak in them as you need high heat and this is when the coating will break down.
However, if you are worried, you can opt for ceramic coating, as it is both non-stick and absolutely safe.
Consider Glass Cookware
Thick glass pots are very valuable for those who want to live a healthy lifestyle. Although it does take longer for water to boil when compared to other options, after the temperature is optimum, stove settings do not need to be that high. Additionally, even heat is always present, regardless of what you cook.
Glass cookware is perfect for foods like grains since you can see through the pot and you know exactly when to turn off the heat source.
The major problem of glass pots is that you have to be careful with them since they break easily. Also, the lids do not seal tightly.
Use Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel has very high stability when exposed to heat so no harmful compounds will reach the food you cook. Also, this material is very common and affordable.
When you buy pans and pots that have a thicker base, heating is even. Lids are usually tightly sealed so you can be sure water does not evaporate during cooking.
The disadvantages of stainless steel are that sides are usually thin (heat loss can happen) and cleaning can be difficult. Minimize cleaning time by using liquid when you finish sautéing and cleaning as soon as possible after cooking. Also, always use wood or bamboo spatulas and similar accessories.
Use Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron has been the material of choice for pans for a long time now. In fact, it has been used for centuries and is still recognized as one of the best possible choices for healthy cookware.
The great thing about cast iron is that it naturally builds up a non-stick coating that is safe. Some small iron bits can leach into your food when the heat is high but the possibility of facing iron toxicity is close to zero. Even if this happens, the condition is not serious.
Its heat holding capability is very high and you can easily cook those dishes that require slower heat exposure. When you properly take care of cast iron, it easily lasts a lifetime.
Many manufacturers opt for cast iron because it is very easy to produce and, as previously mentioned, it is also safe to use. However, this material should be considered only for pans and not pots, as when you cook with boiling water cast iron doesn’t form a non-stick coating and ingredients can stick to the pan.
Consider Carbon Steel For Fast Cooking
Cast iron is a very good option when you want to cook slower but when you want to cook fast, like with stir-frying, something thinner is better. This is where carbon steel cookware stands out as a healthy cookware option to take into account. It has a very similar seasoning system as with cast iron so a non-stick coating naturally builds up in time.
The only thing to remember with carbon steel is that, just like cast iron, it is not suitable for your pots. Just use this material for pans.
Steam With Bamboo
Bamboo has to be considered one of the best possible options when you look for healthy cookware. It is perfect for utensils and steamers. This is a material that does not leach. You will not have a metallic taste to deal with and the material is much more renewable than all metals.
Bamboo steamers are affordable and allow you to make healthy steamed vegetables fast and easy.
If you want to buy a steamer for the pot set you already own, the best option is stainless steel. Consider one with a lid made out of glass so you can observe every cooking stage without having to release steam. Many healthy cookware sets on the market include steamers.
There are numerous healthy cookware options available on the market at the moment. Our recommendations serve as a general guideline but it is important to buy cookware that is appropriate for the type of cooking you enjoy.
The last thing that should be mentioned is that many buyers just look at the price before making a choice. Do not make this mistake. With healthy cookware, it is better to choose the higher quality materials. They do cost more but they are better for your health and will last a lot longer than the cheaper options.