Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cooking in Denial

Long, long ago when Bill and I were married, Teflon cookware was the prized object of the kitchen.  Non-stick and health because it required little fat for cooking, all the books and magazines recommended it.  We dutifully listed the whole Calphalon Teflon series on our registry and received most of it.

Fast forward over a decade and it turns out Teflon kills small birds and poses respiratory and cancer risks to those who use it.  

I know about the dangers of polytetrafluoroethylene (that's what they call it when it isn't trademarked) - I've been hearing this information via my various quirky health newsletters for years.  Yet each night at dinner time, you'll find me pulling out my Teflon lined Everyday Pan with my fingers in my ears singing, "lalalalalala I can't hear you lalalalala."  

It's not that I don't think the stuff is dangerous.  I just don't know what else to do.  There's the aluminum option, but coming from a family with history of Alzheimer's that risk is too high for me.  There's stainless steel, but it turns out it leaches something like 23 other metals that have undetermined safety levels.  There's straight-up cast iron, but it is heavy, hard to care for and doesn't come in the happy array of pan styles I need.  There's anodized aluminum, which sounds like it might be safe but I over-cooked beets in my one anodized pot and it lost all its finish and color which seems totally freaky and compromising to me.

That leaves, as far as I can tell, two options.  Ceramic lined cast iron (think Le Creuset) or a rumored line called Safe Pans (I think).  

One of my friend raves about the Safe Pans, from Australia (?).  They are apparently, true to name, safe.  Also the seem to come in good sizes that are reasonably priced. But for the life of me I can't find them on the internet. Hey friend-who-I-happen-to-know-reads-this-blog, maybe you could post a link to them in the comments section?  

Now Le Creuset defines sexy in the cookware world - amazing variety of shapes and sizes and eye-candy colors.  Super high quality, it lasts forever and can be passed down from generation to generation. Nobody in on the internet registers any safety concerns.  But I balk for two reasons.  Mostly, the stuff is expensive.  My Everyday Pan now goes for $64.  The Le Creuset equivalent (the iron braiser) runs $200.  The cost of replacing my entire cookware set would be phenomenal.  Still a factor, though less shocking, is the weight of these pans.  Cast iron is heavy and I wonder how I and the kids would manage working with such heavy pieces.

And here I am back where I started.  A house full of hungry people and likely unsafe pots that are actually in my kitchen ready to use.  I guess they'll have to do for another meal or 100.

How about you? Do you cook in the land of denial, too?  If not, what pans do you use?  Anyone think the concerns are all  red-herrings raised by a jealous industry?


Sharon said...

Lodge makes enameled cast iron pots that are *much* cheaper than Le Creuset. I have a 6 qt. dutch oven that I love, and cleanup is easy.

Plain old cast iron isn't that hard to care for. You don't care for it the same way you would a nonstick pan, but the results are worth it. If my pan(s) needs scrubbing, I warm up the pan and use a bit of fat and some kosher salt. We cook all sorts of things in ours, including fried eggs.

Scanpan is a nonstick pan, but the coating is not Teflon. I've never used them, but heard lots about them a few years ago.

Good luck finding something that works for you!

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

I have to put in a plug for cast iron -- we now have 7 different pans/pots, a grill pan & a griddle, and they all work SO great, and are virtually non-stick!!! Once they are seasoned well (which is not hard -- just oil & bake or put on low for a bit), they are easier to clean than our other pots and pans -- just a wipe down with a paper towel or a quick rinse and swish of a suds free scrubber and you are done. (I rarely even take it over to the sink!). Occasionally something sticks and I'll need to soak and scrub (without soap!), but rarely. Often just cranking up the heat on the pan will help release the stuck on food, too.

Its true that cast iron is heavy -- I have no problem but my girls certainly couldn't handle them yet (they are still too young anyway!)

The other pans we use are a large wok (my husband loves this), and enameled cast iron, and some All-Clad stainless steel pans. I hadn't heard of the health concerns about that, but what I just read says that its more of a problem if its pitted, which none of ours are, even after years of use. They aren't cheap like cast iron, though!

Good luck with your cookware hunt!

jane said...

Hi Sara,

I ordered our set from Amazon


I use my SafePans, my two le Creuset pans, and a set of stainless steel pans which hold a magnet. I've heard that if the stainless steel will hold a magnet it is less likely to leach although I have no idea if this is true. I used to use cast iron which I like to cook in. However, as one family member has an issue with too much iron, I needed an alternative and those tried the SafePans.

Hope this helps.

Cerulean Bill said...

We got an Emerillware stainless steel saute pan, about ten inches across, and a generic one about six inches across. Cook with a bit of oil in the pan. Heats up fast, cooks well. And a bigger pan that according to its measurements is also ten inches, but it looks more like eleven to us, made of a heavy non-reactive surface. Don't know the name ( I can go look if you want) but it has a red swedish-type insignia. Takes a bit to heat up but it works well.