In order to avoid any chemical reaction between food and cooking surfaces, you should avoid using cookware with coatings that could contaminate food when utensils hit a high temperature. The more inert the cooking surface, the less likely any chemical reaction will occur to make cooked food unhealthy.
The DuPont trademark non-stick coating Teflon, generically known as polytetrafluorethylene, or PTFE, can release a gas at high heat called PFOA, which has been labeled as a human carcinogen by the EPA Science Advisory Board. Care2.com states that DuPont is taking part in a voluntary program to eliminate sources of PFOA in the manufacture of Teflon by 2015, but avoiding the coating in cookware could supply peace of mind that no possible toxic substance would make it into your food.
The traditional iron cooking pots and frying pans transfer very little taste or other non-food elements to food when cured properly with a light coating of cooking oil. Besides proper curing with oil, Care2.com states that the trick with any non-coated surface is to make the surface hot enough to sear food, which releases water from the food and keeps it from sticking. Avoid preparing soup or acidic food in cast iron, as this will leach iron into the food that can spoil the taste and put iron that isn’t bio-available into your food, according to Rebecca Wood, author of “The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia."
Heavy gauge, stainless steel makes a good, healthy and relatively non-stick cooking surface due to its smooth surface and as long as the pan is hot when food is first placed in it. Food expert Rebecca Wood states that stainless steel is the least reactive metal and very versatile for most any food preparation. Since metallic ions can be leached if the surface is scratched, avoid scouring the pans with steel wool. If any food does get burned on, just put baking soda or a strong detergent on the spot and let it rest overnight so the food can easily lift off the surface without scratching.
Cookware made of silicone is inert, FDA approved and safe for cooking temperatures up to 428 degrees F. Silicone melts at higher temperatures, but it still doesn’t put out the toxic gas vapors possible with Teflon. Rebecca Wood states that silicone is actually a synthetic rubber, which can be made into baking pans, cookie sheets, muffin tins and spatulas. It is both non-stick and non-reactive, can go directly from the oven to the refrigerator without harm, and is flexible and easy to clean.
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Richard Nilsen writes poetry, fiction, features and news stories in upstate New York. He was an emergency mental-health consultant for 20 years and directed a mentoring agency for a decade. Nilsen is a black-fly control technician in the Adirondack Park, where he enjoys hiking, biking and boating.