“The first thing came to mind was cancer.”

 

 


My obsession with safe cookware started when I wanted to learn how to cook. One day, I wanted to cook a simple recipe. So I prepared all the ingredients, cut the onions, garlic, vegetables and meat. When I grabbed the non-stick pan that my mother in law uses, I was shocked.

The non-stick pan had scratches and deep grooves, so deep in fact that you can see bare metal. The thought of cancer quickly came to mind. All these years I have been eating non-stick flakes! 

What makes non-stick pans hazardous to your health is the substance called PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene).

PTFE

PTFE, is the material that makes the non-stick pan, non-stick. Dupont is the big company that discovered the compound.

To make this PTFE compound, a substance is needed called the PFOA. 

PFOA

PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid), is dangerous to your health in high enough doses. Do you know that PFOA can stay in your body for long periods of time?

Studies in animals have shown that long exposures of PFOA causes many kinds of cancers. From testicular cancer, mammary gland, pancreas to kidney and liver cancer. 

There have been numerous studies about this cancer causing material as outlined in the American Cancer Society.

PFOA stays in your system for a long time and isn’t it better to minimize the amount of this hazardous material into your body? Well you can do this by staying away from non-stick pots and pans. Many are not aware of the dangers of non-stick pans possess and it’s scary.

I think the danger that PFOA in humans can have a detrimental effect on our health in the long run. 

I have stopped using non-stick pans in the kitchen after hearing all these studies.

Although there are not enough evidence that this harmful material causes cancer in humans. It is safe to say that this material can have harmful effect over a long period of time.

Harmful enough that they have discontinued adding it to PTFE.

PFOA discontinued

As of 2013 the use of PFOA to make PTFE has been discontinued. Hence you will see non-stick pans having a PFOA free label on it.

I have researched these manufacturers that sells PFOA free non-stick pans to see what they are using to make their cookware.

When I tried to dig deeper to find what chemicals they use. There are no specific information. They just state somewhere along the lines of “Our non-stick pans are non toxic, it will pass through your body and not be absorbed.”

PFOA free maybe but it is still PTFE. Doesn’t it make you think, what chemical have they replaced PFOA with to make PTFE? But it’s OK to use because they say so.

PTFE & PFOA free

A new non-stick cookware have entered the market sometime in 2007 called the Greenpan.

Thermolon technology does not use PTFE to make non-stick pans.  Instead they use ceramic mineral material. It is the same material to make pottery and glasses. 

According to reviews, it has been rated highly. The reviews were based on 6 months or less of usage.

Some long term review says that the non stick pan stopped becoming non-stick. People also mentioned or questioned about it’s durability. The company also got called out about writing false or misleading information about their pans. Which got consumers questioning their credibility.

Even though a decade have passed, this is still a fairly new material to be considered safe, albeit PTFE and PFOA free.

Is it really safe?

How can we be sure that it’s truly safe. Will it be another PFOA? Which took decades for scientists, technicians, researchers to acknowledge that maybe it is not safe for human consumption. So they take it out of the equation, but it’s not clear what material have they replaced it with to make PTFE. 

The new Thermolon coating is still a new technology and the company’s credibility is still in question. More time and research needed.

If you want to be absolutely certain that you are not ingesting any harmful chemicals into your system, just stay away from cookware that has any coating on it. Our health is just too important to take a gamble on.

Safe cookware essentials

These safe cookwares are a must have for the health conscious cook. If you are looking for something safe to use to prepare your meals, then look no further.

These cookwares have been tried and tested by professionals and home cooks. Safely cook your meals without the worry of eating toxic chemicals. 

They are also built to last, withstand a lot of punishment and safe to use everyday.

Cast iron 

Cast iron has been around for centuries. I almost didn’t buy this cookware as I thought it’s too much of a hassle seasoning it. Was I wrong, seasoning it is so easy. Do it once and you are a pro. It’s not even hard or takes long to do. 

This is my alternative for a non-stick pan because as you all know that non-stick pan could be killing you yummily. Get it, you cook yummy food on a non-stick pan, but it could be contaminated with harmful chemicals and you eat it. No? Nevermind.

Built like a tank

Cast iron pans are built like a tank. It really looks like it will take any punishment you are going to give. 

It’s that indestructible. Manufacturers of cookware, especially the non-stick kind, recommends not to use metal. You don’t have to worry about that with this pan. Use metal spatula on a cast iron pan and it will not leave any unsightly scratches. 

In fact it is recommended, the scraping of the surface along the bottom of the pan will even out the surface of the seasoning making it more durable not the other way around.

Is it really non-stick?

If you are comparing it to a non-stick pan, then no. On non-stick pans, you don’t even need to add oil and food won’t stick. Cast iron pan, on the other hand, will.

A seasoned pan will almost be non-stick that an egg will slide off easily enough. Pancakes will be beautiful and meat won’t stick.

In my experience, it’s not comparable to say a non-stick Teflon pan, but it’s non-stick enough.

Season once, never again

I love this pan, even if I have to season it once or twice a year. Which I’ve only done once by the way in 3 years. You only season it again if it looks like it’s getting rusted or dull.

My pan is used most of the time and the more I use it, the more it gets seasoned. Thus I’ve only done the major season only once. I have owned this pan for 3 years. Still looks the same as when I first bought it.

Does it leach substances into food?

This is what I was concerned about when I was looking for non-stick pan alternative. Cast iron is the original non-stick pan but one thing was sitting in the back of my mind. This pan leaches iron. 

Too much iron can be bad, even more so for people who has iron overload. I don’t have that problem but too much of everything is not good. Everything in moderation is key.

I did more research about this and found out that a well seasoned cast iron pan, leaches iron just a little compared to a new one. Also, the longer the food gets in contact with the pan, the more iron will leach into it.  

My solution was only to use this pan for stir fry, eggs, steaks, fish, pancakes, dishes that requires less time cooking. I would definitely avoid this when I make stock, braising, slow cooking, anything that requires more than 20 minutes is long. 

Is it easy to clean?

YES! For someone lazy like me, it’s quick and easy. Sometimes I don’t even clean it, just wipe and store. Eww, you say? You must realize that any bacteria living in the pan dies at 75℃. You do most of your cooking at more than that temperature, up to 200℃ or more.

If there are bits and  pieces of the food you cook are left behind, obviously you have to take it off. Otherwise that’s gross. Once that is done, all you have to do is wipe the remaining fats with a paper towel, then put it away. This keeps the cleaning to minimal.

When it comes to getting rid of stubborn stuck on, burnt food, yes it happens,  then the plastic brush comes into play. Brush the pan under hot running water, pat dry, put it back on heat, add oil, wipe and store. Easy, If I, the laziest person on the planet can do it, I’d imagine you can too.

Owning cast iron pan 

lodge 12 inch cast iron skillet review

This is what it’s like owning one. It’s not all good in the hood. Find out more about cast iron pans if they really are for you. Read my real world, almost  comprehensive, Lodge 12 inch cast iron skillet review

Stainless steel

I owned 4 stainless steel pans so far. I only have 1 now because having 4 fry pans is a bit of an overkill. 

Built like a Volvo

Stainless steel pans are also robust. It’s not a tank like the cast iron pan but I consider it to be a Volvo. The old Volvo’s not the new models. They just don’t make ’em like they used to. 

Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, unlike the cast iron which hates water. There are no maintenance like seasoning that you have to do and no special cleaning methods or equipment that is needed. Making this a very popular cookware in many restaurants.

Stainless steel sticks

Food will stick to your stainless steel pan if you don’t know the basics. That’s why you need to learn how to cook with stainless steel cookware. Preheat it over medium heat, wait for the ripples or wait for the first little sign of smoke from the oil, wait for the Maillard Reaction before turning the protein over. These are just the basics when it comes to preventing food getting stuck to the pan.

Yes it will stick but it’s not like you can’t get it off with a bit of bump and grind. I don’t see nothing wrong with a little bump and grind. Queue R.Kelly.

There is a way to make it non-stick though, but it’s a one hit wonder and very time consuming process. Watch this space on how to season a stainless steel pan.

Sometimes I get it right and the fish doesn’t look like it just exploded. Even when I do, the skin always, always, loves to get stuck! Don’t cook fish on a stainless steel pan. Instead use the cast iron.

Does it leach anything into the food?

Yes it does. Stainless steel is made up of iron containing a blend of nickel. This substance can leak into food when cooking it over long periods of time. Such as slow cook dishes.

The nickel effects humans who has nickel sensitivity and can lead to some sort of skin reactions such as dermatitis. 

I’d take dermatitis any day over cancer.

Is it easy to clean?

Stainless steel pans are dishwasher safe. I don’t really know what that means, I don’t have one, but some website says it’s easy to clean because it’s dishwasher safe.

If you don’t have a dishwasher like me, then the difficulty of cleaning is very much dependent on what and how you cooked. Burnt bits can be soaked in hot water and have your dinner. By the time you finish eating, it should have loosened up a bit, making it easier to clean. 

For the really stubborn ones, leave it overnight. 

Over time, your pan will accumulate black, brown, discolored areas which is hard to get rid off, no matter how much elbow power you put in. For this you will need Bar Keeper’s Friend. It works like a charm, I bought one 3 years ago and I still have 3/4 left. 

Owning stainless steel cookware

It’s great for searing, stir fry, making sauces, soups and much more. It is a very versatile pan. A safe cookware that a healthy cook must have.

Watch this space for my All Clad 12 inch skillet review.

Carbon Steel 

Carbon steel is very much like a cast iron in terms of cleaning and maintenance. The difference is that carbon steel heats up quicker and lighter.

Built like a Honda or a Ram

Why am I making references to cars all the time? I used to be a real car nut maybe? But Chris, this is a food blog for freaking sake! Yeah I know, no more 4 wheel references. 

The build quality really depends on the brand and what kind of carbon steel cookware. For example, a $10 wok bought from a Thai grocer can start falling apart after 1 month of usage.  

A $60 fry pan de Buyer brand is built solid and will stand the test of time. 

So, don’t buy a Ram. For those who doesn’t know the brand, it is the most unreliable make of all time. Yes, worst than a Hyundai.

Non-stick properties

Just like a cast iron, it can be non-stick when seasoned well. Again it will not be non-stick like a Teflon pan. 

Is it easy to clean?

Yes.

It really is pretty much the same as a cast iron pan. I will just be repeating what I mentioned above. 

Owning a carbon steel

My carbon steel wok is my number one stir fry pan. It gives that distinct, wok hei, breath of the wok flavor. That smoky flavor when you eat a wok fried dish from a Chinese restaurant? That’s wok hei. 

Watch this space for my Carbon Steel Wok review.

My de Buyer carbon steel pan is going strong. It’s not going to be as non-stick as my cast iron because it’s not getting seasoned everyday. If I would use this everyday, the smooth surface compared to cast iron’s rough finish will make it a better non-stick pan. It will surely last as long as a cast iron, unless the rust gets to it first.

Watch this space for de Buyer Mineral 12 inch skillet review.

So, Which one? Carbon steel Or Cast iron?

If I would get to do it again, I would only buy one stainless steel pan and just one, safe cookware non-stick pan alternative.

As they are both much the same, you might think, why should you need a carbon steel? To answer that question you have to know their differences.

Carbon steel is considerably lighter than cast iron. 

Longer handle compared to short handle on a cast iron. No need to grab an oven mitt when handling a carbon steel pan.

The handle stays cool, no matter how long you have been using it. Compared to cast iron’s short handle that gets hot after a few minutes.

Carbon steel skillets have slope sides compared to cast iron’s vertical wall. Tossing food, you know, up in the air, can be done in a carbon steel skillet.

The long handle of the carbon steel skillet, especially on a de Buyer brand, is quite long. Consider the size of the pan you are buying if it fits your oven.

Still can’t decide?

If you are just starting your safe cookware collection then I suggest going for the carbon steel cookware. The differences are subtle and basically the same. But, carbon steel is a little bit more user friendly.

My current real world test is to see which one of these pans will last the longest and which has the most non-stick properties. Subscribe to see which one wins in 75 years.