Aaah, yes, the cast iron skillet your grandmother used to have to whip up some cornbread! It seems that this heavy-duty, no frills, basic cookware is now a popular alternative to teflon, non-stick pans that have been the standard in most American kitchens. Yes, they are VERY heavy to lug around, especially for the weak of wrist (rememba, "now I can pick this pan up" commercial for pain relief? haha). But they have two things going for them that is making their comeback:
(1) they are one of the few non-toxic choices for cookware
(2) they are pretty cheap
Let's look at the facts:
"In two to five minutes on a conventional stovetop, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces can exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases linked to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pet bird deaths and an unknown number of human illnesses each year, according to tests commissioned by Environmental Working Group." (from EWG website)
Here is some other popular cookware and their potential hazards:
Stainless steel - potential likelihood of metal leaching into your food and allergen issues, especially if
scratched from cleaning with abrasive materials
Copper - due to the possibility of copper leaching, recommended to never have direct contact with your
Calphalon (anondized aluminum) - claims that a protective coating protects from leaching nickel but should not be used if surface is worn or scratched
"Greenie" non-stick - they are easy to scratch, coated aluminum or stainless
So, that does not leave us with much to cook with! Here is what the experts say are the safest choices:
Glass is best for both microwave and oven.
Cast Iron (but make sure you purchase it already seasoned or season it yourself before using, to keep it from rusting and sticking and to lower the amount of iron leached. Also, do not get very wet by boiling water in it or soaking in water)
Ceramic I have recently purchased a set of Xtrema ceramic cookware for its high ratings and features,
that Dr. Mercola recommends
" Xtrema cookware is made of inorganic non reactive natural minerals that make the product environmentally friendly. This cookware clearly addresses today’s growing desire for a healthier cooking alternative to metal cookware and their coatings, which can eventually deteriorate and peel or flake off into foods. Xtrema also provides greater functionality in terms of usage with multiple cooking appliances. Xtrema can be used safely and effectively in the oven, microwave, toaster oven, broiler, stored in the freezer or refrigerator or used to serve food right on the table."
click for more info: extrema website
Here is what I think of the ceramic cookware:
> supposed to be the healthiest cookware
> very easy to clean - nothing will scratch it
> maintains heat longer
> food tastes better cooked in it
> has a 50 year warranty
> very expensive
> can easily chip, need to handle and store carefully
> handles get very hot ( but they do include covers)
> skillets are slightly raised in the center, making some foods hard to cook evenly
> takes longer to heat up initially
Since I needed to replace my worn out calphalon and am trying to eat healthier, it was important to me to have the safest cookware there is. I am generally pleased with the Xtrema but ended up buying a cast iron skillet to cook pancakes,etc easier. Hopefully they will keep improving the non-toxic cookware if there is more public demand.
My suggestion to anyone wanting to upgrade to less toxic cookware: buy the standard, inexpensive cast iron skillets and/or griddle and then a few of the pricier ceramic pots for stovetop. And use glassware for baking.
And let the canaries sing!