Made the switch to organic? Eating locally? Following a paleo, primal, or Whole30 diet?
But depending on how you cook and store your food you might be introducing unwanted chemicals into your meals that are slowly poisoning you.
A lot of commercially sold kitchenware is not made from inactive or inert material.
You may be using a spatula that is breaking off micro pieces of plastic into your food as you cook.
Maybe your frying pan emits toxic gases as you make breakfast.
What if your storage container is leaking out endocrine disrupters into your leftovers as they sit in your fridge?
Living in the modern world, our bodies are constantly being exposed to toxic chemicals and if its within our power to pretty easily avoid some of them, why not?
What To Avoid
Nonstick Pots, Pans, and Baking Sheets
Nonstick pots, pans, and baking sheets are steal or aluminum cookware coated with polytertrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also know by the trademark Teflon. Nonstick cookware is known for its ability to be easily cleaned and requires little oil or fat to prevent the sticking of food.
But what is the fun of cooking without fat?
Nonstick coatings degrade over time and are easily scratched by metal cooking utensils and even harsh scrubbing. Once they begin to degrade, the nonstick coating can find its way into your food.
When cooking with PTFE coatings, there is a potential to produce toxic fumes.
Manufactures state that there is no danger when properly using nonstick coatings at normal cooking temperatures below 465 °F, yet test have shown that in just as little as two minutes on a stovetop the coating can reach temperatures at which toxic PFC gases are released.
These toxic gases have killed many pet birds- ever heard of a canary in a coal mine?
PFCs have been linked to short-term flu-like symptoms, smaller newborn birth weights, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, elevated cholesterol, liver inflammation, and weakened immune systems.
Aluminum pans are light weight and heat up very quickly- although usually too quickly and unevenly.
Aluminum is very abundant- the third most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. Yet given aluminum’s abundance, it plays no known role in any biological system.
Human’s have no daily requirement for aluminum and would be just find without it. We are, however, continually exposed to aluminum in various ways- our food, drink, antiperspirant deodorant, and more.
Aluminum has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as dialysis encephalopathy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Given that list of diseases, it makes little sense to take risks cooking with aluminum, a soft and highly reactive metal, cookware or utensils.
Plastic is everywhere!
The second World War produced a bustling chemical industry. Plastics were one of many products that have come from that boom.
Look around you right now. How many things are made of plastic? Its cheap and easy to mold into almost anything, making it a great material for countless applications.
Plastic, however, is not great for you or the environment.
Plastics never really go away. If they are actually broken down by nature, they under go photo-degradation not bio-degradation, a process that breaks down material into its basic build blocks and then cycles it back into the environment.
When plastics undergo photo-degradation, they just become tiny little pieces of plastic. A recent study of 24 German beers found tiny trace particles of plastic, microplastics, in every beer! Those plastic bits weren’t put there, but rather found their way into the beer because plastics have permeated our environment.
Drink out of a plastic bottle? Use plastic cooking utensils? Store food in plastic containers?
“Yes, but all my plastic is BPA free!”
Oh, it is? Well thats good to know but…
While BPA is a known endocrine disruptor and BPA containing plastic is known to readily leach BPA- thus leading to its widespread removal from any plastic that comes in contact with food- nearly all plastic products leach chemicals that disrupt our hormones.
I repeat: nearly all plastic products leach chemicals that disrupt our hormones. Added estrogen, guys. Drink up.
Yes, those BPA-free plastics are still leaking chemicals. What makes them leak chemicals faster? HEAT!
Given all the other options, plastics have no place in your kitchen.
What To Use
You just can’t beat the quality of a good cast iron skillet. They heat extremely evenly, can maintain a constant temperature, and if properly seasoned are virtually nonstick. For all these reasons, cast iron has been an ideal material for cookware for a very long time- since the Han Dynasty of ancient China.
When cooking with cast iron, especially dishes of higher acidity, dietary iron can leach from the the cookware into the food but unless you have hemochromatosis this is actually a good thing!
I use cast iron for nearly everything. I love the fact that I can take a pan from the stovetop to the oven without any problems. You can’t do that with any of the modern Teflon pans or a pan with a plastic handle- unless you’re trying to burn down your house rather than cook a meal.
One of my favorite things about cast iron is that you can find really nice old cast iron pots and pans at garage sales, flea markets, and antique stores. There is just something uniquely special about bringing life back to an old skillet that has helped to feed several generations before you.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron takes traditional cast iron and applies an enamel glaze, many times to the entire surface for the ability to add color to the cookware. I personally love the solid black of cast iron.
By adding an enamel coating, enameled cast iron does not have to be seasoned to avoid rusting. Additionally, since the metal is coated you can use soap when cleaning enameled cast iron, which would strip the lipid seasoning off the surface of traditional cast iron and open it up to oxidation (rusting).
With enameled cast iron though, you need to be more mindful of the utensils used and how rough you are on the cooking surface, since the enamel coating has the potential to chip.
Stainless steel is a chef’s favorite. Those nice shiny pans you see on cooking shows: stainless steel.
Stainless steel is great for browning foods given its ability to maintain a constant temperature.
With stainless steel, however, you are going to want to allow the cooking surface to heat up before you add your oil which also needs to heat up and then finally your food, otherwise you’ll be very frustrated as your meal sticks to your pan.
Cooking with stainless steel might take a second to get used to, but once you master it you’ll never want to go back to non-stick.
Personally, I save stainless steel for sauce pans and stock pots. I have a too strong of an allegiance to my cast iron skillets for everything else.
You’ve ditched plastic but you still have leftovers. What are you going to store your food in?
Glass is inert which means that it does not react with foreign substances or absorb them.
You can stick your glass container of leftover Chinese food right into the microwave or oven- I wouldn’t recommend the same with a styrofoam box.
I love glass storage containers, but my favorite glass receptacle is a mason jar. They are perfect for storing soups or chili and I regularly fill them with chicken stock and toss them in the freezer (I haven’t had one break yet. Just give the liquid room to expand as it freezes).
You can toss the mason jar – minus the lid- right in the microwave to heat up and then if you’re really lazy you can just drink soup or chili right out of the jar. Don’t judge me.
Silicon is an element on the periodic table. The synthetic material silicone is produced by the bonding of silicon with oxygen.
Once produced, silicon is inert and will not interact with your food. I love silicone’s softness on pans and find it to be the perfect tool for scraping the sides of cookware, lifting an omelet, or spreading food.
Yes, silicone is a more recent product and isn’t as tried and true as cast iron, stainless steel, or glass but I put my faith in it.
I just try to keep it away from longer contact with hot surfaces.
Bamboo is the largest member of the grass family and is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world.
Bamboo’s compressive strength is greater than wood, brick, or even concrete and has a tensile strength that rivals steel.
Given its growth rate and strength, bamboo is an amazing renewable resource.
A good varied set of bamboo utensils is very cheap and if they start to wear out, you can compost them!
I’m Not Sick Though… You’re Full of Crap
Now, you might say that you don’t feel sick. Maybe you consider yourself to be rather healthy- and this could very well be the case for the time being.
The toxic damage I’m talking about is accumulated slowly over time. Right at this very moment, you have cells that are mutating, potentially becoming cancerous. The good news for most, however, is that our body has a natural defense system that seeks out mutated and damage cells and initiates the cell’s self-destruct sequence.
Although, when we throw our body out of balance we hamper our natural defense system, increase the rate of mutating cells, or both.
Don’t turn your food into a ticking time bomb. Start taking steps today to clean up your kitchen and remove toxins from your life.