There’s been a lot of talk lately about the dangers lurking in our non-stick cookware. The chemicals used to coat the pans with a slick cooking surface are known as Perfluoroalkyl acids. Specifically, the compounds most often used in cookware are called PFOS and PFOA and besides giving non-stick cookware heat resistance these chemicals are found in fabrics, food packaging, stain resistant clothing and carpets. Hardly the kind of thing anyone would ingest voluntarily, but there we are cooking our foods on it.
What these chemicals do in the body is interesting. You would think that high levels of exposure would cause reactions similar to poisoning or toxicity. Instead, the compound travels to the liver and interferes with the way the body processes cholesterol and fat. Children and adults that were tested for concentration of PFOA in their blood following an accidental industrial exposure were found to have much lighter levels than expected… and along with it, higher total cholesterol levels and higher numbers associated with LDL (bad) cholesterol. While non-stick cookware won’t give you levels like those in the above scenario, it does build up over time, begging the question of whether or not the low-fat benefits associated with non-stick cookware is really worth it in the end. As well, PFOA and PFOS have been linked to certain types of cancers in animals, which again makes one wonder if it’s worth the ease in cleaning.
An alternative is to turn to cast-iron cookware for as many of your cooking needs as possible. Today’s cast iron can be found pre-seasoned or even enamel coated to improve the non-stick capabilities of the cookware. Popular brands include Lodge (USA), Staub (France), and Le Creuset (also France). Available in a wide array of colors, sizes and styles, these pots and pans offer excellent heat retention, even heating, and the ability to go from stovetop to oven and back again with ease. Cleanup is easy too – often warm water is all you need to clean the pan. Any leftover oils are meant to stay in the pan to help season it for future use. You skip the potentially cancer-causing chemicals and instead, you may get the added benefit of a little extra iron in your diet.