Each week, my inbox fills with questions: on the goodness of natural sweeteners, on fermented foods, on finding grass-fed meat or raw milk, and on nontoxic cookware. So I thought I'd share with you what I use, why I use it (and I have a little surprise for you, too.)
How (and Why) I Abandoned Nonstick Cookware
About twelve years ago, I gave away our cheap nonstick pans in favor of cast iron, enameled cast iron and stainless steel. My husband and I petsitting a coworker's parrots, a beautiful Macaw and a talkative African Grey, and she warned me not to cook in any nonstick pans while in the presence of her parrots. I gave her a long side-eyed glance, wondering to myself if she might be a little too protective with her precious birds. So, I looked into the issue further and learned that nonstick cookware is implicated not only in the death of exotic birds like house parrots, but also other birds like chicks (read it here).
When I considered that the polytetrafluoroethylene in nonstick-coated pans could kill birds, I wondered to what extent they might negatively affect my health as well, especially with everyday use.
The Cookware I Use
So I began to switch my cookware, favoring stainless steel, cast iron and enameled cast iron. Stainless steel is excellent for searing meats, and for boiling pasta and potatoes, or for making homemade bone broth. Enameled cast iron is excellent for braising, stewing, and for making long-simmered soups and sauces, while regular cast iron is excellent for frying.
What to Look for in Stainless Steel
When purchasing stainless steel, it's a good thing to look out for a few things: namely the metals in the steel, and its weight. Heavy pots are sturdier pots, and their weight and sturdiness helps to prevent the hot spots that tend to form in lighter weight pans, as a result foods are cooked more evenly.
Copper is an efficient conductor of heat, so stainless steel that includes copper heats efficiently and thoroughly, preventing hot spots and promoting even cooking. Because copper conducts heat so efficiently, it reacts more quickly to changes in temperature on your cooktop, so it heats and cools quickly and efficiently.
Titanium also adds strength to good stainless steel pots, increasing their durability, and helping them to withstand the rigors of everyday cooking.
I recently developed a nickel sensitivity, and so had to switch out my regular stainless steel pans (which invariably include nickel among the metals) to a nickel-free version. I also switched out all my earring posts, as I was reacting allergically to the nickel in them as well. It's relatively easy to become sensitized to nickel, and then to react to it after prolonged exposure, which for many of us, comes from both jewelry and cookware.