Please pass on the plastic

Just another weblog

#34-Non- Stick is Sticky Issue July 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — michelleodonoghue @ 12:21 pm
Tags: ,

Many people still haven’t gotten the message about the chemical that makes non-stick pans work, so it’s worth repeating. The manufacturers of non-stick cookware have all agreed to voluntarily phase out 95 percent of perflurooctanoic acid, or “PFOA,” by 2010. That’s because the chemical has been associated with increased rates of several types of cancer, including prostate, pancreatic and testicular. (The evidence must be pretty strong for companies to stop selling popular products!) PFOA is also used to make fabrics and carpets stain-resistant, and is a common ingredient in cleaning products, shoes and cosmetics. But it’s the high heat that apparently makes it really dangerous. Cast iron or stainless steel pans are great for cooking, and a thin pat of butter will improve flavor while keeping most food from sticking.Long Island Press, 35 (plus 20) Green Ways We Can Save Your Money, Your World and Your Life

PFOA is used in many household products, including cookware, carpets (Stainmaster carpet treatment), draperies, pillows, adhesive tape, clothing, and food packaging (from microwave popcorn bags to pizza box liners). It makes sense to eliminate PFOA’s in as many areas of our lives as possible. (in the last couple of years we’ve eliminated all microwave popcorn–just the thought of the steam that comes out of that bag being laden with PFOA’s………., we’ve switched to stainless steel cookware, and I don’t treat our carpets and furniture with stainmaster).

According to SlashFood, here are some great alternatives to non-stick cookware:

  • Hard Anodized Aluminum – This finish is produced by exposing aluminum to an electrochemical bath. The anodization process hardens the surface of aluminum cookware making it non-stick, scratch-resistant and easy to clean. Unlike uncoated aluminum, it does not react to acidic foods. With no chemicals lingering on its surface, this is a great choice to replace chemically treated nonstick cookware.
  • Copper – An excellent conductor of heat, copper cookware looks beautiful as well as cooks beautifully. It must be lined with aluminum or stainless steel, however, as soft copper is easily dissolved by foods.
  • Stainless Steel – Made from iron and a combination of other metals, stainless steel is durable and non-corrosive. Cookware made from stainless steel will often have a copper or aluminum bottom, which will conduct heat much more evenly than the steel alone.
  • Cast Iron – Not only does cast iron provide reliable and sturdy cookware great for frying, it will add some of the important mineral iron to every dish cooked in it. Iron can rust, however, and must be sealed (seasoned) with oil or fat before use.
  • Enamel and Ceramic – These finishes are found on iron and steel cookware, making them scratch resistant as well as colorful. Otherwise, they have similar properties to their base materials.

According to the green guide, a trusted green health website, if you are not ready to get rid of your non-stick pans, here are some things to consider:

  • do not put pans on high heat (extreme heat)
  • place foods in pans before you turn on heat
  • avoid scratches and dents
  • do not use for broiling

It’s widely known — and perhaps it’s time for a refresher course — that overheating nonstick pots and pans may release fumes and produce symptoms called polymer fume fever. Humans get temporary flu-like symptoms, but birds have sensitive respiratory systems and can die. In fact, birds are sensitive to odors in general — they don’t have to come from nonstick pots. Birds should be kept away from kitchens and cleaning products.

My favorite pans to use are LE Creuset, but they are pricey. Over time it is worth phasing out your non-stick pans and replacing with alternatives. In the meantime, NO microwave popcorn!