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Cookware - Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, Anodized Aluminum - What is the Best Cookware?

Updated on November 14, 2011

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Is American Made Cookware Safer?

Is anything made in America anymore? Not much it seems. Just go into any Target, Walmart, or other “Variety Store” turn over the Cookware and see where it’s made. I’d bet you have a really hard time finding any of it made in America!

Why does it matter really? Well the only real reason it matters is there are Manufacturing and Safety standards in place for American Made Goods.

Most of us take our Cookware for granted. We purchase and use whatever is in the store with the assumption that it’s safe to use. Unfortunately this assumption may not be the case.

I watched a recent news story on ceramic cookware coming out of China and every single piece tested contained at least some amount of lead. Led is very toxic. Continual exposure even at low levels can damage the nervous system. Children are more susceptible as their bodies are rapidly developing.

Most Ceramic Glaze contains lead, but if fired properly the lead is contained within the piece and (at least in theory) should not leach out into the food.

The NY Times reported that some ceramic pieces they tested contained as much as 1,000 times the lead levels as set by the FDA as safe. China, Mexico, India, and Hong Kong pieces were singled out.

Another issue is that with time as ceramic pieces age and are washed the glaze wears off giving the lead contained within the ceramic an opportunity to leech into foods.

Educate Yourself About Cookware

Nonstick cookware should be discarded once flaking begins. The FDA claims that there is no research to indicate that flakes of Teflon and related materials pose a health threat, who wants to consume Teflon? Dupont the manufacturer of Teflon claims that the chemicals which caused so many deaths in one of the cities where they make the product are not present in the finished product. For me I choose just to avoid Teflon products completely.

Stainless Steel Cookware is “relatively” safe to use; however there are different grades and qualities. This means all “mixes” of stainless steel are not the same. Stainless steel is a mixture of Nickel, Iron, Chromium, Molybdenum and even titanium… to qualify as “stainless” the mix must contain 11% chromium. Stainless steel does not conduct heat evenly so you’ll usually find it mixed with an Aluminum bottom in cheaper cookware like the Mirro Brand and copper in more expensive cookware. Nickel is highly toxic to the body but seems to be contained within the metal. Some foods that are highly acidic like tomatoes are potentially more likely to leech trace amounts from the metal. This is especially true of Aluminum Cookware.

Stainless is readily attacked by organic acids, particularly at cooking temperatures; hence iron, chromium, and nickel should be released from the material into the food. – PennStateUniversity Research

Aluminum Cookware. Aluminum is a metal you do not want to ingest, but we still do. Aluminum is used in antacid tablets and buffered aspirin (50mg and 10-20mg) respectively according to research done at TuftsUniversity if you used Aluminum Cookware each day you would ingest 3.5mg per day. Safe? Who knows? Highly acidic foods will “pull” the aluminum into the food in higher amounts.

Anodized Aluminum Cookware is made from a process which hardens the surface of aluminum making it scratch resistant and essentially non-stick. The benefit of course is the pans are easier to clean. The claim is this process will prevent aluminum from leeching into foods. Calphalon nonstick cookware is wildly successful.

Cast Iron Cookware has been around a very long time. Cast Iron must be “seasoned” before use and is made out of Iron – obviously. The human body actually needs iron but only in small amounts. Cast Iron will rust! Cast Iron is heavy and can be difficult for people with smaller frames to work with. Enameled cast iron is probably the safest cookware you can by as there is no research to show that anything is leeched from the enameled surface. Could be true from enameled steel as well. This appears to be the safest choice.

Glass Cookware like the Pyrex products appear to be safe in terms of leeching but can be very dangerous if dropped or they can actually explode if accidently left on a cook top burner.

The bottom line is we must cook our food in something. And everything seems to have some level of leeching. American Made products consistently contain lower amounts of leeched chemicals due to higher manufacturing standards imposed by Federal Laws. There are so many manufacturers and levels of quality within a manufacturer – Kitchenaid, Emeril, Farberware, Circulon, Cuisinart, Le Creuset, Corniningware all make very effective cooking products. What you choose is usually a matter of cost and personal preference. Now you should consider safety.

American Cookware Manufacturers

All-Clad Metal Crafters is the best known American Made Cookware manufacturer although they make the Emeril Line of Cookware for distribution in stores like Bed, Bath, Beyond that line is made in China.

For a complete listing of Cookware Manufacturers can be found at the American Housewares Association .

Comments Welcome

Stainless Steel Cookware Set

Photo of stainless steel cookware offered by All-Clad
Photo of stainless steel cookware offered by All-Clad

Kirkland (Costco Brand) Signature Cookware is avialable at Amazon at really good prices... check it out!


Submit a Comment

  • MikeNV profile image

    MikeNV 7 years ago from Henderson, NV

    jean. I posted your comment but fail to see the point really.

    We live in a Toxic World. No one knows for certain the adverse effects either from a single exposure or from cumulative exposure will have on a particular individual.

    "Smart" (And I use that term loosely) people choose to avoid toxins regardless of source whenever possible.

  • profile image

    jean 7 years ago

    teflon start leeching at only 396F but Its MINUSCULE

    theres more teflon in a non-organic fish than that the pan will leech If kept under 490F. Vision glassware makes skillets and dutch oven pots that will resist everything and no leech but will lose some vitamins because of the light of the "top oven". black cast Iron will leech iron that is not organic ( not from the food ) and the body assimilates it hardly, but will eventualy be able to wash it from the body. Not recommended because theres enough iron in the red meat. Only european enamel cast iron from le creuset and le chasseur will not leech. but their enamel skillet are hard to find. (thats what the pope uses) Its 360$ each here. everything else is complete bullshit. I eat with wood utensils. the stainless steel leeches nickel. Get some high grade japan or european ceramic steak knives.

  • profile image

    Sharon 8 years ago

    Thanks for the article. It helped immensely in an important decision about replacing my worn out Teflon cookware.