Let’s face it, we love our non-stick pans. The thrill of making a dosa without having it stuck to the pan is unbeatable. However, how much thought have you given to how safe this cookware is? Would it surprise you if we said that the fumes of an overheated Teflon coated nonstick pan can lead to the death of birds in seconds and in humans, inhaling the fumes can lead to developing flu-like symptoms. Studies show that prolonged use of this cookware can leave you susceptible to higher levels of cholesterol, low birth weight in newborns, and also elevated thyroid levels.
What are the options then? There are plenty – which are both safe and healthy.
Stainless Steel: This is something you will find in every kitchen. Stainless Steel is the magic metal of our century – a very stable and versatile metal, it is used to fashion various forms of cookware. In terms of cooking, the best thing about Stainless Steel is that it’s non reactive, and doesn’t leached into the food, so it can be used for any kind of food without impacting the flavor. It a tough iron alloy, which has chromium added to it, that prevents rusting, and it also doesn’t chip or break with every-day use. Finally it can be easily salvaged and recycled quite easily too.
Glass: While not a conventional choice for most Indian households, glass cookware are proving to be a safe option. Many households now use the OTG and microwave to cook and heat food. Plastic and glass cookware are the two most used cookware for this, and given the ill-effects of plastic it is advisable to use glass in place of plastic. As cookware, Glass traps heat better than most other options so the food stays warm for a longer period. Additionally glass poses no risk of rusting or leaching flavours into the food. It is also extremely easy to maintain, as long as you don’t drop it on the floor. Stain removal is easier in glass cookware, and it is a durable and tough material. Easily recyclable, glass can be handed over to your local kabadiwala too. The only word of caution here is that buying good quality glass from trusted brands is important, because poor quality options sometimes include lead which is harmful to health if used over a long time.
Earthenware (Clay): Is one of the earliest cookware options used by humans. Cooking in clay pots is said to provide the calcium, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, sulphur and several other compounds that are beneficial for our body! Clay pots are also alkaline in nature, so they mix well with acidic food to perfectly balance out the PH level of what you cook – making it healthier. Today, cookware made of clay is easily available and is also much lighter on the pocket than most other cooking options available in the market. Cooking with clay however, requires care, because sudden changes in temperature can result in the pot cracking. You can see this video to know more about how to buy and use earthenware pots.
Cast Iron: Cast Iron cookware has been used for centuries, and is an efficient and healthy cooking base. Once the cast iron is well seasoned it takes on the properties of a non-stick pan without being coated with synthetic and potentially hazardous substances. This way you will end up using less oil and enjoy a guilt free meal as well. For women who are iron deficient, cooking with cast iron can help boost the iron content, and it also enhances the properties of the food – especially green leafy foods (according to expert Praanic and Vegan food chef, Meenu Nageswaran). In addition, because of its heat retention abilities, it cooks things better – crisper dosas and well cooked vegetables is what you’ll get in relatively less time. Finally, cast iron cookware is known to last a long long time, and can easily be recycled into something else. Infact the more you cook in it the better, since it get seasoned. Once you’re done with them you can also use them as decorative pieces either as wall hangings or even planters.
The only thing to be careful about, is that cast iron utensils transfer heat and retain heat for a long time, so extreme caution is needed while cooking in them. It is also prone to rusting, hence it shouldn’t be left in water for too long, and they need to be cleaned carefully. It’s also best to use different type of cookware options in the kitchen as overuse of cast iron can also lead to iron levels increasing beyond acceptable limits.
Besides Teflon coated non-stick cookware, what you must absolutely avoid is Plastic. Plastics contain chemicals like Bisphenol A (BPA), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and phthalates that can get into your food. Using the microwave to heat food in plastic containers leads to the release of these chemicals and are known to cause all kinds of health ailments. More specifically, the plastic used for creating disposable serveware (take away containers commonly used) are particularly harmful and you should avoid storing and heating food in these.
While the market is flooded with various kinds of cookware, going back to our roots and perhaps using cookware that our grandmothers cooked is probably the best bet! If you’re interested in cast iron or clay cookware, check out The Village Fair Natural Cookware or Peacock Colours.