We all have that one cast iron skillet that was passed down from our mother's grandmother. This skillet has fried countless pieces of chicken and cooked endless grilled cheeses to perfection. It has also endured lots of wear and tear, and it could be hazardous to your health. When do you know when it's time to depart from your beloved cookware? Here are three signs that you need to throw away your old pots and pans along with a couple of things you should know about your cookware.
Cookware that is covered rusted or discolored should obviously be tossed in the trash. The main reason being that the rust can chip off into your food. While rust isn't known to cause any serious health complications, no one wants little pieces of rust in their spaghetti. Ew! If you do find a little rust on your pot or pan, it can easily be removed with a salt scrub and warm vinegar bath. However, it is still best to replace the cookware.
Years of scrambling eggs and sauteing vegetables can wreak havoc on the surface of your skillet. When this happens, it's time to let it go. Not only will you have to add more oil for your food not to stick but harmful chemicals, that we will delve into later, can permeate your food. You can even mistake these chemical specks for black pepper. Knowing that should be enough to have you rushing to throw out your old pots and pans!
When the surface is your skillet or pot is warped it could really affect the quality of your food. To explain, pans that don't lay flat on the burner will not properly cook the food. A crooked old pan can leave you with undercooked hamburger patties or doughy pancakes. Gross!
The most commonly used type of cookware is that made with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating, often referred to as Teflon. A huge benefit to this type of cookware is the reduces likelihood of food sticking or burning. Therefore, non-stick cookware is a staple in many kitchens. Although these type of kitchenware is beneficial, it comes with some drawbacks.
Fluoropolymers such as polytetrafluoroethylene and other substances containing polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl compounds (PFA's) are oftentimes used in most non-stick kitchenware. These chemicals are very toxic and when exposed to heat they become a source of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA has been linked to an array of health issues including thyroid disease, infertility, organ damage and developmental and reproductive problems.
Alarmingly, the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has proclaimed perfluorinated compounds (PFC's) as "likely carcinogens". In other words, non-stick cookware could cause cancer. In spite of its negative health effects, these substances are still used in conventional cookware. A study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about 98% of Americans have traces of PFA's or PFC's in their bodies. Scary, right? The good news is that there are safer kitchenware alternatives.
Ceramic is a popular alternative to the conventional Teflon kitchenware. It has the same function as traditional non-stick pots and pans, but it doesn't contain traces of toxic PFC's. A ceramic cookware brand, in particular, is Neoflam. Neoflam uses advanced technology to craft safer non-stick coatings.
Stoneware is similar to ceramic in that it is a combination of crushed stone and a PTFE-free coating. It serves the same purpose as conventional non-stick kitchenware. A great brand of stoneware is Swiss Diamond. Their non-stick frying pan is a favorite amongst consumers looking for a Teflon-like surface without the dangerous chemicals.
Cast iron is a traditional cooking material. It is easy to clean, rugged, and most importantly non-stick. Solid Teknics produce superb quality cast iron kitchenware that can be used for a variety of culinary needs.
Stainless steel is another safe non-stick cooking alternative for most forms of cooking. However, there are some foods that may result in sticking to the surface when exposed to high temperatures, therefore, you may have to use a bit of oil or cooking spray.