Is your cookware killing you?

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Hey, Jay, look at this." I held up the pan for him to inspect. "You see that? All those pock-marks and pits?"

"Yeah, you're right!"

"Well, I feel ripped off! This is my new pan that I just got from Epicure Selections last year! It's supposed to have the most super-duperest Excalibur Teflon coating ever!"

I thought perhaps it was just a faulty pan. We had never used anything but nylon or bamboo cooking utensils in it, and it had only gone through the dishwasher once, when Jason accidentally forgot the "no Teflon in the dishwasher" rule. (Even though I think the instructions that came with the pan said that although it was dishwasher safe, hand washing was recommended to prolong the life of the coating.)

This conversation took place only days before I received the following e-mail from my friend Candace. (It has been edited slightly, but I had her permission to put it in here.)


I've been doing some research on Teflon and I've found a few things that might interest you. Tony and I had this demo the other day for Saladmaster cookware. I was thinking of you and your pampered chef pots. Are they all Teflon coated? After this demo that the lady did, I pulled out all my pots and pans and got rid of them. We bought the Saladmaster ones that night and they were here in two days. They are so fun to use and I could write for hours about why I love 'em, but you really need to see this demo for yourself.

What happens is she comes to your house and cooks dinner for you using the pots and pans. That's it. Then she does this baking soda test in your current pots to see what is getting into your food. Of course the soda draws it out faster and in bigger quantities so you can taste the impurities coming out of the metals, but it happens every time you use them in trace amounts that you ingest. After reading your blog and all the great stuff on there (I GOTTA GET A COW!!!) I thought I'd get some links for you.

Here are a few of them:

Teflon Is Poison taken from ABC News 20/20
EPA Accuses DuPont of Failing to Report Health Risks of Teflon
It's Not Nice To Poison People And Not Tell EPA
Teflon's sticky situation - a BBC article detailing allegations that Teflon causes birth defects

Anyways, my pots were a high quality stainless steel and when she did the test in them, all my metal fillings started to ache. Stainless steel heats and it's pores open up, releasing aluminum that you can TASTE! EEEWWW. I'm using aluminum free deodorant and was getting twice as much every time I cooked. No thanks.

These pots are very expensive, but they are lifetime guaranteed for everything. For us, it was the health benefits and knowing I'm not slowly poisoning my kids. Since Naomi was born, I've had this strange flu-like sickness that I thought was mild mastitis or something, but both times I got it, we'd had perogies fried in my former Pampered Chef Teflon coated skillet. It hasn't happened since I stopped using my Teflon which was a month ago.



PS I burned some asparagus in one of my new pots, really badly. Not used to the great heat transfer. There was no burnt taste in the rest of the asparagus in the pot and I was able to clean it with just a cloth, no scrubbing at all! There are no pores in this surgical steel making it cleanable with a paper towel!
So today I went out and bought a cast iron frying pan. The pan is curing in the oven as I type. As soon as it is done, I will be throwing away most, if not all, of my Teflon--especially any that show any signs of deterioration. (I may wait on getting rid of it all until I have more than just one pan to replace the use of all those other pans. However, knowing me, I'll still be avoiding using them like the plague!) The 12" pan I bought today was only $19.99 at Home Hardware (as opposed to the $47 Excalibur pan I was replacing). There was a 10" one I plan to get as well that was only $14.99.

Why cast iron? (Besides the price?):

Eating Healthy? Get Out the Cast Iron Skillet: "A cast iron skillet seems dated when compared to today's electric appliances. But cast iron skillets are making a comback and for good reasons. Consider these features.

DURABILITY. Cast iron skillets have stood the test of time. They're so durable they've been passed down from mother, to daughter, to grandaughter.

USABILITY. You may use a cast iron skillet on your stove top, in the oven, over an open fire, on charcoal or gas grill. Better yet, today's cast iron skillets come with a non-stick coating.

VARIETY. A six-inch skillet is perfect for fixing a meal for one. The larger 10-inch skillet is just right for family meals. Grill pans - skillets with ridges on the bottom - are also available.

COST. You'll search far and wide before you find a better value. A six-inch skillet costs about $8 and a 10-inch skillet costs about $17, not bad for a lifetime investment. The cost of a grill pan varies, depending on whether the exterior has an enamel coating."
While trying to ascertain the safety, health-wise, of cooking in cast iron (would it put too much iron or the wrong form of iron into the diet?) I came across the following links:

How safe are cast-iron skillets?
Made of Iron

Of especial interest from the second article (Made of Iron):

Although many people are not getting enough iron in their diets, Dr. Inwood, Medical Director of Hemotology and Oncology at St.Josephs Health Center, says taking supplements is not an easy solution.

"Iron is an important, absolutely vital element, but I think we have to recognize that if a person takes too much iron, they are at risk of damaging their vital organs"...

While there are 52 different types of iron, heme iron found in meat is, is easily the most readily absorbed. Liver, kidney and other organ meats are an excellent source of iron.

Vegetarians must work harder to get iron. Eggs, lentils, dried peas or beans and green leafy vegetables can be eaten with Vitamin C to increase iron absorption.

Even cooking food in cast iron cookware can increase the amount of iron in what you eat. The more iron the body needs, the more it will absorb. For some people, especially menstruating, or pregnant women, it is extremely difficult to get enough iron from food alone. For people in these groups and people who are generally feeling run-down and tired, Jill Fraser recommends a multi-vitamin with iron.

While these were the most relevant segments to this post, I highly recommend reading the whole article. (It is not very long, so quoting any more of it would have gone beyond the boundaries of "fair use.")

For an interesting article about someone's personal experiences with a cast-iron wok, click here.

I also found the following website which specializes in cast-iron pieces of all shapes and sizes. I haven't shopped from it yet, so if anyone does, please review your experience with it in the comments section of this post. (Even if this is an "old post". Other people will be able to view it easily from my "Health Nuggets" link, and may find the information helpful.)

Kamala Health & Beauty: Cast-Iron Cauldron Index

Like so many things with health, this is a personal decision. I plan on viewing the Saladmaster demo, but in the interim (before we can afford to throw out all our pots and pans and invest in the highest-grade surgical steel option available), cast iron is an easily-accessible, and easily-affordable, beneficial replacement to my poisonous (!) Teflon pans. Who knew?

(Maybe I could sue Teflon for the death of my cockatiel at the age of 4--if only she hadn't been in the basement!*)

This cartoon has not much to do with this post, (okay, maybe it does), but I just had to put it in here. It's too true. I took it from Here is the trackback for this cartoon.

*This taken from duPont's website:

Birds should not be kept in the kitchen.

Fumes emitted from burned foods cooked in any type of pan can affect pet birds. Severely overheated non-stick cookware also can affect pet birds. However, the temperatures required to burn foods are significantly lower than those at which decomposition of non-stick coatings occur. Because they have highly sensitive respiratory systems, birds are more at risk from burning butters and oils, aerosol sprays and cleaning solvents. “Since food can be inadvertently burned in any type of pot or pan, it is important to keep birds out of the kitchen while cooking, and away from any other area of the house where birds are at risk of breathing in fumes,” according to Dr. Karen Rosenthal, DVM MS, an Avian Veterinarian and Director of Special Species Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania:"

You Might Also Like


  1. we still use heavy iron pots and pans at home... the heat is more even too.. even though non stick pans have been introduced just recently.. cast iron cooking utensils have been used for ages.

    sigh,...the old ways were the best ways.

  2. I'd being having Teflon questions with myself lately and was considering on buying one piece at a time to eventually replace my stuff. Thanks for writing this!

  3. I stopped using Teflon awhile ago. I've been using steel, but want to get some cast iron specifically for the durability (Charles is a NIGHTMARE in the kitchen) and the iron supplementation.

  4. My wife learnt the same fact about teflon. She first threw all non-stick ware out and then started shopping for cast-iron stuff. I could not convince her to revers the order of those two things.

  5. Grafx - Yup. Cast iron has definitely stood the test of time. Apparently, there are some things you can't improve on.

    Colleen - Interesting. What caused you to start questioning the virtues of Teflon?

    Jenn - Yeah, I wish I woulda thought of cast iron pans while I was pregnant--would have been easier to get my daily dose of iron.

    Twisted DNA - Thanks for dropping by my site! Ha, ha! That sounds like a typical husband/wife scenario. Ironically, Jason did not even try to convince me otherwise, which is a little out of character for him. Maybe he believed me for once!

  6. Jhantu - *giggle* Funny! Thanks for dropping by!

  7. I don't know. Inklings. I guess I have heard talk about it and other cheap cookware. I've probably read it somewhere and it so seeped into my subconscious that I've begun to "what's up?" with my cookware.

  8. I couldn't agree more! I just bought Dr. Mercola's Range Kleen 5 piece set of enameled cast iron cookware for less than $200 and it is great!!! He walks you step by step through why enamled cast iron is the safest, healthiest and best. Here's the link:
    Rebecca Biffert

  9. Thanks, Rebecca! I've been eyeing up that cookware myself, but have opted (for now) to just buy regular old cast iron from a local source, to save on the shipping. I AM looking for a good cast iron waffle iron, though!

    Hopefully some of my other readers will benefit from that tip.

    Also, HEY! Good to see you here! Hope all is well with you and the wee one. (P.S. Saw your hubby in the last Alumni newsletter. Very cool. It was like, "Hey, I know him!" :-D)


Thank you for commenting today! I want to make sure you get my reply. Make sure you sign up for follow-up e-mails on this post, as I will be replying to you in the comments section here!

Popular Posts

Blog Archive