If you’re like me, you regularly spend time cooking for your family at home. It can be both a chore and a delight. But have you ever bothered to think about whether your cookware is both environmentally friendly and good for your family?
It’s a thought that’s easy to skip. Cookware is something that once you have it, you’ll probably take it for granted, at least until the nonstick coating wears off.
That’s one of the biggest problems with Teflon cookware. That stuff comes off bit by bit through the years, guaranteeing that you will have to replace it regularly, and that your family is eating bits of Teflon. Not really what I want in my food, even though nothing is proven health-wise about it… unless you’re a bird, in which case I understand concerns have been demonstrated. Teflon can create a gas called PFOA that is poisonous to them when used at high temperatures.
The use of PFOA in making nonstick surfaces is decreasing already, as the EPA is working with companies to eliminate its emissions and product content by 2015.
Even if you aren’t concerned about the Teflon, having cookware that you have to replace regularly isn’t exactly environmentally friendly. Wouldn’t you rather have stuff that lasts longer?
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware is my absolute favorite. Heavy, takes a little extra care, but it lasts just about forever. My favorite skillet is a cast iron skillet that was handed down to me from my grandmother. So long as I take care of it, I may very well be able to hand it down to my own grandchildren.
Cast iron cookware does release a little iron into your food, in part depending on the acid content of the food. That’s not a bad thing, as many people need a little more iron in their diet.
You do not need huge amounts of oil to cook in cast iron. Keep your cookware well seasoned, and it is beautifully nonstick.
Best of all, even if you don’t have someone to inherit cast iron from, you may be able to find it in antique shops or thrift stores. There’s also plenty of new cast iron out there to be bought if you just aren’t having any luck.
If you don’t want iron leeching into your food, there are ceramic coated cast iron pans you can buy also. They come in some nice colors as well.
If you want something a little lighter, go for stainless steel cookware. These often have a core of aluminum or copper to help with heat distribution. I grew up using my mother’s stainless steel skillets, and they worked quite well. Quite reasonably nonstick too.
Old, dinged up stainless steel cookware can leech some chemicals, but only in small quantities.
“Eco Friendly” Nonstick Cookware
“Eco friendly” nonstick is a bit newer to the scene.It uses a nano coating, which not everyone is comfortable with, as the technology is quite a bit newer.
Thermolon is what the coating is usually called, and I have some concerns about whether or not it is really worthwhile. Looking at online reviews, people love it at first, but within a couple months in an awful lot of them start to have problems with food sticking badly to the cookware.
This type of cookware, for all it gets trumpeted as being green, I am much concerned is more of a greenwash. It’s not green if frustration with stickiness causes you to replace the pans in short order.
They’re also apparently quite susceptible to chipping, and some manufacturers recommend you hang them rather than store in a cabinet or drawer. I consider durability a part of being green, so these don’t do well in that respect.
Overall, despite the number of people calling this type of cookware green, I’m not convinced. I suggest sticking with more reliable types.
edited to add
I had a reader point out to me that glass is another great choice. I don’t know how I forgot my beautiful glass cookware. My Pyrex cookware is wonderful for cooking and storing the leftovers. You have to use it in the oven, not stovetop, but it’s amazing stuff. Wonderfully easy to clean since you can put it in the dishwasher if you like.