Q&A: Safe Cookware

  • May 12, 2011 10:08 am

THE QUESTION

Hi Alexandra–I absolutely love The Complete Organic Pregnancy! My hubby and I are actively trying to get pregnant, and I’m using your book as our bible to help get my body and our home baby-ready.

I have a quick question about cookware–I own a set of Farberware that has etched on the bottom “aluminum clad stainless steel.” Does this mean the stainless steel is layered within the aluminum? Or vice versa? If it’s the former, I’m thinking I should replace it with a cast iron or stainless steel set.
Many thanks in advance for your help!

Wishing you joy,
Marcela

THE ANSWER

Hi Marcela,

Actively trying to get pregnant can be a, um, fun time! Thinking about cookware? Less fun. So, thanks for the great question. Safe cookware is so incredibly important and can be so complicated. Aluminum Clad Stainless Steel is a tricky thing. Do a little research and different sources (including manufacturers) say different things. It seems like Aluminum Clad should mean a layer of stainless steel between two layers of aluminum; a metal clad with something means covered by it. However, some sites describe Aluminum Clad Stainless Steel as the exact opposite: a layer of aluminum between two layers of stainless steel. Oof. I’m not hugely fond of aluminum as a cooking surface. And if it is coated with a nonstick layer, which happens not infrequently, I would toss it right in the trash. Like, pronto. Stainless steel, on the other hand, is a perfectly fine surface for your food to come into contact with.

The best advice I can offer you is to do what I would do: read the product information very carefully and call your manufacturer (Faberware, in this case) with any questions about what the surface material is. If you have any lingering doubt after speaking with them, just go for the good stuff.  Lodge Cookware is an affordable, tried and true, and reliable option. I have a friend who “recycled” her old cookware and now uses her aluminum/nonstick pasta pot as a training potty for her son. True story.

Here is an excerpt from an recent post about safety and cookware that explains why we have to choose cooking surfaces so carefully when outfitting our kitchen:

As I discuss in The Conscious Kitchen, until recently most non-stick cookware was made with a chemical that has been linked to cancer, infertility, and complications during pregnancy. This chemical—perfluorooctanoic acid or PFOA—is so persistent it has been found in low levels in the blood of 98 percent of the general U.S. population. In 2005, DuPont settled with the EPA for $16.5 million for allegedly withholding PFOA health risk information. The EPA called on them and six other chemical companies to voluntarily eliminate PFOA and similar substances from plant emissions and products by 2015. In the kitchen, we’re exposed to it mainly through scratched pans, and these things scratch easily. They can also break down at high temperatures and the fumes can cause flu like symptoms in humans, and death in birds. Hello, canary in the coalmine.

There are new chemicals now being used to produce non-stick cookware as this phases out. The replacements are largely unknown, so their safety is also unknown. The safest thing to do is cook everything in tried and true durable materials: cast iron, enamel coated cast iron, and stainless steel.

What’s in your kitchen?

The Conscious Kitchen At The Books For A Better Life Awards Ceremony

  • March 7, 2011 9:48 am

You’re supposed to love all of your children the same. Right? Well I feel the same way about my books. They’re all so personal, such labors of love. I adore them all. That said, The Conscious Kitchen is the only one I have written (so far) that I didn’t co-author. It’s mine all mine. And it’s truly a description of how I approach food and everything in my kitchen (cleaning products, safe cookware and food storage, composting, not really following recipes, and so much more). It comes right from me to you in an effort to help people figure out how to navigate having and maintaining a green(er) kitchen, all while loving food. I think it’s a really helpful guide.

So I was understandably overwhelmed/touched/thrilled when my labor of kitchen love was named a finalist for a Books For A Better Life award. I found out many months ago about the nomination. And the ceremony is at long last happening this Monday, March 7th. My competition is truly fierce. I’m only expecting to show up at the Millenium Broadway Hotel in midtown and have a lovely glass of wine with my editor in a room filled with authors. But just in case for some reason I do win, I have the two minute speech they asked me to prepare. My hopes aren’t up but, um, it was really fun coming up with it.

WPIX NEWS New York City

  • April 21, 2010 10:33 am

As part of their Earth Week coverage, PIX news did a green kitchen segment featuring The Conscious Kitchen on their morning show. Here's Alexandra talking about natural cleaners, glass food storage, cast iron cookware, what's lurking in sponges and more.