Mar 13, 2011

Pots, Pans, Dishes: Which Ones are Safe?

Here's a question from a Real Food in Little Rock reader and my (Lisa's) answer. We thought it might be beneficial to others. This is a difficult topic about which to get accurate information. We welcome input from others who have done some research in this area.

Hi Lisa & Julie,

Have you done any blog posts about pots and pans that are safe to use? I am doing a lot of reading about that right now, and it’s so hard to sort through what is safe – or safe enough and affordable. Do you have any thoughts you can share about what you’ve chosen to use for your own families?

That's a tough subject. I've done research, but still don't know for sure. This is what I've chosen for now.

Vision Cookware - made of glass. I use Vision pots on the stovetop. These pots are no longer manufactured because there were problems with them shattering when the temperature is changed too quickly. They can only be purchased used. I've had trouble with chipping and breaking mine, but I've not had any of them shatter or explode from temperature change. I heat them carefully and don't go straight from the refrigerator to high heat. Food burns easily to the bottom of these, so they are best for soups, liquids, vegetables...things that don't burn quickly. You can buy them on Ebay.

Cast iron skillets. I recently read some things about possible dangers of the preseasoned ones, but I don't really know anything about this. Mine were preseasoned, but I expect they've gotten enough use and re-seasoning by now that whatever that was is gone. I use a light coat of spetrum coconut spray on the skillet before pre-heating, then add any additional oil I want before putting the food in the pan. This works well to prevent sticking - even eggs. You can buy fitted potholders for the handles, like the red one in the picture, at Cracker Barrel.

Soapstone pot. I love my soapstone pot. It is heavy and was expensive, but they are supposed to last many lifetimes. It is great for cooking rice, beans, soups, oatmeal. I use it mostly on the stovetop, but sometimes in the oven, as well. It heats evenly and keeps food warm for a long time.

Hamilton Beach crockpot. Hamilton Beach claims there is no lead in their ceramic coating. I hope this is true. I have the version that has 3 interchangeable crocks of different sizes. The largest is a 6 quart which I use to make broth. I use my crockpot constantly.

I also have a large 7 quart Cook's enamel coated cast iron pot from Penny's which I use occassionally on the stovetop and in the oven. I have no idea if the coating is safe. I love the way they cook, but the coating isn't durable for someone who cooks as much as I do. I had a 3 quart pot which I used every day. After about 6 months the enamel had crack lines all through it and had chipped off in places. This motivated me to invest in the soapstone which I won't have to replace.

I use wooden spoons with all my cookware, not only because they are non-toxic, but also because they don't scratch. I purchased my wooden spoons from They are used constantly in my kitchen.

After researching lead in the glazes on dishes, I opted for cheap clear glassware from Bed Bath and Beyond and Garden Ridge. They sell it for weddings and stuff. 8 dishes for $8 - can't beat that. We break it frequently, but it's cheap to replace.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you discover anything really helpful in your research. I still have a lot of questions about cookware myself.

See what others are saying on Monday Mania with The Healthy Home Economist.

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  1. I haven't heard anything bad about stainless steel. Have you?

  2. Wise Traditions (published quarterly for members of the Weston A. Price Foundation) ran an article titled "Mad as a Hatter" in the April 2009 issue with this warning:

    COOKWARE: Glass, cast iron, carbon steel, titanium and lead-free crock pots (slow cookers) and enamels are best. Obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) data from the manufacturers for evaluation if possible, especially in the case of enamels and slow cookers. The FDA alleges that the risks from lead in slow cookers are acceptable, but consumers may want to find products that have been proven lead free and not just meeting “FDA standards.” Hamilton-Beach claims its crockpot is lead free. Aluminum and teflon are well known for their health dangers. Less known is the fact that stainless steel exposes people to accumulations of carcinogenic nickel, and often cobalt and chromium, as well. Although some high-grade stainless steels are supposed to be risk free, they may be so only in water at near-neutral pH. None of the 300 and 400 series stainless steels evaluated are stable in tomato acids and salt. Series 316 corrosion-resistant stainless steel is the best (used in Saladmaster brand cookware). It is resistant to tomato juice and vinegar, but corrodes with exposure to citric acid and salt (so add salt after cooking). Sadly, Corning glassware is no longer in production, but eBay is a good source. There are many high-end enamel cookware products, including Le Creuset.

    Here's a link to the whole article:

  3. Thanks for addressing my question! :) This looks like a good place for me to start, and I look forward to seeing what other comments are left. Lisa - Thanks for all the additional info there, too!



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