If cooking is an art, then the utensils are the canvas. With different cuisines in our country, even the variety of utensils are different – each has its own use. This makes it essential to know how the metals react to different foods. While we’re busy choosing fancy non-stick cookware or microwave friendly utensils, we need to understand that they aren’t safe as they can harm your health in the long run. Back in the day, clay pots, iron, brass and bronze utensils were used for cooking as they not only preserved the nutrients in food but also enhanced the taste.
How Do Different Utensils Impact Your Health?
- Stainless Steel: It is the most commonly used iron alloy made up of chromium, nickel, carbon and silicon and has aluminium or copper coating at the bottom for heating purposes. Stainless steel is considered the safest metal to use for cooking as it does not react with food or flake or leach harmful chemicals into the food leading to no adverse effects on the immune system.
- Aluminium: Our baking utensils are mostly made up of aluminum as the metal is ideal for high temperatures. Aluminum also has a larger than life use in our Indian Kitchen, in the form of utensils or a foil wrap. Food cooked in aluminum utensils tends to absorb aluminum because aluminum dissolves into food and water during the cooking process. But cooking alkaline foods in aluminum is completely safe for our immune system as the amount of aluminum soaked is very less. It is always better to avoid cooking acidic food like tomatoes or sauerkraut in aluminum as it can react quite badly with the metal and may release harmful compounds in your meal, making it dangerous to consume.
- Cast Iron: A very popular metal for our kitchens. All our kadhai, tavas and skillets are made of Cast Iron. Cooking in iron is an excellent way to add some iron in our diet as it leaches iron into our food. Iron is not only a metal but also an essential mineral required by the body. Imagine cooking an iron rich food in an iron pan, this would help you add value to the daily required Iron for your body. For example , premenopausal women require 18mg of iron per day and A serving of scrambled eggs cooked in a cast iron skillet increased from 1.49 mg to 4.76 mg of iron. And along with it, we can prepare tomato sauce in an iron pan that can provide 5mg off iron which is 60% of RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance). Infact, cooking regularly in iron utensils can help you hit the struggle to achieve daily iron RDA.
- Non-Stick: Mostly called as Teflon coating, this is an easy cookware to use and clean. But unfortunately, as a Nutritionist, I do not recommend excessive use of these utensils as the chemicals used to manufacture the non-stick coating can harm human health by causing abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, cancer, elevated cholesterol and reduced immune system response. We can use non-stick for a few recipes like pancakes, cheela or dosa which is not a daily staple meal. But, I would not recommend making paranthas or subzis on a daily basis.
- Glassware: Considered another Neutral cookware and a good heat conductor to consider for baking your dishes. Although a few unhealthy components such as lead and cadmium leach out in food while cooking but the amount is minimal to harm human health.
- Ceramic: is considered to be the safest when it comes to healthy cooking. An environment friendly cookware made using all-natural clay, water and gas. This can be a great replacement for dishes we cook in Teflon non-stick pans and pots as it does not affect the immune system adversely.
- Copper: An excellent metal to promote health from your kitchen. Copper utensils with tin or nickel coatings can be used for cooking rice due to its antibacterial properties or storing drinking water due to its medicinal properties, the ability to improve the digestive system, slow down ageing and heal wounds faster. Copper can also detoxify the body and increase Hemoglobin. But you need to take care while cooking in copper as acidic foods react with copper and can hinder the taste.
Every metal has its own pros and cons. The ideal way to cook is to choose the perfect cookware as per the recipe. Try some more ancient methods of cooking in iron, clay/earthen pots as they are not only safe but loaded with various health benefits like retaining/adding nutritive value to the food and helping the immune system.