Aluminum’s useful properties mean that you’ll find it everywhere, even in the kitchen. When it comes to cooking our food, however, using this metal might be problematic. It leaches into the food consumed by you and your family. While not dangerous on a once-off basis, over time continued consumption of small amounts of aluminum may have health consequences.
Owing to these health concerns, many people are choosing to switch to stainless steel cookware that does not contain aluminum.
Why avoid aluminum cookware?
Stainless steel is not very conductive, while aluminum offers excellent thermal conductivity. It’s also lightweight and durable, which is why you’ll often find it in stainless steel cookware. Despite these benefits, research suggests it might be prudent to avoid cookware that contains aluminum.
There is no single living life form that uses aluminum as part of the biochemical process. It has a tendency to accumulate in the brain and bones. Excessive aluminum consumption has been linked to a number conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Also, oddly enough, children who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder have higher levels of aluminum in their hair samples.
Fluoride is a byproduct of aluminum, which can have an effect on children’s neurological development. Fluoride consumption can also lead to a deterioration of the bones, often resulting in hip and knee problems in the elderly.
Individuals with kidney problems are especially at risk as they may have difficulty removing the metal from their bodies, causing it to build up over time.
According to estimates given by the World Health Organization, healthy adults can consume a small amount of aluminum without harm. There are precautions you can take to reduce how much aluminum makes its way from the cookware into your food.
- Avoid using pitted pots and pans.
- Do not use abrasive sponges or cooking utensils that damage the surface of your cookware.
- Do not store food in aluminum cookware for prolonged periods of time, especially leftovers.
Leafy vegetables and acidic foods (such as tomatoes and citrus) absorb the most aluminum from cookware.
A note about anodized aluminum: You may have heard about this alternative to standard aluminum. While the process to create an anodized coating does make aluminum cookware less reactive, this coating can eventually wear off.
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What are good alternatives to aluminum?
While it’s unlikely the aluminum core of your stainless steel cookware will seep into your cooking, repeated use over years will wear away the steel. This could expose your food to the aluminum. Negligent cleaning, by way of steel scrubbers, will do this. So, what are the best pieces of stainless steel cookware that you can use instead?
Avoid damaging your pans by cleaning them with the best sponges for stainless steel cookware.
One option is copper core stainless steel cookware. Copper offers a similar level of thermal conductivity to aluminum, making it a viable alternative. One factor to consider regarding the healthfulness of copper cookware is that copper can also leach into the food.
According to studies, the average adult should limit their copper intake to 900 micrograms daily. It is possible to exceed this amount if you’re consuming a lot of food or beverages prepared in copper pots and pans.
There are many excellent copper-based stainless steel cookware products on the market. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular brands.
All-Clad is known for its quality cookware, which is sold individually and as sets in varying sizes. Their 10-piece set includes an 8-inch and 10-inch frying pan, 2-quart and 3-quart sized saucepans, a 3-quart sauté pan, an 8-quart stockpot, and 4 lids.
All pieces contain 5-ply bonded layers of stainless steel and copper, which allows for even heating. While there are aluminum layers sandwiched inside, the stainless steel exterior will prevent it from mixing with your foods, making it a safer alternative.
I recommend hand-washing this superior set of pots and pans to avoid water spots and potential damage. All-Clad has a lifetime warranty against defects, making this a sensible, quality purchase that won’t need replacing.
Sitram’s Catering line uses 18/10 stainless steel over a thick copper core. The copper allows for a higher cooking temperature, even heat distribution, and a quick response time to temperature changes. Sitram offers high-quality, open stock items (meaning they don’t sell their products in a set). Each piece must be purchased separately.
These commercial grade products can withstand temperatures of up to 1,800°F and are suitable for gas, electric, or ceramic stovetops. They are also oven-safe!
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You can also find stainless steel cookware that uses neither copper nor aluminum. These are highly recommended by professional chefs, but can be hard to come by. The two grades in the ‘300 series’ used for pots and pans are 304 and 316. While the difference between these two grades is minimal, 316 contains a small percentage of molybdenum or titanium. This cookware is more expensive, but is also more corrosion-resistant.
The 316 grade is known as marine stainless steel and resists salt water erosion. Another name for this superior grade is surgical steel, as it’s used in the medical industry. If you can afford it, get a 316-grade pot. They have a high resistance to erosion and leaching of chromium or nickel. The base of all 316-grade cookware is normally stamped with 18/10.
Cuisinart Chef’s Classic
Cuisinart’s Chef’s Classic cookware sets are made of heavy-duty, premium stainless steel. Safe for temperatures up to 500°F, the pieces in this set can be used on the stovetop (gas, electric, glass ceramic and halogen), in oven, or under broiler, and is freezer safe.
The 11-piece set includes 1, 2, and 3 quart saucepans with covers, a 3 quart saute with helper handle and cover, an 8 quart stockpot with cover, an 8 inch non-stick skillet, a 10 inch skillet with cover, and an 18 cm steamer insert.
Unlike Cuisinart’s Multiclad Pro line, which features 3-ply construction, the body of the Chef’s Classic pots and pans are entirely stainless. The aluminum core is encapsulated deep inside the base of the cookware, far away from your food.
Alternatives to stainless steel
It’s difficult to find stainless steel pots and pans without added aluminum. If you still have concerns about the healthfulness of your kitchenware, consider switching to ceramics. Learn more about ceramic cookware by clicking this link.
You might also want to try cooking with cast iron, instead. Cast iron is safe, durable, and even has health benefits!
Be aware of what you’re eating!
Healthy cooking isn’t just about the food. It’s important to do a little research before purchasing the cookware in which you prepare it. There are a lot of great pieces on the market, but you may wish to avoid ones that contain aluminum. It’s worth spending the extra money for peace of mind and the longevity of a quality product.
Protect your All-Clad stainless steel cookware. Follow my handy tips to keep your cookware in tip top shape.
For great healthy ideas on how to use your aluminum-free cookware, check out this post on how to prepare Brussels sprouts. You might also like these articles on pizza cooked in a cast iron skillet and my recipe for pan-fried walleye fillets.