For most people, we leave the food queries to the dieticians and other experts. Could our cooking equipment predispose us to diseases especially cancer? So what is food-grade equipment?
In this article, we look at the pros and cons of different cookware we use in our day-to-day life. How do we identify carcinogenic cookware? Are our cooking equipment safe?
Over the years, cookware has evolved with different materials used. Are the materials used safe for human food preparation? What are the advantages of different materials?
How to identify Food Grade Quality Cookware?
- Clay Pots
In the African setup especially in the rural areas, clay cooking pots have been used over the years for cooking and food storage as well. Clay pots are also used in Indian setup. One advantage of these pots is that it cooks slowly and retain the food flavour. It is also important to note that food cooked in clay pots tends to be rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium.
However, these pots have to be handled with care because they are fragile; they easily break.
- Silicone equipment
Recently, silicon has dominated the market in terms of kitchen equipment. A lot of baking equipment has moved from the traditional to silicon, Silicon brushes, cupcake moulds, spatulas, etc.
Silicone is a synthetic rubber that has been bonded with either silicon and/or carbon. It withstands high temperatures some say up to 220C. It has non-stick properties thus a good material for either baking or storing ice cubes.
However silicone is not sturdy, it is too flexible/ flimsy to hand food if filled to the brim. There is limited study on the safety of silicone. It is important to get good quality silicone ware because the low-quality silicone cookware may be full of fillers that are toxic when consumed. When buying silicone cookware, look for food-grade 100% silicone.
- Marble cookware
This type of cookware is coated with marble rather than chemicals for the non-stick effect. Marble is considered safe as opposed to the other non-stick coating material.
A downside is that marble just like the rest of nonstick cookware is subject to scratching and stains. Therefore more care when cleaning such equipment.
- Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic cookware is actually a metallic pan that is coated with a gel to ensure that they are non-stick. However, with time the gel wears off and loses the non-stick property. Ceramic pans are easy to clean.
On the other hand, ceramic pots have their own share of disadvantages. One, the heat distribution is uneven. In addition, ceramic pots are not as durable as other cookware e.g. stainless steel, cast iron (skillets). However, very few studies on the safety of ceramic cookware.
- Aluminium pans
Aluminium is a good conductor of heat. Meaning it heats and cools quite fast. It is quite affordable and versatile, used for bakeware and cooking. The trick when purchasing aluminium, get a heavy gauge (for laymen, get a heavy pan). Good quality aluminum pan is an alloy (mix of different metals) for example aluzinc, aluminium oxide. These alloys are heavier, corrosion-resistant, and easy to clean.
Well, aluminium is a light material which is a disadvantage in different ways. therefore it can easily burn food, not suitable for commercial kitchens. Also, acidic foods tend to corrode plain aluminium pans.
- Non-Stick pans
Nonstick pans are common household items. They are coated with a chemical known as Teflon (PTFE) making the pans non-stick. They are easy to clean, require less oil when cooking because of their non-stick properties.
Be careful with old pans, they start to chip and the coating material mixes with food which is toxic. Also, when the pan is overheated, the fumes are quite strong and are termed toxic.
- Stainless steel pans also known as food grade quality
Stainless steel (SS) cookware is one of the required materials for commercial kitchens. It is sturdy and does not chip. There is even distribution of heat with SS material. Food industries use stainless steel because it is food-grade quality in that there is minimum food contamination.
The other side of things is that SS, is naturally not nonstick therefore, you have to use more oil to prevent sticking. Also, quality SS is quite expensive but it lasts.
- Cast Iron pans (skillets)
Cast iron pans are ideal cookware, it is nonstick yet it does not have any coating material. They are affordable, can be used for baking, roasting, and cooking. One advantage, it heats food evenly, once it is hot, it retains the heat for some time (roasted food is served in cast iron).
Ironically, cast iron should not be used to boil water because it accelerates rusting which shortens the lifestyle. Also, cast iron chips with time and are ingested with food. Lastly, cast iron pans tend to lose their handles because the pans retain a lot of heat.