When I moved in to a new home along with my husband, I bought all non-stick utensils without being aware that it could be detrimental to our health. Good sense prevailed a few years later and I changed all my pots and pans to healthier alternatives.
So, you may think, what are the healthier alternatives to non-sticks. We shall get to that it in a while. But first, for the uninitiated, let me explain the ill-effects of using non-stick utensils.
Most non-stick utensils are made of a carcinogenic chemical called PFAS(perfluorooctanoic acid) which emits harmful fumes. It is said that within 5 minutes of heating non-stick pan, six toxic gases are emitted. Overheating these pans and scratches make it even more prone to leaching PFASs.
So, now for the list. Below, we explain the benefits of each type of cookware, tips to maintain them and some of the best picks you could choose from.
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Best Healthy & Safe Cookware
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware leaches iron in to the food, thus supplementing you with your daily iron requirements. It last not for years, but for decades and are quite versatile too. If seasoned properly, they are practically non-stick too.
On the flip side, it requires a little more maintenance than mere washing with soap. It is heavier compared to the regular utensils you use in a kitchen and as it retains a lot of heat, if careless, you could burn yourself with it or worse break your leg if you drop it.
If you are a first-time user, then it is better to buy pre-seasoned cast iron cookware as seasoning might not be easy for novices.
The main thing you have to take care of while using cast iron cookware is never leave it wet as it may rust. After washing, dry it off and apply a thin layer of oil always (a silicone oil basting brush would be very useful for applying oil). If you find food starting to get stuck on to it while preparation, then apply a thin layer of oil and heat it on a low flame for about 10-15 minutes to enhance seasoning. You can check out our article on How to season Cast Iron Cookware to know more.
When you start using iron pots, you may find a slight difference in the food taste due to iron leaching. But once it is completely seasoned, there won’t be any significant taste difference. Also, you will start getting used to the taste.
At our home, we have a 11 inch kadai for making dry vegetable dishes. We do fry papad in it as well. In addition, we have one tawa for frying fish, one for making dosa and chapati and one smaller kadai for making appam. My MIL gave the 11 inch Kadai. It is decades old and honestly, I don’t apply oil or give any extra care than a regular utensil because after years of usage, it has been so well seasoned and become practically maintenance free.
Below are some of the top picks you could have a look at.
Rock Tawa 11 Inch Kadai
Rock Tawa 10.5 Inch Iron Skillet
Rock Tawa Dosa Pan
My mother always says that fish and meat prepared in clay cookware (handi) are more nutritious and tastes a lot better. I completely agree. Being porous, the clay pot absorbs moisture and circulates it back, thus helping fish and meat retain its moisture and juiciness. Due to slow heating property of clay pot, minimal nutrients are lost during cooking too. On the flip side, you will have to be extra careful while using clay pots as they are quite prone to breakage.
While buying clay pot ensure they are unglazed as the coating in the glazed ones are found to contain harmful elements like lead, mercury etc. Even if you buy unglazed clay pots, soak it in water for 2-3 hours so that impurities, if any, gets washed away.
After every use, allow the clay pots to come down to room temperature and then clean it with running water and soft sponge. Do not add water to hot pot as it could create cracks in the pot.
Now, for the top picks. Alternatively, you can buy them from the local market too.
Mitti Magic Kadai
3 Set Mitti Magic Pots
Stainless Steel Utensils
Choosing stainless steel utensils is harder than you think. Stainless steel has different grades like 302, 304 etc. and a pair of numbers like 18/10 or 10/0 referring to the composition of chromium and nickel in the alloy. Below we explain the important role these metals play in durability.
Chromium binds oxygen to the surface of the utensil and prevents it from rusting. Nickel too plays an important role in preventing rusting—however higher level of nickel could be detrimental to health and a very low level could affect the durability of the utensils making it susceptible to rusting.
Though expensive, it is best to buy 304 grade stainless steel utensils which contains chromium and nickel in 18/8 composition ( 18% chromium and 8% nickel). This grade of stainless steel also has at least 50% iron and less than 0.8% carbon too. Also, they are much more durable than a regular stainless steel cookware.
No matter what kind of stainless steel cookware you buy, it is not completely pure. Rather, a layer or copper or aluminum (high conductors of heat) is sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel. This is done as stainless steel generally is a poor conductor of electricity. This layering helps improve conductivity and durability.
Stainless steel cookware with coppe core is considered superior as they conduct heat far more evenly. But they are quite expensive and rare in Indian market. Most of the brands in India sell stainless steel cookware with aluminum core.
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Now, for some maintenance tips. Before first use, fill the stainless-steel utensil with water and keep it overnight so that any excess metal on the surface gets washed away.
High quality stainless steel cookware are practically inert. So, you can even cook acidic food with tomato and tamarind without worry of damaging the utensil or ruining the dish.
Also read our article on maintenance tips for stainless steel cookware to know more.
Now, for the top picks. As you can guess, it is not possible to visually assess the grade of stainless steel used in a utensil. Hence, it is important to buy 304 grade stainless steel from reputed manufacturers who have a long standing. Stahl, VINOD Stainless Steel, Bergner, Meyer and Alda are some of the reputed brands available online in India.
Alda Tri-ply Stainless Steel Sauce Pan
Alda Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Casserole
Vinod Stainless Steel 304 Grade Fry Pan
Bergner Stainless Steel Wok With Lid
Bergner Stainless Steel Casserole With Lid
Bergner Stainless Steel Fry Pan With Lid