Choosing the Right Cookware and Tableware for Your Home

We take utmost precautions while handling food to prevent contamination or any food hazard. However, have you given a thought about the utensils in which it is cooked, served, or stored? In this article, we will discuss cookware and tableware made from different materials. We will also offer some suggestions that you must keep in mind when you buy them, and some precautions while handling them.

                                                                                                                          Richa Pande

Aluminium Cookware

Aluminium utensils are used very commonly in Indian households. They are inexpensive, light weight and easy to clean. Aluminium is a good conductor of heat, and its utensils conduct heat faster. But according to some recent research studies, its long-term use can have pathological effects on our body because aluminium has the tendency to leach with long term use. Leaching can often lead to critical conditions such as anaemia, dementia and osteomalacia, etc. Usage of aluminium foils also has been known to have some food safety concerns. It is important to note that leaching from aluminium utensils and foils while cooking depends on factors like temperature, medium cooking, and Ph of the food product.

Given below are some tips to reduce exposure to aluminium while cooking and storing food:

  • High- heat cooking in aluminium utensils should be avoided. Always cook at lower temperature.
  • Whenever it’s possible, avoid using aluminium foils for cooking and wrapping cooked food. Bee wax wraps are a better alternative to store your food.
  • Food items containing acidic items such as tomatoes, lemons, tamarind should never be cooked in aluminium utensils.
  • If you still wish to use aluminium, go for anodized aluminium. How is it different from regular aluminium ware? Anodized aluminium is treated with acidic solution that changes aluminium metal characteristics.  Likewise, anodized aluminium is easier to clean, have similar qualities to non-stick utensils. Chances of aluminium leaching from anodized aluminium ware as compared to regular aluminium ware is less. 

Stainless Cookware

Stainless cookware is inexpensive compared to other materials. Steel is durable, corrosion free, and easy to clean. Stainless steel doesn’t react with acids found in milk, meat, vegetables, and fruits. The heat is distributed evenly over its surface making it a good option for cooking many recipes.

Iron and Cast-iron Cookware 

Iron cookware and cast-iron cookware are both made from iron but cast iron is mixed with metal alloys. Iron ware is made of pure iron, which makes it usable for long term, but rust is a major concern with iron cookware. As it is pure iron, it may get rust and then it is not safe to cook food in such utensils. Special precautions must be taken if you wish to use iron cookware. On the other hand, cast iron cookware are better at smelting with metal alloys, eliminating the problem of rusting.

Glass Cookware and Tableware

Glass dishes are durable, non-toxic, and eco-friendly. Glass dishes are generally dishwasher and microwave safe. Glass container looks great in your kitchen, but you must be careful in using them as they can break if they fall. Unlike plastic containers, glass dishes are not associated with risks. Choose food grade glassware as it is prepared in high temperature and will prevent breakage. Element like lead and cadmium are used in glassware making process, so purchase glassware that is food-grade. Do not purchase glassware that has paint on the inner surface as they may have unhealthy chemicals that can affect the quality of your food. Some downsides of using glassware include uneven heat distribution.

Ceramic Ware

Ceramic is a non-reactive cookware. It has no added chemicals that can leach in your food.  It is non-reactive i.e., nothing reacts with it. The heat transfer is quicker and more efficient. These days aluminium ware with ceramic coatings is available. They are non-stick, the most important property of ceramic. Ceramic is smooth and it requires less oil or butter as compared to cast iron or stainless steel. They are light weight as the base is made of aluminium base and ceramic coating. Ceramic cookware is safe at higher temperatures than Teflon pans and pots. However, be aware while buying ceramic ware as they may be purely ceramic and may have used glaze to seal them which can further leach into your food. So, choose food-grade ware only.

Non-stick Cookware

Non-stick cookware is easier to clean. If dishes are prepared in non-stick cookware, they require lesser amounts of oil or butter for preparation. Different types of finishing and materials are used to make different non-stick cooking wares these days. Earlier, all the non-stick cookware was lined with Teflon. These days’ different non-stick wares are available in market such as ceramic ware. Yet Teflon cookware is very popular.  Traditionally, Teflon was prepared using a different formula. It used to have a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which was found to be associated with health conditions, including thyroid disorders, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, infertility, and low birth weight. Though now Teflon is usually termed safe for cooking, please note that it shouldn’t be exposed to very high temperatures. Cooking on high temperatures can break the coating or cleaning it roughly can also scrap its coating making is unsafe to use. At temperatures above 300°C, Teflon coating can start breaking down which might release toxic chemicals in the air. When these toxic fumes are inhaled, it can lead to flu-like symptoms, chills, fever, headache, and body aches.

Tips to handle Teflon ware safely

    • Don’t preheat an empty pan. 
    • Avoid cooking on high heat. 
    • Ventilate your kitchen. 
    • Use wooden, silicone spatula and ladles, as the ones made from metal can lead to scuffs and scratches on the non-stick surface, reducing the life of your cookware.
    • Gently wash pots and pans with Teflon coatings with a sponge and in soapy, warm water. Avoid using steel or scouring pads as they can scratch the Teflon coated surface.
    • Replace old cookware. When Teflon coatings start to visibly deteriorate with excessive scratches, peeling, flaking, and chipping, replace them with new ones. 

Melamine Cookware and Tableware 

Melamine can be only used to serve food and for eating. But it should never be used in a microwave to heat food. Avoid eating acidic food such as lemon, tomatoes, or tamarind in melamine ware.

Copper Cookware

Copper cookware conducts heat. Due to this, copper heats quickly and evenly, but it loses that heat just as fast. The base of pan is usually made of other metals like stainless steel with copper coating over it. Copper reacts to acidic foods and needs a greater level of care when cooking. To clean water stains on copper utensils, you can use vinegar. You can use peels of lemon and tomatoes to clean them.

Understanding the difference between Food Grade and Food Safe Cookware

Food grade means that the material is suitable to come into direct contact with food. Food safe means that the food grade material and finished product is suitable for its intended use and will not create a food safety hazard. A product is said to be food safe when it is declared safe to use for the specific purpose for which it is designed.

Identifying Food Safe Cookware and Tableware 

Food safe cookware and tableware can be identified with the help of this logo. The symbol for “food safe” indicates that the material used in the product is considered safe for food contact. The certification includes considerations like the temperature that the cookware will be used at, cleaning processes, etc.

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