We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Stainless Steel Cookware is Greener

When My Bigger Half and I merged our households, he had non-stick coated pans and I had stainless steel pans. Neither set was in great shape, so after moving into our new house we decided it was time to upgrade. That was the easy part. Deciding what to buy was harder.

I want to clarify what I mean by neither was in great shape. My stainless steel pots and pans had broken handles. My Bigger Half's non-stick coatings were flaking off, even though the pans were a high-end brand. I don't like cooking with pots that don't have handles. I really don't like cooking with pans that have flaking surfaces.

My Bigger Half loved non-stick pans because he felt they cleaned up nicely. My complaint against non-stick surfaces is that you have to treat them gently. You can't whip your potatoes in a non-stick pan, not without damaging the surface. You can whip them in a stainless steel pan without any problems.

After sharing several articles talking about the problems with the chemicals that make non-stick surfaces what they are, My Bigger Half was convinced to go with stainless steel. It's good to be forced to sell your ideas. Sometimes.

Stainless steel is probably the best cooking surface because it's fairly inert, unlike aluminum pans. It's can be reasonably priced, compared to enamel-coated pans. It doesn't rust like cast iron.

Stainless steel pots and pans aren't heavy like enamel-coated or cast iron pans. They don't flake like non-stick pans. They don't interact with your food like aluminum pans can. (And some people think aluminum cookware is implicated in Alzheimer's disease.)

I wasn't sure what kind of pots and pans I wanted to buy. I thought enamel pans were what great cooks used, but I wasn't excited about the price. But then stainless steel can be expensive too. Such a dilemma. We solved it by asking my big brother, an excellent cook with a fabulous kitchen. He suggested Farberware because their stainless steel pots and pans are reasonably priced and durable; his pot is over 30 years old.

Part of our stainless steel pots and pans collection.
Stainless Steel Pots & Pans Wok, dutch oven with lid, tea kettle, two skillet sizes, and one pot size with lid.

Huh. What a delightful surprise! We could get a 12-piece Farberware stainless steel set for the same price as one of the big-name stainless steel skillets. So we did. And we bought a 10-piece set as well. Then we bought a stainless steel wok. And finally we added stainless steel cookie sheets, cake pans, and brownie pans to round out the collection.

I indicated this was a healthier choice for us. It's healthier in that we don't have unhealthy surfaces leaching chemicals into our food as we cook, we can cook with olive oil and not have food stick, and we don't need to put much water into the pans when cooking vegetables because of the style of the pots.

One nice thing about the modern Farberware is that you can get them with silicone-coated handles, which are comfortable and don't get hot. The best of all worlds! We enjoy cooking with them as well. They heat evenly and quickly. My Bigger Half's concern about cleanup turned out to be a non-issue. They clean up beautifully, maybe even better than non-stick pans.

I feel healthier and greener with our stainless steel pots and pans.

Comments

The anodized aluminum cookware is relatively inert (although not as good as stainless, chemically), doesn't flake, tends to be heavy for good heat distribution, and is almost indestructable. I like to have some of both around. I also like having a selection of cast iron around, if possible, for some of my cooking projects. I use the various pans differently. For instance, I use my Calphalon anodized pans when I saute something then finish it on the oven (assuming I didn't use cast iron for that). My stainless hardware' handles won't survive the oven!

gerry creager at April 27, 2010 7:05 AM

Kit, I noticed that you didn't mention cast iron. If it's treated right (ie don't put it in a dishwasher), it's the original non-stick cookware. All my pans are cast iron and the pots are stainless steel.

Barbara Craig at April 27, 2010 7:55 AM

Oops, you did mention cast iron and dismissed it for the weight. Ah well, guess it could cause carpal tunnel.

Barbara Craig at April 27, 2010 7:57 AM

Gerry, thanks for the update on aluminum. I hadn't kept up on the aluminum situation and am glad to hear that it can be safe. Something new learned today!

And yes, my Farberware handles probably wouldn't do well in the oven either, though they are silicone so might do ok. But that's not the type of cooking we tend to do.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at April 27, 2010 8:12 AM

Hi Kit,
I am enjoying your articles and am going through a similar process now. My wife and I have just moved and are deciding what things to upgrade and what things to leave "dated".
I was a bit taken aback to see an allusion to aluminum and Alzheimers, even though you used the "some people" qualifier.

At risk of sounding like your bigger half (I am a long-time True subscriber) I would invite you to read the Snopes article on the subject at http://www.snopes.com/movies/actors/valentino.asp

Not only is the rumor false, but it has delightfully dubious origins.

Thanks for all the useful info. I will be reading more as time permits

Jeremy Jerome at April 27, 2010 1:59 PM

Please excuse my last comment. I was rushing to finish it before a meeting and didn't notice that the snopes article is for something other than alzheimers.

My opinion on aluminum has been formed after reading several different scientific articles over the years (I am a biologist) but I was looking for a quick reference.

I feel strongly that the only reason it is not ruled out scientifically is that there is so little understanding of what causes it. I do feel that the current body of evidence suggests strongly that it is not related.

You are welcome to your own opinion.
Mea culpa.
Mea culpa.

Jeremy Jerome at April 27, 2010 4:50 PM

Jeremy, I appreciate rational conversation about controversial subjects. Thanks for starting one for the aluminum topic.

I must point out to you I made no reference, veiled or otherwise, to the aluminum:Alzheimers connection. I only stated that aluminum isn't as inert as stainless steel. *You* made that connection. :~) But you do now have me researching the subject a bit.

You're right that I made that statement without updating my knowledge, or bias, so I'll report back on that later.

I'll now challenge you: Can we trust everything we find in Snopes?

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at April 28, 2010 8:09 AM

Actually, to quote your blog entry
"...They don't interact with your food like aluminum pans can. (And some people think aluminum cookware is implicated in Alzheimer's disease.)"

I would have actually agreed with the interacting with food part, in many situations. For example, in any situation where there was acidic environment and/or contact from a metal utensil would likely impart detectable metallic flavors. This does not apply to the anodized stuff, which is very tough and inert, (as mentioned).

I do use 15 gal. aluminum pots for beer brewing and like them very much. As a trained and experienced judge, I can confidently say I have never managed to impart any metallic flavors.

As far as Snopes is concerned, they are people (or one person), but I believe their impartiality is well established, and they make researching solid facts their business. Besides there's this guy that recommends them frequently... but he just writes some silly online publication on wacky news stuff, so, whatever :-)

Jeremy Jerome at April 28, 2010 9:06 AM

Jeremy, you found it! I looked, but obviously too quickly. I must have found the first reference and quit looking. I'm having so much fun with this site that I'm probably too giddy to pay close attention. My Bigger Half just said this morning that I have all the time in the world to write all the articles I'm getting ideas for, so I don't need to feel so rushed. That's true for posting replies.

Anyway, you're right we passed a "rumor" on, even as rumor. I should be more careful here about that kind of thing.

Since you cook with anodized aluminum you can answer my question about its durability. I have colored anodized aluminum things, and the color does scratch off. Are you saying that the "clear" coating doesn't scratch the way the color coatings do?

So beer at your house next time we're in the neighborhood -- made in your big kettles. Neato!

My intention with asking about Snopes wasn't to call out "Mr. Snopes" abilities, or point the flashlight at that funny guy who uses them for lots of debunking, but to say that research is not conclusive on many of the issues we'll talk about here. Aluminum:Alzheimer's being one, HFCS another, and ...., so I'm shy about making statements that something is safe or dangerous. But I'll do my best to research a topic to my satisfaction and state what my conclusions are.

You've done that nicely for anodized aluminum pots and pans. Thanks.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at April 28, 2010 10:53 AM

I have been using a combination of stainless and cast iron for many years. I use cast iron pretty much exclusively for frying/sauteing. It isn't as hard to care for as many people think. A good coating can be done by wiping vegetable oil on all surfaces and baking in a 300 degree oven, upside down for 2 hours. Then I clean my pans under hot running water using a stiff brush and no soap. Everything comes off easily. Dry and store.

It is heavy, but that also means durable. And being able to put the pan in a 450 degree oven to finish cooking something is great. Even pans with "oven proof" handles will deteriorate if you do that often.

Ed

Ed Justice at April 29, 2010 3:42 PM

Ed, I have had two cast iron skillets for 34 years. I like them a lot; My Bigger Half doesn't like them at all. They have been dropped 7' onto a brick floor with no damage. I'm glad to see people are using their cast iron.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at April 30, 2010 10:15 AM

Kit,

As a bachelor who does pretty much what I call "survival cooking", I've searched for the most efficient and easy-to-care-for cooking utensils.

I found that for me, at least, cast iron is the best way to go. Once it's seasoned, it's non-stick and clean-up is easy. Just keep it out of the dishwasher or you'll need to re-season it.

For reasons I don't quite understand, meat loaf seems to taste better when baked in a cast iron loaf pan than when made in anything else.

Lodge now offers pre-seasoned cookware for those who don't care to do it for themselves, but I suspect that eventually, even the factory seasoned pieces will need a touch-up. It's an easy process and contributes to the longevity of the cookware.

Yes, I do own one stainless steel sauce pan and my wok is a non-stick type. But it was a gift. When the coating starts to flake off -- and it will eventually -- it'll get replaced by a traditional wok.

Keep up the good work.

73,
ldb
K5WLF

Larry D Barr at August 11, 2010 9:22 PM

Larry,

Thanks for your comments about cast iron. You seem to be in good company with other readers here. I'd not heard of Lodge's pre-seasoned cookware so that's an interesting addition to this thread.

Healthy options are a treat. I love it that we have several good options here, catering (as it were) to various tastes and preferences. Oh, the puns are abundant here.....


-Kit

Kit Cassingham at August 12, 2010 2:50 PM

For so many years of living out of hotels and eating at restaurants, I didn't have to worry about cooking. Now that I'm home most of the time, I come to realize that I don't like restaurants, and prefer to do my own cooking. I know what I like, I know how I like it done, and I don't have to argue with anyone about the correct way to do it. Pretty simple, right?

I did not realize how important cookware is. Over the past 5 years, I've bought every brand there is. 40 years ago, I heard how wonderful Wearever is supposed to be. Don't you believe it. I will not buy Wearever ever, um, never, whatever, again.

Couple others I've tried, Regal, T-Fal and some Italian sounding one that also starts with a "T". But I'm with you, all of my food tastes so much better with Farberware.

Mike at August 20, 2010 11:09 PM
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