Out of the Frying Pan: Part Two   

Out of the Frying Pan: Part Two
Choosing Safe Cookware

In Part One, we looked at our worst options for cookware, now we will examine our best options.


Generally, glass cookware (such as Pyrex and Corning Visionware) are considered to be safe, though food often tends to stick and burn more easily, due to poor heat distribution. Unlike ceramics and clay, glass cookware is not made with lead and cadmium, and given its non-porous and non-reactive nature, does not leach the metals used in its production into food.   (Source)

However, there is one type of glass made with lead, and that is leaded crystal. Since many people may be unaware of the danger of storing alcohol in leaded crystal decanters, I shall make a brief mention here.

Studies have found that storing wine in these containers for even one day, poses a risk, as this study summarized: “The consumption of alcoholic beverages stored in lead crystal decanters is judged to pose a hazard.”  (Source) Therefore, drinking wine over the course of a night from leaded crystal glasses may also be a dubious activity.

One of the more recent developments in non-stick technology, which looks like a safe option, is titanium-based cookware.  Titanium is a naturally-occurring mineral, very durable and resistant to corrosion, which is why it is used for dental and medical purposes, as well as in industry. And, most experts agree that titanium cookware is very safe for cooking.

Since titanium isn’t the best conductor of heat, it’s sometimes coated with copper or aluminum, both of which can potentially leak into food and cause health problems”. (Source) Obviously, this would only be an issue if the coating were on the inside of the cookware.

So, titanium cookware is non-porous and non-reactive to acidic foods, which is all well and good, but not all titanium products are of the same caliber. The better products will not scratch, crack or warp, nor will food stick to them. It appears that Germany makes some of the best titanium cookware, and some of the worst come from China.

Using cast-iron cookware is believed by many (including Macrobiotics) to be perhaps the best choice for cookware. One reason for this is the belief that cast-iron will add iron to foods, which will be absorbed as a nutrient by the body.  The medical community would disagree, maintaining that the ferric form of iron found in cast iron is not absorbable by humans. Their position is that only iron in the ferrous form will assimilate. However, in 1986 the July issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study in which researchers compared a variety of foods before and after being cooked in a new, seasoned iron skillet.

For controls they also cooked the food in CorningWare, and an older iron pan. They found that cooking in an iron pan greatly increased the iron content of many foods, with acidic foods absorbing the most iron. Applesauce (100 gr) increased from 0.35 mg of iron to 7.3 mg and tomato sauce (100 gr) increased from 0.6 mg to 5.7 mg. Also, the newer iron pan added more iron to foods than the older, used one. Foods with short cooking times, that are not stirred or flipped much, did not absorb much iron at all.  This was well confirmed in a study done in 2019, which concluded that: “There are indications that, with reasonable compliance, iron-containing cookware could serve as a means of reducing IDA (iron deficiency anemia) especially among children.” (Source)

Cast iron cookware is durable, inexpensive and conducts heat evenly, and since it helps to fortify foods with extra iron, it is one of our best choices for cookware. I have also found that my cast iron frying pan improves the taste of many of the foods I cook in it.

Now, while many people are leery of iron due to its possible link to heart disease, I would like to point out that this fear is based on older studies, done with heavy meat eaters, perhaps the only group that tends to have excessive iron stores in the body (outside of those with the disease hemochromatosis). And, while excessive iron stores may well be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, it turns out that iron deficiency is also a risk factor.

Data indicate that iron deficiency has detrimental effects in patients with coronary artery disease, heart failure (HF), and pulmonary hypertension, and possibly in patients undergoing cardiac surgery.”   (Source)

(Supported by this study: Iron deficiency in middle age is linked with higher risk of developing heart disease)

Which means we should get tested regularly to ensure our iron levels are neither too high nor too low, and perhaps those on a high meat diet should not use cast iron cookware, just in case.  Since cast iron is porous, we “season” it with hot oil, and make a point of not washing it in soapy water, in order to prevent rusting from occurring. Seasoning of cast iron is done by rubbing the inside of the pan with vegetable oil, or lard, and heating in the oven at 300 degrees for one hour. This fills in the pores of the metal preventing sticking.

Some believe that the oils seasoned into the metal will eventually go rancid, which would clearly not be of great benefit to our health. Fortunately, we now have a good saturated fat to cook with, one that is stable under high heat, and not prone to rancidity. This is coconut oil, and would appear to be the best choice for seasoning cast iron.

Stainless Steel                                                                                                  
The preferred choice of the Weston Price Foundation is magnetic stainless steel, because it does not contain nickel. Stainless steel comes in many different grades, and the cheaper grades are made from many different alloys. These include chrome, iron, molybdenum, and nickel, which are now believed to bleed into foods when they react with the salts and acids of the foods cooked in them. In order to avoid this, do not allow acidic or salty foods to remain in the steel cookware for long periods of time.

As one study pointed out, we might want the chromium and iron that stainless steel leaches into food, but we most likely do not want to uptake more nickel into the body.   (Stainless steel cookware as a significant source of nickel, chromium, and iron)

Nickel is a necessary trace mineral that is becoming a toxic heavy metal, due to being excessively available in the environment. Nickel is found in tobacco smoke, vegetable shortenings, and pesticide residue. But it may be that excessive amounts of nickel being found in humans is due to its prevalence in cheap Chinese stainless steel.

Aside from being linked to dermatitis, nickel appears to accumulate in the prostate gland leading to chronic prostatitis. Prostatitis is a painful condition caused by bacterial infection, and we now know that bacteria appear to feed off nickel (and iron, which is why the body pull iron out of circulation when it has an infection).

As a related aside, treatment for chronic prostatitis has now incorporated the amino acid L-Histidine (at 500 to 1500 mg daily). This amino acid seems to bind to nickel and chelate it out of the body through the urine, though it can take many months before this is accomplished.

Given the problem of metals leaching out of cheap stainless steel, for cooking purposes we should only use the highest-grade surgical stainless steel, which is known as 316L, and is the grade mandated for use by the dairy and pharmaceutical industries. 304 is another designation for high end steel (though it is not quite as resistant to corrosion as is 316L).

The old terminology for surgical stainless steel was 18/10, meaning that the chromium level is 16-18%, and the nickel content is 10-15%. This designation is still often used on cookware. The 18/10 or “surgical” label needs to be on the inside of the cookware to ensure that your food is in contact with the least reactive form of steel. If it is only listed on the bottom of the pan it does not necessarily have to be on the inside, in which case you would need to contact the manufacturer to find out if it is used inside the cookware as well.

The label 18/0 is magnetic (contains 18% chromium but no nickel) and is often found on the outside of the cookware. Because the 18/10 grade is not very magnetic it does not work for “induction” cooking, unlike the 18/0 grade. Induction cooking is a new form of flameless cooking that is currently expensive and uncommon. It can only be done with magnetic materials, and as it grows in popularity so will the availability of magnetic cookware. (More on stainless steel cookware designations here.)

A low-tech way of testing your cooking pots for metals leaching is as follows: Add one cup of water to the pan you wish to test. Add one tablespoon of baking soda (which simulates a similar pH to cooking conditions). Boil the water for 5 to 10 minutes. Create a control for the taste test by adding one tablespoon of baking soda to a glass of the same water. Then taste the boiled water and compare it to your control water. If the boiled water tastes metallic, that is, supposedly, the taste of the metals that are going into your food.

There are no easy answers any more. We’ve looked at some options, and the pros and cons, and now we make our choices, hopefully as informed as possible.

Remember that the Oriental approach to cooking and eating maintains that a sense of respect and gratitude empowers food and improves digestion. Whereas, performing these acts in states of anger or fear (worry) turns them to poison (or at the very least makes the food acidic and impedes digestion). In other words, your attitude is more important than your cookware.

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

* indicates required
  • Contact

  • NutriStart Vitamin Company

  • 14-755 Vanalman Avenue

  • Victoria, BC

  • 1-800-813-4233

Scroll to Top