By Daisy Luther
What could be more wholesome than baking a loaf of homemade bread from organic ingredients, right in your own kitchen? That depends on whether you are baking it in non-toxic ovenware.
Because even when you know every single ingredient in it, sometimes that isn’t enough. Sometimes the vessel in which we are baking our food is undermining our healthy efforts by adding a very unhealthy dose of chemicals to the dishes and desserts that we prepare.
Last week, we talked about cookware and discussed perfluorinated chemicals, aluminum. and many other hazards lurking in our kitchen. (You can learn the details here.) These chemicals can be even more dangerous in the oven due to high temperatures and longer cooking time.
Of particular concern is non-stick bakeware. The per- and polyfluorinated chemicals in the non-stick coating leach into every bite of those muffins, pies, and loaves you’re baking.
That’s what we’ll talk about in this installment of the Whole Home Detox series.
A quick refresher on a few of the toxic substances to avoid
For more detailed information on these substances, check out the article on healthy cookware. Here is a quick refresher:
- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) has been linked to an increase in liver and pancreatic tumors in lab animals as well as testicular tumors and reduced fertility. PFOA is a chemical used in the manufacture of Teflon and is thought to be one of the biggest dangers associated with non-stick cookware.
- Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) were commonly used in the manufacture of non-stick Teflon pans and bakeware such as pie and muffin tins, and as far back as 2006 the Environmental Protection Agency discussed banning such chemicals, with a total phasing out of them by 2015.If the bakeware you have at home is pre-2015 there’s a pretty good chance that they contain some of these health-harming chemicals.
- Aluminum has been connected with encephalopathy (brain malfunctions) in patients with excess load. Although the changes in the brains of these individuals are different to the malfunctions within the brain caused by conditions like Alzheimer’s, research is ongoing. Aluminum in excess can also cause a change in the permeability of cells, which can block the movement of nutrients in and out of cells. It has also been linked to a reduction of protein synthesis within the cells. (source)
Other common products
Silicone bakeware comes in a wide variety of shapes sizes and colors and according to the FDA it’s safe – but keep in mind that they said non-stick coated bakeware was safe as well and ended up retracting it years later.
Scientific American reports:
It’s sad to say, but since the use of silicone in cookware is fairly new, there has not been much research into its safety for use with food. Back in 1979 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that silicon dioxides—the basic elements in silicone cookware—were generally recognized as safe to use even in food-grade contexts. But the first silicone cookware (silicone spatulas) didn’t start to show up on store shelves until a decade later, and the FDA hasn’t conducted any follow-up studies to determine whether silicone can leach out of cookware and potentially contaminate food. For its part, Canada’s health agency, Health Canada, maintains that food-grade silicone does not react with food or beverages or produce any hazardous fumes, and as such is safe to use up to recommended temperatures.
While I can’t say this is hazardous, there just isn’t enough information yet for me to feel comfortable with it.
The Non-Toxic Bakeware Shopping Guide
Below, you can find some options that are less likely to be toxic.
Glass bakeware is readily available. Glass has the advantage of being inert – even at high heats, it won’t add or take away anything from the food that’s baked in it. Yet another advantage? It’s very reasonably priced.
The disadvantage of glass is that you have to be careful with drastic temperature changes. For example, don’t put it in a sink of cold water until it has cooled down, and don’t put it straight into a hot oven from the refrigerator. Shattered glass isn’t something you want all over your kitchen. Another disadvantage is that foods can really stick to glass. Be sure to grease your glass cookware before adding the food.
Some good glass bakeware options:
- Pyrex 5-piece bakeware set
- Anchor Hocking 15-piece set
- Cute retro covered casserole dishes
- Glass ring cake pan
Stoneware is actually made of clay, a material that has been used to make cooking pots since time immemorial. Often dipped in a ceramic glaze to seal it, stoneware comes in a variety of colors so you can even coordinate your kitchen.
Stoneware cooks food evenly due to its excellent heat distribution. In fact, it holds the heat so well food will often continue cooking for a short while after the dish removed from the oven. Because of this property, it may take some experimentation so that dry-textured baked goods don’t overcook.
You should not immerse stone bakeware in water and you shouldn’t use soap on it. Simply wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
Stone bakeware recommendations
- Stoneware loaf pan
- Stoneware muffin pan
- Stoneware cookie sheet
- Stoneware toaster oven pan
- Pizza stone (This makes the most wonderful, crispy pizza crust!)
According to the website Cookware Advisor, the good quality ceramic-coated cookware will not emit toxic fumes even if heated to very high levels, contains no toxic chemicals, and is made of an inorganic, sand-like mineral applied to the inside of metal cookware using a Sol-gel process. Dr. Andrew Weil also approves of the ceramic-coated cookware. There haven’t been any long-term studies on this, but I think that if the surface is unscathed, it is a safe choice.
The downside to ceramic-coated bakeware is that the surface is very easy to scratch. Once it has been scratched, whatever substance it is coating can leach into your food.
Some ceramic-coated bakeware suggestions:
Anything made of cast iron that’s used for cooking will need to be seasoned before use. This process helps to prevent food from sticking and the iron from pitting. Some cast iron is coated with ceramic, giving you a non-stick surface. Food browns very nicely in cast iron.
The downside? Cast iron is very, very heavy, which could preclude it from being a viable option for some people.
- Cast iron muffin pan (Hey, kids! If you’re reading, my birthday is coming up. Hint hint!)
- Lodge 5-quart Dutch oven
- Lodge enamel-coated 6-quart Dutch oven
- Lodge 12-inch skillet
- Le Creuset shallow French oven (very expensive but anything by le Creuset is an investment piece)
What kind of ovenware is your favorite?
Do you have a favorite type of non-toxic ovenware that wasn’t mentioned in the article? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.