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Safe Cookware?  RSS feed

 
Nicholas Lien
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I am not sure whether this topic is best suited here, or in toxin-ectomy. Regardless, hello, I have been lurking permies for a little while now, and I decided to make an account today. I am a university student located in the Midwestern United States.

The only cookware that I own is a 2.5 quart stainless steel sauce pot, and a Griswold cast iron skillet. These items are useful, but I am in need of some additional cookware. Specifically, I desire an apparatus with which I can steam vegetables, and an apparatus with which I can cook soup/stock.

My question is, what are viable and safe options for cookware pieces that serve these purposes? I am most concerned with the quality of the cookware, what it can potentially leach into my food, and how long it will last before it becomes dysfunctional (assuming proper treatment, of course). I want to avoid non-stick cookware. I had interest in this stainless steel multi-pot, because it combines the steaming/simmering functionalities, even though the two-in-one feature is not a necessity for me. However, despite the positive customer reviews, I am wary of the quality of the stainless steel because the item is manufactured in China. I suppose that alternatives for making soup/stock are enameled and non-enamaled cast iron? I think that non-enameled would be too much work for me, to be honest... For steaming, there are always those fold-out steamers, but I bet that those are cheaply made.

I wanted to ask this question here on permies because I figured that some of you also have the rationally-rooted paranoia that makes me skeptical of many elements of the modern world.

Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance!
 
Rebecca Norman
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I dunno, I've always felt that stainless steel seems safe, because it doesn't get pitted and visibly lose volume of metal into the food like aluminum does, or at least not for years. I haven't heard that Chinese stainless steel is dangerous. Have you? Oh, another thing to worry about!
 
Nicholas Lien
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Oops, I did not mean to worry you! I am not well-versed in this topic, but I believe that there are many different grades of stainless steel. Quality varies between them, but such information might not be specified in the product description. And of course, there could always be quality control issues..."Made in China" seems to have acquired a rather negative connotation in general. I found this post today when investigating some small rust-like dots that have appeared in my sauce pot (speaking of which, does anyone know how to remove such imperfections? I am probably going to try a mix of dish soap and baking soda)
 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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We sometimes cook soups in terra cotta. It needs a flame divider thingy. Not sure how safe that is, but (unless there is some glaze issue) cooking on clay seems safe.

We recently became worried about aluminium too, even the foil.

Someone in our family has an allergy to nickel, so they say stainless steel is out. We've tried the new non-stick ceramic for frying.

The loss of volume and the pitting of aluminium is probably due to stirring, the same as with teflon. Even if you use wooden spoons, some of that comes off with time.
How often you change whatever cookware you use might have an effect on toxins getting into the food.

Haven't tried iron, since many people here are into about their own brand of cleanliness which doesn't include oiled iron pans.

How about going sans-pan and barbeque with wood-chips? Indoor hibachi? At least there is less contact with that solution.

In the end, something is being passed to the food whenever it is cooked, it just depends what that something is and if you're comfortable with that. Plus it depends on how much you want to spend annually to address the problem.

William
 
Ken Peavey
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The handles on your example are connected with rivets rather than welded. These will be hard to break.
Double bottom spreads the heat and prevents warping of the bottom
Wire handles on the basket don't look particularly strong, but do look easy to repair.
Looking at the lid, the thickness of the steel may be somewhat light, which is probably reflected in the price.
18/10 stainless is 18% chromium, 10% nickel. It's a better grade than 18/8.

From what I can see the set looks acceptable. I've got a similar set, use it for all sorts of dishes.
I've put years of use into my stainless, it still looks like brand new.
All I use is stainless and cast iron.
 
Nicholas Lien
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William,

Yes, I would like to avoid aluminum as well. Clay/ceramic seems like a fair idea for soup/stock. I live in an apartment, and I have no yard/balcony for an outdoor grill. The indoor grill idea is neat, I was not aware that such products exist. I agree with your final statement. Thanks for the thoughts and ideas!

Ken,

Thanks for the keen analysis. I agree that stainless steel and cast iron do seem to be reliable options, in general.
 
John Elliott
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I share your trepidation at the low quality of schlock the Chinese dump onto the world market, but stainless steel is pretty hard to screw up. It has certain properties, and if you cut corners (and I'm sure Chinese foundries have tried) it no longer has the properties of stainless steel and it's easy to spot the defect and reject it. Stainless is not like gold where you can pass something off as gold by just plating a little bit of it on. Stainless steel is passivated by a chemical process (oxidation), and unlike the passivation of cast iron cookware, it doesn't wear off or have to be reseasoned.

To make sure you are getting the high quality, austenitic stainless steel, you can do the magnet test with a small bar magnet. If it doesn't stick to the inside of the cookware, that is what you are looking for. I'm not sure how you do the magnet test on something offered through mail order, though. But there are plenty of discount outlets (Big Lots?) that carry similar items. Perhaps seeing it up close and personal before you shell out money for it would be a good idea on this item.
 
Leila Rich
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Nicholas Lien wrote: I am in need of some additional cookware(...) an apparatus with which I can steam vegetables, and an apparatus with which I can cook soup/stock

I'm very keen on minimal kitchen 'kit', and to me a basic pot does both these things.
To steam vegetables, I just boil a small amount of water (say 1/4 cup) in a lidded a saucepan,
tip in my veges in and steam till done to my taste.
As for stockpots, mine are secondhand stainless steel 5 litre (a bit over a gallon)
old pots are likely to be good quality steel, as well as cheap.
With pots, my big things to look out for are:
a)A good heavy bottom. This is really important to me! Things will burn on a lightweight bottom
and the bottom is likely to buckle making a nightmare, uneven cooking surface.
b) Not pyrex lids.The things break, then you have to use a frying pan as a lid...

John Elliott wrote: you can do the magnet test
Snap! I was playing with a magnet in the kitchen just the other day
I was vaguely disconcerted to find that my cheap Chinese saucepans were less magnetic than my German knives-
although I guess the knives have been 'magnetised' by sharpening etc.
 
Joe Braxton
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Leila Rich wrote:
I was vaguely disconcerted to find that my cheap Chinese saucepans were less magnetic than my German knives-
although I guess the knives have been 'magnetised' by sharpening etc.


The knives are likely to be 400 series stainless, which is usually magnetic. Heat treating magnetic grades of SS can change it to non magnetic, the reverse is not very likely.
 
John Elliott
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Joe Braxton wrote:
Leila Rich wrote:
I was vaguely disconcerted to find that my cheap Chinese saucepans were less magnetic than my German knives-
although I guess the knives have been 'magnetised' by sharpening etc.


The knives are likely to be 400 series stainless, which is usually magnetic. Heat treating magnetic grades of SS can change it to non magnetic, the reverse is not very likely.


What does change non magnetic stainless to magnetic is working it. Which generally is how you put a cutting edge on things.
 
Linda Woodard
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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I use a stainless steam steamer basket insert in my small stainless steel pot for steaming veggies. I do soup/stock in a stainless steel stock pot. Easy peasy.
 
Matu Collins
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I love the bamboo steamer. It won't last forever but if kept clean and dry it will last a long time. And it can end its life in the compost pile!

Safe and non reactive
 
C Gallas
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I switched to all Cast Iron cookware about 10 years ago and love it. It will last forever and has many uses including cooking on a wood stove or even over a fire. I bought a set of Le Crueset (back then made in France) but you can do well with the Lodge stuff made in the US - Lodge Dutch Oven

Cast Iron has many uses and also is said to permeate Iron into food as well which works well for me and my wife as we do not eat red meat.

You can also make amazing bread in these dutch ovens - look in to the book Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread
 
Kate Muller
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Location: New Hampshire
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I have had one of these little steamer inserts for over 20 years with no problems or signs of wear.
http://smile.amazon.com/Norpro-175-Stainless-Vegetable-Steamer/dp/B001FBCP7O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410887721&sr=8-1&keywords=veggie+steamer


I have found that blanching and steaming is even easier in a stainless steel mesh colander that fits inside one of my pots. I have had my set of 3 SS mesh colanders for 14 years now and they are still going strong.

http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/product/stainless-steel-mesh-colanders-set-of-3/1011508006?Keyword=colander
 
Adam Poddepie
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While quite break-able, I'm rather fond of glass cookware. Anything from pyrex dishes to borosilicate chemistry glass has been proven quite useful. I'm not sure about its uses on the steaming front, but good glassware is a versatile tool.
 
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