Monday, September 13, 2010

Is Your Cookware Food-Allergy Safe?

by Kelley Lindberg

Okay, so you’ve cleared your pantry of the foods your newly diagnosed family member is allergic to. You’ve found some new recipes and discovered your new favorite brands of safe cookies.

Now it’s time to look in your pots and pans cabinet.


Yep, it’s true. Some of your cookware may not be safe to use for your food-allergic loved one.

For the most part, your regular pots and pans and baking dishes – the stainless steel or non-stick ones and the glass dishes – are probably safe. As long as the surface is non-porous and can be thoroughly cleaned, it should be okay.

Stoneware, however, needs a closer look. If your stoneware is fully glazed (and the glaze isn’t cracked), then the food probably washes off just fine and it’s probably okay to use. But if your stoneware’s cooking surface is rough and unpainted (that pizza stone or that Pampered Chef casserole dish), then that rough surface absorbs the oils from any food cooked in it. That’s what gives the stoneware that nice non-stick finish the more you use it, but it also means the stoneware has probably absorbed unsafe food allergen proteins. So you shouldn’t use it for preparing food that will be eaten by a food-allergic person.

The same goes for that Dutch oven you take camping. If you’ve made Aunt Rita’s cheesy biscuits in it in the past, don’t make dinner in it this weekend for your milk-allergic son.

A cast iron skillet is in the same boat. If it’s a true cast iron skillet with that beautifully seasoned surface that you’ve spent years building up (the kind where you just wipe it clean or maybe use a quick rinse, but you’d divorce your hubby if he scrubbed it with a Brillo pad), then that great black surface is made of hardened food oils, some of which may still contain allergens.

Be aware of cookware when you go to parties, too. Check with the cook to see if they used a stoneware pan for those yummy-looking pumpkin bars before you indulge in them.

If you do find unsafe cookware in your cupboards, and you’ve wondered why your child keeps getting sick even though you’ve eliminated the allergens from his or her diet, you may have just discovered the culprit.

While you’re at it, check your non-stick pans and skillets. If the non-stick surface is peeling off and you can see the metal beneath it, toss it out. That has nothing to do with allergies, and everything to do with toxic materials leaching into your food. Ick. And think twice about any aluminum pans, too. Aluminum is allegedly being tentatively linked to Alzheimer’s and other illnesses, so you might want to consider avoiding aluminum cooking surfaces and go with stainless steel instead. Just something to think about.

So… sad but true, it’s time to ditch the old stoneware. The good news is: the holidays are coming up! Maybe it’s a good time to ask Santa for some new stoneware or a new Dutch oven – and this time, you can be sure it’s only used to prepare safe foods, and you’ll embark on a long, new, safer life together!


nutfreezone said...

Hello, I am confused because the Pampered Chef website says their stonewear is nonporous and won't absorb oils. I am trying to find nontoxic muffin pans and it is very difficult. They don't really make glass or stainless that I can find. Stonewear is the only other safe option I know of.

Kelley J. P. Lindberg said...

Great question. Their site says it's "virtually nonporous," but it still relies on a build-up of oils to create the non-stick finish, as I understand it. If you're only going to bake muffins/cupcakes that are safe for your family and don't contain your allergens, then by all means use it. The problem is when you use the same stoneware to cook allergens, then try to use it to cook something without the allergen. You run the risk of contamination. I understand you're looking for non-toxic pans. The easiest way is to always use paper cupcake liners. Then you can use a regular nonstick pan. Or try the silcone muffin pans. I always use paper cups because the muffins NEVER tear up coming out of the pan (yay!), it gives an extra layer of protection against allergens, and if you're worried about using nonstick surfaces, it protects against that, too. Good luck, and let us know what you find!

David said...

Heating a cast iron pan usually brings the temperature well above the temp required to denature many milk proteins greatly reducing their allergenicity.

David said...

Heating a cast iron pan usually brings the temperature well above the temp required to denature many milk proteins greatly reducing their allergenicity.

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