Skip links

Main navigation

Rattle Those Pots and Pans!

iStock_000036129744_MediumClients often assure me that the real reason they cannot get into the kitchen and cook a wholesome meal is that they do not have the proper pots and pans, or other equipment to get started.

That’s hogwash!

For basic cooking purposes, all you really need to get started is one large frying pan and one large soup pot or six- to eight-quart stockpot, both with lids.

That’s it.

You can accomplish almost everything with these two items. You can make soups, stocks, beans, grains, stir-fries, and blanch vegetables, sear meats, and sauté.

If you have the money to buy an entire set, go for it.  It surely is a worthy investment. If you don’t have the funds, use the pots and pans you already have and add to your collection when you can afford it.

Traditionally, some of the best cookware has been stainless steel and cast iron, but if you don’t have either, don’t sweat it.

Just start cooking.

If you have aluminum pots and pans, it’s wise to use plastic or rubber utensils on them. Scraping aluminum cookware with metal utensils can cause some of it to leach into food. Aluminum toxicity has been strongly linked with Alzheimer’s disease, and other ailments. [1] Aluminum is a reactive metal, meaning it can react with acid or salty foods and release itself into the food product. Tomato sauce is an example of an acid food. If you are fearful of using your aluminum pots and pans, consider this: a person using aluminum-containing antacids (at about 50 mg per tablet) may consume more aluminum per day than someone using uncoated aluminum pans for cooking (ingesting approximately 3.5 mg per day).  If you are eating antacids on a daily basis, you don’t have to worry about aluminum being leached from your pots and pans and going into your body, you’re already getting plenty of it from the over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

Cast iron is a good old-fashioned cooking choice, an ideal heat conductor, and can last a lifetime with proper care. Unfortunately, cast iron can be a pain in the buttocks as it requires special care and coating with oil to prevent rust. It’s also heavy to handle (literally), so you need strong arms and wrists – this would not be an ideal choice for the elderly, physically disabled, arthritic, or weak. A nutritional benefit of using cast iron: it imparts minute traces of iron into your food. If you are anemic (low blood iron), cast iron may be a great choice. Although, if you are anemic, you may not have the strength to lift a heavy cast iron skillet.

Nonstick coatings for cookware are hard chemical plastics made with substances that can emit hazardous fumes when heated at high temperatures.  These fumes have been linked with cancer, birth defects, and many other health problems.  A group of scientific advisers to the Environmental Protection Agency voted unanimously to approve a recommendation that a chemical used in the manufacture of Teflon (PFOA) and other nonstick products should be considered a likely carcinogen. [3] This is serious business. If you have Teflon or other nonstick pans, do not use them to deep-fry food, and do not place them under the broiler. Never, ever use metal utensils on them (spatulas, forks, and spoons) – it increases the likelihood that you will damage the plastic coating and ingest it. Carcinogens are not appetizing and do not contribute to long-term health.  When cooking with nonstick equipment, use medium or low heat, quick-cooking techniques, and plastic or wood utensils.

I prefer stainless steel for cooking. It’s durable, reliable, lighter weight than cast iron, does not react negatively with foods, and is easy as heck to clean and care for. Just wash and dry – done!  Stainless steel is also relatively inexpensive. And, there are many great deals out there (Stainless Steel Pots and Pans). This may be an excellent choice and can give you many years of great kitchen service.

Now… get your butt into the kitchen and rattle those pots and pans!

Excerpted from:

Health is Wealth – Make a Delicious Investment in You!

[1] http://www.angelfire.com/az/sthurston/alzheimers_and_aluminum_toxicity.html

[2] http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/15/tech/main1321804.shtml

  • Andrea I have read concerns about nickel leaching into the food from cooking with stainless…is this a valid concern? The concerns I am referring to come from Dr. Donald Monus’ book which recommends cooking on glass or non-lead ceramic…thanks in advance.

    • Andrea Beaman

      Hi Rachael – I haven’t heard about the “nickel” aspect before. I would suggest using only wooden spoons and other wooden utensils (or plastic utensils would work too) on the stainless steel pots and pans. Using metal on metal may not be such a good idea and may damage the surface. As far as cooking in glass or non-lead ceramic, I think that’s a great idea.

  • Ruxandra

    Hi Andrea!

    I’ve been watching/reading you for a couple of years now and I love your understanding of food and health. Inspired by you, I decided to cook at home with fresh local produce. I am saving for a functional kitchen so I can apply everything I’ve learned.

    Now I have to shop for two or three pans/pots to get started. The thing is that I’ve been reading so many different things on the materials that I’m almost scared to make a decision.

    It seems ceramics is getting a lot of attention, it sounds like a good idea… but the way most are made pose many health issues.

    Even with stainless steal (which feels the best option in my mind) it seems there are so many fake/harmful products… They have big ads about being good and safe and green only to discover when reading the label that they are just as unstable as any of the other.

    I feel lost and hopeless.

    Could you, please, give some criteria/guidance about identifying safe & simple products? Thank you very much for your help!

    • @Ruxandra – Like I mentioned in the blog, I use stainless steel and cast iron pots and pans. They’ve been around for a long time. As far as which products to trust… I don’t have a preference for a particular brand. Try not to overthink it, just get into the kitchen and cook!