Tips for Cooking with Aluminum

How well do you know about the utensils you are cooking in? Not sure whether the material is stainless steel or copper? In this case, there are good chances that you are using aluminum cookware in your kitchen.

Aluminum is a common material used in the manufacture of cooking utensils, and there are so many reasons behind it (will talk about it later in the post). However, this metal has a few drawbacks too, which begs for a question ‘is aluminum safe to use for cooking?’. Well, it is not possible to answer it in a single word or sentence. Read this post till the end to figure out whether you should buy aluminum cookware or not.

Benefits of Cooking With Aluminum

In United States of America, more than 60 percent of the kitchen accessories are made of aluminum, and half of the population is using them already, either for cooking or other purposes. Some of its benefits are listed below:

  • It is an excellent conductor of heat. Its thermal conductivity is 16 times more than stainless steel. 
  • Available in quite a cheap price; aluminum is third most abundant component present on the earth.
  • It is a lightweight metal, making it easy to carry even when the pan is full of food.
  • Aluminum ensures responsive temperature changes, when required.
  • It evenly distributes heat while cooking, which prevents the pan from burning in a portion while the other half is still undercooked. 
  • Many stainless steel pans come with copper or aluminum bottom to transfer heat better. 

Possible Dangers Linked With Aluminum Cookware

Possible Dangers Linked With Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum is no doubt an excellent cookware to use in the kitchen, but it has some negative aspects as well. For example:

  • Aluminum can react with the acids present in the food, and has the ability to leach into the meal.
  • It can be absorbed, ingested or inhaled by a human body to the point of causing damage.
  • Its consumption is said to be toxic to the brain, and it may result in lung damage as well.
  • Nervous system can also be affected if the metal is absorbed in a large quantity. 

Solutions To Prevent The Hazards While Cooking With Aluminum 

In order to avoid the risks of aluminum caused to your health; it is suggested to use these pans with some sort of coating that will act as a barrier between your meal and the metal. Here are a few common and successful combinations of coated aluminum cookware. 

  • Aluminum With Hard-Anodized Coating

This is the most successful type of coating that is commonly used to make aluminum pots and pans safe for cooking. 

Aluminum anodization is a result of chemical reaction, which covers the surface of raw aluminum with a layer of Aluminum  oxide. Then, it turns into a hard protective coating to layer the raw material and prevent it from entering your food. 

  • Aluminum Cookware With Ceramic Coating

Being an inorganic material, ceramic doesn’t contain oxygen. Its composition is quite similar to rock or stone. The material is applied to the surface through a Sol-Gel process in which ceramic is turned into a gel form. Then, the gel is sprayed onto the aluminum, or the pan is dipped in the solution to shape it at high heat. 

How Safe is Ceramic Coated Aluminum For Cooking?

Ceramic is significantly a safe material that doesn’t emit toxic fumes or break down on high heat. Moreover, it is scratch-resistant, which means the surface won’t move to expose raw metal to your food. 

Tip 

It is suggested to use only wood or silicone spatula to prevent the risk of scratches and to ensure longevity. 

  • Other Coatings

If your aluminum pans are not coated with any of the above-mentioned materials, then it must be a non-stick layer. This type of coating is easy to clean, convenient in usage and will last you a longer time, if properly maintained. One of the most popular coating materials used for the process is PTFE – Polytetrafluoroethylene that is commonly called as Teflon (its brand name). To achieve this coating, manufacturers have to spray layers of the chemical over the surface of aluminum metal. 

Now you must be wondering if PTFE coating is safe to use for cooking? 

Teflon is basically a non-reactive substance, when consumed. The element is even used in a few joint replacement surgeries. However, when the pan is heated up to 500 °F or 260 °C, then it becomes harmful and begins releasing toxic fumes. As a result, human may get sick from a disease called Teflon flu, that has common symptoms like sore throat, flu, fever and body aches.

Comparison Between Ceramic Coating and Non-stick layer

Specifications  Ceramic-coated Aluminum  Non-stick Aluminum 
Safety Environmental friendly and healthy option Release toxic fumes, if it breaks down.
Durability  3 to 5 years Last Longer than ceramic-coated pans, if handled with care
Heat tolerance  800 °F 464 to 500 °F. The layer may flake out with high heat.
Scratch resistance  Moderate to high  Moderate to low
Oven safe  Yes, depending on the handles No

Cooking With Aluminum Foil – Safe or Not?

baked-potatoes-potato-dish

Aluminum foil is used in almost every household and its usage is frequent, either for storing, cooking or baking food. Although it is super convenient, but is it safe to use as well?

  • While cooking with aluminum foil, there are high chances that some amount of metal will transfer and increase the level of aluminum in your food.
  • However, storing food with aluminum foil is comparatively safer than cooking or baking in it.
  • Avoid using foil to heat food multiple times either as it can be hazardous. 
  • You can cover the bowl containing food with the foil while heating as a less risky option comparatively. 

Tips For Cooking With Aluminum Safely

kitchen-commercial-pots-pan

Do you have a kitchen cabinet full of aluminum pots, and after reading about the risks you are planning to throw them? Wait. You don’t need to! Here, we will share a few tips and hacks to ensure maximum cooking safety with aluminum. 

  • Always Invest In A High Quality Aluminum Pan

You can find a huge variety of aluminum pots and pans in the marketplace, varying in price and quality. If you wish to buy one, always select cookware that are optimum in quality and equipped with a durable coating. They might be slightly pricey, but not more than your health.

  • Prevent Cooking Acidic Foods In Aluminum 

The amount of aluminum that can leach from the cookware depends on the type of food you are cooking. For instance, acidic foods are a big no-no in the combination with aluminum. Let’s take tomato sauce as an example; it has high acidic level and there are chances that the components from the pan can transfer in the food. 

  • Use Coated Pans to Cook Acidic Foods

It is definitely possible to prepare tomato sauce or other acidic foods in the aluminum pan, the only condition is that; it should be coated. It is suggested to utilize an anodized pan for the purpose, but other coating will do fine as well.

  • Don’t Let Your Food Stay In Aluminum For Too Long

Leaching of aluminum into your food also depends on how long you keep it in contact with the metal. No matter, if it is preparing food in an aluminum pan for longer hours or storing it in the foil; the practice is harmful either way. The key is to cook instant and non-acidic foods in aluminum, and make sure not to store them wrapped in the foil for days to prevent the harm.

  • Declutter Old, Worn Out Pans

It is not a wise idea to use worn out aluminum pans, especially if their base is damaged to ensure safety. Warping bottoms of woks can lead to uneven heat distribution, quick temperature change and direct exposure to the metal.

  • Don’t Overheat or Preheat

Overheating and preheating of aluminum pots and pans can also be responsible for affecting the coating. As a result, your food may stick to the pan and leaching of metal can occur. 

  • Use Wood or Silicone Spatulas Only

Only use wooden or silicone spatulas to mix, whisk, twist and turn the food because in other case, the coating may get scratches and the aluminum layer will be exposed. 

FAQs Cooking With Aluminum 

There must be many queries in your head that need to be answered. So, here we are to guide you in the best possible way.

Is It Safe To Cook With Aluminum?

The answer is both, Yes and No. 

Yes, if:

  • Food doesn’t have a higher acidic level 
  • Aluminum is coated with other materials. 
  • Food is not in direct contact with the metal for longer hours.
  • If it is not heated on a very high temperature.

No, if the above-mentioned conditions are not fulfilled. 

Is It Safe To Bake With Aluminum?

Aluminum can be used as bakeware if it is coated with a protective layer, like non-stick. Moreover, it is not suggested to re-heat food wrapped with aluminum foil multiple times in the oven.

When To Replace Aluminum Cookware Instantly?

The threat of cooking with aluminum is low, so you don’t need to replace the existing pots and pans immediately out of fear. However, if the utensils are scratched or in a bad shape, then it is a good idea to replace them with a better option.

Scratches expose bare aluminum that can not only affect the taste of the meal, but also cause the metal to leach into your food even in a smaller quantity. Therefore, it is important to maintain your cookware in the best shape to reap the benefits.

How To Take Care For Aluminum Utensils To Prevent Harm?

Proper care of Aluminum cookware will ensure a safe cooking experience along with an extended longevity. The given chart will reveal some tricks to treat aluminum pots and pan as per their making. 

Simple Aluminum 

Anodized and Hard-Anodized Aluminum 

Non-stick Coated Aluminum 

Care

It requires the most care of all.

This type can stand a little abuse. 

Require care while washing.

Built 

Malleable, delicate

Most durable and safe.

Depending upon the type of material used for coating.

Temperature settings 

Low to medium heat

Medium to high

Low to medium 

Preferred Cleaning Method 

Use gentle cleanser, brushes and scrubbers only. 

You can use a variety of detergents or cleaning agents. Avoid using steel wool though. 

Gentle soap, brushes and sponges for cleaning. No steel wool whatsoever. 

Dishwasher safe?

No. It can cause spots and corrosion.

Yes. Dishwasher and oven safe

No, dishwasher can flake off the coating. 

Verdict

Aluminum is an accessible, lightweight, low-cost and practical mineral, which is widely used all around the World. It is an excellent heat conductor and ensures an even temperature distribution. As cookware, the metal has some positive aspects and a few risks are involved too. 

Studies show that, some amount of aluminum can leak into your food while cooking or storing. However, it is only toxic if you are consuming the metal in a large amount. For example, aluminum can be responsible for Alzheimer’s and some other diseases as well, from severe to mild. However, the good news is that; you can prevent these issues by simply using a ceramic-coated, anodized aluminum or non-stick coated aluminum utensils. Moreover, you are required maintain your pots and pans regularly for cooking safely

Some tips and tricks related to cooking with aluminum and its cleaning are discussed above that will help you with the venture. Hope you have a great cooking experience.