It has been said that you should not eat food cooked by angry people, as their food contains the toxic residues of their emotional state. It turns out that toxic residues come in many forms-even your favorite nonstick cookware! These pans are coated with per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, otherwise known as PFAS, which make cleaning a breeze, but are causing a myriad of health problems as they infiltrate our food supply.
When nonstick pans are heated above 400 degrees, they release PFAS into food. Because many oils-grapeseed, safflower, and avocado-routinely heat past this point without smoking, it’s hard to know when your nonstick pan has surpassed this temperature. When it does get this hot, fluorocarbon gases are released, and these gases cause what is referred to as “polymer-fume fever,” a flu-like syndrome that has been known to kill avian pets. Also, when your nonstick pan becomes scratched, some of the nonstick coating can flake into your food which can release the same toxic compounds directly into your food.
PFAS affect us from outside the kitchen as well. Known as “forever chemicals” because they do not break down at an appreciable rate in the environment, PFAS have migrated into air, dust, water, and food though the industrial waste associated with making nonstick pans, as well as the numerous other PFAS-containing products like waterproof clothing, hospital equipment, furniture, and even children’s products.
Epidemiological studies have revealed that most Americans have demonstrable levels of PFAS in their blood. High exposure rates have been linked to kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroiditis, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol, and pregnancy-induced hypertension. Several PFAS have also been identified as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, based on their ability to interfere with normal reproductive functioning and hormonal signaling at very low levels of exposure.
What can you do to reduce your exposure to PFAS?
Filter your drinking water with reverse osmosis, dust and vacuum regularly, and do not buy items that contain these chemicals. See http://www.ewg.org/avoidpfas for a full review of these products.
Cook with cast-iron or enamel-coated, cast-iron cookware made in in the United States and Europe. Stainless steel cookware is another good option.
If you must use a nonstick pan, consider the ScanPan, made by a Scandinavian company that still uses PFAS, but in a more responsible way. http://www.scanpan.com
Below is a delicious recipe of wild mushrooms and white beans, which gratuitously slides right out of a cast-iron skillet! Perfect winter comfort food…no toxic residues.
Kitchen-Prescription Recipe: Cast-Iron Skillet Wild Mushroom and Cannellini Bean Ragout
Cast-Iron Skillet Wild Mushroom and Cannellini Bean Ragout
1 pound mixed wild, organic mushrooms including Shiitake and King oyster, chopped into half inch pieces
One 15 ounce can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch dice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 teaspoons of fresh thyme leaves, stripped from their stems and roughly chopped
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of salted, grass fed butter
Defrosted pearl onions and chives for serving
Heat the olive oil in a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté for five minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the mushrooms to the pan, and stir to combine. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the beans, chicken stock, and thyme leaves, and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half, and the mixture starts to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, and turn off the heat. Stir in the butter, mixing thoroughly to emulsify the sauce. Top with pearl onions and chives. Serve hot, over rice or polenta.
Nonstick cookware should not be used for more than 5 years, and should be discarded sooner if there is any visible breakdown of the coating.
Buy organic mushrooms, as they are often heavily sprayed with herbicide, and cook thoroughly. Mushrooms contain cancer-causing substances that are heat-sensitive-i.e. they disappear with cooking. Do not eat mushrooms raw.
When buying cooked, canned beans, look for BPA-free cans, or, even better, use cooked beans from glass containers.