Whether cooking at home, in a restaurant kitchen, or over a campfire, you want to use quality, safe cookware. Aluminum cookware has a reputation leaving many consumers concerned. Is it dangerous to use aluminum cookware? Are you safe eating food cooked on an aluminum surface? Let’s find out!
Aluminum Cookware accounts for a large majority of cookware sold in the US. About half of all US consumers use aluminum cookware. So why is it so popular? Aluminum is one of the best materials for heat conductivity, making it one of the best metals for cookware. Compared to one of the other most popular cookware materials, aluminum’s conductivity of heat is 16x the amount of stainless steel. In other words, aluminum heats up 16 times faster than cookware made out of stainless steel, and is more readily available in nature, keeping its price lower.
Also, its lighter weight adds to its draw to consumers. Additionally, it’s a popular choice among campers, and many of the best camping cookware options are made of aluminum.
Is Aluminum Cookware Safe?
When cooking acidic foods in aluminum cookware, metals such as lead or aluminum can leach into your food. Most cookware made of aluminum is coated with non-stick layers or anodized to protect consumers against this phenomenon.
Acidic foods that can lead to leaching include vinegar, citrus, tomatoes, etc. The flavor and appearance of these ingredients may also change due to the aluminum surface. The acid also corrodes the surface of aluminum pans. Some foods with acidic ingredients may be left with a metallic taste.
Though unpleasant, the amount of metal leaching into food is minimal, and poses no health threat to consumers.
Anodized Aluminum: What is it?
Anodized aluminum has been mentioned a few times in this article, but few will recognize the meaning of the term.
When exposed to the air, aluminum surfaces develop a thin but hard and strong layer of aluminum oxide, and becomes a barrier between aluminum and the outer air.
To further develop this barrier, aluminum metal goes through a process known as anodization. This layer is fused into the base metal, and is unable to chip away or peel off the surface.
What is the difference between anodized and hard-anodized aluminum?
Both of these two types of aluminum metal have layers of aluminum oxide, there is a difference between the cookware’s durability, strength, reactivity and corrosion resistance. Hard anodized aluminum’s thicker layer of aluminum oxide has increased durability, non reactive, and stronger than stainless steel cookware.
Is anodized aluminum cookware non-stick?
Not all non-stick aluminum cookware is anodized. It may be normal aluminum cookware with an added non-stick coating.
Though hard-anodized aluminum has a greater resistance level, it is not a completely non-stick cooking surface. However, it may contain a non-stick coating separate from the aluminum oxide layer. Anodized aluminum cookware costs more. However many home chefs tend to choose anodized over plain non-stick aluminum cookware. These cookware sets are more durable, stronger, and longer-lasting.
Pros and Cons of Aluminum Cookware
- Conduction: Aluminum conducts heat very well. Cookware made of aluminum will heat up quickly, and then cook your food more evenly than cookware made of other materials.
- Cost: Cookware made of aluminum is one of the more inexpensive options. A complete set of cookware made out of anodized aluminum will only cost you about 100 dollars.
- Leaching: Aluminum cookware not coated or anodized could leach aluminum and lead into your food while in use. This is increased by acidic foods. It is minimal and lower than the tolerable level but does contribute to your metal intake.
- Durability: Cookware made out of aluminum isn’t as durable as ceramic or cast-iron options. Aluminum cookware is also susceptible to corrosion and scratching.
- Surface: This type of cookware is low-stick, but not non-stick. You will need to make sure to coat these pans with non-stick spray or oil before use.
Conclusion- Is It Dangerous To Use Aluminum Cookware?
No, cookware made out of aluminum is safe to use and the food cooked on/in it is safe for consumption. If you cook often with acidic ingredients, you might want to invest in hard-anodized aluminum cookware with added protection against metal leaching. Aluminum cookware continues to be a top choice, largely due to the lower cost and high conductivity. There’s no need to worry if you choose a set that has not been anodized- health experts still don’t consider it dangerous, just keep in mind that it can add to your daily metal intake.
Written by Alexis Enderle