What are you cooking in?

Kitchen essentials
Last Updated 22 May 2013, 14:09 IST

Are you setting up a house and buying new utensils? Or, holding a big function for which larger and sturdier kitchen apparatus is required? Don’t buy just anything that is costly or catches your fancy.

Utensils made of a particular material are meant for ‘a’ certain kind of cooking. Using the wrong kitchen gear can spoil your food’s taste, texture, aroma, or worse, cause poisoning.
Of late, non-stick cookware has been in news for instances where it has caught fire or its plastic coating melted to get mixed with the food. Nidhi Sahai, dietician, Max Healthcare, informs Metrolife, “Non-stick cookware is the need of the hour. Everyone today is health conscious and this particular cookware requires minimum oil for cooking. Hence, its popularity.”

“However, it is important to remember that non-stick is nothing but plastic. Therefore, it should only be used for cooking in low or medium heat and never left empty or unattended. If it starts emitting fumes or the upper coat starts melting away, it should immediately be discarded.”

Another kind of cookware that should be avoided for both cooking and storing is ceramic. Ceramic cookware reacts with acidic foods and hot liquids like coffee, tea and soups to release lead. Lead is highly toxic especially to children. Nidhi says, “Don’t use any dishware that has a dusty or chalky film on its glaze after being washed. It could be lead.”

Of the metals that have been traditionally preferred to make utensils is aluminium. Aluminium is a good conductor of heat and reacts to changes in temperature quickly. On the other hand, it is also highly reactive to acidic food and hence needs to be ‘anodized.’ Nidhi says, “Through anodization, aluminium is given a hard non-reactive surface making it ideal for cooking.”
“On the other hand, you can also go for ‘clad’ aluminium. In this treatment, the aluminium ware is coated with stainless steel which is least reactive to acidic foods. So you get the heat conductivity of aluminium as well as the non-reactive surface of steel.” The same applies for copperware which is customarily used to serve food to gods and in Hindu prayer rituals.

Brass utensils were used extensively before the advent of steel. The nature of brass is hot. Therefore, the food cooked in these utensils relieves cough/phlegm. Brass utensils have good properties to kill germs, so the food cooked in brass utensils keeps the body free from diseases. However, brass also reacts with acidic foods quickly due to which a nickel polish or coating is necessary.
The best metal to make cooking utensils, though, remains cast iron. Cast ironware is durable, requires little cooking oil after seasoning and can be used as well in a burner as the oven. “The biggest benefit, of course, remains that it leaches small quantities of iron into the food contributing to dietary iron - one of the few instances where metal contamination is desirable,” says Nidhi.
Of course, if you can afford silverware, nothing better than that. Royalties used silver utensils as it relaxes the five viscera, settles the mind, removes malice and makes the body lighter, lengthening life. It has been proved that silver sterilizes almost all single cell germs. Keep milk in a steel and silver glass each. The milk in steel will get spoilt. The one in silver will stay good for weeks.

(Published 22 May 2013, 14:09 IST)

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