Somehow the pandemic had some positive effect on us too. We all needed that slowdown in our pace of life to discover “inner me”. We could discover the hidden talents that were never encouraged by us in our busy life. Many of us discovered their inner chef or learned the art of cooking. Everyone tried new dishes or the recipes they craved for which they could not enjoy in their favorite restaurant. As we spent more time in the kitchen, we also became more conscious about the type of cookware and kitchen gadgets we owned. Here is a complete guide on how to choose the best and safe cookware for healthy cooking in India.
It is a well-known fact that each hand imparts a different taste to the same recipe. With each generation, there is slight change or improvisation in the recipe according to convenience and availability. Earlier in our grandmother’s times, they used woods for fire and cooked in earthen pots. The flavor that earthen pots and wood fire would give is unbeatable to date. But in today’s times cooking on woods and using earthen pots and the pan is a bit cumbersome.
Moreover, some cookwares may even provoke health issues like hormonal imbalances, Thyroid malfunction, pcod, pcos, Kidney issues, and several types of cancers. It is very important to use appropriate cookware that does not only enhance health but also is convenient to use.
Best Cookware for Healthy Cooking in India:
Choosing the best cookware depends on various factors like cooking time, nutrient retention as well as maintenance.
Factors deciding which cookware are best:
If the recipe is time-consuming we need cookware that helps us cook fast. Microwave cooking is the quickest. Thus for microwave cooking, you need either glass or microwavable plastic vessels.
The heat if spreads evenly in the vessel then the food cooks better. Better the heat conductivity evenly is the food cook. If you need low or high flame cooking, the vessel should adjust immediately without food sticking or burning. Metals like copper are the best heat conductors compared to stainless steel. Copper takes no time to heat and cool.
Nutrient retention and food metal reaction:
Indian cooking includes ample use of lemons, tomatoes, or tamarind which is acidic in nature. Some metals react in an acidic environment. This might lead to some leaching of the metal into the food that can be harmful to our health. Such metals are aluminum or copper. At the same time, using iron vessels helps by increasing the iron content of the food and is recommended by nutritionists for cooking.
To be honest, most women eye for cookware that is easy to wash and store with minimum maintenance. Copper and iron cookware are a bit difficult to remove oil or any other stains. Glass or stone cookware needs lots of care so it doesn’t crack or break. Whereas stainless steel and non-stick is very easy to wash and maintain.
Not all cookware is pocket friendly. Steel and aluminum are reasonable in comparison with non-stick or copper vessels.
All these reasons contribute to choosing good cookware. However, one most important factor that really affects your choice should be How healthy is it to cook in that cookware. Does it retain the nutrients, or destroys them? does it affect the absorption of these nutrients?
Let us understand the different kinds of cookware available and how to choose the best and safe cookware for healthy cooking in India?
Safe Cookware for Healthy Cooking in India:
Benefits of Nonstick cookware:
- Non-stick cookware coating helps in effortless cooking and cleaning.
- The chances of burning your food on non-stick are less likely.
- You do not need or need very little oil for cooking in non-stick pans.
- It is the best choice when you are watching your calories.
Disadvantages of Nonstick cookware:
- Nonstick cookware is coated with a chemical called Poly tetra fluoro ethylene. A plastic polymer commonly called Teflon.
- On heating these pans, the fumes and smoke that emerges have been proven to be very toxic. These fumes can cause temporary, flu-like symptoms known as polymer fume fever. On the industrial level, it has also caused serious brain and lung damage.
- Cheap quality non-stick cookware is coated with PFOA ( perfluoro-octanoic-acid)
- PFOA has been found to be a risk factor in various types of cancers (Research), Thyroid issues (Research), Kidney issues (Research), and liver issues.
- Even the Granite pans are coated with Teflon for cooking purposes.
- Teflon coatings may begin to break down at very high temperatures (Above 300°C).
- Hence, you can use non -stick cookware only when you have to use it for medium flamed cooking in moderate temperatures. And these are best avoided for broiling and deep-frying.
- Buy only 1 st quality non-stick pans and refrain from using any cheap or low-quality nonstick utensils as they could be harmful.
- Remember to exchange your nonstick pan as soon as the coating starts breaking or flaking. these flakes are super harmful.
- You can use non-stick cookware on some occasions if you follow these common tips of cooking. However, you can surely use other much more beneficial cookware that is safer for health and harmless.
Benefits of Stainless steel Cookware:
- It is an alloy that is the most common cookware found in modern Indian households.
- It is pocket-friendly
- Easy to clean
- Non-reactive to acidic food ingredients.
- It is resistant to corrosion.
- Stainless steel is excellent for sautéing and steaming food.
Disadvantages of Stainless Steel Cookware:
- It is not that good conductor of heat which might lead to burning or sticking of food to the base of the vessel.
- 100% stainless steel cookware is hard to find and expensive.
- Most stainless steel cookware comes with a ratio of chromium and nickel. lesser the nickel content safer is the utensil for cooking.
- A higher amount of nickel is added to the utensil to bring more shine to the vessel.
- Stainless steel is better than most cookware for healthy cooking in India
- Replace your aluminum idli maker, dhokla maker, and rice cooker with stainless steel cookware.
Benefits of Cast Iron Cookware:
- Before non-stick came in trend, people used cast iron vessels for cooking.
- The best part of iron is it helps heat to spread evenly which cooks the food thoroughly.
- It is best for deep frying, sautéing or browning foods.
- The enamel-coated cast-iron vessels do not even react to acidic foods and not leach into the foods.
- It has good durability.
Disadvantages of Cast Iron Cookware:
- For the first few uses, you need to coat it with oil while storing it for better durability and maintenance as well as to avoid rusting.
- These vessels are heavyweight.
- Not recommended for use while making some preparations like tomato ketchup.
- Must buy from genuine sellers to ensure if it’s really cast iron.
- If you can maintain it, it is 100% recommended.
Benefits of Aluminium Cookware:
- It is the softest metal cookware that is easy to damage. Thus it has an anodized coating, that helps prevent corrosion of metal or leeching of metal in the food.
- There is even heat distribution in aluminum making it easy to select for cooking food in less time.
- It is inexpensive and easily affordable.
- It is recyclable metal.
Disadvantages of Aluminium Cookware:
- If you use aluminum without coating it might react with acidic foods making it poisonous for human consumption.
- Aluminum is thyrotoxic and can lead to malfunction of the thyroid gland. (Research).
- Aluminum reacts with acidic foods like lemon and tomato causing hazardous effects on health.
- Aluminum may cause harm to the brain if it gets deposited in the brain cells. It can lead to Alzheimer’s, lower IQs in kids, and headaches.
- Other medical issues like Gastrointestinal disturbance, Kidney issues, and skin issues are also common.
- Although we have been using aluminum vessels for a long, it’s time that we change our idli makes, rice cooker, aluminum pressure cookers, and switch to better and safer cookware like stainless steel, cast iron, and earthen pots.
- Aluminum cookware is the worst choice of cookware for healthy cooking in India.
Copper cookware with a Bronze coating (Kalai coating):
Benefits of Copper and kalai coated cookware:
- Copper can heat and cool down fast. It is perfect for recipes where you need to use high and low flame both.
Disadvantages of Copper cookware:
- The disadvantage of copper vessels is that it is very expensive. Thus, so you will not widely see it in the majority of households.
- It reacts to acidic food and needs regular polishing to maintain its usability.
- It is somehow not practical to use Copper cookware for every type of cooking. Also in most urban areas and cities, it is hard to find people who would still do Kalai coats on the utensils. You can choose this cookware only if you have a facility available in your area and if you can handle the delicate maintenance these utensils require. Healthwise, this material is suitable for safe and healthy cooking if you avoid contact with acidic foods.
Ceramic or Ceramic Coated Cookware:
Benefits of Ceramic Cookware:
- Ceramic cookware is multipurpose cookware that can be used for baking or microwaving or directly cooking on gas.
- Ceramic does not have any additional coating that can leech in the food.
- It doesn’t scratch easily while washing or scrubbing.
- Takes time to heat, But once the heat is evenly spread the food is thoroughly cooked.
Disadvantages of Ceramic cookware:
- The only disadvantage is it takes time to heat.
- Ceramic cookware is delicate and might break upon fall. Hence they must be handled and stored with care.
- Ceramic cookware is super expensive. A simple pan can cost you around 4000 Rs/-
- Try and find ceramic wares that ensure they do not contain any lead or any carcinogenic material like PFAs. You need to take ceramic wares do not fall off or else it will break.
- They are of course safest and healthy choice of cookware. But buy only if your pockets allow.
Benefits of glass cookware:
- With baking and microwaving in trend, glass is the safest option for use.
- It is generally not coated with anything harmful to health.
Disadvantages of Glass cookware:
- The only concern while using glassware is it should be able to tolerate high temperatures. If it isn’t it might brack and break.
- It cannot be used directly on the flame or else the glass will shatter.
- Glass and borosil bowls are 100 times better for microwave cooking in comparison to any form of plastic wares. Plastic bowls and plates that we casually use for heating food in the microwave also harm the health. glass is the safest and best alternative to use in place of any plastic wares in the kitchen.
Earthen Pots / Clay cookware:
- These pots are economical.
- Foods cooked in earthen cookware retains 100 % of their nutrient content.
- The foods cooked are also imparted with many naturally occurring minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium.
- It gives a pleasant and amazing earthen aroma to the food.
- It retains the natural taste of the food.
- A very little amount of oil is required when you cook in these pots.
- The cooking time is high. and hence may not be suitable for people who lack time for cooking.
- The once inexpensive cookwares are now hyped for their benefits and modernized to sell in the markets at a heavy price.
- Should be handled with care as they may break upon fall.
- These cookwares are the best for health perspectives.
- Even if you are short on time, you must keep these cookwares handy for cooking on occasions and holidays.
- The amazing taste and nutrient retention quality of these cookwares are worth every extra minute of cooking.
- Only buy from local pottery shops. The current commercialized earthen pots sold at heavy prices are not even half as good as the local ones when it comes to taste and nutrition.
During our grandmother’s times, we have seen ladies using stone pots or woks for making chutneys and mixing and grinding. It neither leeches any of the harmful chemicals in the food nor does it react with any food ingredients. It is durable and safe for use. Off late such stone pots and pans are the first preference for baking as stone can withstand high temperatures without damaging the food. a classic soapstone paniyaram pan or a kuzzi is a perfect example. We still use marble or stone mashers to mash ayurvedic herbs and spices in the Indian kitchen. The Classic Indian silbatta made from stone can still win hearts with chutney made from similar ingredients in a motorized mixer grinder. hence we should use them whenever possible.
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Before you choose cookware for healthy cooking in India, you need to analyze the time available, the cooking method involves in the recipe, and the cost factor. For day to day use on the gas stove, stainless steel is the best option. Stainless steel with a copper bottom is the perfect option. Select cast iron over non-stick pans or woks for better nutrition quality of foods. Use glass cookware for microwaving or baking instead of plastic or aluminum respectively. And if time allows there is nothing better than using an earthen pot.