Monday, December 29, 2008

Cast Iron (Wo)man

I have a serious love/hate relationship with my cast iron skillet. I love its evenness of temperature, ability to sear a steak like nobody's business, that it is non-toxic, non-stick, super inexpensive ($14) and it will probably last my lifetime with proper care.

The care constitutes all of the hate part. Proper seasoning of the skillet prevents the steel from rusting and keeps food from interacting with the metal (which could affect flavor, iron content, and corrode the metal if the food is really acidic, e.g., tomatoes). But its a multi-step process involving elbow grease, grease and hot water. And I'm still not sure if its safe to use butter (since it can go rancid).

Now if you are still using Teflon-coated cookware, please consider switching over. A NY Times article about unusual pets led me to dig deeper when it mentioned that fumes from a Teflon-coated pan can kill a bird. Pans can also cause flu-like symptoms in humans when heated at high temperatures (Wonder if my old roommate Tom is still frying meats in my old Teflon-coated wok that he pretty much ruined to flakes).

DuPont maintains that Teflon is completely safe and agreed in September 2004 to a $107.6 million settlement with residents of the communities around Parkersburg that is funding two major studies of C8's health impacts., DuPont could also be due for another $235 million payout for medical testing costs if a link to illness is proven. DuPont also installed treatment systems to get the chemical out of local water.

C8, a chemical used in the production of its cookware has been linked with severe birth defects
DuPont has a history of flouting safety regulations. Most recently "allegedly failing to provide information to the EPA about the health effects of a pollutant one of its plants spilled into drinking water." Nice job, guys, of course I trust your health claims!

I bought my skillet at my favorite local cookshop, the Brooklyn Kitchen. But really, you can find them at most well-stocked purveyors of kitchen goods.


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