The downside to aluminum is that it is a soft metal and so it scratches and dents easily. The bottom of an aluminum pan can eventually bow – especially if it is frequently used over a high heat.
There are ways to avoid this. The cheaper option is to look for cookware that has an inner core of aluminum and an outer coating of stainless steel.
A slightly more expensive answer to the problem is to choose anodized aluminum cookware.
What Is Anodized Aluminum?
Aluminum has a naturally occurring layer of aluminum oxide. The anodizing process thickens this layer. The thickening gives the cookware a harder, darker, non-porous surface which won't react to acids. It also means that it can heat up faster and reach higher temperatures.
Once it's been anodized, aluminum will be more resistant to chipping, cracking or peeling. However, it can still be scratched. If the surface is damaged, the anodized coating will be lost in that damaged area.
Sheet or Cast?
The most common forms of aluminum are anodized, sheet or cast.
Sheet Aluminum is the most common. The metal is rolled or stamped into shape and is most often used for baking sheets and cake pans – although stockpots, steamers, pasta pots and even cheaply priced skillets can be made from it.
As it is so soft, it is usually mixed with magnesium, copper or bronze to make it stronger and more durable.
Cast Aluminum is made by pouring heated molten aluminum into a mold. During this process, microscopic air pockets form in the metal. This means that the resulting cookware items will hold their heat for longer than sheet cookware. It also makes them quick to heat up and they only need a low heat source.
However, they are not so great at distributing the heat evenly and are also quite brittle. If they are dropped, they will probably crack. Cast aluminum cookware is porous and needs to be seasoned.
How Do I Season It?
- Wash the cookware with hot soapy water.
- Dry it and then coat it thoroughly with vegetable oil. The easiest way is to pour the oil onto a paper towel and work it well into all the surfaces.
- Put the well-coated cookware into a 250 degree oven and leave it there for 2 hours.
- Never use scouring pads or detergent on cast ware. Simply wipe it out using a damp cloth.
- If food starts to stick to the cookware, just season it again.
How Do I Look After It?
- Repeated washing in a dishwasher will strip off any seasoning, can cause discoloration and is not advised. Remove the staining by boiling something acidic like tomatoes or apple peelings and then re-season.
- Don't leave it to soak in soapy water
- Don't use steel-wool pads to clean it
- You can use non-abrasive cleaners or a paste made with baking soda and water. se either of these with a gentle, synthetic scourer and your sheet or cast aluminum will shine!
Is It Safe?
Many people are scared to use aluminum cookware as they believe it may cause Alzheimer's disease.
Back in the 1970's, some researchers in Canada reported the finding that people who had died with Alzheimer's had unusually high levels of aluminum in their brains. It sparked controversy – was aluminum the cause of Alzheimer's, or the result of it? Many people were alarmed by this and threw away their aluminum cookware.
More recent studies would seem to indicate that the increased levels of aluminum were due to the Alzheimer's itself. Brains which have already suffered damage from Alzheimer's will allow unusually high levels of aluminum in.
This is not difficult as aluminum is everywhere. The most common elements on Earth (in order of prevalence) are oxygen, silicon, and aluminum. It's in air, water, soil and consequently in the plants and animals that we eat.
So can using aluminum cookware harm me?
Current research believes that it is safe to use. To put it into perspective, many common medications contain aluminum.
- One antacid tablet may contain more than 50 milligrams of aluminum.
- One aspirin may contain between 10 and 20 milligrams of it.
- The World Health Organization says that an adult can safely ingest more than 50 milligrams of aluminum each day. People in the western world naturally consume about 10 milligrams each day and only 2 of those milligrams come from aluminum cookware.
Article provided courtesy of Only Cookware - a premier resource for cookware, stainless steel cookware and cast iron cookware sets.}?>