People have been using utensils made of different materials since the Neolithic and Bronze Age times and they have been using it for cooking, serving and storing food items etc.
Clay and bronze utensils have been excavated at many sites world over, including in India. Over a period of time, many other naturally occurring materials, such as Brass, Cast Iron, Aluminium, Ceramic and Stainless Steel are also being used to make utensils.
Besides, there are also Granite and Teflon-coated utensils and they became famous as they impart non-stick property to utensils.
Each of these utensils has its own set of properties which help in cooking and have certain benefits and drawbacks. This article will discuss about Non-stick Teflon, Granite, Aluminium and Ceramic based utensils.
Teflon coated non-stick
Teflon is the short form of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It is a chemical which is coated to non-stick utensils. This was used in 1930s at first. These were very popular once these were introduced in the market. There are certain pros and cons of these utensils.
1. There is no requirement of too much oil or butter due to their non stick properties and since not much of oil or butter is used, it indirectly helps in reducing calorie and fat intake, which in-turn is good for heart and general health.
2. There was considerable ease of cleaning as well which made these easily acceptable by householders as it reduced their effort.
1. The harmful effects of Teflon-coated utensils were centered around use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in manufacturing of Teflon, a chemical which is believed to be harmful for thyroid, liver, kidney and can cause cancer of testicles. However, its use has been discontinued since 2013 which makes Teflon safe now.
2. Teflon flakes could crack while food was cooked and it could be ingested. It was also believed that overheating (300°C-390°C) or preheating of Teflon utensils releases toxic gases in the container which are not considered to be good for health. However, this happens when cooking is done at extreme temperatures and for prolonged period of time (say, about 4 hours or more), then these fumes cause harm to people.
1. It is not suggested to pre-heat the utensils with Teflon coating or to heat to very high temperatures because of the reasons discussed above.
2. It is suggested to use wooden aids while cooking in Teflon-coated vessels. These are the best to use in order to avoid scratches which can result in flakes falling off.
3. Keep the kitchen ventilated- If the kitchen is well-ventilated, fumes are expected to be of lesser concern.
Ceramics are made by shaping and firing the non-metallic materials such as clay at high temperatures. The earliest ceramics that have been discovered date back 26000 years. These were found in south central Europe and are figurines made of clay and silica fused together under intense heat.
Ceramics is actually a whole category of utensils which comprises of earthenware, stoneware, porcelain and bone china.
1. Earthenware is non-vitreous pottery fired at temperature less than 1200°C and it can be glazed or unglazed.
2. Stoneware is made from stoneware clay or non-refractory fire clay. It can be vitreous or semi-vitreous but is non-porous. Further, it can be glazed or non-glazed.
3. Porcelain is made by heating materials at 1200-1400°C and one of the materials is kaolin.
4. Bone China is made from bone ash, kaolin and feldspar. It contains a minimum of one-third phosphate derived from animal bone.
In India, all these four types of ceramics are used in the form of utensils. Glazed ceramics last longer than non-glazed ones since the coating prevents damage and gives strength to utensils. However, these shall be used with good care.
Nowadays, ceramics utensils are made with aluminium base which allows to tide over some of the drawbacks of traditional ceramic ware, such as being slow to heat and weighing heavy.
1. One of the biggest advantages of using ceramic cookware is that it is non-sticky. The food does not stick in ceramic ware while cooking. However, with usage, this non-stick property might no longer hold.
2. Modern ceramics utensils are eco-friendly and 100% green. These do not leach any chemical into the food while cooking. There are no toxins in this type of utensil.
3. These retain heat for a longer period of time than most other cookware because of thick coating of ceramic material.
4. It does not absorb the flavors of food and does not alter the nutritional composition of food.
5. These are easy to clean and can be washed in dishwasher.
Ceramics emits infrared energy which warms the food from inside and outside at same time. It allows retention of natural moisture.
6. It is good to use on stove-top, oven and microwave oven.
1. Ceramics utensils take a lot of time to heat as compared with other cookware.
2. These can chip away, get scratched and be flaked off easily as compared to other utensils. These require careful cooking, cleaning and handling.
3. These are heavier than many other cookware alternatives. Kids and old aged people might be comfortable using these due to weight.
In order to prevent scratches or removal of coating, it is suggested to use wooden spatula, bamboo forks or other safer aids while cooking. Further, hand washing immediately after use is recommended. Attempting to scratch the dried items may remove coating.
Most Graniteware is an enamelware and has nothing to do with granite being used in making kitchenware. In fact, graniteware utensils have a stainless steel core with coating of glass. In manufacturing of these vessels, porcelain enamel is fused with metal at 1100°C which creates a stable, inert, non-porous and naturally non-stick utensils.
1. Graniteware is lighter than cast iron and does not rust.
Non-stick property is another important feature of this cookware which makes it easy to clean. This also uses less oil for cooking.
2. Good conductor of heat- Since inner core is made of steel, it heats up quick and distributes it evenly.
3. Keeps nutrition intact- Cooking in these utensils does not reduce the nutritional content of the food. This makes the food healthy.
The drawbacks of these utensils arise from the removal of coating which makes these inert, non-reactive and non-sticky. One of the limitations of using these is that these can break the glass-surfaced stoves.
Aluminium is the third most abundant material on earth. However, it was not until electrolytic reduction was invented in 1886 that aluminium found its use in different ways. This process allowed for refining of the metal which could then be used for making different items, including utensils. By 1889, tea kettles began to be made from aluminum.
Before 1900 it was used to make utensils. However, the next century found its many other uses such as in automobiles, machines etc. Still, almost half of its consumption is in making of household utensils.
Aluminum utensils are popular as cookware in Indian kitchens as well. The metal was introduced in 1938 in India and was used in making utensils in Kolkata. Light weight, good conduction of heat, ease of availability, cost-effectiveness and rust-free properties make it an ideal food cooking utensil. Use of aluminum, though popular, also has its share of disrepute as it is believed to be unhealthy.
1. Aluminum utensils can heat up many times faster than stainless steel or copper. It also transfers heat within the utensil very efficiently. As much as 93% of heat is transferred and only 7% is lost.
2. Anodized aluminum is safe for health as it prevents leaching of aluminum into food. It is non-reactive, non-corrosive and durable.
3. It has been reported by various studies that even the non-treated aluminum does not leach in quantities which are harmful to humans on consumption.
4. Aluminium is light-weight, yet sturdy and strong.
Research studies have established that aluminum utensils can leach aluminum. Also, when cadmium and lead are also used in the making of these utensils, body harmful toxic elements also get leached.
However, experts are divided on whether these are harmful for humans or not. Many research studies have established that even when some amounts of aluminum is leached in food, these are not in harmful quantities.
On the contrary, some other experts have opined that this is harmful for different organs of body, such as brain, heart and kidney. Please do your own research on this topics, before you buy any type of utensils.