What Everyone Needs to Know About Aluminum Cookware

Wondering about Aluminum Cookware?  Here’s an interesting fact…

According to the Cookware Manufacturers Association, aluminum cookware sales accounted for almost 60% of all cookware sold in the USA in 2015.Aluminum cookwareSo basically, more than half of us are using aluminum cookware.  Yet we don’t seem to know enough about it.  Not a day goes by when I don’t get a query about aluminum cookware or a request to do an in-depth review.   Questions like:

– What is anodized aluminum?
– What is hard anodized aluminum?
– Difference between hard anodized aluminum and non-stick cookware?
And the overriding question: Is aluminum cookware safe?

My goal is to have answers to all those questions by the end of this article.  And more.  

So let’s get started.  

Why use aluminum?

Aluminum is a great conductor of heat which makes it an ideal choice for cookware. Here’s a table so you can see how Aluminum compares to other metals.  The thermal conductivity of metals is measured in w/m.k or watts per meter-kelvin. Aluminum has a thermal conductivity that is 16 times that of stainless steel.   

What that means for you is that Aluminum will heat up quickly, evenly and 16 times faster than a stainless steel pot!   

Copper 401 W/m.K
Aluminum 237 W/m.K
Nickel 91 W/m.K
Cast Iron: 80 W/m.K
Tin: 67 W/m.K
Stainless Steel: 14.2 W/m.K

Source:  http://www.tibtech.com/conductivity.php

Aluminum is also the third most abundant element in nature.  Read ‘cheaply available’.  Which means aluminum cookware is generally affordable.  Plus it’s lightweight.  It’s no wonder we favor Aluminum cookware over all others.  

 

The problem with Aluminum is…

Aluminum reacts with acidic food which causes the metal to leach into the food. Because of that, you will find that most of the aluminum cookware that is available is either coated with a non-stick layer or is anodized.  

 

What is anodized aluminum?  

Ok, time for some chemistry 101.  If you leave aluminum exposed to the air, it will naturally form a thin layer of aluminum oxide on the surface. While this layer is very thin, it is strong and hard.  It prevents the metal from further oxidation by forming a barrier between the aluminum and the air.  Scientist call this process ‘passivation’… meaning it makes the metal passive vs reactive.

As a matter of interest, both sapphires and rubies are gems made of aluminum oxide (different colors).  Because of its hardness, aluminum oxide is also used as a commercial abrasive.

Now in order to make the layer of aluminum oxide thicker, the metal is subjected to an electrochemical process called anodization.  This forms a much thicker layer of the non-reactive aluminum oxide, creating what is known as anodized or hard-anodized aluminum.    

 

Is anodized aluminum the same as hard anodized aluminum?

While both imply a layer of aluminum oxide on the surface of the metal, there is a difference.  Hard anodized is, in simple terms, an even thicker layer of aluminum oxide than regular anodized.  The resulting metal has twice the strength of stainless steel and is durable, non-reactive and resistant to corrosion and abrasion.  

 

Can hard anodized aluminum peel off?

The layer of aluminum oxide in anodized aluminum is not like paint or a coating but is completely fused into the base metal.  Meaning it’s a part of it.   This means that it cannot peel away or chip off. 

By some accounts, it’s also almost as hard as diamond.   This is why it does a great job of preventing scratches and exposing the aluminum core inside.  

 

Is hard anodized aluminum non-stick?

By its nature, hard anodized aluminum is low stick, not totally non-stick.  Most hard anodized aluminum pans today are coated with a non-stick coating.  

 

What’s the difference between hard anodized and non-stick?

Hard anodized cookware is made of aluminum that has been anodized to form a hard, durable layer.  It may or may not have a non-stick coating on it.

Anodized aluminum was initially developed by Calphalon in 1968 for professional chefs. It was developed in response to the demanding requirements of chefs in professional kitchens.   Calphalon Commercial Hard Anodized line was later made available to the public in 1976  so that home cooks could also enjoy this type of cookware.  However this product is no longer available and has been replaced with traditional non-stick coated cookware.  

Non-stick aluminum cookware is aluminum cookware with a non-stick coating.  The non-stick coating can be PTFE based (i.e like Teflon) or Ceramic based. It may or may not be hard anodized aluminum.  

For more on Teflon see our guide here

For more on ceramic coatings, see our guide here

 

Is a non-stick coated pan with hard anodized aluminum better than one with non-anodized aluminum?

A quick look on Amazon shows that a non-stick pan with hard anodized aluminum generally costs more than a non-stick pan with plain aluminum.  And yet, despite the extra cost, I would always recommend choose a non-stick pan or set that is hard anodized vs. plain aluminum.  Here’s why:

Firstly, hard-anodized aluminum goes through an extra process that makes it much harder, stronger and scratch resistant than plain aluminum.    This means you get a much more durable pan due to the outstanding toughness of the hard anodized surface.  

Secondly, a non-stick coating applied to a hard anodized aluminum pan lasts much longer than a plain aluminum pan.  In fact, according to Circuloncanada.ca,  when an abrasion test was performed on a hard anodized aluminum surface and a plain aluminum surface with the same quality of non-stick coating, the hard anodized material proved 3 times more durable!

Lastly, in the case of hard anodized,  even if the non-stick coating wears off or scratches, the food will not be exposed to plain aluminum.  Aluminum, as we know by now, reacts with some foods, particularly acidic foods, leaching the metal into the cooking.  Hard anodized, on the other hand, is quite non-reactive.

So in conclusion, shell out the extra bucks for a hard anodized non-stick.  From my personal experience, you’ll get a much longer lasting non-stick pan.  

 

And now the raging debate : Is aluminum cookware safe?

Disclaimer: since this is a sensitive subject for many people I want to make it clear that I have no intention of trying to change anyone’s opinion.  My sole purpose is to share what I have researched and to lay it out.  If it makes sense to you, great.  If not, that’s OK too.  Get a stainless steel or copper set.  

There are actually two parts to this question: 1. Does aluminum leach into food from cookware?  2. Is aluminum safe?

Let’s tackle them one at a time.

Does aluminum leach into food from cookware?

The concise answer: not much!

It’s important to keep in mind that most aluminum cookware is either coated with non-stick, is hard anodized or even stainless steel clad (e.g. Cuisinart MCP).  In all these cases, food is not directly in contact with plain aluminum, so chances of leaching are very low.

Now we come to plain aluminum pans, which most of us are not using anyway.  According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), cooking in aluminum containers results in small but unimportant increases in the aluminum content of foods.    

Livestrong.com references a study that was published in the “Journal of Food Protection” which estimates that cooking in aluminum pans or foil can add about 3.5 mg aluminum to the daily intake.  Given that most people consume an average of 1-10mg of aluminum daily from natural sources, this amount would not be enough to constitute a health hazard.  

Further, in an independent lab test done by Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen) in 2012, it was found that tomato sauce (an acidic food) that was cooked in an aluminum pan for 2 hours and then stored in the same pan overnight contained only 0.0024 mg of aluminum per cup.  

As a point of comparison, some common over-the-counter antacids have more than 100 mg of aluminum in a single dose.  

Conclusion:

  1. Aluminum does not leach into food from coated or anodized aluminum cookware.  
  2. The amount that leaches from untreated aluminum cookware is not enough to cause a health hazard.

 

Which brings me to the second part of the question:

Is aluminum safe?

Let’s see, we’ve established that most aluminum cookware is either coated, anodized or clad.   This means food is not in direct contact with the metal.

If you are among the minority using plain aluminum cookware, the amount of metal leaching seems to be negligible.   This would also apply to non-stick aluminum pans that have a worn or scratched Teflon or ceramic coating.  

So that makes it pretty safe, in my opinion.

And while 60% of us are using some form of aluminum cookware, the myth that aluminum cookware causes Alzheimer’s lives on.

Let’s go back to the birth of that myth.  Some decades ago, in the study of a deceased Alzheimer’s patient, it was discovered that his brain had an unusually high concentration of aluminum.  Since then, aluminum was linked to Alzheimer’s and aluminum pots and pans were vilified as possible culprits.  

The connection between Alzheimer’s and aluminum has been debunked many times since then.   In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s society :

“there is no convincing evidence that aluminum increases a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”


FDA reports that aluminum does not cause Alzheimer’s disease and the use of aluminum products does not harm health.   

Lastly, according to Dr. David Perlmutter, renowned neurologist and bestselling author of Grain Brain, brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, are caused by excess consumption of carbohydrates and grains.

Not aluminum cookware.  

With that, I rest my case.  To me, aluminum cookware is safe.   

If you’re still troubled by the idea of using aluminum cookware, do yourself a favor. Choose stainless steel.

Cookware Advisor pick for best aluminum cookware: 

  1. Ceramic coated (ptfe/pfoa free): Caraway Cookware
  2. Ptfe (teflon type) coated: Circulon Infinite Hard Anodized 10 Piece Cookware Set

93 Responses to What Everyone Needs to Know About Aluminum Cookware

  1. Pingback: Is aluminum cookware safe? - Fask Market

  2. Ellen says:

    Can you do the magnet test effectively to tell if a pan is aluminum or stainless? My husband says that you take a magnet, and if it sticks to the pan, it is aluminum. Is this correct

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Ellen, concise answer: no.
      Aluminum is not magnetic so if a magnet sticks, its definitely not aluminum. Not all Stainless steel is magnetic either and only stainless steel which contains no nickel (18/0 or 400 series) is magnetic. Read more here if you’re interested.
      So if a magnet sticks, it is most likely because the outer most layer of the pan is magnetic SS. Keep in mind, the inner core of the pan could very well still be aluminum. And the inside surface could (and most likely would be) non-magnetic Stainless steel.

  3. E Tolan says:

    I have a Calphalon Commercial hard anodized set. I purchased this specifically because I did not want a teflon-style non-stick coating for health reasons. I have taken great care with these pans, but on some of them there are spots where the pan is shiny like regular aluminum, not dark and matte like hard anodized aluminum. The spots are primarily in heavier use areas, like where the pan touches the burner, and are both on the inside and outside of the pan. Are they safe?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello E Tolan, you must have purchased those pans a while ago since I don’t think Calphalon sells those uncoated hard anodized pans anymore
      Your description suggests that with usage, the layer of hard anodized aluminum has worn thin in some spots exposing plain aluminum. Is that safe? Based on my research, while aluminum leaches a bit when in contact with acidic food, there’s not enough of it to be harmful. Hard anodized aluminum (which your pan still mostly is) even less so. So its really your choice at this point to decide what you’re comfortable with.

  4. Lila says:

    Hey, great information… As per my knowledge, one information is missing on “Is a non-stick coated pan with hard anodized aluminum better than one with non-anodized aluminum?”. there are 4 kinds of nonstick pots & pans. Hard-anodized pans or pots are itself nonstick cookware and the rest three stone coated, ceramic coated and Teflon coated cookware the; there base inner material is aluminium (non anodized or anodized).

  5. Neal says:

    I have been on the lookout for the safest, but practical cookware lately.
    After hours of reading up- I’ve shorted down to-

    Clay pots- Supposedly very safe, but there’s chances of heavy metals being in the clay used.
    .Stainless Steel- Even the best grade leeches Chromium and Nickel… which I’m not sure is a good thing.
    Enameled coated Cast iron- Even if the coating gets ruined- and you get Iron leaching in your food, iron isn’t as bad as nickel or aluminium
    or
    Anodized Aluminium- The primary utensils I’m using right now. They have worn out a bit – and I can see the layers (rust?) of the anodize come off.
    My main worry does the peeled off layers/spots mean I’m exposing myself to aluminium, meaning it’s not as advisable to use it for acidic foods?

    I would love to know your thoughts on the mentioned cookware

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello Neal, I can understand your concerns but here’s the thing – in all my research I have not found any cookware material that is not declared unsafe by someone or the other…. and given you’re looking for a practical solution, I would suggest you look at Stainless Steel cookware with an aluminum core. You can read more about that here, I did a full guide to SS cookware and safety concerns.

  6. Darlene Dengler says:

    I have a Ballarini 9″ fry pan. My husband thinks it is wearing in the middle. Could this be the case or does it just need a good scrubbing?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Darlene, its very hard to judge without an image but if the nonstick is worn out, it would be quite visible and you would be able to see the metal underneath.
      If that’s not the case, its useful to remember that any nonstick pan will wear out over time and this will manifest as a reduced non-stick functionality. Doesn’t mean the pan is useless, just might need a bit more fat/oil to be functional. Unless of course, if the metal is exposed, in which case I’d say time for a new pan.

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  8. Melissa says:

    I have a Jamaican duchy pot given to me and it is made of cast aluminium. i am assuming it is not coated or anodised and therefore best not to use it?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Melissa, based on my research, as long as you’re not cooking highly acidic food (like tomatoes, fruits, very salty stuff) you should be quite ok. Beyond that its really your personal level of comfort.

  9. Joshua says:

    Is the Aluminum in the Caraway pans anodized? And could the aluminum leech through their ceramic coating?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Joshua, Caraway pans are not anodized and I included their CEOs explanation as to why not in my review here.
      I think there is little to no chance of aluminum leaching through 3 layers of ceramic coating.

  10. htns says:

    Hi. I am looking into purchasing a bundt pan and am undecided between cast aluminum and aluminized steel. Which is better? Thank you in advance.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello htns,
      Cast aluminum, as the name suggests, is made of heavy gauge aluminum. Aluminized steel is steel dipped in an aluminum silicon alloy.
      There’s really no clear answer as to which is better, other than personal preference. So I’m just going to lay out mine. I’d go with cast aluminum. Couple of reasons:
      Aluminum is a better conductor of heat than steel; Plus, with cast aluminum there’s no layer that could scratch off and expose the steel.

      Performance wise I think you’d get similar results. So really, I don’t think you’d go wrong with either.

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  12. S says:

    I have old Farberware aluminum clad stainless steel pots… I was going to throw them out and buy a Very large stainless steel non-nickel pot to do large amounts of cooking in…Can you please expound on old pots that are aluminum clad stainless steel as that was not broken down in detail in this discussion in relation to Alzheimer’s, tho I am gathering from what you are saying that it is safe – except for cooking tomato sauce. Thank you!

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello S, in a clad pan such as you describe, the surface that touches the food is stainless steel, while the inner layer is aluminum. The food doesn’t touch the aluminum at all so there is no issue with cooking anything including tomatoes.

      I think the info you are looking for might be in this article about Stainless Steel cookware (see section on Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?) … bottom line, SS is generally accepted as one of the safest cooking materials, but in the case of a heavily scratched and/or pitted pan, while it is still safe, it is more likely to leach nickel and chromium into food and you have to be the judge and decide if you want to replace it.

    • Chris says:

      I noticed that you mentioned “stainless steel non-nickel pot”. Do you have a Nickel allergy? If so, please note that even 430 Grade Stainless Steel, sometimes called 18/0 (I.e. 18% Chromium, 0% Nickel) is not truly Nickel-free. It still contains very small amounts. If you do have a Nickel allergy, then I advise caution.

  13. John charles says:

    Your mention of the name David Perlmutter rendered your entire commentary questionable?

    • Chris says:

      It used to be blasphemy to say that the Earth orbited the Sun. Margarine used to be touted as healthy and Butter was the sinner. On the subject of Gluten Intolerance, there are almost as many views as there are experts. Why not keep an open mind? It is quite plausible that the modern diet contains too much Gluten, for which our metabolisms weren’t designed, and that cutting down might have a positive health impact.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hello John, thanks for your comment but as I say in my commentary, “if it makes sense to you, great. If not, that’s OK too.”
      I keep an open mind and know that not everyone has to agree with it.

    • Ron says:

      I would have replaced that question mark with an exclamation point!

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  15. John Wick says:

    Great piece of information.
    I just bought my aluminum cookware from https://batteriadipentole.com/

  16. Pingback: How to Take Good Care of Your Cookware - Easy Recipe Depot

  17. Christine Girod says:

    Thankyou for the article on aluminum cooking pots. I will be keeping my pot that I was going to toss.

  18. Ploutarch says:

    Nice article.!
    I have seen some famous brands selling forged aluminum frying pans with marble non stick surface (3 layers). My questions: What is forged aluminum? Is it good as anodised?
    Does a non stick stainless steel pan is better than a hard anodized non-stick? For some reason i trust more stainless steel. I am in the search to buy two fryign pans. One non stick that i will use it only in middle to low heat (for eggs e.t.c), and one stainless steel 18/10 for french fries, meat. e.t.c

  19. Brian Windsor says:

    I just purchased a heavy gauge aluminum, PFOA free, nonstick frying pan. Is there any danger of the aluminum seeping into our food? Thank you! Brian

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Brian, chances are slim, the non-stick layer forms a barrier between the food and the metal underneath. In case of scratches in the nonstick layer, even then, the aluminum would form a layer of aluminum oxide which is non-reactive with food. So I think you’re safe :)

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  21. Michelle Doran says:

    Thank you for your great article! Very informative and helpful. I have a question regarding any possible fumes while using aluminum or stainless steel bakeware.
    We like to use a half size cookie sheet on the lowest shelf in our oven, to catch any baking overflow and keep our oven clean. Tin foil liners are too small, and silicone liners don’t have an edge around them. We are wondering if nonstick coatings release any fumes while heating/cooling, and what would be best to use for our purpose? Thank you! Michelle

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Michelle, thanks for your comments!
      To answer your question re fumes from nonstick coatings, if a nonstick pan is heated to over 500 F, the plastic nonstick coating breaks down and releases fumes which are harmful for pets and an irritant for humans. You can read more about non-stick coatings here.

      However, chances are that you are not baking at temperatures in excess of 500 F or even close to it so the nonstick pan should be ok to use.

  22. Peggy Cooper says:

    What about aluminum foil and disposable aluminum (tin) pans? Is it unsafe to store leftovers in these handy pans? Is it safe to bake with them?

    • Chris says:

      There’s a lot of argument back and forth about the safety of Aluminum foil and containers. The facts are as follows. (1) Aluminum is ubiquitous in the environment. Food contains some Aluminum, and we’re also exposed to it through certain food additives and medication (e.g. antacids). Tea is also quite high in Aluminum (but I still keep drinking it). (2) Aluminum is a proven neurotoxin regardless of whether it causes Alzheimer’s or not. (3) Toxicity of Aluminum is likely to depend on the level of exposure over a lifetime. (4) Roasting in Aluminum foil can increase the Aluminum content of meats – some studies put it at around +90% whereas others report a +200% increase. (5) Aluminum tends to leach more into acidic food, which means that storage over a prolonged period is likely to be more of a problem for such foods. (6) The ill effects of Aluminum from such sources as foils, containers and cookware is unlikely to be immediate under normal domestic-use conditions. But nobody knows what the cumulative effect of additional Aluminum (other than what is already in the food) will be over a lifetime. My own view is, why add needlessly to what we can’t avoid? Others may simply prefer to roll the dice and opt for the convenience.

      • Cookware Advisor says:

        Insightful and informed as always Chris! Thanks! I’ve also come across arguments both for and against aluminum foil and while I try to avoid it, I have to admit sometimes convenience just wins!

  23. Maheen says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed analysis I have been really puzzled for past few months about which cookware to use … thankyou for solving my mystery..great informative article.

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  25. Ko Thike says:

    Uncoated aluminum ware have been used for more than a century in Myanmar ,with no dire consequences ,nor any reports from the medical community .Whether acidic foods like tomatoes or tamarind leaf soup is cooked ,depends on the individuals .We also use frying pans made from air plane fuselage scraps since many decades ago ,no problems have been linked to it .Since the whole country uses it up till now ,I presume aluminum cookware is safe .Please let me have your opinion as well .Thanks .

    • Chris says:

      Hi Ko. The consensus of the scientific community is that Aluminum exposure is not a direct cause of Alzheimer’s disease. However, I looked up the latest WHO data that were published in 2017, which gave the following information regarding Dementia as a whole.

      Alzheimers/Dementia Deaths in Myanmar reached 13,139 or 3.33% of total deaths. The age adjusted Death Rate is 38.49 per 100,000 of population ranks Myanmar #13 in the world.

      (https://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/myanmar-alzheimers-dementia)

      There’s no escaping the fact that Aluminum is a recognized neurotoxin independent of whether it causes Alzheimer’s or not.

      There are many sources of Aluminum to which we are exposed, which have been detailed before on this website. Uncoated Aluminum pans is just one of the many routes of exposure. At the end of the day, as a neurotoxin, it all adds up over a lifetime of exposure. Why expose ourselves to more if we have the choice of coated Aluminum (or even stainless steel or cast iron)?

      The best current advice is not to use uncoated Aluminum pots and pans, particularly for acidic foods.

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  27. Gale says:

    Aluminum pots that are designed for making pasta or soups tend to be larger and are not coated or layered like pans or smaller sause pots. Therefore, the increased likelihood of leaching aluminum oxide into the food while cooking is greater… add to that the longer cooking times when making soups, sauses, and water for pasta, potatoes and the likelihood rises again. Plus the acidic level of the food (using salt) and the heat under the pot adds even more limelihood of leaching of AO in the cooked food.
    Certain foods actually increase leaching, like dairy, seafood, tomatoes, most all proteins. Add the use of metal utensils and wear of the actual polished finish of the metal and you have increased the leaching probability factor again. This happens with stainless steel too and is a problem in processed food, especially pet foods due to the use of processing equipment that is old and worn from the constant rubbing action of ingredients against the inside finish of the huge mixers…. I researched this as a conerned consumer, and also found that old cookwear in restaurants can have the same affect on the prepared foods. Plus, when the cooking takes longer the leaching increases and can also begin to leach lead in to the food source.
    The key is to limit eating cooked foods, be aware of how you feel after eating cooked meals (dry mouth, spaceiness, sore throat feeling, unsettled stomach, very thirsty, constipation, etc), all are indication of aluminum residue exposure.
    It’s hard to find high quality stainless steel cookwear nowadays. And to find cookware not made in Asian countries, or even US companies that have their products made in Asian countries. Spend the money on high quality cookwear, and take good care of it.
    And activated charcoal can help leach the aluminum oxide from the body so that is a way to get that out of the system after if a bad encounter happens.
    And those studies debunking aluminum from a cause of alzheimers are as suspect as the ones used to debunk leaching of mercury from tooth fillings…. because if it were ever admitted, think of all the lawsuits that would happen as a result…. Bottomline…. if you feel weird after exposure, investgate yourself… Real educated consumers that question authority are the most powerful consumer….. and the ones that delegate up for better safety stanards and truth in products.

    • Chris says:

      Hi Gale, well researched!

      Whether or not Aluminum causes Alzheimer’s, it is a proven neurotoxin and it is known to interfere with over 200 different biological processes in our bodies. Therefore, cooking food in uncoated Aluminum pots and pans is not a great idea.

      It is doubtful whether you’d feel unwell immediately after cooking food (even acidic food) in an uncoated Aluminum pan. It is a slow build up that occurs. It is likely that you’d be doing yourself harm over many years until a certain accumulative exposure is reached.

      Coated Aluminium or coated Hard Anodized cookware will protect you (i.e. the coating acts as a barrier against leaching). There is no difference between made in Asia and made in USA (if you can find any) for coated Aluminium as all imports have to pass strict safety testing before shipment to the USA. However, in use, the coating can get scratched and can come off and may result in varying degrees of leaching depending on how much bare Aluminum is exposed. Ceramic Non-stick is harder to scratch vs the PTFE-type and can offer non-stick convenience combined with good safety.

      The safest bet, providing you don’t have a Nickel allergy, is uncoated Stainless Steel. Seasoned Cast Iron or Carbon Steel are other safe options.

  28. Al Schreiber says:

    About vintage aluminum: I have been given a set of Toro aluminum kitchenware–stock pots, and smaller pots. Heavy weight, not anodized, They go back to some time in the 1970s. Have had serious usage over the years, a kind of patina built up inside them. Should they be scrubbed? Should they be used at all? Maybe just for boiling pasta or potatoes? Or moved to the landfill?

  29. Sarah w says:

    Hi
    I have some prestige aluminium pans which I have had s couple of years that are mildly scratched (have only ever used nylon utensils so god knows how they scratched). There are some tape a in the pans where the coating has come off and round the rim on one saucepan is quite flaky.
    I have ordered more saucepans but I was worried that some aluminium may have transferred to some food I prepared for my young child. I mostly use the pans to boil pasta. Could the aluminium affect the water and therefore the food boiling within?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Sarah, if the pans are coated, there’s little chance of any significant aluminum leaching into food or water. Despite and scratches in the surface. So I think you’re ok. And you’re doing the right thing by replacing the pans anyway.

  30. Charmaine Challenger says:

    Thank you. This helped immensely. Points well illustrated and left me with no doubt at all.
    At the end of the day the choice is always ours.
    I will continue using the aluminum pots that I own. Don’t intend to purchase more, however I will accept aluminum gifts. 😉

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  33. Peggy concannon says:

    Would hard anodized cookware serve as a substitute when cast iron is called for?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Peggy, in theory yes, however almost all hard anodized cookware comes with a non-stick coating, which means you can only heat to a max of about 500F. Cast iron can be heated to higher with no issue.

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  35. Treva Bailey says:

    We cook in Club Aluminum cookware. ❤️

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  37. Janet says:

    Is burnished aluminum kitchenaid attachments toxic or safe to use while preparing food?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Janet, yes I would think it’s safe to use. Burnished metal is simply a polishing method for the metal. And in food preparation, the food is not in contact with the aluminum for a long time. Even otherwise, as you might have read above, my research shows that cooking in aluminum is not toxic.

  38. Cynthia says:

    Well my Auntie still cooks with an aluminum pot from WWII that’s how long this pot has been in the family. She is 80. Her father cooked in it till he was 94.. Everyone ate Sunday Dinner at the Grandparents, ate food that was prepared from two of these pots. My cousin has the other one.. The brand name is Kenney’s Wares. Needless to say I am looking for pots under that brand name

    • Chris says:

      I also know some people who smoked their whole lives and never see the doctor. They use this as “proof” that smoking is safe. Hmmm. For the lucky few, maybe they get away with it. Whether or not Aluminum exposure is linked with Alzheimer’s is a matter of intense debate. However, Aluminum is a proven neurotoxin, and it interferes with over 200 different biological processes in our bodies. Therefore, cooking food in uncoated Aluminum pots and pans is not a terribly good idea. Acidic foods will certainly dissolve the Aluminum. Although we are exposed to Aluminum in our food and possibly the drinking water (to name but a few sources), I see no reason to add an extra amount via uncoated Aluminum pots and pans.

      • Gabrielle says:

        Well said! The idea that “1-10mg of Aluminum daily would not be enough to constitute a health hazard” is totally ridiculous to me! Why risk ingesting any Aluminum at all?

        • SteveO says:

          Whilst Chris and Gabrielle are quite right that Cynthia’s anecdote is not evidence, it is nevertheless astonishing how debunking of a belief multiple times fails to convince believers. El Mehdi states his ‘belief’ but presents no evidence – this is even less illuminating than Cynthia’s anecdote which is at least a presumably factual case. Whole populations cooked with aluminium for decades with no proven links to disease – compare this to the thoroughly proven impacts of leaded petrol and paints. That is evidence worth hanging your hat on.

          This is why climate change denial persists despite incontrovertible, overwhelming and indubitable evidence that it is real and happening now.

  39. JAMES MCDONALD says:

    I recently inherited a set of never-used Les Cuivres de Faucogney cookware. The product insert states the outer surface is copper, the inner surface is aluminum, and the handles are solid cast bronze. Instructions indicate that prior to use, the coating must be removed, using an acetone-soaked cloth, and then washing the cookware in hot soapy water. I’m not sure if the acetone is used on the copper surface, the aluminum surface, or both. I would love to have your feedback about this product. Thanks!

  40. EL Mehdi says:

    I respectfully disagree, I believe Aluminium is not safe, even if food is not in direct contact with the metal and coated. Aluminium is highly reactive and can warp under high heat, also prone to scratching which can lead to disaster by time.
    once that happens, Aluminium will affect the bones, brains, liver, heart, spleen and muscles.
    There are indeed ways to reduce those risk and prevent Aluminium from reacting with food. But that mean reducing the risks, not eliminating them.

    • Kathleen says:

      Almost everybody drinks soda pop or beer, so that means they are exposed to aluminum cans or aluminum containers dispensing the beverages at restaurants.

      • Chris says:

        These Aluminum cans are lined with a clear lacquer that prevents Aluminum leaching into the drink. This is necessary because many drinks are acidic, which means that exposed Aluminum would be dissolved into the drink if the lacquer wasn’t used. Accordingly, drinking canned beer or soda doesn’t add any extra Aluminum into the diet, which is a good thing because Aluminum is a neurotoxin. It’s the same principle with Aluminum cookware, the interior coating acts as a barrier against migration of materials into the food. In order to be put on the market, the cookware manufacturer needs to demonstrate compliance with this “Zero Migration” principle through testing by a third party (i.e. independent) lab.

  41. Minette says:

    I am one who is not convinced that aluminum is safe. I might be wrong but other studies show it’s not safe because it leaks into the food and causes Alzheimer’s among other health hazards. That’s what other studies have shown, If there is doubt based on what other studies reveal then I prefer not to use aluminum. Just yesterday a friend of mine was cooking in an aluminum pressure cooker and I was surprised that she was unaware of the danger. Was I wrong in my belief – I have believed that for years and have avoided using aluminum. I don’t think anyone can convince me otherwise.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Minette, I really think that at the end of the day, it’s a personal choice that we make based on what we know and believe. Your choice to not use aluminum cookware is completely fair.

  42. Pingback: Virtually Non stick cast iron cookware - HomemadeTools.net - Page 4

  43. Tanya says:

    I have a weird question. I have the Rachel Ray set that says on the bottom hard-anodized nonstick. I e had them for years and loved them. Tonight when I attempted to hang it back up on my “southern engineered” pot rack I must not have gotten it on the hook and it fell pretty far onto my tile floor. Immediately after I smelled a weird metal type odor. It was from the pot. Is it unsafe to use now?

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Tanya, that is indeed a weird question!
      I’m not sure how or what would have made you smell a metallic odor but I can see no reason why a fall to the floor would render a non-stick aluminum pan unsafe. I wouldn’t worry if I were you.

  44. Shannon says:

    I received Calphalon cookwear for my wedding back in 2005.. how do I know if it is safe or not? We still use it & many of the pieces are worn & ‘scratched’ looking on the cooking surface. Wondering if I should replace my cookwear? Thanks for any feedback.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Shannon, you didn’t specify if its non-stick or stainless steel Calphalon cookware.
      If its non-stick coated cookware, and heavily scratched, then you’re better off replacing the pans. I don’t think it’s much of a safety issue but more of the chance of the coating flaking off in your food and the non-stick not working too well anymore.

  45. Cathy says:

    I have a ? about the seal on the pans when you first buy them and before first use.. I have Emerilware, 14 piece set, I understand you have to soak them in Boiling water and baking soda before first use, if you don’t and you cook something is the sealant toxic, asking because my son used the pans not knowing i didn’t soak them first to loosen the peel sealant

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi Cathy, the general recommendation is to wash with hot, soapy water, that’s all I’ve ever done with a new set. I have to admit the bit about baking soda and warm water, while some Stainless Steel sets recommend it, is not something I’ve ever done. So if your son washed the pans before first use, I would say all is fine.

  46. Jerry Worrell says:

    Though I have not researched it (i.e., “Googled” it), I would suspect a greater danger of one absorbing aluminum into the body, more than through cookware, would be by the use of most underarm deodorants or anti-antiperspirants, almost all of which contain aluminum clorhydrates and other aluminum derivatives. Such sprays stay in contact with the skin for many hours daily and would have to be absorbed into the body at some point.

  47. Sabreena says:

    Valuable information.

  48. Pingback: Bake King aluminum loaf pan – onekarelar

  49. Jeremy says:

    Great article.

  50. George says:

    Hi everybody!

    Please be so kind to enlighten me about the differences between cast aluminum and hard anodized aluminum.

    Thank you so much and kind regards,

    G

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      hi George, cast aluminum is when molten aluminum is poured into a cast to form a pot (vs a pot made from a sheet of aluminum). Hard anodized aluminum, which as the article explains, is aluminum that has been treated to form a thick layer of oxide on top.
      Hope that helps!

    • Chris says:

      As the Cookware Advisor explained, Cast Aluminum means that molten Aluminum is poured into a cast to form the shape. Hard Anodized (HA) cookware has the shape formed by deep drawing (pressing) an Aluminum sheet into the shape of a pot. The resulting shape is then dipped into a bath containing electrolytes, and the pot forms the “Anode” in an electrical circuit. The very thin Aluminum Oxide layer that grows on the surface is much harder than the Aluminum itself. Hence the term “Hard Anodization”. The benefit of HA is that the pots and pans still have great thermal conductivity (and heat-spreading capability) and they are lighter in comparison with their Cast counterparts, which tend to be made of thicker Aluminum. HA has that characteristic Grey exterior whereas Cast Aluminum tends to have a range of brighter colored coatings on the outside. However, one thing to note, unless the HA pot has a dishwasher-safe coating on the exterior, it will rapidly discolor, and the HA surface will gradually dissolve in the dishwasher. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference and budget.

  51. Chris says:

    I agree with most of what is said in the article by Dr. McDougall. Again, please follow the link that I mentioned previously (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056430/), which is full of data that are referenced to highly credible scientific sources.

    “Aluminum is a widely recognized neurotoxin that inhibits more than 200 biologically important functions and causes various adverse effects in plants, animals, and humans.”

    “Recent studies using mass spectrometry of 26Al have demonstrated that small, but a considerable amount of Al crosses the blood brain barrier, enters into the brain, and accumulates in a semipermanent manner. Therefore, Al can cause severe health problems in particular populations, including infants, elderly people, and patients with impaired renal functions, and unnecessary exposure to Al should be avoided for such patients.”

    In plain language, it would be prudent to try to minimize exposure to significant sources of Aluminum and its compounds.

    Having said that, with Aluminum and Hard Anodized cookware, the interior surfaces are coated. The function of the coating is not only to provide a non-stick surface, it also serves as a protective barrier against leaching (migration) of the metal beneath, even when cooking with acidic foods. In fact, the basis of all international food contact regulations is that nothing shall come out of the food contact surface that would change the taste or odor of the food or render it harmful to humans. This is often called the “Zero Migration Principle”. Of course, as mentioned before, if in doubt, replace worn, scratched or otherwise damaged cookware. Alternatively, go for stainless steel albeit generally heavier, less thermally responsive and harder to wash (if uncoated).

    Accordingly, coated cookware is very likely to be the least of our worries. The general population is exposed to higher amounts of Aluminum through a variety of other sources including drinking water (Aluminum salts are commonly used flocculants in water purification plants), diet, inoculations, dialysis solutions, etc.

    Rather than throw away perfectly good coated Aluminum pots and pans, it would be a better idea, for example, to buy an RO (Reverse Osmosis) water filter that will help reduce the concentration of toxic metals including Aluminum from our drinking water. Drinking water, BTW, is reported to account on average for approximately 5% of our daily intake of Aluminum, which is much more significant than what we would receive from undamaged coated cookware.

    Aluminum exposure is but one of several factors that might potentially contribute to Alzheimer’s. You can do your brain the biggest favor of all by: (i) eliminating unnecessary simple carbohydrates such as those in sugary drinks (e.g. sodas); (ii) avoiding like the plague anything that contains High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) such as bought fruit juices; and (iii) upping the amount of healthy Omega 3 oils (e.g. from fish oil or Krill oil or walnuts) in the diet.

  52. Ann Marie Clark says:

    I think everyone should read Dr. McDougall’s June newsletter. It’s full of well-researched facts and experience with aluminum as a poison and main cause of Alzheimer’s. https://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2017nl/jun/alzheimers.htm

  53. Chris says:

    Excellent, very well informed article.

    Regarding the properties of common cookware materials, here are two further links that are useful from a technical perspective (Section 2.2 for the 2nd link):

    http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/120/Common-Materials-of-Cookware

    http://emerald.tufts.edu/as/tampl/en43/lecture_notes/ch2.html

    (Thermal conductivity BTW has units of W/m.K).

    In addition to good conductivity, Aluminum (Al) has a high ratio of ability to spread the heat vs its heat holding capacity. This is called Thermal Diffusivity. It means that Al is less likely to develop hotspots, and it will give a more even cooking result in comparison with Stainless Steel or Cast Iron.

    3-ply material is a great choice where Al is sandwiched between layers of Stainless Steel. However, watch out for the cheaper version called 2-ply (bi-ply) as the difference in thermal expansion of just these two metal layers (SS/Al) will cause the cookware base to distort and wobble, which also means less effective heating up on electric stoves.

    Finally, sorry to wade into the discussion on safety of Al. Actually, the debate on Al contributing to Alzheimer’s swings backwards and forwards.: debunked for a time, then new evidence comes to light. One argument goes that our bodies and therefore brains deal with the background level of Al that we are generally exposed to over a lifetime until a certain threshold is reached. Above this, Al can accumulate and undergo complex interactions. Then, it is the additional Al that has the potential to start the downwards spiral. However, until we have concrete proof, then the jury is still out and all we know for sure is that we need to know more.

    Whilst I totally agree that the amount of Al leaching from scratched non-stick pans is relatively low when you consider that we get it from multiple other sources (e.g. tap water, diet, antacid tablets, inoculations, etc). Nevertheless, Al is definitely amongst other things an established neurotoxin:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3056430/

    The article is quite long and technical, but the 2nd sentence in the Abstract (or the 1st paragraph of the Conclusions) sums things up.

    It means, in my book anyway, that it would be wiser not to add further amounts to our systems. It would therefore be advisable to replace badly scratched non-stick Aluminum cookware – i.e. on a better safe than sorry basis.

    • Cookware Advisor says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for yet another well informed comment, great points about the Thermal Diffusivity of Aluminum.
      [Thanks also for pointing out the correct units for measuring Thermal conductivity, I’ve made the edits in the article.]
      And I agree, it is always a good idea to replace scratched and worn cookware.
      Cheers!

      • Chris says:

        PS: forgot to mention, I’m totally with you on the “Grain Brain” link. In addition to the bad effects of simple carbs on our metabolism, some people can suffer a subclinical intolerance to Gluten from grains without even knowing it. Metabolic disease and, in particular high blood sugar, has links to impaired cognitive function and problems such as Alzheimer’s. I trust that Grain Brain should advise how to eliminate the grains whilst still getting sufficient fiber in the diet.

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