Saturday, October 31, 2009

Caribbean cookware

It's a half-sunny, half-grey, blustery Saturday afternoon. The last day of October. Well, yes, Halloween. Micael is out riding (his trials bike) and I'm staying in to get some homework done. I guess you can tell by now the homework-doing is not so successful. I'll get to it, I promise.

I have a pot of pinto beans on the oven, simmering with garlic, and am LOVING checking on them because it means I get to admire our new Le Creuset dutch oven. I think I'm obsessed with these pots because, first of all, they come in good, rich colors, and then they are so solid--they feel like they will last forever. And beyond that, I know it's a good pot. It's made of cast iron and covered with enamel and keeps its heat as if it were an oven itself. I've been doing a ton of research the past week or so on cookware, ever since I read in the cookbible that aluminum cookware is not recommended. I checked our pots and yep...aluminum. I did some searching online, and apparently, cooking with aluminum (even with foil) is thought to cause Alzheimers. Wow. Ok, aluminum is out. Which is a shame because these are nice pots that were handed down to me. What now?

I start looking at alternatives--stainless steel, cast iron, ceramic, glass. We were on the verge of buying a stainless steel set, but given my surprise about aluminum, I kept doing research to find out what could possibly be wrong with stainless--especially since most stainless steel cookware has aluminum in its base to distribute heat. Would that leach out eventually? I couldn't find any cookware that didn't have the aluminum base, and didn't trust the manufacturers to report everything that was in the cookware. After reading many reviews, I found out that stainless typically has chromium and nickel in it. I'm still unsure what the effects of these are, but it seems that many people (from reviews I read) were against the nickel. I still need to do more research on this, but I decided that if I could find an alternative, I would. So I kept searching.

We currently use a cast iron skillet that I got at Goodwill for 2 or 3 dollars. We also have a copper-bottom stainless steel pot that I got at Goodwill and figure I'll keep using for now. I got a recommendation for ceramic cookware from Xtreme (the name threw me off, but it looks like good stuff) and also for Le Creuset. We headed to the kitchen store to check things out, and ended up buying a Le Creuset dutch oven for half off ($155). We also got the stainless steel knob to go with it, because it comes with a plastic knob that is only good to 375 degrees--bad design. We also bought a pyrex corning ware glass pot from Ebay--vintage. As far as I know, they don't make these anymore. (There's a rumor that's because they crack--I guess we'll find out). We're thinking of getting another, larger cast iron skillet as well as a bigger pot--maybe in ceramic.

For now, I'm ecstatic about the dutch oven. It's a bright, turquoise blue, one of my favorite colors, which makes cooking that much more fun. And I know it's safe. It won't cause cancer or Alzheimers or any other degenerative disease somewhere down the line from unsafe materials. (I didn't even mention non-stick in here, but those materials are toxic-there was a major recall on all Teflon because it was found to be dangerous, but then non-stick replacements came out--I don't trust any of it.)

So, to recap, after all my research, here is what I would recommend: cast iron skillets, (our bodies need iron anyway) cast iron covered with enamel, (like Le Creuset) ceramic, glass, and possibly stainless steel, with as low a nickel content as possible.

Our next project for the dutch oven? Provencal lamb shank.

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