May 6, 2010 -- If you're planning to replace your cookware, think carefully about it. Before you rush off to buy the next hot item, consider alternatives that are healthy not just for you but for the environment.
Jennifer Schwab, director of sustainability for the Sierra Club Green Home, appeared on "Good Morning America" and discussed some of the healthy alternatives with Sam Champion during the "Just One Thing" segment.
Here's what she recommended:
Stainless steel. Schwab used nonstick cooking pans for years, until she discovered that the nonstick coating could release harmful chemicals into food.
Stainless steel pans are a great option, she said. Not only are they stylish, but they don't contain the potentially harmful chemicals that are found in Teflon-coated or other nonstick pans, she said.
Stainless steel cookware, which is preferred by many top chefs, is also more durable than other pans, and are wholly recyclable once their usefulness is over, she noted.
Cast-iron skillets. Calling it a timeless classic that can be passed down through generations, Schwab said cast-iron skillets may have earned a bad reputation for being hard to clean. That's a problem that's easily remedied, she said.
She advised that cooks season their cast iron skillets so the pans develop nonstick properties. Seasoning the pan involves a repeated process of applying butter or other animal fat to the pan, then heating the cookware. The fat will eventually bond to the pan, forming a protective coating.
Cooking in a cast iron pan also adds a little iron to the food prepared in it, which means added iron to diners' diets.
Glassware Is Versatile
The proper way to maintain a cast iron pan is to keep it well greased with olive oil, avoid baked-on grease and clean it with a sponge and water only, Schwab said. Don't use soap, she added.
Pyrex or other high-temperature tolerant glassware. It's a great alternative to plastic containers when you're planning to heat up leftovers in the microwave, Schwab said.
One of the biggest benefits of this kind of cookware is its versatility, she said, saying the glassware can serve double-duty as a storage container in the refrigerator, then as a cooking vessel in the microwave or oven.
Be careful what containers you use to microwave food. Certain products that are labeled "microwave safe" may in fact have a lining that can leach chemicals into food when the container is warmed, Schwab said. She recommended that people heat food in ceramic or glass containers.