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Equipment & Gear: Cooking With Aluminum
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Cooking For Engineers



Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 1:41 am    Post subject: Equipment & Gear: Cooking With Aluminum Reply with quote

Over half of all cookware sold today contains aluminum. It's a great metal for cookware as it conducts heat fast and evenly, is light to handle and is relatively inexpensive compared to other materials.

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.

It can also react with some acidic foods and actually change their taste. Anything containing egg yolks, asparagus, apples or artichokes can cause oxidation. This is a color change, usually a darkening, caused by the acidity of the foods.

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?
<ul><li>Wash the cookware with hot soapy water.<li>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.<li>Put the well-coated cookware into a 250 degree oven and leave it there for 2 hours.<li>Never use scouring pads or detergent on cast ware. Simply wipe it out using a damp cloth.<li>If food starts to stick to the cookware, just season it again.</ul>
How Do I Look After It?
<ul><li>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.<li>Don't leave it to soak in soapy water<li>Don't use steel-wool pads to clean it<li>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!</ul>
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.
<ul><li>One antacid tablet may contain more than 50 milligrams of aluminum.<li>One aspirin may contain between 10 and 20 milligrams of it.<li>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.</ul>
Article provided courtesy of Only Cookware - a premier resource for cookware, stainless steel cookware and cast iron cookware sets.
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MisterEd



Joined: 31 Aug 2006
Posts: 3

PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 2:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Michael, thanks for the article, quite an interesting read.

I haven't encountered much cast aluminium cookware in the shops over here, maybe I am just not going to the right ones. I see plenty of cast iron cookware, though, and noticed that the process of caring for it is the same.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:43 pm    Post subject: silicon(e) Reply with quote

Quote:
The most common elements on Earth (in order of prevalence) are oxygen, silicone and aluminum


Um... silicone is not an element. Perhaps you meant silicon?
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This should probably be in the "useless stuff" thread, but I thought it would be interesting here, since the abundance of elements was mentioned in the aluminum cookware post.

The most common elements in the observable universe are hydrogen and helium, which comprise 97.9% of the matter by weight. Everything else totals only 2%!


Element......Parts per million by weight

Hydrogen ......739,000
Helium...........240,000

Oxygen...........10,700
Carbon..............4,600
Neon.................1,340
Iron..................1,090
Nitrogen...............950
Silicon..................650
Magnesium...........580
Sulfur...................440
All Others.............650


Last edited by GaryProtein on Wed Aug 22, 2007 7:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1619
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 5:47 pm    Post subject: Re: silicon(e) Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
Quote:
The most common elements on Earth (in order of prevalence) are oxygen, silicone and aluminum


Um... silicone is not an element. Perhaps you meant silicon?

Yep, they must have meant silicon. I've made the correction.
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Len
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 26, 2007 4:47 am    Post subject: Aluminum cookware Reply with quote

Michael,

Another good article. My experience with cast aluminum in the past has been with dutch ovens and sauce pans. While they don't have the glitz of copper or the flash of shiny stainless steel (aluminum sandwich in the middle), they are awfully durable and are very evenly heated. The stamped skillets and other "pots and pans" are functional (once you figure out the hot spots), but for saute and sauces they don't cut it. How many times have you heard the stories of people who have tried a hollandaise or sauteeing onions and the mess it made afterwards using those stamped beauties?

The black anodized (Calphalon ?) are very nice and are worth buying a piece at a time, just like any other good and functional cookware. I've only used the sauce pans and they are every bit as good as my best copper. A lot cheaper to boot. The only caveat with the this type is that unless it says who made it. those knock offs are worthless.

Continued success to you and yours
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CQE Chef



Joined: 01 Sep 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Seattle, WA

PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2007 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've used about every type of material there is for cookware and swore off aluminum about 20 years ago except for baking. I didn't like the quality of construction I found, it's durability, or how it heated.

Steel, cast iron, or copper is the way to go if you can afford it.
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pellis



Joined: 05 Sep 2007
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Sep 05, 2007 9:28 pm    Post subject: Science behind pan seasoning Reply with quote

Perhaps this may be the subject of another post entirely, but what's the harm in scrubbing down aluminum with steel scrubbing pads? I realize you'll wear through the aluminum and shorten the life of the pan and perhaps increase the aluminum content of the food cooked in the pan, but are there other reasons? Is there a process after cleaning with a scrubbing pad that could even out the surface and reduce the aluminum transfer affect? I like the effectiveness and speed of scrubbing with a steel pad, and on cheaper pans, I see no reason to care about longevity.

Additionally, I'd like to get more information on seasoning pans. What happens when you have the oil on the pan in the oven for 2+ hours and why does it take that long? Once you heat the oil in the pan, do you wipe the oil off and put the pan away until the next use? I assume this isn't a preparation step that has to take place before you cook every time. What types of cooking necessitate a seasoned pan? I imagine seasoning the pan won't have much of an impact on poaching/boiling, steaming, and braising, but I don't understand the process completely.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 9:41 am    Post subject: do not scratch aluminium!!! Reply with quote

Right, I come from a country that formerly used to be part of the Soviet Union. Aluminium used to be a big hype in there at one point - nowadays noone really dares to use it. Why?

As covered in the article, there are problems with acidic foods and soft surfaces that makes you consume it in your body. But it was also a common knowledge that the Soviet army used on purpose aluminium dishes etc because the added benefit besides weight was the fact it suppressed your sexuality. So stay clear of scratching it and never eat out of an aluminium dish as you undoubtedly will scratch it then!
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GaryProtein



Joined: 26 Oct 2005
Posts: 535

PostPosted: Sat Sep 08, 2007 8:43 pm    Post subject: Re: do not scratch aluminium!!! Reply with quote

Anonymous wrote:
. . . . the Soviet army used on purpose aluminium dishes etc because the added benefit besides weight was the fact it suppressed your sexuality. So stay clear of scratching it and never eat out of an aluminium dish as you undoubtedly will scratch it then!


Do you know of a refereed journal where it says that so we don't start another unsubstantiated urban legend?
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2007 5:27 am    Post subject: Seasoning Reply with quote

Regarding seasoning, the word among cast-iron camping types is to NOT use vegetable oil, but instead use Crisco (or equivalent) shortening. The oil will leave a stick film that the Crisco won't.

Also, I've never heard of seasoning cast aluminum. As far as I know, it isn't necessary like for cast iron.
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simplemind
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 2:57 pm    Post subject: Aluminum w/ teflon Reply with quote

So what is the current thinking w/ regard to PTFE coatings and safety? It's the only way I have found to do an omelet w/o sticking, and no I won't drown it in oil/butter to keep from sticking!
I usually go to the restaurant supply store and pick up a skillet that lasts about 2 years before it starts sticking. Then just replace it.
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1006
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 8:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

overheating seems to be a major cause of non-stick failure to non-stick....
I killed a couple when I shifted to gas from electric.

guess I got carried away with the the ole' 'preheat the pan' bit.

out gassing from overheated PTFE can be fatal to (pet / house) birds.

I'm sure somewhere there is someone who will insist any food cooked in non-stick pan is instantly fatal to any consuming human.
I have also established (patent pending) that the root cause of death is life, so I take the "everything is going to kill you" routine with a bit of salt. which of course will also kill you.

meanwhile, like you, I've given up on finding/buying some ultimate non-stick fry pan. I buy a $7 grocery store pan, when it becomes sufficiently scratched / dinged up that non-stick is a memory, I chuck it and buy another $7 pan.....
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pikachiu132
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 5:56 pm    Post subject: forget aluminium Reply with quote

by stoneware.

http://pamperedchef.com/our_products/catalog/overview.jsp?categoryCode=FH
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Dilbert



Joined: 19 Oct 2007
Posts: 1006
Location: central PA

PostPosted: Mon Nov 05, 2007 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

is that non-stick "by stoneware" ?
or
"buy stoneware"?

spelling counts, even amongst engineers.

for info the link you specified shows bake ware.

bake ware is not intended for use as a frying pan
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