Some studies estimate that half of all cookware produced is made out of aluminium. This preponderance is most likely due to the fact that aluminium is a relatively inexpensive metal that conducts heat well. Conductivity is an extremely important quality in cooking; the pan made from metal that conducts heat better will heat up and cool down more quickly than others, resulting in more accurate cooking results.
One downside to aluminium is that it can react to acidic foods, like lemon juice, and cause tiny pits to form on the surface of the pan. Most companies producing higher-quality cookware, however, treat their aluminium so that it does not react with acidic foods and is more scratch-resistant than aluminium alone. Many companies use the term “anodized aluminium” when referring to aluminium treated this way.
Although you may have heard rumours and news hype suggesting exposure to aluminium causes Alzheimer’s disease, there are no studies to prove this is true. Furthermore, processes like anodizing prevent the aluminium from reacting with foods, so less is absorbed by the food.
In purchasing aluminium pans, many have the option of a non-stick lining. These non-stick coatings prevent the cooked food from sticking to the surface of the pan, like what happens when sautéing chicken breasts and cooking rice. Non-stick pans can certainly make clean-up easier. Many cooks swear by non-stick pans because of this everyday benefit, but there are a few drawbacks to non-stick coatings. First of all, they cannot be used over high heat because it will cause the coating to crack or breakdown and therefore cannot go into the oven. Secondly, although many companies claim the opposite, the coating seems to shorten the life of a pan, inevitable flaking or cracking after a few years. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested non-stick coatings, however, and says if flakes are ingested, they will pass through the body without causing any harm.
Whether you decide to choose non-stick aluminium coated pans or not (and there are professionals dividedly equally on both sides of the debate), choosing a heavy-duty, thick aluminium pan that feels extremely sturdy (note the connection between the pan and the handle), will provide you with a longer-lasting pan that distributes heat evenly to the food.
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