Eco-friendly, non-toxic bakeware
With all of this bread and muffin-making I've been doing, it's got me thinking about my baking pans. I have a goodly number of baking pans, muffin tins, etc., and almost all of them are of the non-stick variety. I just never gave it any thought before! But now I know that this non-stick coating is not so good for us. The chemical in Teflon, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), is considered 'likely carcinogenic' to humans by the EPA and traces are estimated to be in the bloodstream of 95% of the US population. It is particularly dangerous to allow Teflon-coated pans to get hotter than 550 degrees, because that's when all of the toxic off-gassing occurs (many pet birds have died from Teflon air poisoning). You don't bake at that heat, but a Teflon pan left empty on hot burner can reach those levels in just a few minutes. The good news is that PFOA will no longer be used in consumer products after 2015. But frankly, I'd like to move away from the whole 'non-stick' category altogether and get some baking pans that I can safely use for the rest of my natural life (and maybe beyond!).
I did a little research, and it turns out there are better options (of course)! Here's the thing: when you start looking into stuff like this, it gets totally overwhelming. All I want are some good quality baking pans that aren't going to (potentially) cause my family harm. Is that so much to ask? It's hard to get cut and dried answers to so many questions. There's a lot of info out there and everyone has their own opinion. So here are some options:
Glass: I have one glass bread pan and four non-stick ones. The other night I baked several loaves of bread and used my lone glass pan for one of them. They all baked up identically, and the bread in the glass pan came out smoothly (thanks, butter). In fact there was more residue left on the non-stick than on the glass. I'm sold on glass. It's inert and safe and durable. I particularly like this one by Pyrex with a glass lid. That is a no-brainer.
Stainless Steel: Yes, they do make stainless bread pans, muffin pans and baking sheets, though I have not used any before. Like glass, you'd have to oil it. I understand that stainless distributes heat equally and doesn't warp, which is a huge peeve of mine. Stainless is generally considered a safe, non-toxic material.
Stoneware: Stoneware is a natural, unglazed, lead-free product made from clay and water. It is non-porous and seems to be really popular with serious bakers. Pampered Chef, anyone? You can get stoneware muffin tins and bread pans, but they are pretty heavy (and kind of spendy). From what I've read, natural and unglazed stoneware does not contain lead. The lead worries come from shiny, glazed products, particularly those made in China.
Cast Iron: This is the workhorse of all materials. Durable, non-toxic, you'll have 'em for life. Plus you get a nice little dose of iron in your diet when you use them! Heavy, though. People swear by their cast iron pots (I have a couple pans I like), and I suspect they love their muffin pans and bread pans equally.
Silicone: Everything about these colorful, plastic-y products screams 'run away!' to me. However, silicone is NOT plastic, nor is made of petroleum. It's derived from something totally confusing that made me cross-eyed when I read about it. (Pour yourself a glass of wine and Google 'what is silicone made of?' if you're dying to know.) But in the end, I think it's basically sand. It is supposedly totally inert and safe for baking at high temperatures with no off-gassing or leaching. This article helped me understand a little. However, I think Teflon was probably hailed as a safe product when it came out -- will the same be discovered about silicone one day?
I'm leaning towards getting another glass bread pan and replacing my muffin pans and baking sheets with stainless steel. The one thing I want to avoid is having to use cupcake wrappers for my muffins. I hate those things! They seem like such a waste to me. (Does anyone else have this hang-up?) I hope they aren't necessary for stainless.
What about you? Have you dumped your Teflon bakeware in favor of a healthier option? What are you using for bread and muffin pans and baking sheets?