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Warping one of many ways to wreck a pan.

Byline: FOOD DUDE By Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

People are hard on their cookware. Whether it's a simple matter of wear and tear or doing something really brainless like trying to steam open an envelope in the microwave, there are a million ways to ruin stuff in the kitchen.

The owner of one local cook shop says oven cleaner is the biggest destroyer of pots and pans. So don't be spraying Easy-Off on that six-quart buffet casserole. It will only make things worse.

As someone who once torched a baking sheet and almost sent a friend's house up in flames by cooking bacon in a gas oven, Food Dude is not about to cast the first stone when it comes to wrecking stuff in the kitchen. But I do think this propensity for ruining perfectly good cookware is the reason so many manufacturers are making their extra-heavy-duty-for-professional-chefs-only-lines available to the general public.

If you're a member of the general public, this might be the food column for you - even if you've never used your nonstick skillet as a cutting board.

Dear Food Dude: I hope you can help settle a marital dispute. We have expensive name-brand cookware made of anodized aluminum. Our large frying pan keeps warping. A few years ago, I sent our original pan back to the manufacturer for a new one under the warranty. But the new one warped within a year or two as well. My husband says it is because I put cold water in it while it is hot. But that's how a representative from the company suggested I remove stuck-on food for another pan. Is this technique appropriate for some size pans and not others? Who's right? And should I send my pan back a second time?

- Warped

Dear Warped: I'm sorry your pans won't stay straight. Helene Hughitt, a manager at Reed & Cross, recommends you check with the company.

Without knowing what kind of pan you had, it's difficult to say whether putting cold water into a hot pan is responsible for the problem, but "thermal shock" is a common cause of warping in aluminum pans, which means your husband probably wins this round.

According to the use and care guidelines posted by the cookware company Calphalon, you should always let your pan cool before washing. For stuck-on food, Calphalon recommends using a "Dobie" pad with dish liquid, Soft Scrub with bleach or the earth-friendly cleaner Bon Ami. Other cooks suggest simmering water and baking soda to remove food.

Dear Food Dude: When my wife makes eggs, she likes to use a cast-iron pan because she says she needs the extra iron in her diet. Does iron leach out of cast-iron pans into food? Is this a good thing?

And what about my nonstick fry pan I use to make omelets? Are those nasty chemicals getting into my food, and will they make me sick?

- Concerned in Santa Clara

Dear Concerned: Your wife may be onto something, says Diane Stadler, a dietitian at Oregon Health & Science University. But if she hopes to maximize her iron intake with an iron skillet, eggs probably aren't the best way to do it.

The amount of iron that's leeched into foods from an iron skillet is minimal, and it's also dependent on the amount of time the food is being cooked. For something like eggs, which cook quickly, you're not likely to see huge health benefits, Stadler says.

Another variable is what's in the skillet.

"If the recipe allows you to cook with something that's relatively acidic like tomatoes, that tends to enhance the leeching of iron," Stadler said. "If you have a stew with a tomato base in it that did cook for a long time, you're going to (enhance) your iron (intake)."

Stadler couldn't say how many milligrams of iron you could add to your diet by cooking with an iron skillet, but said it probably wouldn't be enough to satisfy the 10 to 15 milligrams most men and women need.

For someone with an iron deficiency, Stadler says, cooking with a cast-iron skillet wouldn't be a bad idea, but the best way to increase your intake of the mineral is to eat a well-balanced diet. Good sources of iron include meat, poultry, fish, peas, beans, nuts, enriched pastas and breads and fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron.

As for your question about nonstick skillets, the jury is still out on the issue. A 2003 broadcast of the ABC TV show `20/20' put a scare into a lot of viewers who learned that a nonstick pan heated to more than 500 degrees released fine particles into the air, causing flulike symptoms in some people. The same pan heated to more than 680 degrees released toxic gases.

But, says Kathy Campbell, owner of the store Cooks, Pots and Tabletops, it's unlikely that a pan will be heated that high in the course of everyday use. She recommends discarding Teflon pans only if they have been scratched.

"The thought is if they are scratched, they are giving off the bonding agent. It's not so much the Teflon itself, it's how it's adhered to the pan," Campbell said. "I think that if (the pan) is in good shape, if it's not scratched, and you're not seeing the pan, you're fine."

A recent story in the Wall Street Journal detailed the Environmental Protection Agency's investigation into the safety of a group of chemicals used to make Teflon and other nonstick coatings. The agency is studying perflourooctanoic acid (PFOA), which it says is a likely carcinogen, as well as other "precursor chemicals."

Along with skillets, PFOAs are used to make microwave popcorn bags, fast-food containers and stain-resistant trousers. The EPA is trying to figure out if trace elements that end up in final products are harmful. Although the agency has successfully pressured companies to reduce their use of the chemicals, it has said that the use of products containing PFOAs and other precursors is safe.

So far.

Send your questions about food via e-mail to Or, send mail to Food Dude, The Register Guard, P.O. Box 10188, Eugene, OR 97440-2168.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 15, 2006
Previous Article:Bake-Off still cookin' after all these years.
Next Article:ENTREE NOTES.

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