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topic 22551 p3

Is There a Danger in Cast Aluminum Cookware?

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A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2019

October 21, 2010

Q. I am considering throwing out my Calphalon pots, HELP! I have a few that unfortunately stayed on the burner a bit too long, and the "anodized" coating got burned off. Shame, really... I like these pots and I've been cooking with them in this worn-out condition for several years now, but my friends have me convinced I am poisoning myself! What should I do... replace... or shrug off a bit of leaching? Thanks!

Kate Curtis
- Seattle, Washington USA

November 25, 2010

Q. I have a stock pot that I bought from a cheap catalog place (cost about $17, and I believe it is stainless steel because I would not buy an aluminum pot knowingly. I planned to brine my turkey in it, but found out there is no marking on the pot or lid that says that it is stainless steel. I used an oven bag as a liner in the pot just to be safe, but the brine leaked out and the turkey and brine are exposed to the inside of the pot. Now I am concerned that the turkey will kill us all or make us sick. Do I take a chance this once and eat the bird, or is it a safe bet that the pot really is stainless steel. Thank you.

karen matthews
Grandmother - pittsburgh Pennsylvania usa

November 25, 2010

A. Hi, Karen. Happy Thanksgiving.

Aluminum is much lighter than stainless steel, 1/3 the weight, so you should be able to guess from that. Some stainless steel may be magnetic; aluminum is never magnetic, so if there is any trace of magnetism then it is not aluminum. Paracelsus said that poison is in the dose; so, with I and hundreds of millions of others using aluminum pots every day of our lives and still here to talk about it, yes, it is safe for you to do it just this once :-)


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

December 12, 2010

thumbs up signThanks Ted for your insightful advice. Years ago I bought a set of enamel pots, then became paranoid when someone pointed out they were produced in South Africa and contained lead. Then I bought iron pots and was told they weren't safe until they were well seasoned. So I opted for Teflon coated pots and was told that the coating wasn't safe. The leaded crystal I bought for my wedding was also unsafe if I used it for acidic drinks or wine.


This week my husband and I finally chucked our decades old pitted and deteriorating pots and bought a set of Bialetti aluminum cookware last night. My mother immediately expressed concern about the link between Alzheimer's and said she'd replaced her aluminum pots with something else. Now given that she's a feisty retiree, that's saying a lot.

I like the new pots and since I'm a trained engineer who is "retentive" about researching details I started looking for info to set her mind at ease. I couldn't find any definitive causal relationships so I asked my husband, a physician, his opinion and he said he wasn't inclined to take the pots back to the store.

We both agree that the rise in illness in the country is likely caused by a host of things, not to mention the accumulation of toxic chemicals (pesticides, factory waste, etc.), poor diet, lack of physical and intellectual stimulation, high stress, and artificial food additives in our daily lives. The pots are the least of my worries.

Guess we'll be enjoying them. Thank you for helping with that decision.

Christine Taylor
- Kansas City, Missouri

December 30, 2010

thumbs up signAs the cynic I am, methinks lawyers started the "aluminum is poison" movement. Nothing quite starts the day off like a good class-action lawsuit of an evil greedy corporation trying to kill old people. I would trust the Alzheimer's association by leaps and bounds over the WHO and the EPA. WHO has shelved research that didn't fit the expected/desired result. Second hand smoke being the reference here. Love how you breakdown the unbeliever's emotional and seemingly factless replies.

Merry Holidays and happy Christmas

Jim Musselman
- Oakdale, Illinois, USA

January 1, 2011

Q. Wowza! Nice Debate. Ok, I came across a brand spanking new stain resistant "cast aluminum with magnesium" pot (dutch oven). Even has the label on it. I was wondering about this magnesium addition and if that is a benefit or detriment. It's funny as it says on the label to use a bit of steel wool to keep it bright.

Anyway, I'm going to wash it up and give it a whirl.

Thinking back, I think my mom's pots were a lot of aluminum - so I'm not so concerned.

So, what is the deal with the magnesium?

Jill Carpenter
- Shrewsbury, Vermont USA

January 2, 2011

A. Hi, Jill. Milk of Magnesia, which people take as an antacid, is magnesium hydroxide. I doubt that an aluminum-magnesium pot could deliver a single small dose of magnesium over a lifetime. No worries. As for whether it cooks better or looks better, I don't know. Magnesium does tend to quickly go grayish (see letter 03 about the demise of true mag wheels -- almost all 'mag' wheels today are actually aluminum), hence the steel wool brightening suggestion.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 4, 2011

Q. My question is in regards to an heirloom griddle that one of my great grandfathers made out of cast aluminum near the turn of the last century. I recently removed the crusty patina in order to re-season it, and discovered a crack in the side. It is fairly small and remained unnoticed till now, but I'd like to know how I could go about getting it repaired.

Daniel Walfield
- Arlington, Virginia, USA

April 10, 2011 silly

thumbs up signI have been reading all these postings, interesting; my response is meant to be light hearted and comical. On a few occasions I have cooked, on a few of those occasions I have fallen asleep and burned my food and pans. This last time, I burned by stainless steel 2 qt pan and steamer so bad I had to throw them out. I went to Wal Mart and bought a complete set of aluminum, non stick coated pans the first new pans I have bought since I bought stainless in the 1970's. My mom raised a fit stating all of the "bad" things about aluminum, so I got on-line and purchased anodized aluminum non-stick coated pans, two 2 qt pans. Now the funny thing is that I use this size to heat my condensed soup, which I love, usually I don't cook because I like fast food and especially tacos. So I guess, It is a good thing I don't cook much?

The best joke I ever read was that "research scientists have been proven to cause cancer in small lab animals".

Have a good day

Kathy Harvey
- Vista, California, USA

June 8, 2011

! Aluminum does in fact pass quite easily through the blood brain barrier and works synergistically with fluoride to cause neurological problems.

Skeptics have (in the past) doubted the toxic effects of: Lead, Asbestos, DDT, Mercury, etc.... Now we know otherwise. My lead off statement has not been proven but the initial lawsuits against John Mansville (asbestos products) started in the 1920's and anyone who thought asbestos was a health risk was a nut. After all, asbestos is just processed serpentine rock, the state rock of California no less.

Give it time and aluminum/Fluoride in concert will be regarded as a severe health risk, wait and see.

Dan Berg
- San Diego, California, USA

July 4, 2011

Q. Regarding the "Is there a danger in Cast aluminum cookware?" blog.

I see lots of statements like "aluminum is one of the most abundant elements in nature", but most of these are bound up in aluminum oxides. Does any of the medical research differentiate between aluminum and its oxides, or do they tend to just look at mass spectrometer data that only shows the percentage of elements in tested materials? Just wondering if this matters in any of the discussions about using aluminum for cooking.

Bill Hackbarth
cook - Colchester, Connecticut, USA

July 17, 2011

A. Interesting comments from all. I would only add the following saying which I live my life according to.

"Everything is a poison,........Nothing is a poison,.........It is the dose that makes the poison......"

By this reasoning you can see that we are exposed, consume, ingest and contact many naturally occurring materials over a life time. Some unfortunately man made, most naturally occurring.

So the complimentary saying I use is....."A little bit of everything does no harm." So live life to the full and make the most of moderation.

Martin Smith
- Munich, Germany

October 12, 2011

A. Ted: May I add my congratulations to your very non-emotional attitude in dealing with this discussion.

Although I read this thread mainly for information, I would like to comment on Dan's post from June, 9th: There are without doubt enough cases that correct early-warners were (to the detriment of everybody) ignored, but the cases cited by Dan are not the best examples:

On one side we have cases like Asbestos and DDT where science (eventually isolated scientists) first proved the negative effects, but those were mostly ignored. Increased public awareness led to political action later. The significant delay of political action in case of Asbestos is good fodder for either conspiracy theories or justified complaints about the interconnection of industry and government, but in the 1920s the health risks of Asbestos were well established in the scientific community.

On the other hand, we have cases such as Mercury (the vaccine/autism discussion, nobody doubts the toxicity of Mercury in general) and Aluminum, where the **scientific** consensus does not see a significant risk, but meets an unproportional public awareness.

While it is undoubtedly correct that isolated warners **sometimes** have proved the scientific community wrong (and these cases are re-warmed forever and ever), in **most cases** isolated warners are just plain wrong and easily forgotten when their, often unsubstantiated, views were proven wrong by reality. (Who remembers nowadays the fears that traveling with 30 mph in a train will kill you by forcing your blood to the back of you body?)

It is unfortunate that the human nature (and I do not exclude myself) makes us trust the Don-Quichottian warner, in particular **because** he is fighting the windmills of big, multinational organizations. But it is not reasonable.

Frank S.
- Montreal, QC, Canada

January 1, 2012

Q. My Dad who lived to be 87 had some concerns about aluminum in our systems and forbade my mother from buying drinks in aluminum cans or using aluminum cookware. It was not based on Alzheimer's as that disease was not so prevalent back in the 40's and 50's. It was based on his knowledge of mining and chemicals.
Alzheimers seems to be a major health issue in the past few decades, and I wonder more about the aluminum canned drinks having more of an effect than the cookware.

Rose Leonard
- Novato, California, USA

January 29, 2012

Q. Some number of years ago, a tribe was investigated for having a high prevalence of dementia. Turns out, they lived off local land mostly and the soil had high concentrations of aluminum.

Since around that time, aluminum cans have been coated with a thin plastic lining to protect aluminum from leeching out.

I wish I remembered the original article but somebody might know what I'm talking about.

Ryan Chris
- Nashville, Tennessee, USA

February 8, 2012

Q. I love the thread!

My question is about aluminum percolators. If it causes more leeching to cook acidic foods like tomatoes in aluminum, does coffee have the same effect?

Dan Brown
- College Park, Maryland, USA

February 24, 2012

thumbs up signI'm a World War 2 re-enactor and one of my pieces of kit is an original German aluminium mess kit. The aluminium was badly pitted but, after a couple of simmers with lemon juice, it has 'cleaned up' quite well, although some pitting remains.

Thanks to this thread, I will be using the mess kit to cook and eat out of at shows and training events to stay authentic.

Thanks guys, and particularly Ted. :-)

Andy Gibson
- Cork, Ireland

March 3, 2012

! I just found my mother's aluminum cookware in almost perfect condition. It's a four piece set. I cleaned it very well; however, before I started using it, I wanted to check the safety of cooking with it. I have been reading a lot about it and its connection to Alzheimer's disease. My mother is 86 years old and has Alzheimer's disease. It began about 10-12 years ago with repeating herself every few minutes, forgetfulness, lack of balance, etc. She is now in a nursing home with full blown dementia. She does not recognize anyone, can't speak, can't feed herself, paralysis among other things. Of course, my apprehension about using the cookware is well warranted. I think I will just put it back in the basement and look at it.

Janis Fox
- Erie, Pennsylvania, USA

November 2013

Hi Janis. I'm neither a doctor nor an epidemilogist, of course, but Alzheimers is to my knowledge a disease mostly affecting the elderly. Our increased lifespan is surely one of the reasons we see Alzheimers in 86 year old people and didn't see it in their parents who died at 60. Similarly, doctors tell us that most men today will die with prostate cancer (not OF ... WITH) because we are living longer.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 24, 2012

Please look this web site up . . .

"Cookware made from materials that carry with them substantial risk of toxicity, even if research shows relatively little leaching of their toxic substances, should automatically not be considered to be among your best options. We would put aluminum cookware into this category. In the past five years, we've seen over 100 studies about aluminum and disease. This metal has consistently been placed in the top 200 health-jeopardizing toxins by the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We realize that many improvements have been made in aluminum pots and pans with the advent of anodized aluminum (in which a thicker aluminum oxide layer is created on the surface of the pan). Yet, we still recommend avoidance of aluminum cookware due to the potential toxicity of aluminum itself. (This focus on the health aspects of aluminum cookware does not even take into account environmental problems related to the mining and dressing of aluminum.)"

Polly Friend
- Oceanside, California

November 2013

thumbs up signThanks Poly. W H Foods is certainly welcome to their opinions, but I'm not seeing where they are introducing any new facts into the discussion. My personal feeling is not that aluminum is "safer" than those other materials, but again that: with hundreds of millions of people using aluminum cookware for generations and nothing even vaguely close to a "smoking gun", the "safety" issue is very small if it exists. There are degrees of danger in everything, but once the danger level is sufficiently low, it becomes impractical to let it guide your life. If we want to focus on remote dangers, you might also die from a staph infection from dropping that heavy cast iron pot on your toe instead of a lighter aluminum one :-)


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 22, 2012

A. I was born in 1947, my mother in 1909. Since I can remember as a young child, my mother cooked both on the stovetop and in the oven using the anodized aluminum & magnesium products. Also some cast iron. I now use the same, having inherited them from her.

My mother lived to be the same age as my Grandmother 88. My father lived to almost 90. NEITHER of them had ANY signs whatsoever of dementia or Alzheimers - yet both ate foods cooked almost exclusively in these "aluminum" pots.

I'm far more concerned about the fluoride in my toothpaste and water, and I, for one, will continue to use these pots till I die.

Sharon Williams
- Fresno, California, USA

December 14, 2012

Q. This interesting reading raises new questions.

Is the aluminium in non-anodised cookware the same material right through from inside to outside. Sorry, I don't know any better to describe it.

If it is a single material, not layers, why does it look black in the pitting and why do so many writers specify using cleaning pads and seem to advise against steel wool, which makes aluminium shine?

My well used electric frying pan and pressure cooker are both pitted plain aluminium, over 50 years old and have been frequently cleaned with steel wool. Does this suggest any cause for concern or the vinegar treatment?

Would pressure cooking have any different effects from saucepans or baking dishes or cake tins?

Naomi McPhee
- Kelvin, NSW, Australia

February 4, 2013

A. Hi Naomi.

1. Yes, non-anodized aluminum would be expected to be a single homogeneous material all the way through from inside to outside except as explained below.

2. Anodizing is a carefully engineered process for causing aluminum to react with oxygen to form a thick and durable aluminum oxide skin; but if you don't anodize aluminum, it is a reactive metal, so it will still react with oxygen in the atmosphere to form aluminum oxide on the surface. In a pitted spot, the oxide skin doesn't wear off as quickly, so it builds thicker and blacker. You see the same effect on gold jewelry like a high school ring, where the high spots will wear and be bright while the low spots are dark.

3. I see no special circumstance here due to age, steel wool, or pressurization.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 4, 2013

Thanks for the great read, Ted. I've found the answer here, and it's perfectly clear and empirically derived from the large sample of testimony: aluminum, if it poses any health risk at all, only does so to males--grandmothers appear to live to ripe old ages regardless of their exposure. ;)

Chuck Cram
- Rossland, BC, Canada

February 9, 2013

thumbs up sign

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 10, 2013

Q. So is it safe to cook in a aluminum "Club" roasting pan?

Carol A Decoeur
- Oakridge, Tennessee

Hi Carol. That's been the subject of the discussion for 83 postings now :-)

Luck and regards,

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 19, 2013

Q. I bought two Club Aluminum large pots at an estate sale today but upon examination at home I noticed one piece was very 'pitted'. I'm 83 - my mom had Guardian Ware but I don't remember any 'pitting' on the inside bottom surface. Do you think it is safe to use it? After years of cooking with electric I now have a gas range and have burned up two pots this past year. help.

JoAnn Carmody
grandma - St. Louis, Missouri, USA

October 27, 2013

Q. Hi. Thanks for the opportunity to post.

My name is Ellen and my husband and I want to get into camping. Rather than having to buy a lot of pots and pans to store and use for camping we'd like to save money and use our everyday pots and pans.

Can anyone tell me if it is safe to use anodized aluminum pots and pans over a campfire without ruining them? Thanks.

Ellen McNeill
- Fletcher, NC, USA

November 2013

A. Hi Ellen. I think cooking on an open fire will almost surely ruin them, i.e., get their outsides stained so dirty that you'll never be able to get them clean enough to want to put them back in your kitchen. It's not so much that the fire is hotter as the fact that wood fires are very very sooty.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 15, 2014 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. Hi, does acidic foods cause pitting in Guardian aluminum cookware? I bought one at a thrift shop that was in excellent condition, with pitting in the bottom of the inside. I seem to remember from some where that one should not put acidic foods into aluminum cookware. I hope that idea is false as I was almost to the end of making a pot of spaghetti sauce before I thought of this. Can anyone help.

Connie Gilbert
- Vista, California USA

March 2014

A. Hi Connie. Probably. Please look above for comments from Jack Brown and Lillian Kusmik on that subject. Most metals, including aluminum, dissolve to varying degrees in acid; some metals, including aluminum, dissolve in alkaline.

I don't think there is any harm in your spaghetti sauce, but in general aluminum is not the right container for acidic foods, and should not be dishwasher cleaned since automatic dishwashers usually use strongly alkaline detergents. Bon appetit.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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