Is There a Danger in Cast Aluminum Cookware?
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A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2019June 26, 2016
Q. Hi Mr. Mooney,
I have my grandmother's large Club Aluminum stock pot. I use it often and love it. I read other cleaning suggestions posted under cleaning and polishing aluminum cookware but did not see anything that addresses my question. After the pot is dry, there are small white "flakes" that develop on the inside of the pot. Is there something I should be doing to keep this from happening? Does the presence of these flakes impact the pot's use? I.e., is the pot still safe to cook with?
I have attached several pictures which will, hopefully, help with identifying what these flakes are. It was put accidentally in the dishwasher -- my son was trying to help clean up his dinner party mess. =)
Thanks for the help,
- Broadview Heights, Ohio USA
A. Hi Susie. If you look at those white spots with a magnifying glass, I think you will find that they are pits rather than flakes. I don't think you can make them go away because they are depressions in the aluminum. You can simmer vinegar in the pot for 15 minutes and see if there is improvement, but I doubt it.
I personally don't think the pits are a safety issue (it has been discussed earlier on this page), but once again, who am I? -- certainly not someone with medical & epidemiology expertise :-)
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha
July 2, 2016
Q. I hope I'm not sounding too paranoid. That said, I started using a nasal bi-pap machine last year. Earlier this year, I began "purifying" the water that goes into the humidification tray by boiling it in a stove top pot (I had previously damaged this pot by over boiling ... fell asleep in the recliner, awoke and found the pot empty and sizzling).
Anyway, I noticed earlier this week that the "purified" water I was storing smelled like the inside of this pot ... now my fear, rational or not, is that I have been breathing this residue all night for several months. Incidentally, in that time I've developed tinnitus
My question, toxic pot = toxic water = me breathing it to my detriment?
- Irving, Texas USA
November 15, 2016
I just bought the Crofton 11 inch Cast Aluminium Fry Pan from Aldi.
Anybody bought this too? I just learning about Cast Aluminium.
Interesting thread of comments. I bought it b/c it is so Light
as I hate how heavy Cast Iron is, although I know that it is better for you.
- NYC, New York USA
February 14, 2017
RE: ALUMINIUM HEALTH ISSUES a few medical journals as you keep requesting - as you say more medical facts needed:
Environmental Geochemistry and Health
March 1997, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 00
Leaching of aluminium from cookwares
Rajwanshi, P., Singh, V., Gupta, M. et al. Environmental Geochemistry and Health (1997) 19: 0. doi:10.1023/A:1018466911282
Concern over the possible relation between environmental aluminium exposure and Alzheimer's disease has prompted studies of all forms of human intake of this element including that from foods. Aluminium cookware, apart from other sources of dietary aluminium, is considered to be a potential source of this metal to human beings. Various research groups have carried out aluminium leaching experiments with food, beverages and water under different experimental conditions modified by varying the level of pH, chloride, fluoride, citrate, acetate etc. The results reported by different workers show marked discrepancies in levels of leached aluminum. The apparent reason for such discrepancy in levels of aluminum leached can be attributed to factors such as non-systematic and non-uniform experimental designs, non-standard conditions maintained during the experiments and choice of method for aluminium analysis. In order to assess accurately the contribution of aluminium ingestion by human beings through aluminium cookware, the present review emphasizes the need of i) standard size aluminium plates obtained from the same lot for one set of experimentations; ii) real life cooking conditions to highlight the role of various complexing species present in food e.g. citrate, oxalate, acetate, tartrate etc.; iii) role of chemistry of aluminium in presence of acidic, basic and neutral cooking medium and iv) strict analytical control in the estimation of aluminium. Results of a systematic study by the authors conducted on the above-mentioned lines are also described.
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- London UK
Ed. note: Thanks very much John! It's 2017 and this thread started in 2003, so introducing newer findings can be a valuable addition.
February 22, 2017
Q. Is Forged aluminium cookware safe?Ivy Sew
- Batu Caves, Malaysia
March 8, 2017
I am a retired chemical engineer (PhD) and geologist and now spend my time managing a chain of my high end restaurants on the west coast. I have not read anywhere in the posts on your thread about commercial and industrial installations that prepare and cook almost all of the food we eat as a people in restaurants, packages, fast food, etc. Without exception, any commercially viable entity that prepares and deals with food items for human consumption uses aluminum cooking utensils (pots, pans, spoons, forks, etc.). Though there is a large proponent of these institutions that would like to use stainless steel (and some are mandated by federal law to do so), the use of stainless steel is cost prohibitive and it does not cook as well or as fast (and BELIEVE me, time IS money in commercial/industrial kitchens).
So, if any of your readers ever buys takeout, eats at a restaurant, fast food establishment or buys prepared food items, they are consuming minuscule amounts of aluminum from the cookware these foods were prepared in. No, you cannot get away from aluminum in your food, at least not unless you live in Antarctica and hunt your own fish (but mercury is a big concern there).
Aluminum cookware heats more evenly, cooks better and lasts a long time, it is lighter to handle and simpler to clean using an abrasive powder and a scrub pad. Use your nice aluminum cookware, enjoy the ease of cooking it provides. As mentioned before, storing acidic foods in aluminum pots for more than a few hours is poor form as it will tend to pit the surface of the pots. The Internet is chock full of all kinds of people with zero to no scientific credentials, have limited or no common sense and this type of person is most apt to raise all kinds of concerns without being able to substantiate any of their claims.
There is not causal proof that aluminum is related to Alzheimer's, is the aluminum in the brain tissue before or after the disease? Who cares. We all use smart/cellphones, and these emit harmful EM radiation, and countless studies have published articles on both sides of this debate, but we don't stop using them, do we? Same goes for all of the EM radiation created by electrical conductors in our homes, businesses and workplaces. But do we stop living in our homes, work or play in buildings because there is a potential of cancer from EM radiation from electrical wires?
Wake up people, the earth is heated by decomposing radioactive elements in the mantle. The greatest cause of all plant and animal mutations on earth is the naturally occurring radiation from the same planet we live on that radiates to the surface of the crust. It has been for billions of years. Along with solar wind, neutrinos, charmed particles and all sub-atomic particles, we live in a dangerous universe (including the effect of gravity on our bodies). Minuscule aluminum atoms from aluminum pots, pans and utensils should not be a concern for your health and well-being.
My dad is 99 years old, has a better memory than I do, is completely lucid, still drives legally and has eaten from aluminum pots for over 60 years, and still does, as does his entire family. Same for my mom who died from a drunk driver at 94.
I will continue to use my aluminum cookware for myself, family and friends.
- Denver, Colorado, USA
May 2, 2017
Thanks Michel for your generous explanation.Ivy Sew [returning]
1963 - Batu Caves, Malaysia
July 19, 2017
Q. I recently acquired a Club Aluminum Dutch oven that had been left outside for an unknown amount of time. I have read the cleaning advice on this website and will follow it accordingly. It is actually in very good shape. However, my question is should I be concerned about the safety of using it since it was exposed to the outdoor elements?CJ Lewis
- Baxley, Georgia
December 20, 2017
silly :-) Automobiles have been involved in many deaths. Perhaps we should go back to horses and/or mules or donkeys.mary ann nelson
pharmacist ret. - Freeport, Illinois USA
December 30, 2017
After watching a video on how to test aluminum for toxicity I came to the internet to look for answers on why some aluminum cookware is different than others. The test on the cookware was done as follows. There were six pieces of cookware ranging from a small cup to a large pot with all but one piece being stamped aluminum and one being an old cast pot from the early 1950's. Apple sauce was poured into each and then heated over an open fire until the apple sauce began to steam. The apple sauce in all but the cast aluminum pot kept its color and smell but the apple sauce in the cast aluminum pot turned pink and emitted a putrid odor.
The owner of the video suggests that maybe at some point someone could have used the pot for something other than cooking and the aluminum could have absorbed some type of harmful chemical. e.g Some people would use old pots that were no longer used to cook with as a catch basin when draining oil or other chemicals from their vehicle. They were used as wash buckets in some cases. They were used for all kinds of things other than cooking. What would cause apple sauce to turn pink and have an awful odor when being heated in a cast aluminum pot and not in other aluminum cookware?Gary Powell
- Erwin, North Carolina USA
January 2, 2018
I'm 59 years old. Long before the internet or google came along I was taught to stay away from cooking with aluminum, which is why they had enamel pots 'n pans -- as the metals leeched into all our foods.
I could care less what google says nor the internet; there is a reason you cook with stainless steel or enamel cookware. I have never been a fan of aluminum pots 'n pans.
- San Antonio, Texas USA
March 27, 2018
Dear Mr. Mooney, reading many of your counter comments on different issues; it moves me to comment on your ill opinion of the internet, especially YouTube. Even if one was to sift out 90% of all information as garbage (which those proportions are irrational), think about the 10% which may be life saving for millions in regards to all the information our very own governments and private groups are keeping from us. You are a source of some great answers, but please cut the Truthers some slack. Thanks. Yankee RoseRose Nyerick
- Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Hi cousin Rose; thanks for your input. I use youtube myself constantly and love it! And finishing.com has embedded more than 200 YouTube videos (& counting!) on these pages -- so I don't think my opinion of the internet is as negative as you believe.
But I do believe that blogs, snippets, videos, and public forums -- even finishing.com, which I've put my heart & soul into for 24 years -- are a poor substitute for books because authors of books spend thousands of hours organizing huge troves of information into careful tutorial fashion so a reader can progress without lost motion or missing important stuff ... whereas bouncing around on the internet means wasting endless hours reading the same introductory stuff a dozens times on the one hand while landing on pages we can't yet understand on the other hand; it is an inefficient way to try to learn a subject. People often come to this site claiming they are weary from hours on the internet doing so, and still they've missed vital points all the time ... so I continue to say that youtube is fine instruction on narrow subjects like replacing a specific faucet washer or automobile headlamp bulb, but that the internet is often a poorer tool for gaining expertise & proficiency in a field than a book carefully prepared for tutorial learning. Thanks again.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha
December 29, 2018
My grandmother Belle Westaway from Brookline Massachusetts sold Club Aluminum during the depression in New England. She was the top salesperson at that time.
She lived to be 92.
- South Park Pennsylvania
March 5, 2019
Q. Why do so many use the length of time their mother/father lived while using aluminium pots to argue aluminium must be okay? And using the argument their parents who died of heart disease (when - in their 60's?) used aluminium cookware? They therefore missed out on Alzheimer, Parkinsons or any other form of dementia which often comes on in OLD old age - such as 90 - 100 plus. Many in my family have lived to make 99 or 100, and if I live that long I want to enjoy my last 10 or 20 years as well as not be a burden on others. It's not hard to buy and use stainless steel pots and lessen the risk. Why not?Victoria STOKES
- Thames NEW ZEALAND
A. Hi Victoria. Some people use the anecdotal argument that "my parents (or my grandparents) weren't harmed", but I & others use the statistical argument that hundreds of millions of people, don't seem to have been demonstrably harmed according to studies done by the people we entrust to do them like the Alzheimer's Association, the EPA, and WHO.
I'm certainly not saying that there is no evidence to the contrary or that the risk is zero; some of those 'contrary' studies are listed on these pages. I'm saying that if/when those trusted sources change their minds, so will I; but in the meantime risk is everywhere -- so aluminum cookware is not something that I will choose to worry over.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha
March 6, 2019
Your points are good - in this imperfect world nothing is completely safe - but there were quite a few commenting whose main reason to use aluminium was based on the life of a relative.Victoria STOKES [returning]
- Thames NEW ZEALAND
June 22, 2019
Q. Hi, I found this thread very interesting. Unlike most posters already in possession of anodized aluminum cookware, I am considering buying some. But it seems like all the modern-made sets also come advertised as "non-stick" or with a "non-stick coating." So, that is different than the older Club aluminum cookware people are talking about, right? Does anybody have a suggestion on what brands I can buy that don't have an extra nonstick coating? Or am I misunderstanding the descriptions and the "non-stick coating" they're referring to is, in most cases, just the anodizing properties? I did try to search the site to see if it was discussed but didn't see anything directly on point. I'm not sure if I just don't have enough foundational knowledge of the terms, but don't want to be tricked by advertising and end up with aluminum cookware that has additional chemical coatings. Thanks for any responses.Sonia Johnson
- Richmond, Virginia, USA
A. Hi Sonia. The purpose of sales blurbs is to induce you to buy, not to technically inform you, so it can be quite difficult to tell if cookware is simply anodized or has a teflon or similar coating. Water will bead on any plastic coating and will probably not bead on an anodized surface; a hard anodized surface won't have a soft feel nor feel warm. But it can still be hard to tell.
Anodizing will not survive a dishwashing machine; I think most vendors are now adding non-stick, and it's possibly so customers who accidentally put their pans in a dishwasher don't hassle them that the pan got ruined.
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha
June 24, 2019
Ted, thanks for your quick response about shopping for anodized aluminum. I will keep some of those tips in mind while I look! Thanks again, SoniaSonia Johnson [returning]
- Richmond, Virginia, USA
August 8, 2019
! I agree completely with Jack Brown from Atlanta. I know I'm late to the party, but aluminum is still a concern in 2019 as it was when you all were discussing it, and save for a few relevant posts, many were unintelligent "hopefuls" that contributed little to the discussion. And yours, Mooney, were the least helpful of all. Sorry to sound snarky, but as someone trying to weed out misinformation from solid science, your speculations and musings on historical "evidence" simply don't count.
I've come to my own personal conclusion that aluminum cookware may not be particularly harmful (and refraining from cooking acidic foods in it is probably to one's benefit), but that's after reading and researching and digging deep into the science. It may not be exactly healthful either, and the link to Alzheimer's remains unconfirmed. Here's a well-balanced article on the topic: https://health.usnews.com/conditions/alzheimers/articles/is-there-a-connection-between-aluminum-and-alzheimers-disease
Regardless, I still drink beer out of aluminum cans, and cook with aluminum foil, and am contemplating purchasing a used aluminum pressure cooker for frying. I figure less is best in general, and that includes both aluminum exposure, as well as deep-frying anything.
Please consider that many of your readers (and a few of your writers) are deep thinkers with a decent IQ, and aren't fooled by speculations and outright lies and deceptions offered by someone trying to placate the masses because of a deeply held "belief" in any given thing's safety or harm value. Do the math, yo.
- Dallas, Texas USA
Ed. note: Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. Please provide your real name as this site strives to be a place of aloha, respect, and camaraderie, and that can be difficult to maintain with anonymous postings.
August 14, 2019
I smelled something cookin', and came to join the party! Who brought the Buffalo wings?
My mentor/colleague and I both love our aluminum cookware, and both work in an aluminum anodizing shop (I'm the chemist, he's the engineer).
Both of us treat our aluminum like raw steel (think Woks and Paella pans) or cast iron:
No dishwasher, mild soap (if any), and lots of baked on grease.
Between us, he's the baker and I'm the cook. His muffin tins and cookie sheets have an impressively impermeable layer of orangeish brown baked-on grease passed down from his grandmother (yes, the grease as well as the pans themselves), and woe betide anyone who tries to be helpful and scour them clean! No cookies for you! Not only are they nonstick, but the aluminum is protected from the food, and vice versa.
I made him a Sicilian lemon-ricotta cheesecake (the only thing I know how to bake reliably) for his birthday a couple years back and of COURSE he returned the pan freshly hardcoated... Because of course he did haha.
For myself, I use NSF rated TyIII hardcoated pots and pans. Hmmm what is the MILSPEC for Sulfuric Hardcoat Anodize / Natural color / Crisco seal? ;)
Like my work bestie, I NEVER wash them down to their original cleanliness! Unsealed hardcoat is neat in that it has microscopic 'pores' in it, and if you let cooking oil really bake on there, it sticks great! I treat them just like cast iron- buff clean with a plastic scouring pad and very hot water, wipe with oil inside and out, and toss on the stove for a couple minutes to dry off and kill germs. My saute pans are pretty darn nonstick at this point! Tomato sauces will strip the grease layer but I use enameled cast iron for those anyway.
Sure, our pots and pans and baking sheets may look horrific, but nothing attacks them, and cookies slide right off with a quick knock on the counter.
So if you don't mind your pots and pans looking scruffy, just give them the ol' baked on oil treatment as approved by two well fed anodizers!
On a more serious note, just a couple facts I'd like to add to this discussion:
-High pH foods and cleaners damage/leach aluminum just as much (and in some cases more) than acids. Dishwasher detergent in a hot dishwasher is chemically similar to the etch tank we run at the shop to strip off old anodic coatings intentionally. Keep all your aluminum out of the dishwasher, always. It will strip anodize, and etch raw aluminum, leaving a grey smutty mess that needs even nastier chemicals to clean off.
-There's a lot of discussion about Aluminum and Alzheimer's. And a lot of it is from questionable sources. But there's also some new and promising research in the form of a recent (and yes, peer-reviewed!) series of studies out of the UK that have been published by the NIH over the last few years. These credibly link Alzheimer's to an immune response to pathogens from periodontal disease, and research is ongoing in this area. It's not only fascinating, but promising for a new approach to prevention and with luck, elimination of this tragic disease!
Plating Solutions Control Specialist / Industrial Metals Waste Treatment - Brattleboro, Vermont
August 27, 2019
Hi to all those who have heard of the metal 'Aluminium'. In this thread I feel I have discovered my own 'dead sea scrolls'.
Ted Mooney's answers and comments are precious in their insight for today's (now 2019) worries and Media distortions of truth.
I am now looking for any links to the Ted Mooney School of 'Finding your way in the soup of life (the crouton of peace)'.
Please let us all know if you do.
We love you Ted and your children and your interior design /choice of clothing/ fried chicken recipe...
I am sure today's worries will still be the same in another generation. Scriptures can help even in a different age.
Carer - Huntingdon UK
December 10, 2019
A. My brother purchased a large set of commercial Ever Ware cookware for me back in 1985 and they have been in non-stop use ever since. 14" frying pan is very pitted and has been subjected to industrial steel wool and still cooks like a dream, though fairly warped on the bottom.
Looking to suggest cookware for friends and family and reluctant to recommend anodized due to these observations.
- Calphalon 14" pan cooked more poorly than pure aluminum.
- More expensive
After reading thread, still unclear about the relative leaching of anodized versus non-anodized. And is it possible that the Calphalon was not indicative of anodized frying pans?
Note: other frying pans for reference:
Ranked: Speed and uniformity of heating.
Non-Stick:Not a factor; don't belabor this, get steel wool
Lodge 12": Poor for daily tasks
All Clad 10" and 12": Acceptable, hot spots, stickiness.
Vollrath 14" non-stick Z4014 (fantastic, but non-stick)
Le Creuset(many): Poor; same as Lodge, hotspots/slow.
L'Atelier du Cuivre 14": Amazing/Poor lol, picked up in Normandy. 2.5mm Copper with Silver lining. Of course fantastic, but afraid to use on a daily basis.
Note 2: Lodge is excellent for searing/heat retention, Sous Vide, which is uncommon in day to day cooking.
Note 3: Le Creuset 9 quart Oval and 8 quart just make me happy for stews/slow cooking.
Note 4: This site seems to be alignment with many of my own observations/experiments. www.cookingforengineers.com/article/120/Common-Materials-of-Cookware
Computer Consultant - New York, New York, USA
A. Thanks Nils. Caphalon is a brand name / trade name, not a model number, so your experience with one particular pan with that name may not match my experience with a different one. I received a hard anodized (dark gray) pan as a gift 20 years ago and it remains my favorite.
Certainly a hard anodized pan is a better surface than plain aluminum because it's rock hard, and we do see here some complaints of non-anodized aluminum generating an unattractive black dust. You are welcome to re-address that and 'leaching', but I don't think it makes sense for me to do so myself after 5 pages and 16 year here.
We're not crazy about recommending brands here (why?); although it's perhaps okay for you, as a real person, this is a no-registration required site susceptible to fake reviews from vendors posing as satisfied customers, and fake complaints against competitors :-)
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha
December 12, 2019
Thanks for your response. I guess the science of the anodization process would make you think that it wouldn't affect the thermal qualities.
As stated, been using steel wool on the 14" aluminum pan for close to 35 years and never was concerned about the black residue, and you don't seem to be either.
With all my more expensive pans, tough to beat the convenience and cooking qualities of aluminum.
- New York
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