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Nov 11, 2008 06:02 PM

Aluminum free cookware (stainless steel)

Hi everyone-first time poster, but long time lurker here!

Can anyone help me find aluminum free cookware?? I own an old saute pan I can no longer use because it was severely scratched, it was a Cuisinart Everyday Stainless piece, that was simply stainless steel with a copper core, but they don't make this line anymore. I have been searching high and low for similar pieces, but have only found the Sitram catering line to be similar. Does anyone know of a store in the New York metro area that sells Sitram Catering cookware? I'd like to see the cookware first, as opposed to blindly ordering it online.

Anyway, I'm willing to try any line of cookware, as long as it is stainless steel with a copper core only-no aluminum core or discs. Can anyone provide me with any suggestions?? Many thanks in advance!

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  1. Check out Bowery Kitchen in Chelsea Market. They list Sitram on their website:

    Bridge Kitchenware should also have it. They used to be in Manhattan, but it looks like they moved to East Hanover, NJ:

    You could also troll around the restaurant supply district in the actual Bowery.

    Out of curiosity, why do you need it to be completely aluminum free?

    1. Is there some reason you are opposed to aluminum cores?

      1. For copper, to convey any of it's even-heating characteristics it should be around 3 millimeters thick -- anything thinner will result in a pan with hot spots and cold spots (relatively speaking). There is simply NO line of stainless clad cookware on the market that has a 3mm copper core. It does not exist. Anything with a "copper core" on the market these days is, well, marketing hype.

        So, that leaves you with the option of going to copper cookware that has an interior of stainless steel, such as Falk Culinair, etc. Très expensive, but great performers. Wouldn't want to have to outfit an entire kitchen with it, though.

        Or, you can tell us why you're afraid of aluminum, even when it's fully encased (clad) in a shell of stainless steel. You do realize your food won't be touching any of it, right? You do realize that the link between aluminum and health issues is tenuous at best, right?

        13 Replies
        1. re: Joe Blowe

          Thanks for the responses!

          To be honest, I'm afraid of aluminum since watching one my grandparents suffer through Alzheimer's disease. It was a truly sad, heartbreaking illness that I would do anything in my power to prevent from getting myself.

          Yes, I'm a fairly educated young woman who understands the "link between aluminum and health issues is tenuous", so I guess I'm taking the better safe than sorry route, even if that does sound irrational to some.

          Anyway, thanks for telling me about Falk Culinair-one day, when I'm hopefully earning more money, I intend to get some of those pretty pieces!

          In the meantime, I'm starting to really learn, and like, a lot about the Le Creuset line. I've got my eye on this pan:

          Does anyone have any good feedback to offer about this item? How do you think it will compare to a stainless steel saute pan? Thanks again in advance for all the help!

          1. re: cookiegirlnyc

            Yeah, Alzheimer's is pretty miserable -- having seen it first hand with my grandmother, I do not believe it is irrational to do whatever you think you can do to avoid. The aluminum discs in multi-ply cookware should never come in contact with your food, so those should be OK.

            Comparing the LC cast iron saute pan to a stainless steel (or about anything else for that matter) is like comparing apples to oranges.

            .An ideal saute pan will be fairly light so that you can handle with one hand. Tthe handle should stay cool so that you don't have to work with oven mitts on. The bottom, though, should be thick -- if stainless, it should have a ply of copper or aluminum to help distribute heat. It needs to be able to respond quickly to heating

            Please be aware that the LeCreuset is gonna be HEAVY. It will retain and distribute heat like a son of a gun (everything including handles will be HOT. It will take a long time to heat up, and a long time to cool off -- it is not very responsive. The Le Creuset probably isn't too much of a saute pan, but it would be awesome for braising. I would personally prefer an LC dutch oven to get a little more volume.

            1. re: cookiegirlnyc

              It's a little puzzling that you are afraid of an aluminum core, but not a copper one. People knew they had to line copper pots with tin long before they could even make aluminum ones.

              Complicating any effort to minimize the intake of aluminum is that fact that the element is the third most abundant one on earth. Who knows how much we ingest from clay and dust.

              1. re: cookiegirlnyc

                I'd be much more worried about copper poisoning then any dangers from aluminum. Copper poisoning is real and documented, aluminum leading to Alzheimer is junk science.

                In reality, you don't have to be worried about either. Especially in this case when no aluminum is going to be touching your food.

                1. re: vanillagorilla

                  Aluminum in nature is almost always in its oxidized form (primarily in the form of feldspar rock). Metallic aluminum has only been commonplace in the last 100 years, and its use in cookware is even more recent.

                  That might seem like a long time, but it is fairly short compared with the experiences working with copper or iron. Aluminum (and stainless steel for that matter) is new and how it impacts our bodies over a lifetime is just not well understood.

                  While no cause-effect relationship between Alzheimers and aluminum has been established, aluminum is found in the diseased brain tissues of Alzheimers patients. It WOULD be junk science to assume cause-effect. it would also be prudent to be very suspicious.

                  Maybe you want to wait 20-30 years for the conclusive scientific research to come in -- the rest of us, especially those who have dealt with Alzheimers, choose to err on the side of caution.

                  1. re: MikeB3542

                    The surface layer of bare aluminum pans is also the oxidized form. In another thread we discussed iron intake from cooking in cast iron pans. The difference in iron has been measured and reported for various foods (I found data from a 1986 study). Has there been a comparable study for aluminum?

                    1. re: paulj

                      This is where things get tricky. Normally, oxidized aluminum is fairly strong and tough (compared to iron oxide -- rust -- which is weak and brittle). That is why things like airplanes hold up so well -- the thin layer of oxidized aluminum protects the bare aluminum.

                      The trouble is that it is soluble: the oxidation dissolves leaving bare metal. Thus the classic gray mashed potatoes (blech!).

                      Anodized aluminum gets around this by using electrolysis to form a thicker more crystalline layer of aluminum oxide which is insoluble and non-reactive.

                      Realistically, people probably get way more aluminum into their systems using anti-perspirants and antiacids than by using even plain aluminum cookware.

                      One last twist to this is that aluminum is one of the very few commonly occurring elements that has no function in human biology. Since it isn't metabolized, it is harder to track.

                      The big question that noone can really answer is whether very small quantities can accumulate and cause tragic mischief.

                      Personally, I am not so concerned that I would chuck all my aluminum stuff. I understand and respect those who do.

                    2. re: MikeB3542

                      I don't want to rehash this, but you are about 1000x more likely to die in car crash than you would be to get alzheimers from an aluminum pan, even if I concede that there is a link (which I won't). Yet, I'm assuming you still ride in cars?

                      1. re: vanillagorilla

                        No one knows what causes Alzheimer's for sure but 50% of people above the age of 85 have it and in the US ~40,000 people per year will die in a car crash while ~100,000 people/year will die of Alzheimer’s. This means that it will affect and eventually kill many more people than a car crash. Taking steps to prevent it form happening is probably a good thing. Personally I'd take the fast death in a car crash any day over having to spend many years suffering with Alzheimer's and hoping you'll have support (people and money) needed to get you by in a life you can’t understand anyway. I don't know why you are being so critical of someone trying to do the best they can for their body. If it bothers you so much you could quit using aluminum yourself or just not pay attention to the aluminum and Alzheimer's reports but no amount of denial or stubborn dedication to any particular way will change the relationship that aluminum has with Alzheimer’s be it good, bad or indifferent.



                        I would not trust Fox or MSNBC with anything political but since this is not a political issue I figure it is safe to trust them on this one and other sites quote similar numbers.

                    3. re: vanillagorilla

                      A review article, published earlier this year, compiled the research on the link between aluminum (Al) and Alzheimer's Disease (AD). When they looked at manuscripts published between 1990 and 2005, they found that "68% established a relation between Al and AD, 23.5% were inconclusive and 8.5% did not establish a relation between Al and AD." They even make the bold statement that "scientific evidence has demonstrated that Al is associated with the development of AD".

                      You can read the abstract here

                      However, I think that the potential for aluminum to leach into the cooking liquid from a tri-ply core is negligible. I would be more concerned with what's in the tap water you use.

                      1. re: Joe MacBu

                        I would advise caution when reading scientific papers -- ESPECIALLY when you're simply reading an abstract. There are a lot of questions here -- was the Al exposure in those 68% of studies high exposure (e.g. someone working in an Al recycling facility for instance)? Were these amounts commensurate with the scant absorption rates from cookware? Etc. This meta-analysis was about evaluating, within existing literature, a RELATIONSHIP, they have not stated whether that relationship is causal or correlative.

                        1. re: mateo21

                          upmc's website has a decent writeup for public consumption.

                        2. re: Joe MacBu

                          My Dad cooked in cast aluminum for decades (at least 40 - 50 years).

                          When I did, finally, sadly, lose he and my mom three years after another - he passed of the after affects of cancer and a heart attack, sharp until the night he died, and my mom died of COPD and spinal compression.

                          Both could have matched or beat me on awareness and sharpness till their last breath. (And I and not too shabby.)

                          So I am not full on sure that aluminum is bad.

                          Life, maybe. Aluminum - not so much.

                  2. A couple iof notes in response to some of the posts, most of which I agree with:
                    - Stainless steel pots and pans with thick aluminum core disk bottoms are not the same as aluminum pots and pans. NONE of your food touches aluminum, and since it is completely encased in stainless steel, there is no chance of it getting to your food. There are some great brands out there that are completely safe in this regard, ranging from Paderno Grand Gourmet (5 mm aluminum bottom) to Cuisinart to Demeyere to Sanbonnet and Tramontina. You can even find less expensive brands with similar construction. Use any ss with encased aluminum cores with no reservations;
                    - Most copper pans, even the "professional" models, are 2.5 mm thick. This includes the top Mauviel, Bourgeat and Falk. I have never tried Ruffoni, but I have some of each of the previous three. There are differences in the lining (tin vs. stainless steel, I prefer SS) and the handles (cast iron vs. brass, I prefer cast iron because the handles don't heat up as quickly). If anyone can recommend a 3 mm copper, please let me know what that is. I would love to try a piece out;
                    - Very thick aluminum bases perform nearly as well as any copper, and there are tests out there on the internet that show why and how heat gets distributed. If you get a pot with at least a 5mm aluminum disk at the bottom, it is a great piece.
                    - Most pieces advertised as copper core use too little copper to make a difference.
                    - 2.5 mm copper pans may actually be heavier than comparable LeCreuset pieces. This was a surprise to me when I first started buying copper - it weighs a TON.

                    1. I recently purchased some commercial cookware made by Lincoln Smallwares, under the Optio trademark. They feature a very thick SS/Al base that cooks very evenly under moderate heat. Boiling water does show "burner ring", but that is expected at high heat, with just about all other thick bottom/base pans.