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Mar 18, 2014 09:33 AM

Safe Use of Vintage Aluminum Cookware

I have seen so many conflicting thoughts on this - from people who think food merely touching aluminum is too risky to contemplate to those who use it with abandon on the thought that ... Hey, you eat in restaurants.

Have quite a bit of Aluminum in my batterie including some really thick walled roasters - a couple very thick guardian ware griddles and some nice large sheet pans. One roaster I have found is perfect for making my no knead bread loafs and is dedicated to that - another magnalite makes a good chicken

I feel like the potential danger from these is minimal unless I was say braising in highly acidic liquid - (I can do my coq au vin and Neapolitan ragu) elsewhere but I find these pieces of cookware very useful and durable.

Mostly they are specialty pans not every day ones.

I am not worried, is there a reason I should be? I mean aluminum foil touches our food all the time and packaging is often aluminum, restaurants largely use aluminum cookware

I could see if you were constantly whisking away wearing down a pitted sauce pan being concerned about aluminum intake but I see no reason that these useful pans should be put out of service as long as used appropriately.

Is there something I am missing that I should be concerned about here?

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  1. Martha Stewart practically waves a crucifix at aluminum foil.....covering food with parchment first if the cooking method absolutely mandates foil. Mom cooked almost entirely in aluminum pans for over half a century and lived to 91. That said, I have some of her cookware but avoid using it with tomato or fruits.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I grew up in a household where the only cookware was cast iron and Guardian aluminum. My mother and dad both lived past 95. I am 76 and have never been sick enough to spend the night in a hospital.
      Although a single example does not make a study, I do not pay much attention to a current fad concerning dangerous cookware.

      1. re: Bigjim68

        Agreed. Just don't rub it into your armpits. :)

    2. Hi, JTP:

      I find no persuasive evidence that aluminum cookware causes health problems. And I waste a lot of time looking for it, vetting other folks' citations.

      Studies always rate aluminum intake from cookware far down the list, behind dust, drinking water, antacids, antiperspirants, buffered aspirin, occupational sources, etc. And the (healthy) human body has a huge capacity for excreting what very small levels end up *in* the body.

      To summarize, here's a summary risk table of what NIH researchers think: And if you want perspective on the *daily* level of exposure the authors feel is the *threshold* of possible adverse health effects, see:

      You can find the full research paper here, which is itself a miraculous cure for insomnia:


      1 Reply
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Thanks K

        I have always run with the assumption that this Aluminum thing was a bit of a "sky is falling" issue but it has gone so far out of favor - some of those old thick pans and commercial ware are just too useful

        "Martha Stewart practically waves a crucifix at aluminum foil....." LOL if Martha Stewart saw most things i do in the kitchen she would need to call an exorcist

      2. I personally stay far far away from aluminum

        3 Replies
        1. re: VeganVick

          I take it you don't drink water, eat food, use anti-perspirants or antacids, fly in airplanes, or go outside, then?

          It's the third most abundant element on the planet, not Kryptonite.

          1. re: kaleokahu

            Aluminum cookware,
            but I do avoid and stay away from anti-persprint with aluminum fluoride toothpaste aluminum in baking powder. Bleached foods such as white rice ect

        2. If a person has kidney disease, then aluminum cookware, and the other items mentioned below, should be avoided. Otherwise, healthy kidneys have no problem eliminating aluminum.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jacquelyncoffey

            I have ESRD and have never been told by either renal dieticians, nephrologists or renal nurses to avoid aluminum cookware.

            1. re: wadejay26

              As long as your blood test are fine, then you're doing OK, my husband's was going up, and his nurses said no cookware, any food from an aluminum can plus the non-food items.

          2. I'm with you on the usefulness of some of the good old aluminum; one of my favorite pans is a thick cast aluminum omelet/crepe pan from the 1970s.

            I'm also a fan of the solid one-piece (therefore seamless) construction of muffin and popover tins put out in the 1950s by an Ohio aircraft company. I inherited some from my mother and have supplemented via ebay.

            What's the size and shape of the Magnalite you use for no-knead (covered) bread baking?

            13 Replies
            1. re: ellabee

              That one is not a Magnalite or Guardian It is an oblong, almost rectangular pan with nearly straight walls - the top is deep as the bottom is high so I guess you could use it as 2 open roasters - the long shape is good for loaves (I got tired of always having round ones) and I think the high dome lid is good for the steam - I will look at the brand on it when I get home I cannot find a similar one by googling.

              the popover pans sound great - I have a thick crepe pan too that looks like copco with the wooden handle but I assume is a copy.

              This old stuff is so thick compared to anything you see on the shelves today. 2x to 3x at least compared to even the old Calphalon Anodized stuff

              1. re: JTPhilly

                Does the crepe pan look like this? If so, it's an "Omelet Master" from a company called Gourmet, based in northern Illinois. (Info from the Cook's Catalogue book by Burt Wolf, Milton Glaser, et al.)

                An uncle gave me the pan as a graduation present in the early 1970s. It has no maker markings of any kind.

                I shed it in a move in the mid-1980s, and missed it for a long time, then reunited with it via ebay. Ecstatic to have it back; the s.o. now regularly makes crepes and pancakes in it, and I do omelets.

                ETA: Forgot to upload image, and now not seeing how to do it. Help!

                  1. re: ellabee

                    Hi, ellabee:

                    Very cool pan. Glad you got it back.

                    What is the maker of the Ohio bakeware/aircraft company you referenced above? I'd love to get some thick aluminum tins.


                    PS: Is the omelet the very SAME pan, or the same model, as you originally had? If you were truly reunited with it, *that* would be amazing.

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      It's *possible*; I left it in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and the ebay seller was in west central Illinois. I swear it has some scrapes and dings in the same spots as my original, but it's probably not. Definitely the same model, though!

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        The muffin tins etc. by United Aircraft Products aren't heavy at all, but they're stamped from one piece of metal so that they're seamless. The "Popovaire" and "Shellaire" and "Muffinaire" are plentiful on ebay.

                        1. re: ellabee

                          I have those tins! Picked them up at a thrift sip and they are AWESOME.

                      2. re: ellabee

                        That is the same make but then my pan is not a "crepe pan" is it a Pancake pan? Pic below. It appears slightly larger and has somewhat straighter walls - It sat on the shelf at the thrift store for months and eventually, one half price day, I caved for $3 - I have not used it yet and and not quite sure what use it will find but it is cool looking and very thick I figure it could make an excellent heat diffuser. Thanks for the info! The handles are very similar to the Michael Lax COPCO ECI skillet I have also from that era, but just different enough I could tell it was a different manufacturer - another thrift store purchase I am having a hard time justifying holding onto for looks.

                        The cast aluminum roaster I use for no knead bread is from Household Cooking Utensils Institute - I did not find out much about them - the pan is pretty worn but perfect for that one purpose

                        1. re: JTPhilly

                          I looooove that cast aluminum roaster; wonderful piece. Happy baking!

                          Also v cool to see another product from the Gourmet company. I wonder how they advertised and promoted. My uncle lived in Arkansas, and was something of a foodie.

                          1. re: JTPhilly

                            I'm betting that the Gourmet company called your pan a "Crepe Chef" (mine being the Omelet Chef; mis-remembered in earlier post). Either pan would work for either food, but of course they wanted to sell two pans instead of one!

                            The company also made a cast aluminum casserole that was intended for cooking clams and mussels. ?!! Seems like an un-ideal material, given how often wine is used in that application, so there'd be lots of discoloration and leaching. It's attractive and indestructible-looking, 10 inches across and 7 deep (10 qt capacity). Would probably make an outstanding no-knead baker if the walnut knob (same material as the handles on our pans) were replaced with something more heat-proof. On page 402 of Cook's Catalogue <-- the book that intensified my cookware geekiness at a young age.

                          2. re: ellabee

                            I have three pans (apparently by Gourmet): omelet, crepe and fish. Photos of the latter two are listed below. (My omelet pan is in storage - but then you already have a photo of it).

                            I just read you post today. I'd like to learn more about the manufacturer.

                            1) Is this link to the right edition of the Cook's Catalogue?

                            The Cooks' Catalogue, James Beard, Milton Glaser, Burton Wolf, et al. (Edited by); Florence Fabricant (Paperback Edition Editor); Published by Avon Books/A Division of The Hearst Corporation, New York, 1977
                            ISBN 10: 0380008998 / ISBN 13: 9780380008995


                            and 2) do you have any other information about the cookware?

                            I appreciate your help. Ben

                            1. re: MistaBen

                              Hi Ben. Sorry to be so slow responding; I've been away from chow for a few weeks.

                              The Cook's Catalogue I have is I believe the first printing, Harper & Row 1975, hardcover ISBN 10: 0060115637. But the contents of the 1977 version should be the same; if there was a revised/updated edition at some point, I don't think it was that soon. That Avon version might be a trade paperback. Same or different, it's a wonderful general cookware and "material culture" reference.

                              I know nothing about the cookware beyond what I came across in the book. They list the manufacturer of the omelet pan and seafood pot as:
                              Gourmet Ltd.
                              376 E. Charles Street
                              Lombard, IL 60148

                              [My copy actually has it as 'Tombard, Illinois' (typo).]

                              Great stuff. How did you come by yours?

                              1. re: ellabee


                                First, thanks for your reply.

                                The omelet pan was a Christmas gift (in early to mid 1970s) from father of spouse #1. He was a perfectionist, so I always felt a certain reverence for the pan. I cooked omelets for 40 years. Neither spouse #1 nor #2 used at all. (#2 was "AllCLad snob" - which is why I was allowed to retain this pan - along with extensive LeCreuset - upon her departure).

                                About a year ago I found the other two online - within days of each other. Purchased to have the set (they "look marvelous") - and because i might not see again...

                                Am divorced fairly recently and am yet to set up kitchen. Embarrassed to say I've barely used the new ones, but am interested in how best to season them and use going forward. (I tried flax seed oil on one and it turned (a hideous) brown. Plan to clean and re-season with canola, unless i find something better.)

                                Would be interested in your views on how best to use this cookware - (beyond your existing comments online).

                                On the "toxicity" front, it would seem the risk of a properly seasoned pan should should approach nil.

                                Tx again. B

                                PS. My mother Mom was from SE Arkansas. And I was born in Evanston (about 20 miles from Lombard, IL); Small world.