Is cooking in aluminum pans bad for you?

Photo by Lee Harrelson; Styled by Jan Gautro

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If you have a cooking question, our expert, Marge Perry, can answer it. Marge teaches home cooks in her classes at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. She is an award-winning food writer, longtime contributor for Cooking Light and a number of other leading food magazines, author of the blog A Sweet and Savory Life, columnist for Newsday, and has contributed to over 20 cookbooks.

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"Is cooking in aluminum pans bad for you? I use them on the grill for vegetables."

Aluminum is the third most abundant element in the earth’s crust, and it is in the air, soil and plants we eat. It is found in far greater concentration in a single antacid than you are likely to get from food cooked in aluminum pans.

Having said that, you should be aware that highly acidic foods, like tomatoes, lemon, most fruits, vinegar and wine, absorb much more aluminum than others. These acidic foods, along with undissolved salt, can cause the surface of uncoated aluminum (whether a pan or foil) to pit, and therefore presumably cause additional leaching.

Grilling non-acidic vegetables on aluminum should not be a problem. Cooking on pans with aluminum in them but which are coated or anodized, is also not an issue, because the coating forms a barrier between the metal and the food.

Marge Perry
Aug, 2012

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