Is Aluminum Cookware Safe?

Cooking in uncoated aluminum can cause the metal to leach into the food. Should aluminum cookware be avoided?

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The long-term health effects of consuming aluminum are not entirely known, but some health agencies recommend minimizing dietary intake as much as possible. Cooking wet, acidic foods in uncoated aluminum is particularly to be avoided, since they cause more of the metal to leach into the food than dry, non-acidic items.

Avoid Using Uncoated Aluminum Cookware with Acidic Food

Lightweight aluminum is an excellent heat conductor, but it’s also highly reactive with acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegar, and citrus juice. Such items can cause aluminum to leach into food, imparting a metallic taste and leaving the cookware with a pitted surface.

Simmering tomato sauce in an aluminum pot is a particular recipe for leaching aluminum, not only because it’s acidic, but also because it is salty (salt corrodes aluminum) and liquidy, and because it spends a long time in the vessel, all of which increase the reaction between the aluminum pot and the food. 

Baking cookies on an aluminum baking sheet, in comparison, extracts less aluminum because the food is drier, less acidic, less salty, makes less physical contact with the metal, and spends less time cooking.

What About Cooking in Anodized Aluminum?

Aluminum cookware that has been anodized (hardened through a process that renders it nonreactive) or clad in a nonreactive material, such as stainless steel or a nonstick coating, does not leach into or react with foods.

Bottom Line

Cooking in uncoated aluminum will cause the metal to leach into food—how much depends on the food and how long it spends in the pan. If you are concerned, you may wish to cook in aluminum that's been anodized or clad in a nonreactive material.

Our favorite rimmed baking sheet is made out of uncoated aluminum, so avoid cooking acidic foods on it. 

Our favorite traditional skillet is clad in a non-reactive material (stainless steel) that surrounds an aluminum core for even heating. You can cook anything in these pans without risk. 

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