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 Feb 25 - Mar 3, 2010 
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Ask Ari

Utensil Disfunction

By Ari LeVaux

I am confused about which type of utensil to use while cooking. I have heard that plastics can leach cancer-causing chemicals into foods and liquids when heated and cooled. I have also heard that wood cannot be sterilized because it is porous. I know that metal can scratch up and ruin pots and pans. Where does that leave me when reaching for a spatula, ladle or spoon? Any suggestions?

—Stir Crazy

A: I would definitely stay away from plastic. It's true that some plastics can be toxic when heated, and even safe plastic utensils have poor feng shui, in my opinion (full disclosure: I am not a licensed feng shui practitioner).

I use a lot of wooden utensils, most of which were purchased at street markets in Thailand and Brazil. They're made of very hard wood, making them somewhat impervious to bacteria. I've never had any problems with them and I'm not too worried about it. I really like the feel of wooden utensils and I don't believe it's possible or beneficial to live in a completely sterile environment; but if I were a little paranoid I'd probably soak my wooden utensils in a bleach solution.

Otherwise, metal utensils are a great option. Most pans that metal would harm are going to be the coated, no-stick variety, which are non-feng shui and potentially toxic as well—who knows what pan coating will be declared safe today and poisonous tomorrow? So if germs are a high priority, ditch the coated pans and use metal utensils in cast-iron or stainless steel cookware.

Send your food and garden queries to flash@flashinthepan.net

 
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