In my previous post, Zero-Waste Grocery Shopping, I explain how you can get your groceries without all the unnecessary plastic packaging. That eliminated most of the plastic and waste in your kitchen. If you look around your kitchen, I’m sure you still see areas where you are creating trash.
One of the last items for me to change was aluminum foil and parchment paper. I never used them much, until I started cooking at home. Aluminum for reheating food (I don’t use microwaves unless absolutely necessary) and cooking meats, and parchment paper for baking. I found this very difficult to switch, but I was going through a roll or two every month.
Dangers of Parchment Paper
What is parchment paper and how is it made? It is made from running paper sheets through sulfuric acid or zinc chloride which creates the texture we are so familiar with.
Sulfuric acid is corrosive and can be explosive in its concentrated form. It can cause burn holes in your stomach if swallowed in its concentrated form among other scary health problems.
Zinc Chloride is corrosive by ingestion and highly irritant if breathed in. When something is heated, it changes the composition.
Parchment paper is “supposedly” safe up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, but once I realized what chemicals were in it, I definitely did not want my food anywhere near it. What can I use in place of parchment paper?
Dangers of Cooking Silicone
So, I googled and researched trying to find alternatives for parchment paper, and eventually I came upon a solution. My solution was originally silicone baking sheets. They seemed amazing because you can reuse them and wash them. However, the more I researched silicone, the more I questioned the chemicals.
Are silicone baking mats safe? Silicone is a man made polymer which is made by adding carbon and/or oxygen to silicon. The FDA has approved it as safe, but there have been studies questioning the stability of silicone in very high heat. The studies are saying that siloxanes can be leached into foods if the silicone is exposed to both fat and temperatures over 300 degrees. The siloxanes have been linked to reproductive issues, liver changes, and are endocrine disruptors.
Even if you decide to go with food grade silicone, be sure that it says it is 100% food grade silicone because cheaper products can contain fillers.
Also, the vibrant colored silicone needs to have undergone lead testing. My mom bought some cupcake liners she was so excited to use, but to make cupcakes, the silicone is heated. That would release lead. So we found a way to use them for things like fudge or no bake products.
Check and make sure that the package says BPA free and lead free. If it does not say on the package, contact the manufacturer to be sure. I think silicone is a great option for things that don’t require being in high heat.
So, my search for a replacement to parchment paper continued.
Non-Toxic Unbleached Parchment Paper
The next product I ran into to replace my parchment paper was unbleached natural parchment. These claim to be toxin free and compostable. They don’t include bleach or dioxins which are found in typical parchment paper.
Dioxins are highly toxic to the human body and very harmful to our earth. They can cause reproductive and development issues, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones, and cause cancer.
The natural unbleached parchment paper still creates waste, but if it can go into your compost, it is still a great option. I really like the brand ‘If You Care”.
Now, if you don’t want any waste at all, you can invest in some nice glassware. I have Pyrex glassware for storing leftovers in the fridge and then reheating them.
For baking, I use the square or rectangular glass dishes. They are great for brownies and casseroles as well. Grease those babies up really well with some coconut oil and you’re good to go. This is the simplest option for me.
I found some nice pieces of glassware in my mom’s garage that have stood the test of time and they are working so great. If you don’t know, glassware is more durable than it sounds. You still don’t want to drop it on the floor, but it won’t shatter easily.
Dangers of Aluminum Foil
Another item I used in my kitchen all the time was Reynolds aluminum foil. I used it to reheat any leftovers I had cooked since I did not own a microwave. I also used it to cook my meat for dinners.
Aluminum foil is made by rolling slabs of aluminum until they are very thin. Kind of like rolling out dough. Is aluminum foil safe? What are the dangers of using aluminum foil?
Again, there is not a ton of research on the subject, but the research that does exist says cooking at high temperatures and with either acidic foods, salt, and spices can cause leaching into foods. There is an amount of aluminum that you digest that naturally comes from fruits and vegetables. Cooking with aluminum foil can increase the amount your body absorbs.
A study by the Department of Food Engineering at Ondokuz Mayis University in Turkey found cooking meat in aluminum, raised the amount absorbed in red meat from 89%-378% and in poultry by 76%-215%.
Not only that, but it is very difficult to recycle aluminum foil if you can at all. Whenever I would cook Teriyaki chicken, the juices would leak under the pan I was using and make it stick to the pan. I would peel away the aluminum foil which was now coated in food. So, what are some aluminum foil alternatives?
Stainless Steel Baking Sheet Pans
These are generally a lot safer than aluminum. They still can leach iron, nickel, and chromium, but only if acidic foods have been heated for an extended amount of time. For people who must be careful about their iron intake I would not use these, but for other individuals, this could be a good option. These can be a little more on the expensive side, but they are known to be very durable and stand the test of time.
Another good alternative would be ceramic bakeware. Be sure it is 100% ceramic as this doesn’t react with food. Because it is made from more natural materials, it can potentially contain lead or cadmium. So, just be sure to check with the manufacturers that their products have been tested. The only brand I have come across that is 100% ceramic is Xtrema.
I love my cast iron skillet and I recently discovered that there are other types of cast iron products. These can leach high amounts of iron into food if cooking acidic foods, like some of the other items we read about.
Iron is a necessary nutrient for the body, but if you have to be careful about the amount you consume, opt out of this alternative. For everyone else, you will love these.
Which is the best option?
That depends on your preferences. For me, personally, I love glassware. The only health concern it poses is if it breaks which has yet to happen in my family (and I have 4 little siblings).
I’m avoiding silicone that is heated for now as there just hasn’t been enough scientific research to know if it could cause health concerns. If you need a quick option, go for the unbleached non-toxic parchment paper. Just don’t throw it away, compost it!
I’m curious what you think will be the best option for you and why. Let me know in the comments below!