7 Simple Ways to Detox Your Kitchen

Consider these tweaks to enjoy a cleaner, healthier environment for cooking, eating and gathering.

| September/October 2014

  • Well-seasoned cast-iron pans are naturally nonstick and chemical-free.
    Photo by Jen Altman
  • The kitchen can be a hidden source of toxins and carcinogens.
    Photo by Mat Rick

The kitchen is the heart of the home—a source of warmth and comfort, where people naturally congregate as the aromas of good food waft through the air. Unfortunately, the kitchen can also be a hidden source of toxins and carcinogens. Get rid of these common culprits, and you’ll be able to breathe easier in the most important room of your home.

Circulate the Room.

Research has shown that cooking on gas burners without venting can cause excessive levels of nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. While electric ranges don’t produce combustion pollutants, all stovetop cooking creates fine particle pollutants; sautéing fats can also produce acrolein, a lung irritant. Get in the habit of powering on the hood vent before cooking on the stove. For the best performance, use the highest vent setting; cook on the back burners; let the fan run until pans are cool; and clean grease traps periodically. If you don’t have a range hood, open a window to increase ventilation and consider running a household fan.

Love Your Oven.

Most commercial oven cleaners contain highly toxic chemicals such as ammonia and lye. These chemicals can remain in the oven after use and come in contact with food during cooking. Some ovens have a cleaning feature that burns off the residue at extremely high temperatures, but proper venting is essential to prevent carcinogens from being released into the air. The safest solution is to clean the oven’s interior while it is cool with warm, soapy water and scrub away any baked-on grease with a scouring pad and baking soda. Visit our Guide to Homemade Cleaners for recipes for natural oven cleaners.

Buy Brown.

Most paper products in the U.S.—including coffee filters, parchment paper, muffin pan liners and waxed paper—are bleached with chlorine gas or chlorine derivatives, chemicals known to create dioxins during manufacturing. Dioxin exposure is linked to impairment of the immune system, nervous system, endocrine system and reproductive functions. Use unbleached paper products (look for “chlorine-free” and “dioxin-free” on the label), and opt for a reusable gold-plated mesh coffee filter instead of disposable filters.



Pick Perfect Pans.

If possible, purchase high-quality stainless steel, cast-iron, glass, ceramic or ceramic-coated cookware (make sure ceramic bakeware indicates that the glaze is lead-free). Untreated aluminum cookware has been cited as a possible risk factor for neurodegenerative diseases including dementia, autism and Parkinson’s disease, and findings indicate that acidic foods leach aluminum from pans. Anodized aluminum is generally more durable and scratch-resistant, but deeply scratched pots should be discarded—choosing higher-quality options is preferable. Also avoid nonstick cookware. Many nonstick pans’ coatings contain possible carcinogens, including perfluoroalkyl acid, which studies find can leach into food. Instead, oil pans to keep foods from sticking. Seasoned cast-iron pans are naturally nonstick.

Bathe the Broccoli.

A deadly outbreak of Listeria from tainted cantaloupes in 2011 illuminated a hard truth: We can’t assume produce is clean. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly before cutting, cooking or eating. Even if you’ll be peeling or cutting skin off produce such as melons, carrots and cucumbers, it’s smart to scrub the skin with a produce brush and dry thoroughly prior to cutting.



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