Cooking for Health & Pleasure: Effective Cookware and Cutlery

Cynthia Bailey, MD|November 12, 2015


With the holidays just around the corner, people are beginning to think about food preparation, since we all know food plays a leading role at this time of year. As a chef, there are two main cooking questions that I’ve been asked more than any other question:

  • What kind (a.k.a. brand) of cookware do you use?
  • What kind (a.k.a. brand) of knives do you use?

Brand-Specific Cookware or Just Effective Cookware?

The first question is easy but important nonetheless. I love enameled cast iron cookware, especially and heartily Le Creuset. Is this cookware expensive? Yes. Can you get it on sale? Yes. (I purchased a Dutch oven that had been handsomely discounted because the box was a bit torn and scratched. The box!). You can also pick it up at sales/garage sales and vintage stores. Because of its durability, hand-me-downs are great too. In fact, Dr. Bailey has an old orange Le Creuset sauce pan with a wood handle that her mother-in-law gave her years ago. It makes the best popcorn!

I really, really want you to know I’m NOT a snob about this cookware. I know it’s pricey, but you only really need one of them: the Dutch oven. There are both round and oval Dutch Ovens. I like the round ones because foods heat and cook evenly. You can also think of it as an heirloom purchase, because just as in Dr. Bailey's family, you will use it, and then your children and grandchildren will too. I regularly cook with vintage Le Creuset pots (1925) that are banged up but perfectly functional. Another thing I like is that no matter what you have cooked in it, a ten minute hot, soapy soak makes it easy to clean thoroughly.

What is really important is that this cookware is also an investment into your health. The enamel in non-reactive, meaning that any food you cook in it will not leave anything, absorb anything or be changed by the cookware. That applies to even acidic food like tomatoes and vinegar or wine-based foods. If you use a good salt (hint-hint), like an Atlantic grey sea salt (hint-hint), the salt will retain all of its electrolytes instead of "donating" some to metal in a pan. On the topic of metals, I don’t want any in my food, especially aluminum and other heavy metals. I think we are beginning to understand the role of aluminum in disease. Heavy metal toxicity is a danger to good health as well. I make an effort to never let food touch metal. Even if I’m roasting garlic in tin-foil, I first wrap it in parchment paper, then tin-foil. These areas add to the reasons why I advocate enameled pans like Le Creuset for cooking. It's also why I’m a huge fan of unbleached parchment paper. Parchment makes for really easy clean-up too, and another bonus is the unbleached kind is bio-degradable.

The second reason I love this cookware is that it is dense and heavy, which means I have to slow down when I use it. We have many modern diseases to deal with in society, one of the fundamental ones being what I call "Hurry Sickness." I’m susceptible to it. It’s the pressure to do everything as quickly as possible. Anyone else you know suffering from this, especially at this time of year? In short, pressure causes stress, which causes cortisol (the primary stress hormone) levels to go up. When cortisol levels go up, our immune system goes down. When our immune system is down, we become disease magnets. Of course food digestion is smoother when you are not stressed too.

My philosophical digression about life and cookware is that one of the benefits of slowing down in the kitchen is that it allows me the time to dedicate the merit of my effort to the people I’m cooking for, and by extension, to the world. I’m drawn to cooking because, in my core, I believe that cooking gives us humans the unique chance to bless creation in the form of food and to multiply that goodness by feeding ourselves, our family, our community. Many people speak of "tasting love" in food, which is a direct sensation of experiencing the intention and passion of the cook. Slow cooking with love and intention also warms the home (yes, another digression related to cookware). I have one teenager, and several more when our friends are over. These teenagers are no different than any others, and they all LOVE the smell of something cooking. The anticipation of the meal is nearly as delicious as enjoying it. They love to hover around the stove, see what I’m cooking and take in the aroma. We’ve all had the experience, and me in the kitchen, slowly cooking with heavy cookware is part of how I make that happen in my home.

The Difference a Knife Can Make

The second question people ask me is about cutlery. It’s more of a preference, but I love Kyocera ceramic knives. I’ve broken many and purchased replacements, but even so, they are worth it. I use them for everything except items that require some torque and cutting heft, like winter squashes, big beets and watermelons. After a while, you’ll get the hang of what the knives can handle. I do, however, realize the answers to these two "chef questions" point me into two different directions. The knives are sleek, very sharp and allow me to go a little faster, while the cookware slows me down – it’s also non-reactive. Still, the two go hand-in-hand.

In summary, get effective cookware and knives. Also, prevent food from touching metal as much as possible. And most of all, smile, slow down and enjoy cooking, eating and sharing the love with your friends and family! (Thank me later for these wonderful Christmas gift ideas too...) As I always say, I will never tell you what you should eat, only how to cook something to maximize its nutritional benefit.

Be sure to check out Dr. Bailey's healthy eating guide that explains how you can create a diet for beautiful skin and vitality. Download it for free today!  

Who's hungry and excited to get cooking for the holidays? Let us know in the comments below. 

Chef Monica Sallouti Certified Natural Chef Monica Sallouti’s lifelong passion for delicious nutritious food comes from both her formal training and time spent in the kitchens of her two grandmothers as a young girl. She honed her culinary skills and nutritional education at the Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts program at Bauman College in Penngrove, CA. The specialty of nutrition for Chef Sallouti was sparked after a health crisis some 19 years ago. In her late 20’s, she was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma. As part of her “treatment,” she developed a keen awareness of the inextricable link between food, cooking and health. Now, 19+ years later, Sallouti brings her knowledge, culinary creativity and care to both her clients.

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