Chemical Free Cookware

On a recent stroll down a shopping strip while I was away from home for a conference, I came across this startling advertisement:


You can imagine my shock and amazement that the cookware company Baccarat had not only come up with a chemical-free ceramic material, but then also managed to construct a frying pan from it. I quite enjoy cooking, and tend to covet expensive and unnecessary kitchenware items, however I’m not sure this one will be making it on to my post-Christmas sale shopping list this year seeing as I can only assume is made primarily from photons, and I already have plenty of those lying around.

Curiously, the Bio+ range seems to be absent from the Baccarat website, but several online retailers are flogging these frying pans and offer a little more insight into what they are actually trying to say when they claim the  ‘chemical free’ label. The use of the prefix ‘Bio’ is total greenwashing, because there is absolutely nothing about the use or manufacture of these items that is in any way biological. These frying pans, like many others, are actually made of aluminium (an element and chemical, gasp!), with a Bakelite handle (a polymer resin made primarily from the chemicals phenol and formaldehyde*) and a ceramic (usually a crystalline oxide, made from… you guessed it – chemicals!) cooking surface. What they are actually trying to get at when they say ‘chemical free’, is that these pans are not coated with PTFE (Teflon), the fluorinated polymer we associate with non-stick cooking surfaces. Whilst there have been concerns about the safety of these products, if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of the temperature you use them at, and use an exhaust fan or rangehood while you’re cooking, then they don’t pose a health risk. There are plenty of Teflon-free cookware items available on the market if you prefer not to use them for whatever reason. Most chefs don’t use Teflon pans, and instead favour cookware made from cast iron, stainless steel, copper and aluminium. The reasons being that these materials develop a better fond when cooking, are more hard-wearing for increased longevity, tolerate much higher temperatures and can be used with metal utensils.

As a side note, I also found it a quite hilarious coincidence (or maybe not), that celebrity chef Pete Evans of ‘activated almonds and alkalised water’ fame, is one of the faces of Baccarat cookware.  Clearly, a man who thinks water containing vinegar is alkaline has much to learn about basic (pun intended), primary school level chemistry and is an excellent choice for ambassador of this company.

*phenol and formaldehyde are two chemicals that you certainly want to take care with on their own,  in my laboratory these are both stored in special poison/carcinogen cabinets. However, once incorporated into the Bakelite resin they have reacted together to form a new, non-hazardous chemical structure and are effectively permanently trapped in that form within the resin.