Pitted anodized aluminum pans?
February 3, 2020 1:03 PM   Subscribe

I have some old Calphalon pans and they are pitted. Does this mean that aluminum has been leaching into my food? If so, how worried should I be?

I have had three Calphalon anodized pots for years and years. The dark interior coating has worn away/been pitted away in places and I never even thought about it. Is this bad? How bad is it?
posted by Frowner to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's usually from running them through the dishwasher - Unless you were doing some interesting cooking with lye or other basically non-food chemicals there shouldn't be aluminum leaching into your food.
posted by Dmenet at 1:11 PM on February 3

Yep, it's been leaching. Those pans just don't last very long, especially if you treat them like stainless steel, which I tend do. There was a lot of worry about aluminum and Alzheimers but no one has been able to nail it down as more than a correlation. I wouldn't lose sleep about it, personally.
posted by wnissen at 1:16 PM on February 3 [1 favorite]

The aluminum/Alzheimer’s connection is basically debunked. The major Alzheimer’s organization refers to is as a “myth.” I wouldn’t worry about it either.
posted by spitbull at 1:23 PM on February 3 [9 favorites]

This is a thing that happens to old Calphalon.

Yes, this has probably added small amounts of aluminum to your food. No, it probably isn't bad. With regard to risk, a fair amount of cookware (primarily pots, pans, sheet pans, and bakeware) is straight-up made from plain, unanodized/uncoated aluminum, so I think it's a stretch to say that you need to be concerned for your safety.

Practically, you should now refrain from cooking acidic foods in them, as it can now react with the exposed aluminium, adding some to your food and pitting the surface further. At this point they've also lost any advantage over non-anodized pans of equivalent thickness, and it would probably make sense to replace them with stainless steel when you can.

Taking a more holsitic look at the risk: If you eat in restatuants, it's likely that you're eating food cooked on uncoated aluminum (most of that "raw" aluminum ware is sold to the restaurant trade, because it's cheap, durable, and has desirable thermal properties). You may also be consuming small amounts of aluminum from sources like baking powder, buffered aspirin, Maalox and other OTC drugs, and pickles (when prepared with alum). It's also what makes most non-natural antiperspirants work. If you already take pains to avoid these things, by all means, ditch the pans. (I do all of this except avoiding restatuant food, out of an abundance of caution, but this way lies madness, really--and I'm very careful not to inflict my cautious nature on others.)
posted by pullayup at 1:23 PM on February 3 [5 favorites]

Here's a link to a trusted source about aluminum in food.
posted by Dmenet at 1:30 PM on February 3 [3 favorites]

The main risk is to making highly acidic dishes taste a little funny and/or look an odd color.

One thing to remember is that the surface layer of aluminum is a super tough oxide that is very tough against physical and chemical damage, except for strong acids.

I recently made play doh (highly acidic via cream of tartar) in an aluminum pot with lots of pitting and it did weird things to the color: would not recommend.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:34 PM on February 3

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