Is aluminum cookware bad for you 1

Outdoor cookware in comparison

Cooking, roasting, drinking coffee

If you are looking for saucepans, pans and kettles for outdoor use, you will find three main materials: stainless steel, aluminum and titanium. In addition to the price differences, there is of course the question of which metal gives the cookware which properties and what the respective disadvantages are.

The fact that cookware made of titanium, aluminum and stainless steel has prevailed to this day is ultimately due to the fact that one or the other variant with its very special properties is advantageous depending on the tour.

We want to help you with your search and summarize how the materials and shapes of dishes differ in terms of thermal conductivity, weight, pack size, stability and practical handling compared to cooking. In addition to the three big representatives of outdoor cookware, we also looked at the special shapes that either have different coatings or are composed of different types of metal.

But the size, shape and equipment of the dishes are better or worse suited for different purposes. Therefore, at the end of the article, after comparing the materials, you will also find a short guide on which pot shape, which size and which accessories are the best choice for your tours.

titanium

Titanium cookware has had an incomparable success story since its discovery for the outdoor area. Which is hardly surprising, since you had to choose between heavy stainless steel and light but sensitive aluminum for a long time. Titanium cookware brought the golden mean and is still so popular today with its robust design and extremely low weight. To what extent the other materials have partly caught up, you can find out below.

The first big advantage of uncoated outdoor tableware made of titanium is its tiny weight, especially when you put it in relation to the stability of the material. Especially if the cooking equipment has to be carried in a backpack during the tour, titanium is often the material of choice - regardless of how many people have to be fed.

For example, the large Evernew 5.8 liter pot weighs just 550 g. But even with smaller sizes, the titanium makes a considerable difference in weight (especially in comparison with stainless steel). The MSR titanium boiler with a volume of 2 liters weighs e.g. B. only 165 g, the Keith Titan pot set with 800 ml pot and pan does not even reach the 180 g mark and the Toaks titanium pan with a diameter of 115 mm, weighing less than 50 g, is hardly noticeable in the backpack.

Titanium often even exceeds tableware made of aluminum in terms of its own weight, although aluminum as a raw material is initially even lighter. However, since titanium is more stable, it can be used to make pots, pans and kettles with thinner walls and less weight without making the construction too unstable.

In addition to these advantages, titanium in the uncoated version has a disadvantage: When frying, there is a greater risk that something will burn. This is due to the relatively poor thermal conductivity of the material. As a result, for example with a gas cooker, the titanium pot or pan becomes very hot at certain points and stays cooler on the outer edge, which leads to burning more quickly. An unintended advantage of the poor conductivity, however, is that the titanium dishes do not cool down as quickly and thus keep the contents of the pot warm longer.

On the other hand, cleaning is a bit more cumbersome if something is burnt in the pot. If, however, you mainly boil water, ensure that it is heated evenly using a suitably wide heat source and you are particularly careful when frying, titanium is an extremely light and durable solution for your outdoor kitchen, which is also rust-free, hygienic and harmless to health and tasteless. Even acidic or salty dishes do not affect the material. However, since the processing of titanium is quite complex, the titanium cookware usually also comes with a slightly higher price.

Conclusion titanium

  • Extremely light
  • Extremely robust
  • Tasteless and hygienic
  • Bad heat conductor and higher risk of burns
  • Rather expensive

This makes uncoated titanium cookware the right choice if weight and robustness are important to you and you either mainly boil water or accept that greater attention is required when frying in order to counteract the risk of burning.

Due to its disadvantages, titanium has now faced increasing competition from dishes made of aluminum, which is a special type of processing of aluminum.

aluminum

KFor a long time, aluminum tableware was the only alternative when it came to backpack-compatible weights. However, after some studies showed that high concentrations of aluminum ingested through food may be linked to Alzheimer's and other diseases (results from animal studies), the material fell into general disrepute.

Unhardened aluminum

As with almost all potentially harmful things, aluminum also depends on the dose; after all, we ingest it in small quantities through our food. Tableware made of aluminum is therefore not a fundamental health hazard. However, the metal in untreated or non-anodized form has its special features and to be absolutely sure, you can follow two basic tips:

  • Aluminum reacts with acidic and salty foods. If you mainly cook meals that use such ingredients (for example rice pudding, dishes with tomato sauces, fruits or marinated / pickled foods), you should rather use other metals or anodized aluminum (more information below).
  • Aluminum can be scratched by metal cutlery or too rough handling and thus get into the food in the form of small chips. So it's better to use cutlery made of wood or plastic.

If you mainly boil water for coffee or tea, you can stock up on light aluminum pots without having to keep the above points in mind. With models such as the classic Trangia storm cooker set, for example, you get a hardened ultralight version made of aluminum. Alternatively, the pots are also available made of aluminum with a special finish.

So if conventional aluminum is too sensitive or too tricky for you, there is now another solution that even competes with titanium: hard anodized or anodized aluminum.

Hard anodized aluminum

An explanation in advance: The terms (hard) anodized or (hard) anodized mean the same thing. The so-called anodizing process describes the electrolytic oxidation of aluminum and got its name simply from the respective initials. Since this oxidation process involves anodic oxidation, the term anodization has also become established in addition to anodization.

To put it briefly and in a way that is understandable for the non-chemist: The aluminum is placed in a conductive liquid (such as certain acids) and brought into an electrical circuit. Under the influence of the current, the top layer of the aluminum changes, becomes harder and more resistant and ultimately serves as protection against corrosion and damage.

This also explains the difference between “normal anodizing and hard anodizing (or hard anodizing). The addition “hard” basically means nothing more than a significantly higher current strength that is used in this process, so that the protective layer is thicker and more durable in the end.

Dishes made of hard anodized aluminum such as the Optimus Crux Lite Solo cooker set, the Alb Forming Alu Camping cookset or the Primus LiTech cookware set no longer react with acids or salts compared to the untreated variant and are significantly more scratch-resistant and durable - but still extremely light and with a comparatively very good thermal conductivity. But since this process also involves a certain amount of effort, the price is usually higher than for the untreated variants or for stainless steel.

Conclusion aluminum

  • Extremely light
  • Very good heat conductor
  • Extremely robust in the anodized form
  • In the anodized form, tasteless and harmless
  • Non-anodized form reacts with acids and salts
  • Non-anodized form is sensitive to scratches
  • Medium to high priced

Outdoor tableware made of aluminum is still one of the lightest versions and is also equipped with very good thermal conductivity. If you don't just boil water, you are usually better off with the hard-anodized aluminum pots and don't have to worry about whether your food contains too much acid and whether the cooking utensils could scratch the surface.

If every gram in the backpack is not important, stainless steel is still an interesting alternative that weighs a little more, but has other advantages.

stainless steel

There is a reason why most of the cooking pots in the home are made of stainless steel. The material is usually rust-free, hygienically and health-wise absolutely safe, tasteless and robust like hardly any other material. While it doesn't really matter how much such a pot weighs in the home kitchen, stricter guidelines apply to outdoor dishes.

Basically, stainless steel is always heavier than titanium or aluminum. Depending on the model and the processing of the saucepan, this weight difference is larger or smaller, so that it cannot be said in general that stainless steel pots are always too heavy for a backpack tour.

A comparison: The 900 ml saucepan from Solo Stove is made of stainless steel and, together with its lid and pack sack, weighs around 252 g.

Titanium models of comparable size such as the Vargo 900 ml pot or the Snow Peak 900 ml pot weigh about 100 g less. For ultra-light fans, 100 g feels like a second additional rucksack, for the Bushcrafter it is far below the weight that can be felt at all. And with everything in between, it simply depends on how much has ended up in the backpack so far and whether this exemplary 100 g weight difference is still within limits or not.

Stainless steel crockery and backpack suitability are not mutually exclusive and the material scores especially in rough outdoor everyday life with its almost indestructible stability. On the other hand, in addition to its higher weight, it unfortunately has a relatively poor thermal conductivity.

Conclusion stainless steel

  • Extremely robust, insensitive and durable
  • Tasteless and harmless
  • Comparatively cheap price
  • Rather difficult
  • Rather bad heat conductor

Outdoor crockery made of stainless steel is perfect if it is used intensively, shouldn't cost too much and can weigh a few grams more. Stainless steel cookware such as the MSR Alpine stainless steel pots are particularly popular with group trips, scout camps and bushcrafters, because the material can withstand rough handling without any problems and provides loyal service for a long time.

After all, all three materials have their advantages and disadvantages.

Special forms

One way to compensate for the respective disadvantages is, for example, coated versions or other special forms of outdoor cookware.

Duossal

An increasingly popular special shape are pots and pans made of the so-called Duossal material. The manufacturer Trangia has simply combined the advantages of aluminum and stainless steel in a single material. The outside of the cookware has been given the highly conductive and light aluminum, while the inside is made of scratch-resistant stainless steel, which is harmless to health and hygiene. Together, both metals result in lightweight dishes that weigh little more than aluminum, but are lighter than pure stainless steel.

Trangia offers the entire cooking set with storm cooker as well as the individual pots and pans

Non-stick saucepans

In addition, disadvantages such as sensitivity to scratching or a higher risk of burns can also be compensated for with coatings. Basically, either Teflon or ceramic is used. Teflon is the cheaper option, but it is more sensitive to metal cutlery than the more expensive ceramic solution.

Examples of this are, for example, the Optimus Terra pot set with Teflon coating and, on the other hand, models such as the Evernew Nonstick Deep Pot with ceramic coating. With all non-stick coatings, you should be careful with the cutlery and when cleaning it so that you can enjoy it for as long as possible.

cast iron

Last but not least, there is a fourth material variant in addition to the big three representatives, which, however, hardly anyone would voluntarily pack into their backpacks: cast iron. For saucepans made of this material, the weight information is not recorded in grams, but in kilos for good reason. The material, as it is used, for example, in the Petromax Dutch oven with feet and without feet, exceeds any weight comparison - but it has other advantages. As the name suggests, the fire pots don't mind being placed directly on the blazing campfire. The thick walls of the pots store the heat for a long time and give it off evenly all around, which is particularly advantageous for the gentle preparation of food.

Outdoor pots made of cast iron are therefore very popular, especially for long-term stays or for the home garden, where the pots do not have to be carried so far and so long and bring a particularly rustic cooking experience.

Now that the material selection has been clarified in detail, the only question left is the correct shape and size of your cookware.

Shape, size and features

When you have found your material of choice, with the large selection of models you only have to consider which size, which shape and which equipment you want.

Mini saucepan or large kettle?

When choosing the right size, of course, the first question is how many people want to be supplied with the cookware and how the luggage will be divided on your tour. Does everyone bring their own dishes? Does someone carry the outdoor kitchen for the whole group and is the rest of the equipment relieved? And is only the coffee water or an entire menu being cooked?

The cookware is available in minimalist solo sizes with a volume of 300 to 400 ml up to a huge witch's cauldron with a capacity of 10 liters. If you just boil water and / or want to be as light as possible, look around for smaller models. For solo tours, where meals are also cooked, you should orientate yourself more towards the pots around the 1 liter, depending on the food you choose. And with larger groups, it is always a weight saving, instead of many small pots on a few larger ones, as long as it is certain that they will always cook together and the group will not separate on the way.

Depending on which stove you take with you and how you use your cookware, either tall and narrow or flat and wider pots make sense regardless of the size.

The right shape of the saucepan

When you have determined the right size of your cookware, you can still choose from different shapes. On the one hand, it depends on which drinks or meals you want to prepare, which type of stove you use and what you also want to use the saucepan for.

Screw-on boilers have a rather high center of gravity and are a bit wobbly (at least without the cartridge stand). High cut pots aggravate this problem in contrast to shallower models. After all, this effect is less pronounced with spider cookers or gasoline cookers that are low on the floor.

But you can also include the width of the flame pattern on your stove when choosing the width of your pot - especially depending on how well your chosen material conducts the heat. A stove with a narrow flame, for example, cannot heat a wide pot made of poorly conductive material as efficiently as with a narrower model made of highly conductive material.

If you have low volume cookware, you can also use it as dinnerware. Depending on the shape, the pots are either better suited as a cup, bowl or deep plate and you can think about which use is best for you. And last but not least, you can choose the shape and size of your cookware based on what parts you already have and how well the newcomers can nestle in the other pots and pans.

Equipment and accessories

When it comes to equipping the pots, you can finally consider whether you prefer the light, foldable handles or whether you prefer flexible pliers that require more storage space, but can be used flexibly and do not need an insulating coating to protect your fingers to spare the heat. For use over the campfire with a tripod, however, a pot with a suitable handle makes sense.

For those who regularly cook pasta or similar foods, it makes sense to use a saucepan with a matching sieve lid, with which the cooking water can simply be drained off. For coffee junkies and tea lovers, there is a large selection of different presses or filter systems with which the hot drinks can be freshly brewed.

And regardless of the contents of the pot, it can be helpful on every tour if you have an appropriate insulating cover with you, which either keeps the contents warm for longer or protects your hands from too much heat and burns while drinking and eating.

Conclusion cookware

Which cookware ends up in your luggage depends on how and what you want to cook. The most important properties of the three variants are summarized:

  • Titanium is extremely light and robust, but a poor conductor of heat
  • Aluminum is extremely light, a very good conductor of heat, but only insensitive and robust in the hardened or hard-anodized form.
  • Stainless steel is extremely robust and inexpensive, but a poorer heat conductor and heavier in comparison.

Therefore, when touring with a backpack, models made of titanium or hard anodized aluminum are more likely to travel with you, while scout excursions, bushcraft tours or camping holidays are also excellently supplied with stainless steel if long distances are not covered every day.

If you have any questions about outdoor cookware or need support with your decision, give us a call, write an email or visit us in our shop in Bonn - we will be happy to help you choose the right saucepans, pans and kettles!