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What is Hard Anodized Nonstick Cookware?

Hard anodized cookware is durable and has a surface that resist sticking.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: Josie Myers
  • Revised By: C. Mitchell
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 06 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Hard anodized nonstick cookware is a category of pots and pans — typically skillets and woks, but also saucepans and stockpots — that have been manufactured to be both very durable and to resist sticking. Most are quite expensive but are usually seen as a sort of "kitchen investment" since once bought, they may never have to be replaced if cared for properly. Of course some styles and brands are of better quality than others, and there are also some potential health concerns depending on the non-stick coating that is applied. Consumers are usually smart to do a bit of research before spending money on this sort of cookware to be sure that the products they are buying will really meet their needs.

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Manufacturing Process

A lot of cookware is made out of aluminum, in part because of how strong it is and how evenly it distributes heat. Aluminum that is “hard anodized” is even stronger thanks to a sealant process that strengthens the metal and makes it even more durable. Hard anodization is an electro-chemical process in which aluminum is placed in an acid bath and given an electrical charge. This causes a controlled oxidation to occur — the aluminum combines with oxygen at the surface to produce aluminum oxide. Hard anodized nonstick cookware is cookware that has undergone this process followed by an application of a traditional nonstick coating. The end result is a pan that is very hard and usually also quite heavy that food will not stick to during cooking.

Restaurant Origins

The process of hard anodizing was originally developed for use in the restaurant industry. Chefs desired heavy durable pans to hold up to the abuse of cooking many meals per day. Consumers who were able to sneak looks at the heavy durability and darkened colors of hard anodized cookware found it highly appealing, which ultimately led to widespread availability for home use.

Durability

By far one of the most praised features of the cookware is its durability, which is to say, how thick and heavy it is. Hard anodizing produces an extremely durable pan that has twice the hardness of most stainless steels. It also resists abrasion and corrosion; the surface will not chip or peel and it can handle extremely high heat levels without damage to the finish.

Hard anodized aluminum has the same atomic configuration as regular aluminum. This means that nonstick surface sealants are able to bind to the anodized cookware as easily as they do to regular aluminum cookware. The advantage is that, in most cases, it will hold up much better than on standard aluminum pans.

With standard aluminum, regular cooking and usage of utensils begins to break down the nonstick coating. As it breaks away in small places, food is able to make contact with the aluminum. This contact creates new chemical reactions that break down the nonstick surface more quickly. A hard anodized surface does not allow this to happen because the surface is too hard to allow cracks.

Variations in Quality

Though hard anodized nonstick cookware is generally held out as a top-of-the-line product, not all manufacturers maintain the same quality standards. Beginning with a low-quality aluminum can detract from overall pan performance, for instance; similarly, an inexpensive non-stick coating that is applied cheaply or in a rush can break down over time, all but destroying the usefulness of the pan or pot to which it is attached. As such, customers are usually wise to look beyond just the price of products they are considering. Researching the quality and manufacturing practices that have gone into making a given pan can be a good way of ensuring that the investment is a good one.

Care and Handling

Chefs and other cooking professionals usually recommend that all hard anodized nonstick cookware be hand washed in warm, soapy water. Though some manufacturers may say that their pans are dishwasher-safe, cooks can help extend the lives of their cookware by taking the time to clean them independently. Some dishwasher soaps can be harmful to the nonstick coating, and some pans will warp if exposed to the spinning ultra-hot suds used in many modern appliances. Handles and other decorative elements may not be able to withstand dishwasher heat, either.

Health Concerns

A number of medical studies have made tentative links between aluminum and diseases like Alzheimer's and certain cancers, which has caused some consumers a bit of trepidation about purchasing cookware with aluminum in it. In nearly all cases, hard anodized pots and pans do not raise these concerns, though. The anodization process is believed by most to make the aluminum safe for consumers to use. The finish is chemically stable, will not decompose, and is absolutely non-toxic. Since hard anodized nonstick cookware will not usually chip and wear, it is arguably even safer than standard nonstick cookware.

Nonstick coatings raise a few of their own independent health concerns, though. Certain nonstick coatings can emit potentially toxic fumes when heated to very high temperatures. Inexpensive or poorly cared-for coatings can also begin to disintegrate over time, which can lead to flaking that may get into whatever food is being cooked. Experts usually recommend buying only top-quality nonstick cookware to avoid these problems; making sure that the coating is cared for — not using metal utensils or abrasive cleaners, for instance — might also help.

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Discuss this Article

anon956625
Post 13

This article incorrectly implies that all hard-anodized aluminum cookware has some non-stick coating applied - not true! You can still find hard-anodized aluminum pans that have no non-stick coating applied (which coating can peel after a period of time). Those pans with a hard-anodized surface and no non-stick coating applied over it, still do not stick and are usable for over 20 years. I know because one pan I have is at least that old.

anon206915
Post 11

I have had many birds near the kitchen, cooked with various types of pans and never lost one bird. If you cook with medium heat all should be fine. If you cook with temperatures over 450 on a cook top, you're going to get smoke and burning from any cookware. Yes, this can kill birds and it also can make humans sick. Use common sense.

anon152371
Post 9

How healthy is it to cook with hard anodized cookware? Aluminum has been linked with cancer so how much can the public trust Aluminum cookware especially when we are feeding children and want to raise them up healthy? if you could prove it is extremely safe to use instead of stainless steel, i would definitely buy.

anon147963
Post 8

Re the 2 dead parakeets: Did the cookware have nonstick coating on it? I have always read that very high heat and nonstick coatings are a problem, especially for birds etc.

I believe there would be no fumes if the HAA was without a non-stick coating.

If, when cooking, a little bit of oil etc is used along with a properly heated pan, then the sticking issue should be non-existent.

anon143195
Post 7

I read on my hard anodized instructions that if you heat the pans too hot, or overheat them, that they will give off fumes that will kill birds.

Don't know how that affects humans, but I just heated the pans enough to do a stir fry, and both of my parakeets were dead the next morning. They were not close to the kitchen either, but at the other end of a large great room. Now, dead birds are a coincidence? I think I will use my stainless steel pans from now on.

Fumes are not supposed to harm humans, but you know they used to send canaries into mines and if they died, then people didn't go in. Just take care if you have expensive birds, i.e. parrots, etc.

anon139465
Post 6

Thanks for the informative article! Man Pans look very promising. Expensive, but if they last as long as they're said to, it'll be economical in the long run.

anon138081
Post 5

Where or what brands have hard-anodized aluminum cookware, without the non-stick or other coatings or polymers?

This article has a couple of mistakes which aren't too serious but will glare at any scientist reading. Note that hard-anodized aluminum (HAA) isn't quite twice as hard as steel. It depends on what type of steel is measured against, and how one measures hardness. The details are too much for this box.

Note that although HAA does contain aluminum (Al) which has the same atomic structure as pure aluminum, the binding properties to any non-stick surface are controlled by the molecular properties, and HAA has different ones than Al does. The coatings and bindings, or infused polymers, must therefore be bound differently.

If you use a HAA pan/pot which has a non-stick coating, then your food is in immediate contact with the non-stick chemicals, not the HAA. Once any manufacturing residues are washed off, HAA alone doesn't emit any fumes etc, but the same isn't certain for the non-stick coating. This depends on the type of coating, and the coatings are quite complex in chemical structure.

anon94212
Post 4

Great article. Can now trust alu based cookware a bit more when it comes to food safety. Still, I am weary of the non-stick material as they are supposed to be toxic, and they do come off the pans. I guess the hard anodised non-stick material which has higher durability is safer as it is less likely to come off the pans.

anon93869
Post 3

Safety of the cookware is hugely dependent on the manufacturer - something that consumers have no way of controlling.

And that is only half the story. If aluminum does not leach into food, how about the dyes? How about the volatile compounds emitting as invisible toxic fumes into the air - that you breathe?

pr0n1x
Post 2

where you can buy hard anodized nonstick cookware? Maybe online?

anon50689
Post 1

Found this extremely helpful in making my decision when purchasing my cookware.

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