On a google search the other day, I noticed this headline: ‘"Waterless" cookware is, as you have surmised, basically a scam for preying on health oriented consumers.’ The idea seemed offensive enough to pursue so I followed the thread to ChefTalk, signed up, got comfortable and settled in for a good read. Turns out the thread begins in ’08 & peters out last November, age being a theme that threads through this brief narrative.
I’m no chef, new to the world of cookware, though I’ve been our family’s primary cook for 40 years. I inherited pots & pans from mom, Revere, stainless steel with copper bottoms, unmanageable, insubstantial, the outer copper bottom requiring constant care and polish. I am assured the Revere will outlast me and my first born.
Turns out the ‘scam’ heralded in an early post (boar_d_laze) about waterless cooking or ‘health oriented consumers’ was, in part, targeting outrageous prices for waterless cookware pandered at state fairs and home demonstrations. $2000+ for cookware is insane; still, financial illiterates are born every day. But that’s business, not cookware. I’m sure the majority of Chefs among you would agree well crafted cookware can be had from $100 to $300 for a set of utensils.
But as for the other scam: Waterless cooking (and the cookware that makes waterless cooking possible) is, in fact, the most nutrient friendly method/utensil for preserving and retaining the few precious minerals remaining in today’s fresh produce. In articles targeted at ‘health oriented consumers’, Paul R. McCann (author of “The Science of Nutrition”) is often cited by today’s waterless tribe. In a compendium of research, McCann summarizes the nutrient retention of the waterless method of cooking fresh vegetables.
McCann cites seminal research by W.H.Peterson and C.A.Hoppert, published in the Journal of Home Economics (University of Wisconsin, dated May 1925, back when real research was publicly funded) which scientifically measured mineral and protein loss based on cooking method. Peterson and Hoppert clearly demonstrated that Boiled veggies lost roughly 50% of Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus and Magnesium; Steamed veggies lost roughly 20% of these minerals; Pressure Cooked veggies lost 2%. The caveat? In 1925, ‘pressure cooking’ (15 lbs pressure) is today what we call Waterless Cooking. The weighted lids of Waterless Cookware release steam vapor at about 15 lbs pressure.
It’s understood that the human body can’t absorb vitamins without a variety of minerals present (Iron, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium for example) to breakdown constituents. Mineral deficient diets are a health challenge today.
1925 is a long time ago but the human hasn’t really changed. Our food has though. In the 1930’s Dr. Norhtern and colleagues detailed findings of significant mineral, vitamin and crude protein loss in vegetables being grown in new ‘factory farms’ proliferating across America. Google Document 264 of June 1936 and read the document presented on the floor of the United States Senate. What was proven in 1930 (nutritive deficient produce) is deplorably apparent today: Mineral deficient diets are a major contributing factor to epidemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression. Today, childhood diabetes affects one in four children in the USA—one in 50 in 1980, rare in 1930.
So a scam other than the ‘business’ of cookware is apparent in this thread; one of opinion spoke with the buffoonery of fact. ‘"Waterless" cookware is, as you have surmised, basically a scam for preying on health oriented consumers.’ Our challenge, as home cooks or culinary aficionados, is to retain what few nutrients remain in what we call ‘fresh produce’ today.