Are bellmetal cooking pots safe?

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Christabel
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Are bellmetal cooking pots safe?

Postby Christabel » Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:10 pm

Hi,
I've had a fun weekend cooking over an open fire but found that my antique bell metal skillet does impart a decidely metallic tang to what I'm cooking. Does anyone else use one? Is it safe or do you just keep it on the side for display? Or have I poisoned myself?

Christabel.



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sally
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Postby sally » Mon Apr 02, 2007 7:00 pm

Had it been a while since you used it? Its possible that you were getting traces of corrosion products (verdegris etc) in the food which in quantity wouldnt be ideal though I doubt if you've poisoned yourself. Even if it looks clean, a lot of metals tarnish and thats effectively what comes off into your food especially if its a bit acidic. Someone else may offer more science, but I'd be tempted to give it a good scrub before use and if worried cook something sacrificial (porridge maybe) in it to 'suck off' all the gunge before cooking dinner in it.



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Christabel
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bell metal

Postby Christabel » Mon Apr 02, 2007 7:37 pm

Thanks Sally! I had polished off any green bits but I must say that since cooking in it (a posset) it does look much more shiny. I saw a similar one on Ebay which claimed to have lead in the metal, which worried me, but I think they got it wrong. Anyway, 24 hours later, nothing has dropped off me/I haven't gone a funny colour, so perhaps I've just got to get used to the metal taste.
Christa.



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Postby moosiemoosiegander » Tue Apr 03, 2007 10:31 am

Hiya

As far as I understand it, bellmetal is an alloy of copper, which can be toxic if exposed to certain conditions eg. acidic food etc. I don't know about bellmetal cooking stuff, but the big batteries de cuisine that you see in country houses used to be tinned for use to make them safe for cooking with. It might be best to exercise a little caution when cooking with your skillet, just to be on the safe side for now as metallic poisoning is usually a cumulative thing rather than an immediate effect; that said, a metallic taste from your skillet isn't a good sign.

Why not try sealing it with oil - burning it on to make a 'non-stick' surface and see how that works?


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Postby John Waller » Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:41 am

Have a read of the warnings on the Rayne Foundry website

http://www.historiccastings.co.uk/


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Christabel
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bell metal

Postby Christabel » Tue Apr 03, 2007 1:29 pm

Yes, if the Foundry website is to be followed, the advice is pretty unequivocal!! :shock:
When I have saved up enough to buy one of their cauldrons to replace my Victorian iron one, I shall go for iron again. In the meantime, knowing there is lead in the bell metal mix, I shall be very cautious about using the skillet. Thanks all!

Christa.



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Postby gregory23b » Tue Apr 03, 2007 2:12 pm

You don't need to see verdigris to get the copper, copper will dissolve and not show any colour, verdigris usually happens on the surface of copper that is exposed, however you will still get some copper in the liquid.

On a side note I would be curious as to know exactly how much of either lead or copper can leach out in a typical slop meal, I would be surprised if it was huge amounts, both lead and copper poisoning are cumulative, you have to build up an amount to get symptoms, and they are very slow to get rid of, also people wear copper bracelets for rheumatism, that would mean much more copper than the odd dose from a weekend.

Certainly the four points re drying and cleaning are paramount, never use a pot that is remotely green or dull, shine it up first.

Oh, and historic castings' pots are the canine's cojones.


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Postby moosiemoosiegander » Tue Apr 03, 2007 5:12 pm

As far as I understand it, it all depends on the pH of what is being cooked. For instance, water pipes are made of copper, but more copper gets into the systems of persons who live in areas where the water has a relativedly low pH. For instance, if you cooked rhubarb in a bellmetal pot, you would probably get more problems than if you just boiled distilled water. It also depends on the provenance of your pot, as I am led to believe that not all 'bellmetal' is an alloy of lead, but it is nigh on impossible to tell what is leaded and what isn't.

That being said, I wouldn't recommend the useage of a lead alloy for cooking in any instance, because although the effects are indeed cumulative you don't want to risk it!


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Postby gregory23b » Wed Apr 04, 2007 5:12 pm

Yes, basically acidic things will dissolve the copper or lead, even from glazed ceramics.

Hard water areas with lead pipes don't usually have a worry as they fur up and are given a calcium sulphate/carbonate? coating.

Also lead linings were common for jam pots as lead white is sweet, which is also why it was used as mouse poison ;-)

I would have thought frying was the safest form of cooking in those pots, even though oil/fat is 'acidic' it is much less corrosive, if anything the copper acts as a dryer, but that is neither here nor there.


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