A lot of people seem very comfortable with using copper, iron and aluminium vessels than they do with brass vessels. What is it about this golden-hued metal Brass that makes people question their every move?
Is it a disastrous culinary mistake in the past? Or is it an American journal that’s revisiting and chiding Ayurveda for its liberal use of metals? Well…I believe it is a good mix of both.
Before we delve any deeper into this, let’s ask ourselves a question. What is brass? For starters, brass is not a naturally occurring metal. It is an alloy, made up of copper and zinc. Brass has had numerous mentions over the centuries, from ancient texts to Ayurvedic collections; and from practical vessels to scientific journals.
Is brass a great metal through and through?
For many years, companies have marketed brass as an antibacterial alloy and have been capitalizing on the half-truth. Brass is anti-bacterial, but studies show that it loses its anti-bacterial properties when touched by hand. Sweat and oils from human skin tend to form a corrosive layer and block the exchange of charged particles that kill bacteria. To function as a perfect anti-bacterial agent, brass must be thoroughly and constantly cleaned on a regular basis. Now that we have such claims out of the way, we can focus on what really stands true when it comes to brass.
In recent times, Ayurvedic formulations have been questioned for their use of metals such as lead and mercury. But the Rasashastra outlines each application of the metals, internal and external, and how to combat any adverse effects that may arise. Charaka himself was an advocate of observing caution when using metals for different types of administration.
It has long been known that Brass has the capacity to regulate pitta and restore balance to the three doshas.
Ayurvedic texts and formulations mention the usage of brass (Pittala) in the treatment of Krimi (Guinea-worm disease), Leprosy, Pandu (a pitta dominant anaemic condition) and many more. In fact, the Charaka Samhita talks about the usage of brass in the making of tools for various treatments. Ayurvedic formulations primarily use brass in bhasma or ash form.
Is brass vessels safe for household use?
Yes, without a doubt! Brass vessels come in a variety of shapes, sizes, thickness, purpose, tinned and untinned and more. It is said that drinking water from brass vessels boosts one’s strength and immunity over time.
When it comes to cooking, South Indian vessels are a class apart. They have evolved over the years, not once compromising on the unique taste that they impart even to the simplest of dishes. From lotas, kinnams, chombus and thattus to Kundas, koojas, davaras and thookus, brass vessels have played an integral part in South Indian kitchens and diets. These days, concerns are raised about the patina and verdigris, and also about reactions when used to store certain types of food. It has become very convenient to swap metal vessels with plastic and glass and the popularity of stainless steel and non-stick pans has left tradition far behind.
Brass is susceptible to oxidization much like any other metal in existence. However, it is one of the most resistant alloys that can withstand the test of time longer than its counterparts. A faint change of colour over time is quite common and it only adds to the beauty of the piece. However, one must be wary of artificial patination on vessels given that it involves the use of harmful chemicals and has adverse effects when used.
What to keep in mind when using Brass Utensils ?
Brass is a versatile metal and can be made into a number of vessels for daily use. While it may seem like a rather complicated process, it is quite the opposite. Brass vessels that are meant for cooking are often lined with eiyam (Tin). This coating is what determines the culinary purpose of the vessel. Vessels that have the tin lining are meant for use with foods that have acidic properties and such. Vessels that come without the lining can be used to impart a unique flavour to beverages and can be used for storage, steaming and short periods of cooking.
Now, let’s explore all possibilities in detail. Here’s what you can do with untinned brass vessels:
- Use them to serve the morning’s hot cuppa. Brass coffee filters and davaras make good filter coffee taste great! The heat from the liquid allows brass to impart a unique taste and enhances the aroma of the hot beverages.
- Brass lotas and jugs can be used to store water and as drinkware. Drinking from brass vessels boosts one’s strength and imminently over time. It also regulated the pitta in the body and restores balance to the doshas.
- Uncoated brass vessels can be used for a quick sauté of vegetables, especially ladles, spoons and stir-fry utensils. Brass ladles are great as serving ware as they impart a unique taste to food.
- These vessels can also be used to cook Appams as they do not require high heat and can be cooked in a short period of time.
- Brass vessels are great for steaming idlis as they can regulate and evenly distribute heat.
- Brass is rarely reactive when made into a mortar and pestle or sieve.
That is relatively easy to remember. Now, let’s take a look at what you can do with tinned brass vessels:
- Cut fruits and fruit salads must only be kept in tinned brass vessels. Fruits are known for their enzymatic and acidic reactions with metals and must never be stored in unlined brass vessels.
- Fresh milk must always be stored in a tinned brass vessel to ensure that it doesn’t curdle. Lactic acid from milk products like curd react with untinned brass and turn sour. Ghee must also be stored in a tinned brass vessel for the same reason.
- Food with tamarind, lemon and vinegar must always be stored and cooked in tinned brass vessels.
- Sugary food items and pickles cannot be stored in untinned vessels.
- Tinned vessels do provide a protective lining for brass vessels and care must be taken to maintain it. Vessels used for regular cooking might need re-tinning every 6-8 months depending on frequency and kind of usage.
- Care must also be taken during deep frying. Most oils have a high smoke point and the tin lining could melt or fade away when used carelessly.
Brass also retains over 90% of nutrients, unlike most metals and makes for a great vessel to use in the kitchen be it for storage or cooking purposes.
Click here to take a look at the best of our brass products from Kundas and ladles to lotas and sieves.
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Frequently Asked Questions ?
Is Brass Vessel good for Health ?
Yes Brass is good for health. It has long been known that Brass has the capacity to regulate pitta and restore balance to the three doshas.
Is it good to cook in brass vessel ?
Yes , it is safe to cook in brass vessel , Brass vessels that are meant for cooking are often lined with eiyam (Tin).
Can we boil milk in brass vessel?
Yes, we can boil milk in brass vessel, we have to use a tinned (eiyam lined) brass vessel for boiling milk.
Can we cook in bronze vessel ?
Yes we can cook in bronze vessel, provided they need a tin lining or eiyam lining.