One of the least natural items we used to use in our kitchen on a daily basis was cooking spray. You know the stuff. Smells like c**p but makes everything glide right off your cookware. The problem is its a completely manufactured substance. Even if you get an "all natural" or organic version, there is still the issue of the propellant. I prefer my food to have less additives and its kind of hippocritical to use processed cooking spray to prepare my locally grown, organic produce or grass fed meat!
So, about a month or so ago, we finally used up the last little bit of cooking spray and have been doing without since then. You know what? I actually haven't missed it at all. I think my hubby (who is always looking for the short cut) has missed it more than me.
So what do we use instead? It depends on the project.
This morning I had 2 bananas desperately in need of being used up before they turned to complete mush. So I did the sensible thing and made banana nut muffins for breakfast! Instead of spraying down my muffin pan, I simply slipped in one of these easy silicone baking cups. The big advantage of these is that you can put things into them that (even with spray) would never release from a muffin pan... like whole eggs. The other nice thing about these cups is that you can remove them after the muffins cool and then store your extra muffins in a baggie in the freezer without worrying that paper liners will get soggy and bond to the muffin itself (I had that happen once). And, in a pinch, you can even bake stuff in them WITHOUT the pan-- although I've never been brave enough to try it!
What about cakes or other larger baking projects? Go old school! Butter, it's my friend, it's your friend!
For baking things like cookies or fries that you might not want to add any extra butter or oil to, consider a silpat mat. They are flexible mats made of silcone that come in various sizes that fit most baking sheet pans. Anywhere you might want to spray or use parchment paper would be a good place for a silpat. Since they are silicone, nothing sticks to them. I actually use mine pretty regularly but I especially give it a workout at Christmas time when I'm doing alot of candy making. I pour my molten peanut brittle over it directly and when its cool, it peels right off without having to have a buttery residue!
For Skillet cooking:
Butter is your friend here as well. I used to cook my breakfast egg(s) in a pan slicked with cooking spray. Now, I throw a small pat of butter in there and enjoy the extra flavor!
For Skillet Frying:
For things that I don't want a buttery flavor for (like searing meat) I have loaded up my refined coconut oil into a simple oil dispenser that I actually found at the Dollar Store. One buck and I've got an easy way of getting a teaspoon or two of oil into a pan with no fuss and no muss!
More direct replacements:
1) Misto. This is an ingenious device that allows you to load up your cooking oil of choice (I like olive oil as an all purpose oil due to the tendency of coconut oil to seize up in cold weather). A few pumps of the top and you've pressurized it enough to actually make your oil into an aerosol. By far the closest and easiest replacement. The only downside is that it's a little expensive-- I've seen cheap ones for as little as $9.99 and typically they run more like $14.99. We currently have one of these and it does work great. Ours is currently filled with lemon juice that the hubby is using to baste meats on the barbecue. We'll probably eventually (when grilling season is over) dump that out and put in some oil.
2) DIY. I have seen on Pinterest, several posts on making your own cooking sprays using a simple trigger sprayer (which cost like a dollar at Walmart). I have given this a try but haven't had 100% success with it. For me, it does coat okay. For Hubby (who likes to use it on the grill to keep meat from sticking) he doesn't think it coats enough. Also many of the techniques have you add water. I've found that even with keeping it in the fridge that the water started to get cloudy after a week or so. While its probably nothing, I feel the need to dump it out. That is a waste of perfectly good oil and kind of annoying. One other thing to think about is the fact that these cheapy sprayers are not typically made with food grade plastics. Just something to be aware of. Check out the website in the pic below for a how to tutorial if you want to give it a try. (She also has lots of other good green housekeeping tips!)