Cookware is something we can’t live without. From making simple meals to delight your tastebuds or simply to satisfy your hunger, pots and pans are essential in our daily lives. But at the turn of the century where everyone is on the move for healthier and greener options, many home cooks are now opting for nontoxic and healthier options.
Can cookware be toxic?
Cookware isn’t 100% toxic. Any material used in making pots and pans that are deemed as unsafe leach minute amounts of chemicals into our food which then accumulates over time causing health issues. Depending on the type of surface we are cooking on, the amount of unsafe chemicals may get into our food varies.
What are unsafe materials used on cookware?
According to research done on different types of surfaces, chemical-based nonstick surfaces like Teflon and aluminum, copper coated surfaces or other heavy metal components should be avoided.
Tests on birds have shown that when Teflon leaches into the food, it causes various illnesses on these birds which eventually killed them. On humans, it causes Teflon flu and in the long run, may cause cancer. Nonstick surfaces still use the chemical PTFE, or Polytetrafluoroethylene, but there are unproven claims where modern nonstick cookware are safe, non-reactive, and nontoxic.
Metals like aluminum are also unsafe surfaces to cook in. Though many cookware manufacturers only use them as a base or body, some cookware makers are still using aluminum as an interior. This is dangerous to our health because aluminum is a reactive metal that easily leaches into our food.
Other unnatural components like ceramic-coating are also deemed unsafe because they are mixed with metals to help it bind to the metal body of the cookware. Others created ceramic coating with lead or cadmium that are toxic.
How does cookware become unsafe?
Nonstick surfaces are considered safe until they reach high temperatures between 300 to 450 degrees. PTFE starts to break down at these high temperatures causing the chemical to give off unsafe fumes and once inhaled may lead to Teflon flu. Though it can cause us short flu-like symptoms, the lasting effect of the fumes may stay in our lungs over time, especially if we have constant exposure to such gases.
Are nonstick surfaces unsafe?
You shouldn’t consider all nonstick surfaces as SAFE even when manufacturers claim that they are. Many of the common materials used in the cookware we buy use unsafe surfaces such as:
Copper coated surfaces
Teflon or chemical-based nonstick surfaces
Many home cooks, especially amateurs, prefer the use of nonstick cookware because it is simpler to use and easier to clean. Many pots and pans are now coated with various materials to make the surface ‘nonstick’. Although these coatings like copper and titanium are seen as healthier options, their levels of toxicity are debatable.
What Unsafe Cookware Surfaces Should We Avoid?
Cookware made using heavy metals and unnatural cooking surfaces should be crossed off our list when choosing pots and pans for our kitchen. Many of our cookware is made with metals or metal alloys to provide superior heating. But there are also disadvantages to choosing these types of cookware.
PTFE or Teflon based cookware
Though it’s true that PFOA has already been banned in making cookware, nonstick surfaces are still popularly made and sold across the world. A new generation of safer nonstick surfaces is rolling out but we aren’t completely sure about how ‘safe’ they could be.
Though PFOA is no longer included in making nonstick surfaces, manufacturers still use PTFE which is generally considered to be a much safer component. PTFE is safe to use under these circumstances:
Cooking under 400 degrees
The surface remains smooth, clean, and unscratched
There are no flaking or chipping of the surface
Aluminum is a widely used metal in making pots and pans mainly due to its great conductivity and lighter weight. Aluminum heats fast and evenly and it is also a stable metal that offers great control for all types of cooks. However, it is an unsafe metal to use as a cooking surface.
It’s best to look for hard-anodized aluminum since anodizing aluminum makes it less reactive yet more durable. Still, it is not a good cooking surface since aluminum easily migrates into our food.
Ceramic Coated Surfaces
We shouldn’t confuse ceramic coated surfaces with pure ceramic cookware. Ceramic coated surfaces are often mixed with metal such as lead and cadmium. Ceramic coating surfaces are definitely nonstick and are absolutely safe to use but not when it starts chipping off. The metal components in the ceramic coating can lead to heavy metals entering our food. In rare cases, it may also lead to lead poisoning.
Recently, however, ceramic coated pans use a ceramic layer over cast-aluminum or other metal core to improve conductivity and heat retention. These ceramic layers do not contain metal additives to improve heat retention.
Metal Coated Surfaces
The use of metals, such as pure copper and titanium, is highly debated because there isn’t enough research done to truly justify the safety of these metal surfaces.
Copper is known to be a healthy metal that provides multiple health benefits. But copper is also known to be a reactive metal and thus easily corrodes. It also easily gets stripped off exposing the layers of aluminum or other metal core underneath.
Titanium is a good material used for cookware since it is nonreactive and safe for the body. However, only surgical-grade titanium should be used. As a cooking surface titanium is not nonstick and is then mixed with other metals or even PTFE to improve its low-fat cooking capability.
Teflon/ Non Stick Surfaces
Easy to clean
Releases dangerous fumes
Pure titanium surfaces
Lightweight and easy to manage
Heavy metal leaches into our food
Stunning to look at
Mixed with reactive metals like lead
Pure ceramic surface
Metal Coated surfaces
Mixed with reactive metals
What Is The Safest Cookware For Your Health?
There are a ton of healthier alternatives to common types of cookware that we are using. They are non-reactive and definitely a much safer option.
Pure Ceramics and Glassware
Ceramics and glassware cookware are naturally occurring materials. They are non-reactive, non-corrosive yet very versatile. They are great cookware for baking as well. The only downside to this cookware is that they need to be handled with care because they are breakable. Once they have small cracks, small particles may get mixed into our food and we are unknowingly consuming small pieces of ceramics or glass.
Pure stoneware cookware is great cooking surfaces because they are natural and nonreactive. They are non-corrosive and definitely non-toxic. Stoneware is made with clay, but to be safe, you always need to check if the cookware is free from metals like lead and cadmium because clay may contain small amounts of metal.
Cast Iron is one of the most used cookware that is made of pure solid iron. Cast iron may not be naturally nonstick but this material is perfect for those who love using the same pot or pans for all types of recipes. Cast iron is versatile allowing you to cook in an oven or even outdoors. The only problem is that food easily sticks to cast iron forcing you to frequently season this cookware.
Stainless steel is the most popular material used in making cookware. It is a very affordable metal that shows no sign of toxicity when in contact with food. Stainless steel is also amazing cookware that is easy to use around the kitchen. It shows great heat retention and distribution, however, it takes a while for it to heat up forcing manufacturers to use aluminum or copper core to improve its heating abilities.
Best Non-toxic Cookware For The Money
It’s no longer difficult to find nontoxic cookware in the market. In fact, there are a ton of cookware out there that are safe for us to use, here’s a list of my favorite cookware.
Best Non Toxic Cast Iron Cookware
Victoria Cast Iron Skillet
This Cast Iron Skillet by Victoria features excellent thermal retention using high-quality industrial iron cast making it highly durable and long-lasting allowing you to use it over an open flame and even in the oven.
The pan is factory seasoned using 100% non-GMO flaxseed oil allowing you to use the pan directly off the packaging and onto your stove. It comes with a helper handle to improve better control over your cookware as well as two lips on opposite sides of the pans for you to easily pour sauces or food off your pan to your plate.
Lodge Cast Iron Combo Cooker
This Lodge cast iron pan is all-in-one cookware that lets you do it all as I have covered in my best cast iron skillet guide. It acts as a deep pan, a fryer, a one-piece Dutch oven, and a lid that serves as a shallow griddle or skillet. From indoor to outdoor cooking and the stressful demands of a kitchen, this pan allows you to be flexible while cooking various recipes in a single cookware.
The Lodge Combo Cooker is a double pan where the shallow skillet acts as a lid. This piece is highly sought after due to its durability allowing you to turn a simple pan into an heirloom that you can pass to the next generation. Another reason to love this cookware is its superb heating which promotes even and stable heating throughout the cookware.
Cuisinel Cast Iron Cookware Set
Pan rack organizer
This pure cast iron cookware set by Cuisinel is a prime example of 100% nontoxic cookware that features a complete cast iron body. This set is designed for heavy-duty cooking in a demanding kitchen. All pans are pre seasoned giving you a smooth nonstick cooking surface.
This nontoxic set can handle the stress caused by busy kitchens and even complicated recipes that require endless hours of cooking. Unlink other cookware, this cast iron set allows you to cook various meals one after another.
The detachable silicone handles allow you to handle your cookware safely. What’s great about this set is that even when it rusts, it only needs proper cleaning to start using these pots and pans again.
This set is a great choice for those who are looking for safe cookware under 200 that promotes easy cooking while also allowing you to handle tough recipes that require highly durable cookware.
Best Ceramic and Stoneware Cookware
Pure ceramic pots or pans are hard to find since they are very expensive. However, some cookware brands feature ceramic layers instead of ceramic coated cookware. This improves better heating and also promotes heat stability in ceramic pots and pans since ceramics are known to slowly heat up and easily cool down.
GreenLife Ceramic Cookware Set
4-inch mini frying pan
7-inch frying pan
9.5” frying pan
1-quart saucepan with lid
2-quart saucepan with lid
5-quart stock pot with lid
2.5-quart sauté pan with lid
7-inch stainless steel steamer
4 kitchen utensils
Greenlife as I have covered in my best cookware set for electric coil stoves is a brand that is well known for crafting ceramic cookware. Designed with a ceramic layer over an aluminum core, this set allows easy heating while preventing hot spots on your cooking surface. The surface is derived from sand assuring you that the natural source of the ceramic is free from heavy metals but rather rich in healthy minerals.
The ceramic surface is not only non-toxic but also promotes low-fat cooking making each meal healthier to match your diet and lifestyle. GreenLife also features multiple colors to choose from allowing you to bring your colorful personality to your kitchen.
This cookware allows you to enjoy your kitchen while spending less time cleaning up after every meal. Greenlife is the perfect cookware set under $100 for busy lifestyles who prefer and enjoy home-cooked meals.
MICHELANGELO Stone Frying Pans
Michelangelo is the golden standard for German cookware producing high-end cookware that promotes healthy cooking. This is an amazing cookware set that uses granite and stoneware to form a formidable cooking surface. To improve conductivity and heat retention, the pan uses a multi clad base featuring an aluminum base with a copper layer and finished off with a magnetized stainless steel base. This makes the cookware compatible with all types of cooking ranges, even an induction stove. See "Best cookware for induction cooktop" for more recommendations and reviews about cookware for induction cooktops.
What makes this pan set unique is that it doesn’t use a cast metal core but relies on full stoneware cookware. Even when scratched, the cookware still remains safe for cooking. However, it needs to be pre-seasoned before cooking to prevent any scratches from widening.
This set features a thick stainless steel handle shaped to fit the grooves of your hand giving your better grip and control. Overall, the pan set promotes a wonderful cooking experience.
GreenPan Lima Ceramic Pan
GreenPan is a pioneer in introducing ceramic layered cookware. This pan uses a Thermolon ceramic nonstick interior which is dent-, scratch-, and warp-resistant. It also doesn’t form bubbles or blisters which are common in ceramic coated cookware. This GreenPan uses a hard-anodized aluminum core to promote shorter preheating time and better heat retention.
This pan is incredibly lightweight making it an ideal piece for amateur cooks. The ceramic layer is derived from sand which is guaranteed to have no metal elements. The entire cooking surface is free from dangerous chemicals and toxins
The Final Verdict
Most of the cookware we use on a daily basis is designed considering our health. Many manufacturers strive to produce safer but great quality cookware. However, the dangers of toxic components are still a threat to our overall health. Looking for the best nontoxic cookware is all about choosing the right material. Most nontoxic pots or pans are considerably more expensive but definitely provide a much safer and healthier option.