Ceramic cookware has been all the rage more recently, but there is so much to be known before making an investment like that for your kitchen. I am going to break it all down for you here so you can make an informed decision and really start detoxing kitchen cookware. I mean, if you are going to eat clean and nutritious food, you definitely don’t want to be cooking it in a pan that is going to release toxins into your food and the air. Plus, ceramic cookware is so sleek and pretty. An added bonus to this easy to use, and functional cookware. Let’s dive in!
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What is ceramic cookware?
Ceramic cookware can be made of either 100% ceramic (this includes the core and the glaze) OR can be ceramic coating over a metal pan. To know exactly what this means I need to share a couple definitions with you:
Ceramic: of or relating to the manufacture of any product (such as earthenware, porcelain, or brick) made essentially from a nonmetallic mineral (such as clay) by firing at a high temperature
Clay: is an earthy material that is capable of being molded when moist but hard when fired, that is composed mainly of fine particles of hydrous aluminum silicates and other minerals, and that is used for brick, tile, and pottery (1)
In my opinion, more people think of cookware that has the ceramic coating over a metal core when they think of ceramic cookware then. This type of cookware has a metal pan (typically an aluminum core) covered in a ceramic-coated nonstick cooking surface. This surface is made from natural sand-derived silicon using a process called sol-gel. You can read all about sol-gel here.
Is ceramic cookware safe?
Simply put, ceramic cookware is safe! But let’s look at it a little closer to be certain.
If you purchase from a reputable company, pure ceramic cookware should be non-reactive and free of harmful substances. The materials used to create the nonstick glaze are also mineral based, thus no harmful chemicals will be leached into your food! This means it is safe and you won’t be eating or breathing in any toxic chemicals.
A few things you should do though to ensure the safety (and longevity) of your cookware:
- Purchase your cookware set from a company that is reputable and can show you the safety of their product.
- Follow the directions for use by the company
- More than likely you should hand wash your ceramic cookware and not put it in the dishwasher.
- You should use wooden or silicone utensils to minimize chips.
- Don’t let your pan go from hot to cold to quickly.
- Cook using low to medium heat. DO NOT cook on high heat!
- Use high smoke point oils to cook with (not only for better function & care of the pan but added taste to your food). I like to cook with avocado oil, coconut oil or ghee.
- If the cookware set is ridiculously cheap, it is probably too good to be true and will degrade or chip easier. I truly believe you get what pay for.
- If you do have chips in the ceramic coating you will want to replace it. Although some brands do say that scratches, dents, or pits in the coating won’t affect the safety or performance of your pan, I disagree. Whatever is beneath the coating is now going to be contaminating your food if there are chips. Check with the brand you choose to see what is recommended for your cookware but also use your best judgement.
What about nanoparticles in ceramic cookware?
This is where it gets a little grey. The ceramic coating that is applied to pans can potentially also include micro- and nanosized titanium dioxide particles and quartz silicium dioxide. Well, what does this mean and why do we even care?
Unfortunately, titanium dioxide nanoparticles have been found through chronic oral exposure to result in immune disruption and pre-cancer lesions in the gut in a study from 2017 on rats. (2) This has been a more recent finding, so there may be more to come out in the future regarding exposure to these nanosized particles as further studies are conducted. Something I am definitely going to keep my eyes on!
On a better note, these particles don’t get released when there is no damage to your pan or until you reach VERY high temperatures (500 degrees C). So with good care of your ceramic cookware and appropriate cooking temperature you shouldn’t have any exposure to these nanoparticles. Also, pure ceramic cookware is safe from these nanoparticles! As with anything that is new there is bound to be new research that is always coming out. I think it’s always good to be a little skeptical of new things in general. Since ceramic coated cookware is relatively new no research has been done on the safety of pan for the long run. We just don’t know because it hasn’t been around long enough. If safety is your number one concern then I would stick with pure ceramic cookware like Xtrema or my favorite stainless steel cookware 360.
What is PTFE or Teflon?
Now if you are wondering why you can’t just purchase a cheaper cookware set with conventional non-stick coating, allow me to share some facts with you. It might seem like one more thing to consider when it comes to living a natural lifestyle, but let me assure you, it’s an important one!
Non-stick cookware (or even many stainless steel cookware) may seem great initially but when you dig a little deeper it’s easy to uncover the toxins lurking in them. The most common nonstick cookware out there is Teflon. It has been trademarked as Teflon and contains the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It’s a popular choice for most people when it comes to cookware because it’s non-reactive, non-stick and stain resistant. It basically is a cook’s dream- that is until you read the fine print on the toxins it’s releasing every time you cook with it!
95% of non-stick pots and pans are made with Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon). (3)
A deeper look into Teflon from the EWG back in 2003 and its claims that Teflon was safe under certain circumstances was debunked by research stating that in fact, Teflon did know that it releases harmful fumes for a very long time and can cause illness. (4)
While Teflon was first made using the chemical Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) in the 1950’s, they started adding Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) acid, or C8, to it to help alleviate some of the lumpiness from just using Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA). However, this produced an even greater toxic substance overall. It has been linked to many diseases, from cancer, liver disease, thyroid issues and growth issues. Not only that, but it accumulates over time in the body. It is present in the air and water. Those who worked and lived in the area where it was made were exposed at high doses that created significant health issues, from birth defects in babies, to cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, and high cholesterol. (5)
It has been suggested that there is a significant dose response relationship between PFOA levels and ADHD.
This substance is not something you want to be cooking with! Research shows that it takes only 5 minutes for a pan to heat up to 750 degrees. Once heated it then releases toxic gases. Not only that, but as soon as the pan is scratched it also releases toxins into your food. Even birds are affected by the chemicals at the lowest temperatures, completely dying. (6)
As you probably know, most people aren’t cooking with low temperatures but exceedingly high temperatures! Creating a recipe for toxic chemicals to be released into the air.
The thing is Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA) isn’t just found in cookware but in SO many other products. So the cumulative effect is great. From irons, microwave popcorn bags, floss, baking cookware, curling irons, hair straighteners, carpets, sofas, waffle makers, rice cookers- just to name a few. There are so many safe alternatives to these products that will help keep you and your family safe from this ingredient. One of them is making the switch to safe cookware!
How long does ceramic cookware last?
Unfortunately, ceramic cookware isn’t known for their longevity of use. But, I also have found this to vary greatly based on a few things. Ultimately, ceramic cookware is going to need to be cared for properly to get the most use out of it. If we are talking about ceramic coated nonstick pots and pans, they will lose their nonstick properties if you over heat them consistently. I have read in multiple places that ceramic coated nonstick pots and pans have 1/6th the lifespan of their PTFE counterparts. For some brands this could mean 1-2 year lifespan. But I can say it totally depends on how you treat your cookware.
My experience with ceramic cookware longevity has shown that with regular use you’ll need to replace it yearly if not sooner if you consistently are using it to cook with and have a larger family. I know come people who can get away with longer because they might just be cooking for them and their spouse but for those who have larger families and they’re using it multiples times a day you will need to change it out sooner.
On the other hand, 100% pure ceramic cookware if treated correctly can last much longer! The brand I have used and will talk about below (Xtrema) has a warranty for 10 years!
What’s better, stainless steel or ceramic cookware?
When many think of nontoxic cookware, stainless steel definitely comes to mind. But, is stainless or ceramic better? Let’s take a look and see.
- A big difference between stainless steel and ceramic nonstick cookware is that stainless is NOT nonstick. Stainless steel is probably not the best choice for a beginner cook, but it is definitely doable. I always tell people there is a learning curve. Which when you master it, isn’t hard just isn’t as easy as ceramic initially.
- Clean-up time is so much less with ceramic – it is easier to clean (and use) due to the nonstick nature of it being a ceramic-coated cookware.
- BUT, stainless steel tends to be extra durable and scratch resistant. A high quality brand can last you a lifetime whereas ceramic coated nonstick brands aren’t going to last that long. So in the long run you’re going to spend more on ceramic than you would stainless steel.
- Many also think stainless steel cookware can produce more flavorful foods than a nonstick pan can, which I’ve experienced with my 360 cookware myself. The flavor is so much better!
- We have discussed the safety of ceramic, but what about stainless steel? Stainless is also a MUCH BETTER option than traditional nonstick pans. A concern with stainless steel cookware is the leaching of metals into your food. The makeup of stainless steel can vary from product to product and it’s so important to know what yours is made of (some are made of scrap metal…from China!). The bottom line is metals CAN leach into your food from stainless steel cookware. High quality stainless steel cookware is safe however. I love my cookware set from 360 Waterless Cookware. A 360 cookware pot or pan has a layer of T-304 Surgical Grade Stainless Steel first, then the next layer is Aluminum Alloy- which helps to conduct heat throughout the cookware, and then the third layer is T-400 Series Stainless Steel. Since the aluminum alloy is in the middle it never comes in to contact with your food. So just like ceramic cookware, stainless steel’s safety is dependent on the brand you buy. That’s why I choose 360! American made and manufactured- it’s the real deal!
Ultimately, both ceramic and stainless steel are good options for nontoxic cookware. Which is better depends on what you are looking for in your cookware and your personal preferences. If it’s ease of use, ceramic definitely wins. If it is durability, longevity and more flavorful food, you will want to pick stainless steel. Regardless, you will want to research the brand you decided on to ensure the safety of your cookware. You can read my full review of my favorite stainless steel cookware 360 Waterless Cookware here!
Ceramic Cookware Review: Factors to Consider
Just like most things, there are definitely pros and cons to cooking with ceramic cookware.
Pros To Cooking With Ceramic Cookware:
- Nontoxic & Safe to Cook With If Cared For Properly
- Nonstick Coating Makes Them Easy to Use
- Clean Up (hand washing) Is Also Easy
- Range Of Price Points Making Them Affordable
- Sleek & Pretty – A Great Addition To Your Kitchen With All The Different Colors Available
- Creation Of Ceramic Nonstick Is More Environmentally Friendly Than Traditional Nonstick
Cons To Cooking With Ceramic Cookware:
- Definite Learning Curve With Pure Ceramic Cookware
- Unknown Safety of Nanoparticles In Ceramic Nonstick Coating
- Less Durable Than Other Cookware Types – Can Range Based On Brand and Your Care Of The Cookware
- Cost more in the long run
Best Ceramic Cookware Sets
1. Caraway Cookware
If I had to pick a favorite ceramic cookware, it would be Caraway and they have a big mission!
They craft well designed home goods that thoughtfully raise the standards of what you cook with. Simply put, their products are designed to make your life easier and healthier. (7)
Can you imagine if all brands cared to make the consumers lives easier and healthier?!? There is so much I love about this brand. Not only do these ceramic pots look sleek, but they perform so well too. They are made using a mineral based coating that doesn’t leach into your food while cooking. They also emit 60% less C02 than traditional non-stick coatings. They first start with an aluminum and stainless steel base and then cover it with the mineral based coating- the aluminum is completely covered and does not leach into the food. The mineral coating is free of lead, cadmium and teflon. As with most ceramic pots and pans it is a mineral-based coating made of silica, oxygen, binders, and color pigments.
People used to be concerned about the mineral coating chipping but I’ve found high quality ceramic pots and pans don’t do that. It’s the poor quality, usually inexpensive ones that tend to chip or wear off after a short amount of time. As I like to say- you get what you pay for!
When I reached out to Caraway Cookware regarding their use of nanoparticles in their nonstick ceramic coating, this is what they had to say:
Our coatings do contain a small composition of titanium dioxide and nanoparticles, but the concentration of them do not pose a significant risk to consumers, from current studies we’ve looked into and research we’ve conducted. They are at levels lower than in common products such as sunscreen or yogurt. We are constantly ensuring we stay ahead of the curve and aim to offer the safest cookware on the market, and adjust as science tells us more!
Review of Caraway Cookware
Caraway Cookware is definitely high quality. Very durable and stain resistant. I have had some chips in my pan I’ve used the most. It was after several months. I did tell Caraway and they were happy to exchange it for me. I haven’t had any issues with chips in my other larger pots. It’s also very easy to clean. All you need is some warm soapy water and a scrub pad and it cleans things up really well. I think my biggest takeaway is to use low heat and really care for it well – don’t use any metal utensils. Makes such a difference in the overall longevity of the cookware. I’ve had my Caraway set now for over a year and still use it often! They come in several colors. Check out my full review here!
2. Our Place
I have been testing out the Always Pan from Our Place since January. This is the newest ceramic cookware pan to me. The Always pan is so unique compared to anything else I’ve used in the past. It does so much and only requires one pan!
Our Place is founded on the idea of making cooking simpler and less cluttered. Their goal is to bring people together over home cooked meals. With the use of their ceramic cookware, that is definitely a mission I can stand behind!
The Always Pan is coated in a non-toxic, ceramic non-stick coating. That means no PFOA, PTFE, GenX chemicals or any other toxic chemicals for that matter! This pan uses the sol-gel technique I mentioned earlier that is primarily made from silicon dioxide. Since it is tested to the standard of ceramic coating that means that NO heavy metals are able to pass through it. Our Place takes it a step further and tests it to the standards of polymeric coating (this is a thin layered coating that provides superior adherence and protection from corrosion). These standards mean that NOTHING can pass through their ceramic coating and that makes it the safest non-stick coating available!
When I reached out to Our Place regarding their use of nanoparticles in their nonstick ceramic coating, this is what they had to say:
Our Always Pan has an interior coating that is a sol-gel non-stick coating made primarily from silicon dioxide which is known in the cookware industry as ceramic non-stick. It’s tested not only to the standards of a ceramic coating (meaning no heavy metals are able to pass through the coating) but also tested to the standards of a polymeric coating (which means that absolutely nothing can pass through the coating) – this makes it the safest non-stick option available. It’s approved by both the FDA as well as EU standards for the highest level of food safety. We are currently working on making our test results available to our customers on our site, but they are not up yet. Please stay tuned for when they are added, though.
Review of Our Place Cookware
Initially I wasn’t even going to review The Always Pan because I had read where people where talking about it having lead. I looked into it further and read Lead Safes Mama’s full review on The Always Pan and how she had found traces of lead and several other heavy metals in it. You can read about her findings here. She wasn’t able to determine if the trace amounts were in the actual coating or if they were in the substrate of the pan. Meaning, once the coating where’s off you are left with the substrate. Although, they were in the safe range technically at very low levels, she still had detected lead.
Again, while this is concerning I also think you have to make an informed decision for you and your family. Do I think this is a better option than a Teflon pan? 100%. I also think that we encounter lead and heavy metals in many places in our products, food and environment in general. If you eat kale you’re ingesting heavy metals! While I do think it’s not something to bat an eye at, I also think it’s choosing your battles when it comes to natural living and looking at your life and body and what is best for you. I always think of the saying, good, better, best. Sometimes good is enough for you, sometimes you need the best. If you have suffered from heavy metals in the past, maybe choose an option that’s lead free.
Ok, now time to actually share what I thought of The Always Pan. I really loved it! It definitely lives up to the hype in my opinion. It can do it all, from sauté, steam, boil, sear, fry- everything. The goal of The Always Pan is to replace 8 pieces of cookware- so it makes cooking simpler. It comes with a stainless steel steamer basket, a beachwood spatula, and a pourable spout. It’s also much lighter than a traditional ceramic pan coming in at 3lbs. It’s higher sides on the pan make it unique to other pans and easier cooking. There really isn’t anything I disliked about it- other than the lead findings! 😉 It works great for steaming veggies, cooking meat, tortillas- anything. I think this would be a great addition for someone who hasn’t made the switch over to nontoxic cookware or if you want to incorporate this into your overall nontoxic cookware options to try. Check out The Always Pan here!
3. My GreenPan (Budget Friendly)
All GreenPans use Thermolon technology. This technology was created in 2007 and was part of the first ceramic nonstick fry pan on the market. Thermolon technology uses no toxic substances (no PFAS and PFOA, and it does not contain any lead or cadmium). Silicon, which is derived from sand, is made into a sprayable solution, then cured onto the pan in an oven. This process releases 60% less CO2 than the curing phase for traditional nonstick pans.
GreenPans are so safe too! While ceramic cookware is meant to be used on low to medium heat, even if do overheat your pan, the technology used can withstand this. This would definitely not be safe to do this with a traditional nonstick pan.
When I reached out to My GreenPan regarding their use of nanoparticles in their nonstick ceramic coating, this is what they had to say:
Our cookware does not contain nanoparticles. Thermolon coating does not contain any nanoparticles. Accordingly, there is no possibility for nanoparticles to leach into the food when cooking with GreenPan.
Review of My GreenPan
I was first introduced to GreenPan several years ago when I first was looking at ceramic coated cookware. They were the first brand that was on the market that really was available with the ceramic coating. I like that they are a more budget friendly option that you can find at Target- makes it so simple to tell friends and family about. I’ve noticed that they have varying budget options when it comes to cookware. Some are more budget friendly, and some are in the higher price point. I’ve only personally used the lower budget cookware from My GreenPan. They chipped the quickest out of all my ceramic coated cookware and didn’t last nearly as long. They also stained a lot easier and just didn’t feel as high of quality as the other brands. However, I have friends who have used the higher end lines from My GreenPan and they’ve had nothing but positive things to say about their experience. I think as I had mentioned earlier, you get what you pay for! The higher end brands I’ve noticed are only available online too and not at stores. Check out My GreenPan here!
Xtrema Cookware is different than the other brands that I have mentioned because from the glaze on the cookware to the core it is made from 100% pure ceramic. I would argue it is the safest cookware on the market. It is free of PFOA, PTFE, glues, polymers, coatings or dyes. Ceramic is awesome because it’s completely inert- meaning it won’t leach any harmful toxins, no matter how long you’re cooking or the heat level. All of Xtrema has been tested for heavy metal content and is free from glues, polymers, coatings and dyes. If you want to see their testing results check them out here. Xtrema comes with a 10 year warranty making an investment in this type of cookware easier.
Review Of Xtrema
While I love the concept of Xtrema I find it very hard to work with overall after years of working with it. There is a large learning curve and for an everyday pan it was hard to get the hang of it. It is different than cooking with either stainless steel or cast iron. It heats very evenly. You can take a dish from the fridge to the stove or oven- it’s very versatile. It also can withstand high temperatures. It’s easy to clean Xtrema cookware too, just use warm soapy water. You can also use baking soda or an abrasive scrubby if you need to. The best way to heat an Xtrema is to turn the heat on low or low medium. Since it’s so great at heat conduction you don’t need or want to crank the heat up to high. Doing this would result in foods sticking or burning. It’s best to turn the heat on a couple minutes before you start cooking and then add a little cooking oil once it’s heated. I like avocado oil, ghee or coconut oil. Don’t add the oil to a cold pan, wait until it’s heated up or it will cause foods to stick. I have their 8-inch Versa Braiser. It’s nice because it has a lid and can be used for cooking meats, quiches, casseroles etc, but also can be used for cooking eggs with. Check out Xtrema here!
If you liked this ceramic cookware post, check out past posts below:
- Merriam Webster Dictionary. (2021) merriamwebster.com. Retrieved from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/
- Bettini, S., et al. (2017). Food-grade TiO2 impairs intestinal and systemic immune homeostasis, initiates preneoplastic lesions and promotes aberrant crypt development in the rat colon. Scientific Reports. Retrieved from: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep40373
- Muenter, Olivia. (Jan 14 2021). 3 Ways Using Nontoxic Cookware Can Change Your Home. Caraway Home. Retrieved from: https://www.carawayhome.com/blogs/news/3-ways-using-non-toxic-cookware-can-change-your-home
- Dupont Workers Smoke Teflon-laced Cigarettes in Company Experiments. (n.d.) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/research/dupont-workers-smoke-teflon-laced-cigarettes-company-experiments
- Kelly, Sharon. (2016). Teflon’s Toxic Legacy. Earth Island Journal. Retrieved from: https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/magazine/entry/teflons_toxic_legacy
- Canaries in the Kitchen: Teflon Toxicosis (n.d.) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/research/canaries-kitchen
- Caraway About Page (n.d.) Caraway Home. Retrieved from: https://www.carawayhome.com/pages/about