I am rounding out the best non toxic cookware! There is so much to know when it comes to cookware. It's actually crazy how many toxic chemicals can be lurking in cookware. It might not seem like a big deal but over time these chemicals add up and produce a toxic load! I am breaking it down so you know exactly what might be in your cookware and what the best non toxic cookware options are!
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*Suzi (Gurl Gone Green) is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
What toxic chemicals are in conventional cookware that we should avoid?
Unfortunately there are many toxins lurking in your conventional cookware that need to be avoided. Non stick cookware or even many stainless steel cookware sets may seem great initially but when you dig a little deeper it's easy to uncover the toxins lurking in them. Below are some of the top offenders when it comes to toxins in your cookware.
1. Teflon (PTFE)
The most common nonstick cookware out there is Teflon (originally made by the company DuPont). Teflon 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!
The EWG took a deeper look into Teflon and DuPont’s claims that Teflon was safe under certain circumstances back in 2003. They reviewed studies that dated back as far as the 1950’s and showed that Dupont knew for quite some time that Teflon released harmful fumes at even low temperatures. They also knew that it could cause acute illness. (1)
While Teflon was first made using the chemical Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), in the 1950's they started adding Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), or C8, to it to help alleviate some of the lumpiness from just using just PTFE. 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. (2) Thankfully, PFOAs were taken out of Teflon back in 2013. (3)
As PFOAs were phased out, they were replaced by a chemical called GenX, which is very similar in structure to PFOA (they are in the same family of chemicals called PFAS).
However, GenX is nearly as toxic to people as what it replaced, according to an Environmental Protection Agency study. (4)
Bottom line, anything with Teflon needs to be avoided! And, you should look for PFAS-free, not just PFOA as there could be many other chemicals (GenX for example) still in that cookware.
Aluminum is affordable, readily available and a great heat conductor. Potentially a great resource when making cookware. Wrong! Aluminum is also a soft and highly reactive metal that can leach into your food.
It must be known that aluminum has been consistently placed in the top 200 health-jeopardizing toxins by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (5)
It is also a known neurotoxin that can inhibit up to 200 biological functions and it has been suggested that there may be a link between it and neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson’s, etc). Aluminum is bio-accumulative, meaning it will accumulate in the body over time! Not only that, but aluminum cookware has been found in simulated cooking in a lab to release cadmium, copper and arsenic into food as well. (6)
Copper is another great conductor of heat, allowing for quicker and more even heating than other options. It also has a unique look that many like. However, copper is also very reactive. Especially when cooking with acidic foods, copper can leach into your food. While small quantities of copper are essential to our health, larger quantities or over exposure for long periods can cause a whole host of health issues like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Extremely high doses of copper can even damage the liver or kidneys. (7)
Unfortunately many different types of cookware and bakeware are manufactured with lead, including glass and ceramic (including both pure ceramic and ceramic coated) cookware. The lead is there for a reason – to make a product that is more rigid. Or, in other words, less likely to break and have more shock resistance. But, you guessed it, lead is likely to leach into your food! There is a laundry list of potential health effects from either short or long term exposure to lead that includes anything from headaches, abdominal pain, depression, miscarriage, etc. But especially scary is the effect lead can have on babies and children.
Even low level lead exposures in babies can affect behavior and intelligence (8)
This isn’t a complete list by any means of all the toxic substances found in cookware. But I hope to emphasize that because toxic substances like these can be found in cookware, it is all the more reason to research and invest in cookware that is known to be safe. I am going to discuss in depth below my favorite non toxic cookware alternatives including my favorite brands!
What non toxic cookware alternatives are there?
There are some great options out there now when it comes to non toxic cookware! I will say some of the cookware options are definitely a little pricier than non-stick conventional pots and pans, however the investment is worth it. These pots and pans are going to last you a lot longer and won't carry the toxic burden. My top choices for types of cookware that are the least toxic are:
- Cast Iron
- Stainless Steel
- Ceramic Coated
- 100% Ceramic
- Porcelain Enamel
- Glass Cookware
I will dive in below on my favorite brands for each type of cookware. I will include a review on each type including what I like and don’t like about each kind of cookware.
What are the safest non toxic cookware brands?
This was the first type of nontoxic cookware that I switched over too. It really has been around forever and that's one of the reasons I love it. It does take a little bit of time to get used to it but once you've worked with it you figure it out.
I really love the Lodge Cast Iron pans. They're easy to find at Target or you can order them on Amazon. They're also budget friendly! I use this pan for cooking eggs, veggies, frying- really the list is endless.
I have a couple of tips for cooking with cast iron. First, make sure to slowly add heat. I found this works best instead of blasting the food with heat. It helps to not burn food as cast iron retains heat very well.
Next, make sure you season it regularly. This helps to create a type of natural non-stick surface. If you're unsure how to season it, The Wellness Mama did a whole blog post on it here. When you season a cast iron it's basically adding a good oil to keep it hydrated and then baking it. I avoid cooking acidic foods in cast iron because it can break down the seasoning or patina that's been made on the cast iron.
Cleaning cast iron can seem intimidating at first, but it's actually not. You don't want to use soap with cast iron- it can damage the seasoning and dry it out. Instead, use some salt to clean it. I just shake salt on top and then take a scrubby and scrub away. Then rinse with water. Then you want to dry it and rub in a cooking oil.
While I used cast iron for many years since trying new brands such as 360 Cookware and Caraway, I have stopped using my cast iron that much. The one thing I don't like about cast iron is how heavy it is and how you can't use soap on it. I don't always feel it gets as clean.
**The one caution I would make is that cast iron has been known to leach iron so if for some reason you have an abundance of iron you might want to switch up your pans every now and then. I've been the opposite more anemic so I welcome all the iron I can get! Check out Lodge Cast Iron here!
I have found the best of the best when it comes to stainless steel cookware – it is 360 Cookware! I have a whole review on this waterless cookware line that you can check out here.
Now, I’ve always wondered about the safety of stainless steel cookware when it comes to leaching metals into food. I wasn’t so sure about it. However, after looking into 360 I’m convinced this is one of the safest options out there when it comes to nontoxic 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 into contact with your food. Many companies are using scrap metal and calling it stainless steel. The scrap metal could be from anywhere and often is from China. You end up not knowing what your stainless steel actually contains. I also love that it’s surgical grade stainless steel! This is what they use in your body if you were having surgery for something particular- next level that they use the highest quality.
360 is unique because not only is it U.S. made surgical stainless steel, but it’s also manufactured in the U.S. So everything is sourced and made here in the United States- so cool! I love knowing exactly where they’re sourcing the product and how it’s being made. 360 doesn’t spare any detail when making their product- it truly is unlike any other stainless steel cookware!
If you’ve looked into cookware in the past you may have been met with the idea that the more layers the better when dealing with cookware. Unfortunately, this isn’t the truth. More layers isn’t better but the thickness of the layers is what you want to consider. 360 has one of the thickest layers overall at .11″. Ensuring you can feel safe about what you’re cooking your food in! Can't recommend 360 Cookware enough, it's really one of the best options out there for those of us concerned about toxic chemicals! Use coupon code: gurlgonegreen25 for 25% off through December 31, 2021! Check out all of 360 Cookware here!
I have a whole review on Caraway Cookware here as it is definitely one of my favorites! 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! Plus, with correct use and care, they will also last much longer.
Caraway Cookware is definitely high quality. Very durable and stain resistant. I haven’t had any issues with stains or discolorations. It really continues to look as good as the day I got it! Something I really love about the cookware is that it is 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 included Caraway Cookware in my picks for best non toxic, non stick pans here! You can check out all of Caraway Cookware’s options here!
This type of cookware is made of 100% ceramic – from the glaze on the cookware to the core. 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. 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, with just using 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. However, while I love the concept of Xtrema I find it very hard to work with overall even 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 from cooking with either stainless steel or cast iron. Check out Xtrema here!
There has been a lot of confusion I've noticed about this type of nontoxic cookware. It is cast iron but then has been given a coating of enamel. This enamel is a type of glass. It is completely safe. There has been some controversy about the enamel being made of clay and therefore having lead but from various tests performed on it, there has been no lead detection reported.
A common brand you may think of is Le Creuset. Their cookware is made in France. One might think that porcelain enamel is similar to cast iron and that is true, but it does have it's differences. Porcelain Enamel will not rust where regular cast iron can if not seasoned properly. Also, porcelain enamel won't leach iron because of the coating, where cast iron will.
Porcelain enameled is also nice to have for acidic foods like chili or spaghetti sauces. Acidic foods as I mentioned above can strip cast iron of it's seasoning, especially when simmered for a long period of time. For cleaning you can use some mild dish soap on it and a scrub pad of some kind. For stubborn stains or food that's stuck you can boil some water in it with a few tablespoons of baking soda. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight.
**Personally I love having a porcelain enamel skillet on hand for a nontoxic cookware option too. It's great for using with acidic foods or making stir frys, soups, or stews. I would stick with Le Creuset. To my knowledge they are the only ones that have been tested for lead content and come back negative. The only small trace amounts that were found were on the outside of the lids and pots where there was some color but not inside. Also, I'm a skeptic of things made in China as they have been known to have higher metal content and most of the other porcelain enameled is made there. Check out Porcelain Enamel cookware here!
This is a great non toxic cookware that is also a budget friendly option and easily available. Anchor Hockings is definitely one of the most common glass cookware companies. It is inert, meaning it doesn't add or take away from the food. I have several casserole/baking dishes that I use for both casseroles and special desserts. I also have a round glass dish with a lid that's great for soups or stews that I use a lot. For making bread I like to use a glass bread loaf pan too.
**Glass is a great option for those starting to detox their cookware and looking for accessible and budget friendly options. I really love Anchor Hockings because it's made in the U.S.! Check out this great set by Anchor Hocking here!
7) Best Non Toxic Bakeware – Stainless Steel, Stone and more!
When it comes to baking you can definitely use a lot of the cookware I mentioned above, but there are also some more options I wanted to mention. For the ones mentioned above you can use cast iron to bake breads or porcelain enamel for desserts such as crumbles, cobblers or pies.
Also, glass cookware is a great option for baking too, as well as stainless steel. Stainless steel is especially nice for cookie sheets or cake pans! These are a great option for stainless steel cookie sheets! If you're still concerned about the possible metal leakage just use some parchment paper. I love this brand that doesn't leach any toxic chemicals. I always use parchment paper when baking because it makes clean up so much easier and is sometimes essential when making cakes. You can also get stainless steel muffin trays. I also like these nontoxic paper muffin liners. I really love these stainless steel cake pans. They feel sturdy and don't have the nonstick coating.
Another option I haven't talked about is stone cookware. They have stone baking sheets, loaf pans and cake pans. I personally haven't used them. I know that you have to be really careful when cleaning as you can't use soap or get them wet. They're also heavier too. Rada is a good American made brand that is lead free.
I also get asked about nontoxic donut pans a lot. This is the one I have and love! **When it comes to bakeware I think about what you use the most and swap that out first. As I mentioned earlier, you can always buy some nontoxic parchment paper and use that as a protectant too.
I have never used silicone for cooking or baking other than some silicone muffin liners. However, I stopped using them because I started to wonder if they were actually safe. I had read a lot of information saying there just isn't enough research out there yet and I agree. Until more long term studies come out, I'm going to stick with using silicone when food isn't heated or cooked.
What is the absolute safest cookware for your health?
It really comes down to personal preference when it comes to the safest cookware for your health and where you are at in your own personal health journey. Also, what you are most comfortable using. Many people just want the ease of use similar to conventional nonstick cookware, in that case I would recommend Caraway Cookware. If you’re wanting the safest stainless steel I would definitely go with 360 Cookware. If you want a budget friendly option, cast iron is a great place to start. As I always say, the absolute safest cookware is the one you’ll use!
What is the best non toxic cookware?
I've personally been using 360 Cookware and Caraway Cookware the most! I have different pots and pans from each cookware company and find I use some of the pots for certain things. I really love 360 Cookware because of the nutrients it leaves in my food and the flavor profile that is left. With Caraway Cookware I like the ease of use and knowing my hubs can quickly whip something up.
The biggest takeaway I hope you are getting is that I highly recommend switching out your cookware! It is something you use all the time and the cumulative effect is great. Even if you could replace one item every quarter, by the end of the year you would have a whole new cookware set! While some of the cookware sets are more pricey, there are definitely budget options as well. Get started today!
What is your favorite non toxic cookware?
If you liked this post on nontoxic cookware check out past posts below:
- DuPont workers smoke Teflon-laced cigarettes in company experiments. (2003, May 28). Environmental Working Group. https://www.ewg.org/research/dupont-workers-smoke-teflon-laced-cigarettes-company-experiments
- Bernard J. Reilly, D. P.l, Bernard J. Reilly, Bruce Karrh, D. P. (n.d.). Teflon's toxic legacy. Earth Island Journal. https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/magazine/entry/teflons_toxic_legacy
- COMPOUND SUMMARY: Perfluorooctanoic acid. (n.d.). NIH National Library of Medicine. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Perfluorooctanoic-acid#section=Toxicity-Summary
- EPA: GenX Nearly as Toxic as Notorious Non-Stick Chemicals It Replaced. (2018, November 14). Environmental Working Group. https://www.ewg.org/news-insights/news-release/epa-genx-nearly-toxic-notorious-non-stick-chemicals-it-replaced
- Alabi, O. & Adeoluwa, Yetunde. (2020 April). Production Usage, and Potential Public Health Effects of Aluminum Cookware: A Review. Annals of Science and Technology. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341656394_Production_Usage_and_Potential_Public_Health_Effects_of_Aluminum_Cookware_A_Review
- Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants: seventy-fourth report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. (2011). World Health Organization. http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_966_eng.pdf
- Copper | ToxFAQsTM | ATSDR. (2011, October 24). Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. https://wwwn.cdc.gov/TSP/ToxFAQs/ToxFAQsDetails.aspx?faqid=205&toxid=37
- Lead: Health Problems Caused by Lead | NIOSH | CDC. (2018, June 18). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/lead/health.html