We shop for organic produce, we’ve swapped the toxic cleaners for safer stuff, ditched the artificial fragrances in our home, and moved to cleaner choices for our beauty routine. However, many are surprised to find that our cookware can actually be a major source of lurking toxic chemicals and can contribute to our body’s toxic load. The good news is that there are so many better non-toxic cookware options out there!
Materials and metals like aluminum, plastic, lead, and Teflon can pose serious risks to your health and are prevalent in a lot of cookware options. And if the cookware we constantly use is dishing out harmful toxins, we are doing ourselves and all that effort a disservice.
Toss the toxic pots and pans and check out our guide to healthier swaps below. And if you’ve already made the switch, let us know in the comments what your favorite cookware is!
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
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What To Toss
Traditional Non-Stick Coatings
Teflon is the trademarked coating that makes non-stick cookware non-stick. It’s incredibly convenient and was a gamechanger for cooking when it was introduced around 80 years ago. The issue is that these coatings (which contain compounds like PFOA or PTFE), are highly toxic and have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, organ failure, reproductive damage, and other health issues (check out the film Dark Waters and the documentary The Devil We Know for a deeper dive into the health risks).
Newer nonstick coatings, like Teflon, technically no longer contain PFOA and PFOS, but you wanna keep an eye out for Teflon cookware that was made before 2013 as it could still contain these dangerous chemicals. And while most Teflon coated pans these days are PFOA-free, this often means that they still contain PTFE (PFOA or C8, which is used to make PTFE coating, and as we discussed, is considered a carcinogen). On top of that, high heat causes the chemicals to break down, releasing toxic fumes. Additionally, PFOAs and PTFEs don’t biodegrade – which means they can accumulate in our bodies increasing the risk of damage.
There is some debate over whether aluminum is safe. Aluminum exists in our environment and we all have some amount of aluminum exposure daily. However, research shows that aluminum is toxic at certain levels. Elevated aluminum levels have been linked to everything from anemia and other blood disorders, to ALS and Parkinson’s to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and neurological problems.
Healthier Non-Toxic Cookware Swaps
Not all ceramic coatings are made equal. Skimp on the cheap ceramic coatings and instead look for one that’s certified by third-party testing and free of PFAs, PFOA, lead, and cadmium. I personally have a few Green Pans and love them! They’re nonstick, affordable and with some care hold up well. Another great option is the Always Pan—the color options are so good!
GreenPan Padova 10-Piece Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set, $299.95
A 10-piece set of ceramic pots and pans is just what the doctor ordered. In this kit, you’re getting eight-inch and 11-inch fry pans, two-quart and three-quart saucepans with lids, a five-quart casserole dish with a lid and a three-quart skillet with a lid. With a set as inclusive as this, you’ll be itching to use each dish as quickly as possible.
Ceramic is great as it’s completely inert—meaning it won’t leach any harmful toxins. Ceramic non-toxic cookware pans are generally free of heavy metals, polymers, coatings, and dyes, plus, they’re dishwasher safe! Easier to wash than cast iron, you can just use warm soapy water. If you’re interested in trying, Xtrema is a great brand to check out. A note: you do have to be more careful with these pans, as they’re more fragile than other types of pots and pans.
Not all stainless steel is created equal. When shopping you will see numbers like 200, 304, 316, and 430, the higher the number the stronger, longer-lasting it is and the less nickel content it will have. Be sure to use gentle cleaners as harsh cleaners can damage the lining, which then can allow the heavy metals in the core to leach into your food.
HOMICHEF Stainless Steel 1.75 Quart Sauce Pan With Lid
This sleek stainless steel saucepan makes a great addition to any collection. It’s no-frills with a matte finish and polished body—plus, it’s nickel free and non-toxic. Great for simmering sauces, glazes, and jellies, or melting butter to perfection.
CHANTAL Induction 21 Steel Cookware 5 Quart Saute Skillet With Glass Lid
Made from Japanese steel, this induction skillet distributes heat quickly and evenly, which means you don’t have to worry about uneven cooking. This pan is perfect for searing chicken or fish, and is fully equipped to turn your pasta dreams into a reality.
HOMICHEF Matte Polished Stainless Steel 3.5 Quart Stock Pot With Lid
Nickel and toxin-free, this 3.5 quart stock pot is perfectly prepped to make your soup dreams come to life. Simmer stocks, soups, polenta, and pasta in this beautiful piece of cookware. It’s simple, efficient, and completely harm free.
This is the OG non-toxic cookware. They take a bit of time to get used to if you’ve never tried them, but work so well once you figure it out and are budget-friendly! Some tips: heat before adding food, avoid soap when cleaning, and season regularly (check out this post for tips for seasoning). There are many methods for cleaning cast irons, but my go-to is scrubbing with some salt and rinsing with water. I then dry thoroughly, drizzle with cooking oil, spread it around, and then set on low heat for a bit to ensure the pan is completely dry.
Lodge L5SK3 Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron 8-Inch Skillet
A classic cast-iron skillet is absolutely essential in any kitchen. This offering is cost-friendly and easy to use for searing steaks, chicken, fish, and more to absolute perfection. Like any cast-iron product, be sure to avoid washing it with soap as the chemicals present in soap can strip away the pan’s seasoning.
Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven With Loop Handles, 5 Quart
This pot practically screams short ribs. It’s ideal for getting a heavy sear on ingredients before simmering away to saucy succulence. With a heavy cast-iron dutch oven at your fingertips, you’re ready to braise, roast, simmer, sear, sauté, and pretty much any other cooking term you can think of. It’s magical.
The main perk of glass cookware is that there are tons of budget-friendly glass options out there, Pyrex being the most common one. You can find everything from baking dishes, to round soup dishes to loaf pans.
Carbon steel is sometimes used for frying pans and woks. The non-toxic cookware option is similar to cast iron, and can output small amounts of iron into food, which is great if you happen to have someone with slight anemia in your home!
Lodge Manufacturing Company carbon steel skillet, 10-Inch
A classic skillet is a must-have. And I’m not talking about a nonstick one that’s coated in Teflon (boo!). This carbon steel skillet is ready to sear, sauté, grill, and fry up everything you’ve got working in the kitchen. Plus, it has a silicone hot handle to protect hands up to 500 degrees, so you can ditch the makeshift kitchen towel grip that always hangs a little close to the flame.
Helen Chen’s Asian Kitchen Flat Bottom Wok, 13.5-Inch
A wok is another great pan to have in your kitchen for stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming, and even boiling. It’s an all-purpose dish that allows you to efficiently do just about anything. This carbon steel variety comes equipped with bamboo handles and a high-domed lid, so nothing is standing between you and your culinary adventures.
Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet, Pre-Seasoned, 12-inch
Flat, sleek, and seasoned, this alloy steel skillet is ready to hit the stovetop or grill. Unlike its handled counterpart pictured above, this skillet can go just about anywhere (oven, grill, open flame, stovetop), so nothing is stopping you from getting that elusive crust on your meats, finally making a pizza at home, or charring up your vegetables.
Mammafong Flat Bottom Carbon Steel Wok Pan, 14-Inch
Another great wok selection, this carbon steel wok has a small flat base that helps it sit upright on your stovetop without sacrificing the integrity of the cookware. And like with cast-iron products, avoid using any soap on your wok and be sure to season with oil after rinsing it clean. Stir-frying, sautéeing, steaming, and braising is your jam with this pan, so don’t be afraid to try something new here. With the right equipment, you too can wok on! Sorry not sorry.
Enameled non-toxic cookware is usually made of cast iron that has been coated in enamel (think Le Creuset). While not perfect in terms of low heavy-metal content, I’d say this is one of the “better” options. The perk of this cookware is that it won’t rust, in contrast, to cast irons, if not properly seasoned. Cleaning is super easy with mild soap, water, and a gentle scrub pad. It is a bit on the pricier side, but your investment will last you a long time!
Le Creuset Signature 5.5-Qt. Licorice Black Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Lid
Le Creuset might just be its own love language. Yes, it’s on the more expensive side, but it really makes a great gift for yourself or someone you love. The French cookware is not only strikingly gorgeous, but its smooth enamel finish ensures years of use and admiring. This chic matte black dutch oven makes a beautiful centerpiece for any dinner party. The only question you’ll face is exactly what to debut under the hood. Sweet potato and black bean chili, chicken tortilla soup, and spicy vegan corn soup are some stellar starting points.
Le Creuset Signature Oyster 5-Qt. Everyday Pan
Paella, casseroles, and family-sized meals are just a few ingredients away from greatness with this easy everyday pan. With handles on both sides, transporting your masterpiece from stovetop to table has never been so easy. The non-reactive surface of this pan lends itself well to both wet and dry cooking methods, so you can keep your other pans in their rightful place.
Le Creuset Signature 10.25″ White Enameled Cast Iron Skillet
Another foolproof skillet, this enameled cast iron skillet can brace the stove, oven, or grill in style. Plus, it’s dishwasher safe, which is a major bonus. Its non-reactive surface doesn’t even require seasoning, so you can take it straight from the dishwasher to its home in your kitchen. Cleaning has never been so easy.
Le Creuset Signature 5.5-Qt. Cerise Red Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven with Lid
If red is more your jam, give this cherry-finished dutch oven a try. It’s clad in a smooth enamel that makes it sealed from acid, alkali, odors, and stains. And, like the other Le Creuset products highlighted, it’s dishwasher safe and undeniably attractive.
This post was originally published on May 21, 2020, and has since been updated.
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