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.

Image by Michelle Nash

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.

Aluminum

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.

Image by Michelle Nash

Healthier Non-Toxic Cookware Swaps

Ceramic coated

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.


GreenPan Valencia Pro 4.5-Quart Nonstick Covered Sauté Pan

A classic nonstick sauté pan is a staple in any home. Use it to pan-fry, stir fry, sauté (obviously), or prep any sauces you’ve got in mind for your culinary creations.


goop x GreenPan 8″ & 10″ Frypan Set

These gorgeous and functional frying pans are not only pleasing to the eye, but they’re made without PFAS, PFOA, lead, or cadmium. And, they’re dishwasher safe. Non-toxic cookware that’s effortlessly functional? Sign me up.


GreenPan Paris 11-Piece Ceramic Non-Stick Cookware Set


Image by Julie Pointer Adams

Ceramic

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.

Stainless steel

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 14-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

This affordable, 14-piece stainless steel set has everything you need to make your kitchen complete. You’re getting a sauce pot, saucepan, fry pan, sauté pan, stock pot, and a whole slew of stainless steel utensils to add to your collection.


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.


All-Clad D3 Stainless Cookware, 12-Inch Fry Pan With Lid

Shiny stainless steel, a contoured handle, and a flat/flared construction, this fry pan is ready to fry, flip, and toss anything you throw its way. Plus, it’s oven safe up to 600 degrees, so you can go from stovetop to broil in no time.


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.


Image by Michelle Nash

Cast iron

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 Cast Iron Grill Pan

A grill pan is great to have on hand for rainy days or the winter when it’s too cold to grill in the chill (sad, I know). Grill veggies, meats, fruits, pizza, burgers, fish, or anything you think could use a good char. With a grill pan like this, the world is your oyster.


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.


Glass

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.

CorningWare French White 10 Piece Ceramic Bakeware Set

A 10-piece set of ceramic has the equipment you need to go from oven to table to fridge without having to transfer a thing. Each piece is also freezer, oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe, so you don’t have to worry about tearing them apart.


UPKOCH Clear Glass Cooking Pot

Visually appealing and functional, this stove and microwave safe cooking pot would be a beautiful addition to any kitchen. Quickly boil water, noodles, rice, soups, and more all while keeping an eye on it from the outside.


Visions Vs-337 Pot Kitchen Cookware Saucepan

This three piece set of striking glass pots would look elegant in any kitchen. They’re composed of polished glass and are stovetop, microwave, oven, refrigerator/freezer, and dishwasher safe. Visual appeal and functionality made easy!


Pyrex Easy Grab Glass Baking Dish with Red Lid, 3-Quart

You can never—I mean never—go wrong with a classic Pyrex dish. Easy to use and even easier to transport, these magical dishes are practically made for gatherings. I mean, It wouldn’t be a proper gathering without mixing up the Pyrex dishes.


Image by Michelle Nash

Carbon Steel

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.


Porcelain Enamel

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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Comments (17)
  1. 1
    Melissa Alvarado May 21, 2020 at 11:51 am

    LeCrueset tested high for Cadmium. Check out Tamara Reubens blog, Lead Free Mama. She had it tested and it failed

    Reply
  2. 2
    Sarah May 21, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    You’re missing wrought iron. Lighter than cast, they don’t break if dropped, vented handles so no burning yourself. They’re perfect for non toxic, non stick! Solidteknics are my fav.

    Reply
    • Hannah Zahner May 22, 2020 at 10:35 pm

      Oh amazing, good tip! Totally adding wrought iron on my list to check out.

      Reply
  3. 3
    Sarah May 21, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    You’re missing wrought iron from your list. Lighter than cast, won’t break if dropped, vented handles so handles stay cool. They’ll last forever, non toxic, non stick. Solidteknics is my fav!

    Reply
  4. 4
    Lauren Zielinski May 22, 2020 at 2:40 pm

    Yes ! We’ve been using only cast iron for years because of this ! I’m really happy to have a guide to other options too – especially now that I’m n the midst of creating a wedding registry!! Thanks for this awesome resource ! I appreciate you ladies talking about environmental toxins too! It’s something I mention a lot to my patients and while some a receptive a lot give me the raised eyebrow – I can’t wait until this becomes more mainstream. Yes yes yes!

    Reply
    • Hannah Zahner May 22, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      Perfect timing! Wish I could redo my wedding registry with a few of these! 😉 And such a great point – environmental toxins are such an important piece of the wellness puzzle. Your patients are so lucky to have such an aware care provider!

      Reply
  5. 5
    Rachel October 31, 2020 at 9:40 am

    Hello! I have a question! You mention that stainless steel has different grades, and yes I have seen these numbers. So is it best to avoid the nickel content (is having nickel bad)? I’m not familiar with heavy metals – I don’t know which metals are considered heavy metals and I don’t know which ones are considered harmful. Is the stronger, more expensive stainless steel also
    the least toxic (I wasn’t sure if “better” in kitchen industry terms of quality will also translate to “less toxic”)? Please let me know which type of stainless steel you recommend as the safest!! Thank you for your post! 🙂

    Reply
  6. 6
    Noel December 2, 2020 at 4:40 pm

    What cookware are you using in the pictures?

    Reply
  7. 7
    Augustine December 21, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    Yes, here in the U.K. The Netherton Foundry in Shropshire make spun iron pots and pans which are brilliant . Much much lighter than cast iron, which as you get older is more difficult to lift. It’s easy to clean and just needs a bit of seasoning with hemp oil and care when hot not to use cold water. But cooks very well, even eggs don’t stick and lovely traditional and attractive styles with videos on the site to show you how to use them,

    Reply
  8. 8
    Yvette January 18, 2021 at 4:48 pm

    What cookware do you use now? You mentioned Greenpan. Are you still using Greenpan? If so, which line? Thanks for all the info.

    Reply
  9. 9
    Shaira Ombra March 11, 2021 at 11:52 am

    Hi! Great read. What pot are you using in the second photo with the soup? Thanks!

    Reply
  10. 10
    Stella March 13, 2021 at 1:55 am

    I have recently began to think ” cookware”, when trying to understand my long term unexplained anaemia. It is now considered endemic. I eat well!
    So, I have begun investing in cast iron. I am glad to hear of other options here. Thank you.
    My question, did you say carbon steel can release iron into your cooking? If so, does cast iron do likewise?
    Secondly, how do nickel plated cutlery stand. Safe or no?
    Thank you, I have been educated.

    Reply
  11. 11
    Chie March 17, 2021 at 9:05 am

    316Tiis what we are using. Frying without oil and cooking vegetables without water keeping its nutrients intact.

    Reply
  12. 12
    Bernadette Amiano March 26, 2022 at 10:45 pm

    I buy cookware that is not made in China. By doing this, it limits brands, but I feel safer. I love All Clad and Made In.

    Reply
  13. 13
    [email protected] June 8, 2022 at 5:08 am

    Do ILAG pans have aluminum? Are they a good choice over aluminum pans for baking?

    Reply
  14. 14
    Dee June 22, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    search on the internet type in greenpan false claims

    Reply
  15. 15
    Danyell Wallet July 4, 2022 at 4:54 am

    fantastic for my clients, and just as importantly, for me! I really appreciate this helpful article. Have you heard of brabantia cookware? They are stainless steel with a ceramic coating but I’m not so sure how great they really are. They were gifted to me for Christmas 2021, but the more and more I learn, the more and more I’m trying to protect my family.

    Thank you so much,

    Danyell Wallet KLC IHP

    Reply