Concerns about cookware and toxicity primarily stem from the use of certain nonstick coatings, but the best nontoxic cookware can be durable, nonstick, as well as free from excessive chemicals. One of the biggest callouts in cookware is perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical formerly used in the production of
nonstick pans like Teflon, which has raised concerns in the past few decades. However, as the American Cancer Society has written, PFOA is "not present in significant amounts in the final products." Despite low risks to the consumers, DuPont, the maker of Teflon, stopped using PFOA during production in 2013.
The worst known side effect from using Teflon is
flu-like symptoms if the pan is overheated, which is why other types of pans might be better for high heat cooking. Scratching and overheating can cause the nonstick coating to flake into food, and while there are no scientifically confirmed risks for consuming polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE, Teflon’s generic name, many people still choose to avoid it.
That brings up the real issue with PTFE: It isn’t particularly long-lasting, and many experts
recommend replacing PTFE-treated cookware every three to five years. That's where ceramic, enameled, or cast iron pans come in as great nonstick alternatives when used with hot oils and fats.
Generally, most PTFE-free cookware is nontoxic. That includes
cast iron and stainless steel pans, which have also occasionally raised eyebrows for the presence of nickel and iron. However, the government of Canada has found them safe and concluded that any levels of nickel or iron that may be consumed after cooking food are far below daily recommended amounts of the metals. This is true even when the cast iron is being used to cook acidic foods like tomato sauce, according to America’s Test Kitchen.
With that said, there are also enough nontoxic cookware options to avoid iron and steel if you so choose. So whether you decide to go with
bare or enameled cast iron, stainless steel, or Teflon-free nonstick cookware made with ceramic or mineral coatings, here are the best options in each category: 1 The Best Nonstick Nontoxic Cookware
Ceramic nonstick is a great alternative to PTFE as long as you use it with hot fats and oils. These
nonstick metal pans use a sand-derived silicon coating that prevents sticking. Unlike PTFE-coated pans, they are safer at much higher temperatures. The budget-friendly 16-piece set is highly rated, and in addition to three sizes of frying pans, a stockpot, a sauté pan, and two sauce pans, the set also includes an insert for steaming and pasta as well as nylon utensils. If you don’t like the bright blue color, it’s also available in nine additional colors, including black and lavender. The only downside to this nonstick ceramic pick is that the slick surface won’t sear food as well. So while nonstick ceramic is great for daily use, you may want another pan to get a good sear on things like meat, or a tasty browning on vegetables. One reviewer wrote: "This product is awesome. They clean up like a breeze. I do not put them in the dishwasher though as I found hand washing much more effective. [...] The cookware cooks evenly and the handles are wonderful as they do not heat up. I did also prior to this always cook on higher heat and have reduced everything to medium and things cook so much better on this product. I also feel great no longer using Teflon. Product is light - I cannot easily lift cast iron due to a weak arm. I love these! Will never cook on anything else. The $$ was excellent too. I got my family members to buy this stuff. LOVE IT” 2 The Most Durable Nontoxic Cookware
Cast iron can last for a decades if well-cared for. And Lodge was the
first company to pre-season its cast iron cookware, making it nonstick from the beginning. Enter this four-piece Lodge cookware set, which is preseasoned, well-priced, and heavy-duty. Simply wipe clean and dry off thoroughly, then coat with cooking oil to maintain the seasoning for best results. Iron won’t leach into food in significant amounts, unless your pan starts to rust. However, even rusted cast iron can be rescued and re-seasoned. One reviewer wrote: “These cast iron products are among the best I've ever purchased. In most cases, cast iron cookware is just cast iron cookware, and it takes a lot of badly cooked meals to successfully season a good surface. I have an old skillet I've used for camping for 20 years and the season makes it my best price of cookware available. The great thing about these new ones is the pre-season they are shipped with! They were a little rough the first few meals, but quickly developed a beautiful stick-free glaze quicker than most cast iron I have used! I will be passing these on to my child one day, and I highly recommend this brand for new cast-iron!" 3 The Most Versatile Nontoxic Cookware
Dutch ovens (like this
one from Amazon Basics!) can be used for cooking, slow-cooking, baking, frying, and deep-frying, and they can go from oven to stove, making them a great all-around pick. The heavy-duty cast iron inside layer is great at holding heat, and the enamel makes the surface easier to clean and adds an extra layer to prevent the iron from interacting with the food. Also, enamel is nontoxic and safe to use as long as it doesn’t chip. Many high-end Dutch ovens cost several hundred dollars. However, the Amazon Basics Dutch ovens are built like similar brands (cast iron coated with enamel) at a fraction of the cost. Choose from 4.3-, 6-, and 7.3-quart sizes in a bunch of different colors, as well as from a few different sets. One reviewer wrote: "I am extremely satisfied with the performance and durability of my Dutch oven. It has performed equally as well as my name brand dutch oven did with regards to even heat distribution, non-stick coating and easy cleanup. I’ve had this piece for almost 2 years now with no issues whatsoever. I would definitely purchase it again and would recommend to others. Based on the ease of cleaning, I wish I had an entire set of cookware made like this. If you don’t currently own any cast iron pieces of this size it should be noted that it is a very heavy item. The quality has not been compromised and the price is very affordable.” 4 The Best Nontoxic Cookware For Searing Food
Stainless steel is safe to cook with and won't leach a significant amount of nickel or iron. This
set is tri-ply, meaning there are three layers of steel, to ensure more even heating. It also helps keep the pan from warping over time. Stainless steel is oven-safe, which can be helpful for finishing dishes or one-pot meals. While enamel and ceramic are more nonstick, stainless steel can be scrubbed down or soaked for hard-to-remove residue. You will likely need to cook with plenty of oils or liquids to prevent sticking, though. Because stainless steel has a “rougher” surface than most nonstick options, this will give food better browning, so if you need to sear anything, this is the set you want.
The linked set includes 10 pieces of cookware (including lids), but if this isn’t the right number for you, don’t worry. Cuisinart also sells a 7-, 12-, 13-, and 15-piece set, including cookware bundled with a knife block or an additional skillet.
One reviewer wrote: "The cookware is of moderate weight, but not too heavy, and actually the finish is beautiful. Food sticking does not seem to be a problem and they clean up very well. Plus, there is a lifetime warranty! I highly recommend." 5 The Editor's Pick
stainless steel option, this seven-piece set is a favorite of associate commerce editor Carina Finn, who raves, “It’s really hard to use anything else because I love these pots and pans so much. I love that they go from stove to oven, and they’re super easy to clean. Yes, the set is a bit pricey, but I know it will last forever.”
The set comes with a 3-quart sauce pan with a lid, a 3-quart sauté pan with a lid, a 10-inch frying pan, and an 8-quart stockpot with a lid. Each piece has a tri-ply construction with an aluminum alloy core that heats quickly, and two layers of stainless steel that heat evenly to give you a perfect cook. Like all stainless steel cookware, these pots and pans do not have a nonstick coating, so to prevent your food from sticking, you should always preheat your pan and cook with enough oil. These pans are not only easy to use, but can also be used almost anywhere, including on induction cooktops and in ovens up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
Choose from 5-, 7-, 10-, and 14-piece cookware sets.
One reviewer wrote: "I really like these! They are super durable and have easy cleanup if used properly. I'd definitely suggest doing some research (a few YouTube videos is fine) to learn the basics of cooking with stainless steel (heat before adding oil, use enough oil, wait to clean until cool, etc). Definitely pricey, but I think I will use them for a long time to come.” 6 The Best For Setting Up A New Kitchen
Whether you’re looking to replace all your old Teflon cookware or you’re moving into your first apartment, this
20-piece nonstick set is a great way to stock your whole kitchen. It comes with four pans, three stew pots with matching glass lids, six baking pans, and much more, so you have everything you need to take on any recipe. The whole set is PTFE-, PFOA-, and PFOS-free, but it’s still nonstick thanks to the mineral-based coating on the pots and pans, which makes cooking and cleaning a breeze. This cookware is versatile too, as it is induction and dishwasher-safe, and some of the pieces can be used in ovens up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t like the matte gold color, the set also comes in a metallic brown, navy, or shiny gold. One reviewer wrote: "The finish on these pans are great. The non stick is amazing and i especially love how BIG the largest pan is. [...] If you just make sure to hand wash/dry them, and not be so aggressive with them, the finish will hold up. Oh also, the utensils included with the set are awesome as well” 7 The Best 2-in-1 Enameled Cast Iron Piece
two-piece cookware set comes with a 10.2-inch skillet and a shallower 9.6-inch skillet, which doubles as a lid for the larger skillet. This two-in-one design helps you save space in your kitchen, and makes this set a great budget-friendly choice as it costs around $60 for two enameled cast iron pans. Because these pans have an enamel coating over their cast iron base, they don’t need any additional seasoning, can be washed with soap, and they aren’t at risk of rusting, making them very easy to care for. Like all cast iron cookware, these pans heat evenly, and are oven safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Choose from red, blue, and turquoise-colored sets.
One reviewer wrote: “Been using the set for a couple of weeks and it exceeds all expectations! No problems with sticking food, easy to clean, both pieces fit [beautifully] together and look absolutely gorgeous. As with any cast iron cookware, it's heavy as all heck, so they did not skimp on materials. Prepare for a forearm workout before you enjoy your delicious meals.” 8 The Best Set With A Copper Band
ten-piece cookware set is made from stainless steel, but it’s also accented with a band of copper around the base to give the pans an elevated look and helps these pots and pans heat more quickly. The set includes a 1-quart saucepan, a 2.5-quart saucepan, a 7-quart stockpot, two fry pans, a sauté pan, and four tempered glass lids. These nickel-free pots and pans have 3-ply construction with an aluminum core, and aren’t coated. Another benefit of this cookware set is that every piece has a riveted handle that won’t heat quickly like the rest of the pan. Like any stainless steel cookware, it’s best to preheat these pieces and use them with ample oil to prevent sticking, and the brand also recommends that you season them the first time you use them.
One reviewer wrote: “I was searching for high quality cookware set that is free from nickel and harmful coatings, is well made, elegant, performs beautifully, and is a great value. This set checks all the boxes for me. For best results, It is important to follow the recommended seasoning and cleaning instructions. I use this set daily and am very satisfied. Buy it!”
Still looking for answers? We've got you covered.
What is the best cookware that is nontoxic?
In general, the best cookware that is nontoxic will be free from
PFOAs and safe to use at high temperatures while still providing a reliably nonstick surface. The best nontoxic cookware for you will depend on what you like to cook most often. If you love getting a good sear on meat or veggies, stainless steel is your best bet, but it doesn't have the same inherently nonstick qualities as cast iron or ceramic. Between those two? It's all about personal preference. What is the safest cookware for your health?
Cast iron is
one of the safest cookware options on the market, because the only thing that goes into a standard cast iron pan is, well, iron. As long as your cookware does not contain harmful chemicals, though, nontoxic cookware options are all pretty safe for your health. If you're concerned about cutting fat as part of your diet, you might want to choose a ceramic option, as they tend to have the most reliably nonstick surfaces, which means you won't need to cook with as much oil or butter. Is stainless steel the healthiest cookware?
Especially if you love high-heat cooking methods,
stainless steel is an excellent choice. It's free of toxic materials, relatively inexpensive, and there's not much you can't cook in stainless steel. That being said, since it is less nonstick than other finishes, you'll need to use more fats when using this type of cookware.
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This article was originally published on
November 6, 2019