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. 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.
Generally, most PTFE-free cookware is nontoxic. That includes cast iron and stainless steel, 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. That includes 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. Here are the best options in each category:
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.