A roundup of the best non-toxic cookware brands to keep toxic chemicals out of your food so you can confidently cook healthy food for your family. Includes safe non-stick cookware, as well as cast iron, stainless steel and more.
From our mom’s advice to the doctor’s office, we’ve always been told that healthy eating is the backbone of a healthy lifestyle. And cooking healthy food at home is pretty much the backbone of healthy eating, right?
But cue the record scratch when I say that some of the cookware you are using in your kitchen is not helping your healthy eating efforts at all – in fact, it might be hurting it.
In this post we will take a look at the health concerns with many types of cookware and then I’ll share the best non-toxic cookware brands that I’ve found in my many years of cooking!
Health Concerns and Why Non-Toxic Cookware is Important
How could something as healthy as cooking be harming our health? Sadly, it’s because cooking pans (and most products available on the market today) are not well regulated for safety. Because of this, companies are able to use chemicals and manufacturing processes that either have not been tested for safety or in some cases, have been shown to be harmful but have not been outright banned.
Let’s take a look at the biggest health concerns with cookware:
- Non-stick coatings – The coatings used to create traditional Teflon-style non-stick cookware contain perfluorinated compounds (known as PFAS), such as perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which have been linked to cancer, elevated cholesterol, hormone disruption and other health issues. Heat causes the chemicals to break down and release toxic fumes into the air. Over time the non-stick coating can get scratched and start to peel, so that you may be ingesting some of the stuff. On top of that, PFOAs don’t biodegrade, meaning they will always be in the environment and have been shown to accumulate in our bodies. Traditional non-stick pans are the #1 type of cookware you should swap out right away.*
- Aluminum – Aluminum is a fantastic heat conductor but there are concerns that exposure could cause neurological issues in some people. This argument is hotly debated but to be safe, keep cooking in exposed aluminum to a minimum, especially when cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes, vinegar, and citrus.
- Heavy metals: Heavy metals like lead & cadmium are sometimes detected in colored enamel pans – especially the reds and oranges. A brand new pan is probably not a problem, but once the surface has been scratched or chipped, heavy metal leaching may occur.
- Nanoparticles – Ceramic non-stick cookware is increasingly popular but there is some concern about nanoparticles of titanium dioxide used in cheap “quasi-ceramic” coatings that may be released due to scratches and wear and tear of the coating over time (source). That said, there are no conclusive studies on this. Choose ceramic non-stick cookware brands that are transparent and perform third-party safety testing.
*Note: Beware non-stick cookware that claims to be PFOA-free. It probably contains PTFE, which is likely just as bad!
Non-Toxic Cookware – Safest Options
I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure
To say we love to cook at our house is an understatement. For my husband and myself and even for our two boys, cooking is not only nourishment, it is entertainment, a fun hobby, an obsession, a great way to procrastinate….and most importantly, cooking is LOVE!!
We own MANY cooking pots and pans. Too many probably, but we have a hard time being minimalist in the kitchen! The good news is, I’ve tested out many pots and pans in order to help you find the best quality, safest cookware around! Be assured that the non-toxic cookware brands I mention below are those that I highly recommend.
Here are my favorite types and brands of healthy, non-toxic cookware:
Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron cookware is like your reliable friend – always there for you when you need it. Cast iron is known for great heat retention – just be sure to heat it up slowly to avoid burning.
The best cast iron cookware in my opinion, is just plain cast iron, without any enamel or other coatings. Avoid thin or cheap cast iron as it might not live up to your expectations. Many cast iron pans come pre-seasoned, making it easy to get started without a hassle. I’ve busted some common myths about cast iron here.
Favorite Cast Iron Cookware Brand: Lodge
Why I love it: High quality, pre-seasoned cast iron without any coatings that is made to last forever. All of their seasoned cast iron is made in the USA.
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is the darling of the cooking world. It’s super durable, safe to use and beautiful to look at! The best stainless steel cookware is made from high quality 18/10 stainless and has an aluminum core (for great heat conduction), but is completely encased in stainless steel.
Avoid cheap stainless steel cookware that might not hold up over time. There is some concern about the nickel and chromium in stainless steel as a very small number of people are sensitive to it – but most of us can use stainless cookware without concern.
Favorite Stainless Steel Cookware Brand: All Clad Stainless Steel (aluminum core surrounded by stainless steel)
Why I love it: My All Clad pans heat quickly and evenly and I love how easy they are to clean. I bought some when I worked for a cooking store and we got more for our wedding!
100% Ceramic Cookware
Take a trip to any store that sells cookware and you’ll probably see the term ceramic on some of the pots and pans. Stop right there, because most of that cookware is not 100% ceramic but rather has a ceramic coating applied to the cooking surface of the pan – whether the pan is aluminum, cast iron or stainless steel (see below for more info on ceramic coated pans). But what I’m talking about here is 100% ceramic cookware. This type of ceramic is not a coating like some cookware, it is ceramic through and through.
Favorite 100% Ceramic Cookware Brand: Xtrema
Why I love it: Xtrema by Ceramcor is a 100% ceramic line of cookware. There is no coating or glaze so nothing will ever flake, peel or scratch off this cookware. In addition, there are no bonding materials, glues, polymers, or dyes used in Xtrema. Each batch of Xtrema is third-party tested for heavy metals like lead and cadmium, making it a truly safe and healthy choice if you are shopping for non-toxic cookware.
Xtrema is extremely durable and is scratch-proof and chip resistant. It is much lighter than cast iron. The only downside is that if you drop it on the floor, it could break.
The company sent me a sample of the Xtrema 10″ Versa Skillet and after giving it a test drive, I highly recommend it. I’ve cooked eggs – both fried and scrambled with great success, and even if something sticks it is super easy to clean off with a handy plastic pan scraper. The Versa skillet can transfer easily between the stovetop and the oven and comes with handy silicone handle protectors so you won’t get burned.
Ceramic Coated Non-Stick Cookware
Ceramic coated cookware has emerged as a popular replacement to traditional Teflon non-stick pans. Ceramic coatings are made from silicon (not to be confused with silicone), which is basically sand, and do not use any Teflon coatings – PFOA, PTFE or anything in that category. Ceramic coated pans are considered to be safer than old school non-stick pans and use 60% less CO2 in manufacturing.
However, from what I’ve read and learned through experience, it is important to choose high quality ceramic coated cookware over cheaper versions. Not all ceramic coatings are equal. In fact, there is some concern about nanoparticles used in cheap ceramic coatings, as I mentioned earlier in this post. In addition, some brands of ceramic coated cookware do not hold up well over time.
Because of these concerns, if you feel the need to have a non-stick pan in your kitchen, I recommend sticking with brands that have been certified by third party testing to meet food contact standards set by the U.S. and Europe and to be free from heavy metals and other contaminants. Brands that are willing to provide their testing documents is important as well.
Personally, I use my ceramic-coated pans when I really need the non-stick feature (eggs for example), and I stick with stainless steel or cast iron for the majority of my cooking.
One popular brand of ceramic cookware that is readily available and does provide testing reports is Greenpan. See below for more recommendations of the best non-stick cookware that is free from PFOA-type chemicals.
Favorite Ceramic Coated Cookware Pan: Always Pan by Our Place
Why I love it: The Always Pan is a multi-use pan that is designed to replace a 16-piece cookware set. The pan has a safe ceramic coating that turns out a mean fried egg without sticking. It comes with a very useful steamer basket and a cute bamboo spatula that fits onto the skillet’s handle – I just love design details like that!
The Always Pan has become our favorite pan in our kitchen – we use it a lot! It would also be a perfect gift for a young adult with a new apartment, or someone with very little storage space. If you are looking for a non-toxic non-stick pan, I recommend this one!
- The ceramic coating is third party tested to ensure compliance with FDA and EU food contact regulations (test reports disclosed)
- Free from PTFE, PFOA, PFOS, lead, cadmium and other toxic metals, and nanoparticles
- Made in China in hand-picked, ethical factories
- Always Pan comes in your choice of fun colors
Deal: Mindful Momma readers get $10 off the Always Pan using code MINDMOM at checkout
Favorite Ceramic Cookware Set: Caraway
Why I love it: First of all, it’s gorgeous! But it performs really well too – and in our kitchen, our pans work HARD! The aluminum core allows it to heat evenly and the non-toxic ceramic coating means it’s great for all the non-stick cooking we need to do.
- Made with an aluminum core, stainless steel base & handles, and a non-stick, mineral based coating
- Third-party tested for lead, cadmium, PTFE (Teflon®), PFOA and other harmful chemicals (test reports disclosed)
- Oven safe up to 500 degrees
- Works on any type of cooktop including induction
- Set comes with handy pan and lid storage solution
- Comes in five beautiful colors (we were gifted a set of Sage by the company)
- Pots and pans can be purchased individually as well
Porcelain Enamel Cast Iron Cookware
These pans marry the heat retention and durability of cast iron with a hard porcelain enamel glaze that is baked onto the surface (both interior and exterior) of the pan. Because of some concern that heavy metals like lead and cadmium could leach from enamel coated pans (especially from brightly colored pans), you should be careful to purchase only from reputable sources and discontinue use if the interior surface gets chipped.
Favorite brand: Le Creuset
Why I love it: I inherited two Le Creuset pans from my mother – a large skillet and an oval baking dish. Both are amazing for cooking and the baking dish is lovely for serving as well. LeCreuset cast iron is still made in France. It’s not cheap, but well worth the investment in my opinion!
Copper is an excellent conductor of heat. It heats quickly and the heat spreads throughout the pan evenly, allowing food to cook uniformly without hot spots. Copper is an essential mineral for the human body, but because too much of it could cause health problems, copper pans are almost always lined with another material.
High quality copper cookware is typically lined with a thin layer of tin. The tin is non-reactive and does not interfere with the heat conduction of the copper. Tin is also naturally non-stick, an added bonus for this popular type of cookware.
Favorite brand: Sertodo (you can find it at Made Trade)
Why I love it: This heavy-guage, tin-lined copper cookware is not only gorgeous but it is a joy to cook with! The lightweight handles are heat resistant and easy to hold on to. Copper cookware is an investment, but it is meant to last a lifetime!
Do you have a favorite non-toxic cookware brand? I’d love to hear what it is!