Safest Cookware 2020 for Healthy Pots & Pans

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About fifteen years ago, the small community where my family lived, just East of St. Paul, Minnesota was turned upside down by chemicals that are used to make non-stick cookware. Just for some background, I’m condensing this saga that lasted for years into a short explanation to give you an idea of just WHAT set me on the path to finding a healthier cookware option.

Essentially, a large corporation disposed of PFOAs (teflon components) improperly, which in turn contaminated a large portion of the private wells in the area.  Lawsuits were filed, cancer diagnosis in the area were at an all time high, and it left me with the burning question: Then why are we cooking and eating with this if it’s so toxic?

It was one of my first glimpses into the unfortunate side of consumerism that wasn’t all that honest.  I was frustrated that companies were making cookware out of this toxic product and touting it as “healthy.”

The use of Teflon pans before this incident was my cookware of choice.  The idea was you don’t have to use any oil in your cooking, so these non-stick pans were actually healthier.  After realizing how horribly toxic it was, I made the switch to stainless steel, what my Grandma used ever since I could remember.  My second realization was that new technologies are not always better.

I didn’t really look into other forms of cookware until my youngest daughter had a mild iron deficiency.  Not enough to cause alarm, but just enough to cause restlessness at night. The only form of protein she really loved that contained iron were eggs.  Our pediatrician recommended using a cast iron pan for the eggs to help improve her iron levels just a smidgen.

As we tried this new method, it really seemed to improve most of her symptoms that came along with lower iron levels.  I had yet another realization that what we are cooking IN is also entering our bodies, even if in small amounts.

Healthy, Green Cookware: No PFOA, No Leaching
free guide to the safest cookware and toxin free pots and pans

WHY COOKWARE MATTERS

The most harmful way to come into contact with any toxin is through ingestion.  Anytime we ingest anything, it has a direct route to the bloodstream and begins affecting the body right away. 

You might think that food is the only way you introduce chemicals and toxins through ingestion, but what you cook your food within plays a part too.  The pots and pans we cook in play a huge role as our food is in direct contact with it.

First, when a cooking medium is heated, it can often times leach out into food.  The higher the heat of a pan, the more of the components of the pan (or toxins in many cases), can leach out into our food.  

Second, bits of the pan, especially if there are scratches can end up within our food.  In some cases, like cast iron, it’s beneficial to the body. However, in most cases, heavy metals and toxins can be entering our bloodstream through ingestion. Making sure there are no scratches or chips can help this, but really it can be completely avoided by using a safe cookware option.

Finally, the heating process of the pan can cause many of the materials within a pot or a pan to off-gas into the air.  If you’re standing over the food you’re cooking, your inhaling those gases, which are entering your body. Using a vent fan can help minimize this, but the ultimate way to avoid this problem of inhaling toxins is by using a safe cookware.

how pots and pans are affecting your health and how to shop for cookware

WHAT TYPES TO AVOID

Aluminum: Highly reactive and a known neurotoxin that affects over 200 important functions within the human body (Study) Linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia and nervous system damage (Study).  Also linked to autism spectrum disorders (Study)

Teflon: Non-stick pans contain polytetrafuoroethylene, which is is extremely toxic.  When heated, Teflon releases at least six toxic gasses, most of which are carcinogenic.  Teflon is highly toxic when heated, and quickly reaches an unsafe temperature when just preheating. (Study)  It has been linked to caner and reproductive problems. (Study)

Perfluorooctanic Acid (PFOA): Another non-stick product linked to development of tumors.  It has also been shown to have a negative affect on immune systems, endocrine systems and hormone production as well as the liver.  (Study)

Copper: Copper quickly and easily leaches into food when it is in contact with acidic foods. Over consumption of copper can lead to ulcers and liver damage (Study).  Copper also suppresses zinc levels, leading to the malfunctioning of the adrenals and thyroid gland.

Lead:  Some cookware that is ceramic, enamel or glass can have lead mixed in to reduce breakage. Lead is highly toxic and has a wide range of symptoms as it accumulates in the body. (Study)

Cadmium: Cadmium is also in glazes on cookwear to give them a uniform color and more balanced heating abilities.  Cadmium is a toxic metal and a known human carcinogen. It can build up in the kidneys and liver over time and stays in the body for a very long time. (Study)

Nickel: While nickel is a naturally occurring metal, excessive exposure has been linked to lung and nasal cancers as well as dermatitis and neurological effects. (Study)

avoid cookware with toxins and chemicals

HEALTHIEST OPTIONS & SAFEST COOKWARE IN 2019

Stainless Steel: Make sure you find a stainless steel cookware that contains a low percentage of nickel if possible. This is a great option for both pots and pans (ALL CLAD, CALPHALON)

Ceramic: Make sure you find a cookware brand that is 100% ceramic.  A ceramic that is coated with a glaze can contain lead or cadmium. (XTREMA)

Carbon Steel: Similar to cast iron, it is also reactive to acidic foods, which should be avoided. (DE BUYER)

Tempered Glass: Tempered glass is much stronger than normal glass and can withstand heat and pressure.  Make sure you find one that is free of lead and cadmium in the glaze. (LUMINARC)

Porcelain Enamel: This is a cast iron that has an enamel coating. This is a great option and is a long-lasting material.  While the outside of the pot or pan may be colored, often the inside is a natural material. (LECREUSET)

Cast Iron:  Avoid cooking acidic dishes in this pan as too much iron can leach into the food, causing iron poisoning in some people. (KOOKANTAGE)

healthy cookware pots and pans without toxins

CARE & HEALTHY CLEANING FOR SAFE COOKWARE

  • Cook at lower heat will help reduce any extreme off gassing and can help prolong the life of the pan, meaning it won’t chip or scratch as quickly.
  • Always use your exhaust fan while your cooking to make sure that gasses from the materials in the pan can be pulled out of the air and displaced outside. This way you’ll avoid inhalation.
  • Don’t use harsh metals while cleaning.  Abrasive metals can scratch or chip pans, causing materials and components of the pan to easily enter food while cooking.
  • Wash with natural, non-toxic dish soap.  Why bother with investing in non-toxic cookware if you wash it with a chemical-laden dish soap?  Opt for natural dish soap like Thieves or Seventh Generation.
  • Visible scratches mean it goes.  When you notice chipping or scratches in your cookware, it means it’s time to part with it.  The only exception is cast iron.  
how to take care of cookware without adding toxins
What is the safest cookware in 2019 for healthy pots and pans?

Stainless Steel (All Clad 18/10) (Calphalon Tri-Ply)
Ceramic (Xtrema)
Carbon Steel (de Buyer Fry Pan)
Tempered Glass (Luminarc Heat Resistant Glass)
Porcelain Enamel (Le Creuset)
Cast Iron (Kookantage Skillet)

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Sean

    Most of the products you recommend except for 100% ceramic cookware as well as 100% glass have aluminum used in them.

  2. Monique Robbins

    Hi, I’m looking to buy new cookware., and ofcourse I would like healthy cookware for my family. Thank you for being so informative about what to and not to buy. My question is: you mentioned that aluminum is bad for us, but the recommended stainless steel Calphalon pans were good. When I looked them up on the link at amazon, it says that the inside is aluminum and the outside is stainless steel. Did I miss something? Or misunderstand ?

    1. Amanda

      Hi Monique! Thank you so much for the great question. Aluminum core or interior, is considered safe as our food is never touching it. The focus for the pans is really on the exterior coating and surface. I should have explained it more in the blog post 🙂 I hope that helps! Please let me know if you have any other questions at all!

  3. JT

    Do you have an opinion of the HexClad brand cookware?

    1. Amanda

      HexClad is non-stick, which there is not a toxin free version of YET. It’s a better option than teflon non-stick, but not as toxin-free as cast iron, stainless steel or 100% ceramic.

  4. Meg

    Hi Amanda, my husband I are going to replace our old non-stick pots and pans. It’s overwhelming trying to find safe cookware that is non-stick, dishwasher safe/easy to clean, not outrageously priced, and light enough so that it’s easy to hold and maneuver with one hand while cooking. What do you use at your home and why did you choose that brand/line over another? Thank you!

    1. Amanda

      Hi Meg! I know it is REALLY tough to find something that is easy to clean AND toxin-free. We use a variety of pans based on what we are cooking. Cast iron, stainless steel and 100% ceramic Xtrema have worked really well for us. Stainless steel is probably use on a regular basis most often. We clean it with a bamboo pan scraper, which helps A TON with cleaning. We also switched from non-stick, and it was just a learning curve getting used to cooking with them.

  5. Jessica

    Hi there! What are your thoughts on lead free mamas testing of Xtrema and finding very high levels of multiple metals I closing Lead and cadmium? Was interested in a set from them until I read her report. Yikes!

    1. Amanda

      Hi Jessica! Thanks for stopping by! I actually just read the blog posts by Tamara about this (thanks for sharing them with me!). I am truly someone who does both sides of research, so I’ll be checking in with Xtrema to see if there are other independent studies done on their pans that could offer more insight.

  6. Doranna Lapenna

    Hi Amanda,

    I am shopping for pots and pans for my daughter who is setting up house soon. I have looked at so many brands, my head is spinning. I have been looking primarily at Zwilling and Henckels International stainless steel sets. Do you have any opinion on these brands.? Also, i was considering All Clad nonstick stainless steel pots and pans., but after reading your blog on the potential toxicity of non stick i am now afraid to go there. thanks a bunch,

    Doranna

    1. Amanda

      Hi Doranna!

      Anything that is stainless steel is a really good option. And I would stay away from ANYTHING that is non-stick. No matter if they say it doesn’t contain PFCs and PFAs, we really don’t know the health effects of some of the other non-stick materials that are being used currently. If you’re going to get stainless steel, make sure it’s a TRULY uncoated option. Zwilling and Henckels have lines that are ceramic enameled stainless steel, which is unsafe.

  7. Angela

    Hi Amanda, I have been going crazy trying to find the best (safest) cookware for my family. There are 2 toddlers in our family and I want the best for them so I am going crazy reading very conflicting reviews. What would you say is the best pan for eggs and omelets taking into consideration the sticking element? I want the ones that resist sticking without the added chemicals if such a pan exists. Thank you so much for your opinion.

    1. Amanda

      Hi Angela! Well, anything that’s TRULY 100% non-toxic will probably have SOMETHING in it that’s not 100% toxin free. I think it’s important to remember though, that this is still a safer and better option than non-stick Teflon. Some examples of a MOSTLY toxin free non-stick pan would be a ceramic coated pan such as GreenPan or Caraway Home. The only reason I wouldn’t give either of these the 100% toxin free stamp is because we just don’t know enough about some of the materials used in these pans to make them non-stick. I personally would be fine using them, but I’m more middle of the road when it comes to this. Otherwise, the other option is to change HOW you cook a little bit and stick with a cast iron or stainless steel pain.

  8. Angela

    Amanda, thank you so much. I know I’m driving myself crazy with this but the more I read, the more complex it seems. I value your opinion and I am going to look at the pans you mentioned above. Thank you again for taking the time to respond to me.

  9. Bebe

    Hi, thanks for the great info.
    I have a silly question – on the one area – “Healthy Options Cookware” – it reads > Ceramic – find 100% ceramic. a ceramic that is coated with a glaze can contain lead or cadium (Xtrema).
    You have the word Xtrema, does that mean do not buy Xtrema because its coated with a glaze or Xtema is good to buy?

    Thank you

  10. Bebe

    Sorry i reread and understand 🙂

  11. Melody

    Hi Amanda! Thank you for your post. Very informative. May I ask what your thoughts are on the GreenLife pots & pan set sold on Amazon?

    1. Amanda

      Hi Melody! Thanks so much for your note and kind words! GreenLife is non-stick, which is never 100% toxic free, but it’s REALLY close. Anything that has a non-stick coating can mean it has SOME sort of man made material in it. In the case of GreenLife it is the use of Thermalon coating. It’s much, much better than teflon and I think it’s a great option if you have to have non-stick. Any place you can reduce toxins is a great step, even if it’s not 100% free of all toxins. Great question — let me know if you have more 🙂

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