If you’re wanting to avoid adding toxins to your foods when you cook, here are guidelines for how to choose the best healthy, non-toxic cookware to go with your healthy diet! Don’t get caught out whilst trying to protect your family. See which brands pass the test!
It’s been many years since I made the choice to go for healthier cookware rather than conventional non-stick & stainless steel. In that time I’ve used glass, cast iron & cast iron enamel, ceramic crock pots and most recently stoneware.
Along the way, I’ve learned that even these, and other so-called ‘healthy’ or ‘safe’ cookware can have their pitfalls, dangers & deceptions.
Recently our much-loved stoneware set we have used for EVERYTHING the last 3 years began to show signs that it’s non-stick coating had begun to erode. I was not aware that it had one! I had fallen for the classic marketing manipulation tool – tell a little bit of truth, twist it and leave out the rest (the not-so-desirable stuff)!
So in today’s flooded & competitive ‘health’ market you can buy natural stoneware cookware which tells you that stone is inert so it’s totally safe for cooking etc. but they fail to mention the non-stick coating they’ve applied to make it more appealing to the convenience-seeking masses, which is laden with toxic chemicals and is most definitely NOT inert!
Unfortunately, there are many other cookware manufacturers who claim their products are non-toxic etc. but with testing, this has proven to be inaccurate and many people have been caught out while trying to protect their families.
it can be VERY difficult to find unbiased & accurate research. Many online articles are affiliate-paid reviews, so it really pays to dig a little deeper.
This has lead me to do much more thorough research, over a 3 month period, for cookware that really is safe and not adding toxic chemicals, heavy metals and other elements to your foods.
What to ditch!
So firstly, the definite no-no’s (due to containing highly leachable toxic elements which end up in your food) are:
- Teflon & other cheap non-stick cookware
Stainless steel definitely leaches nickel and chromium particularly if you cook anything acidic like tomatoes. This has been confirmed in studies like this one
This cookware is very durable but is not inert – iron is very likely leaching into the food, which affects the enzymes in it. Iron can actually be toxic in the body, at certain levels, and becomes a pro-oxidant which can cause stress & oxidation, eventually leading to disease.
Proper seasoning can minimize this leaching but you definitely want to avoid using cast iron for acidic foods like chili and tomato sauces since acidic foods will damage the seasoning layer which will lead to leaching iron and potentially other metals into the food.
I’d also avoid any pre-seasoned cast iron pans because they’ll be impregnated with oil that isn’t certified organic so whatever toxic chemicals etc. that are in the oil are now in the cast iron pot/pan. Not much point buying organic food if youre cooking in GMO cookware.
There are some that would be great options if they didn’t leach iron. But I can’t recommend this type of cookware since it is not an organic source of iron and could be problematic for some people.
Inorganic minerals actually displace organic minerals at receptor sites and have to be detoxed before being replaced with organic minerals.
Studies have shown that the risk of altzeimers drops significantly in people who avoid heavy metals & inorganic iron & copper. It also drops for those following a plant-based diet
An extra note on iron:
Excess iron can be very damaging, particularly to men & children. For menstruating women, this is generally not an issue, although I’m not a fan of taking inorganic minerals so can’t recommend it for menstruating women, or those with anemic issues either.
I don’t personally recommend the use of cast iron or supplements as being the best approach to solving the root of the problem if you are anemic. Anaemia issues are usually the result of an unhealthy gut biome, NOT inadequate iron intake.
Common gut pathogens (like Actinomyces spp., Mycobacterium spp., pathogenic strains of E. coli, Corynebacterium spp) actually consume iron and are frequently the cause of anemia.
Previous use of the Pill or antibiotics creates a particular susceptibility to anemia issues.
Unbound iron due to an excess intake reacts with water and oxygen to produce highly reactive oxygen species or free radicals, which damage cell membranes, DNA, mitochondria, and multiple tissues and organs.
Hey we all like nonstick cookware. No one enjoys wasting precious time scrubbing crusty food off pots. But what I don’t like is the toxic crap that’s found in most nonstick coatings. It really is the type of stuff that we don’t want ending up in our food.
I’ve tried a few of the modern (& more expensive) ceramic non-stick varieties, researched many, but I commonly see & hear of the coating degrading over time.
My conclusion is that ceramic & other non-stick surfaces break down after two to three years of use, at best. And when that happens you better know what it is going into your food, and the potential affects on your health.
Most non-stick coatings contain a carcinogenic chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which starts emitting toxic fumes that you inhale every time you cook with a non-stick pot or pan!
Even the ones that are marketed as being PFOA-free will usually contain PFASs, fluorinated chemicals, fluorine and other questionable chemicals which will start ending up in your food at some stage.
I had recently concluded that there is no safe non-stick cookware, no matter how cleverly it’s marketed.
However, I’ve recently discovered an exception! There is one brand that has passed the tests! See further down for details 🙂
Note: I’m aware there are others claiming to have a new type of non-stick coating that is toxin-free, even one that is ‘water-based’ but until I see XRF testing reports I won’t go there.
So there’s great, and not so great. Here’s what I’ve found:
Clear glass bakeware gets a big Holistic Mumma tick!! I love using clear glass ovenware as it’s one of the cleanest options.
However, there have been reports of the newer Pyrex baking dishes exploding in the oven or when removed from the oven. Evidently, it has happened quite a bit since they started using soda lime silicate glass instead of borosilicate in the mid 90’s.
Yikes! That would be scary with kids around 😮
I’ve also heard about Vision ware glass pots being susceptible to breaking if knocked and will shatter into a MILLION teeny tiny shards.
You would want to be wary of this and also careful with sudden temperature changes.
Another point to be aware of is that the older amber Vision glass cookware has been found to contain heavy metals so keep this in mind if searching on Ebay.
The only other Con with glassware is that food can stick to it & burns easily. I used to use a set like this one & found it was sticky, but our clear glass baking dishes are fine.
Titanium is light, durable, acid & scratch resistant, but may not be as inert and biocompatible as was once believed. It will react with heat and leach into the food you cook, plus it is crazy-expensive!
Often what you are buying is actually titanium-coated cookware which is typically aluminum cookware with a fused synthetic polymer-titanium, nonstick coating. Plus they generally have an aluminum base for optimum heat distribution.
Even though this is not in contact with the food, it is still volatile when heated, potentially vapourising it into the atmosphere.
For these reasons, I cant recommend titanium.
Earthenware & Clay Cookware
I came close to ordering one of these to try, from Miriam’s Earthen Cookware, as I had heard some great things about this range, and like many people, I thought that cookware made from pure and natural clay should be pretty clean & non-toxic.
Unfortunately, I no longer believe this is necessarily accurate!
I started seeing reports of people becoming sick while using this cookware and decided I needed to look further into it.
The owner won’t disclose the proprietary blend, and I understand it could be what sets her clay cookware apart. However, for me, I prefer it when a company puts transparency, ethics, and respect for people’s choice & health before this.
People also say that they can taste clay in their food which was a bit off-putting to me.
A study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment (vol. 409 (15) – Jul 1, 2011) detailed the results of testing of glazed and unglazed clay cookware. The study focused on arsenic and it was found that arsenic leached up to 10 times more from unglazed earthenware. The conclusion was that the risk of arsenic poisoning is high enough to be of concern and warrant regulation.
There are also reports of leaky clay pots that contain glyphosate contamination.
Now I’m not suggesting that I know for a fact that all earthen/clay cookware is contaminated, because I can’t know this for sure. And I’m aware that many or even all of those reports could be attempts by competitors to defame the company (as this does happen quite regularly these days ).
But I do know that clay from the earth is not just clean clay anymore. Yes a couple of hundred years ago this may have been the best option, but now I’m not so sure.
Avoid old crockpots if they are cracked – these have been shown to leach lead and other chemicals, as does cracked ceramic mugs if you drink coffee out of them.
Miraculously our family heirloom remains intact so I’m hanging onto it for now! 😀
Independent testers find that most have extremely high lead content in the glazing. But this will only be absorbed if the enamel is cracked.
These paint-like substances are made of many different chemicals, most of them highly toxic – a search for ingredients in ceramics, enamel and glazes will give you a comprehensive list.
A particular brand of ceramic cookware worth mentioning is Ceramcor because they are the makers of Xtrema and also the Dr Mercola range. Both are extremely popular in wellness circles.
I really wanted this range to be the answer! But I started seeing reports of a high total lead level. This is different to leachable lead.
Ceramcor seem to really want to provide a healthy cookware range. They pass the stringent CA Prop 65 leach test and disclose these results on their website. But many companies don’t realize that there’s a difference between leachable lead and total lead.
Total lead is what XRF measures and is always higher than leachable. The leachable lead level simulates lead that might come out of a product under normal use.
XRF technology finds a very high content of lead in the ceramic label on the bottom of these pans. I’ve seen tests of up to 10,900 ppm on the bottom label, which is extremely high. Lead will turn gaseous at certain high temps, so it’s important that this part of the cookware also be safe since it’s directly sitting on the heat source.
I started seeing reports of people (including children) testing high blood levels of lead whilst using this cookware.
Now again, I don’t know for sure that all the reports I’ve seen are accurate, so since I’ve not had the experience myself I just don’t know.
So I don’t want to bad-mouth any company without trying and testing them myself. But based on what I DO know, I wouldn’t buy for my family with such a high level of lead in the label.
Getting lead poisoning after buying expensive ‘lead-free’ cookware would really suck!
For this reason, I can’t recommend Xtrema, or any other Ceramcor range.
As stated previously, I no longer trust stonewear ranges since discovering they pretty much ALL have a non-stick coating. Also, I’ve seen reports of a few types of stoneware XRF testing high for lead and cadmium on both the inside and the outside. So based on this, I’m giving it the flick!
Yes, there are a few companies & probably many more emerging claiming their stoneware is completely toxin-free, however, I’ve not seen enough evidence to be able to recommend one yet. Show me one and I’d love to consider it!
I’ve also noticed that most stoneware is made in China. The regulations in Latin American and Asian countries are a lot laxer, so the quality & safety tends to not be as good.
So what CAN I use?
I know I know, there’s not much left!!
Here are my 3 safe choices:
As I mentioned previously, there is ONE non-stick brand which I’m happy to recommend, at this stage.
1. Greenpan Ceramic Non-Stick
Disclaimer: I’ve not yet tested the range personally, long-term (beyond 1 year of use), so if anyone has additional information to add please let me know.
Here are the Pros:
– Affordable (ranging from $50 to $150 per piece with great prices on sets)
– PFOA & PTOF-free, It is a different technology of non-stick marketed under the brand name of Thermolon, which is mostly comprised of silicon dioxide (not the unnatural silicone).
– GreenPan are completely transparent in disclosing their 3rd party testing reports. Yay for Greenpan!
– Durable. The Thermolon does not come off during normal use. I would, however, replace if abused and scratched on the inside, especially since the core is aluminium. Apparently, it will also withstand corrosion from acidic cooking.
My conclusion without long-term testing myself is that the Thermolon layer should last providing it is looked after and not cleaned with abrasives, and using a mild detergent & recommended oils only, such as coconut oil.
– Passes XRF testing for total heavy metal levels. Lead & cadmium amounts are well under the recommended limits.
– Greenpan also claims (and this checks out, too, as far as I can tell) that production of Thermolon-coated cookware releases 60 percent fewer greenhouse gases than does the production of traditional PTFE-based non-stick technology. That’s because it cures more quickly, and at lower temperatures. A nice plus!
– non-stick & easy to clean
And a couple of Cons:
– Ceramic nonstick is known to lose its non-stickiness over time, with enough heating and cooling cycles. You can restore some of the non-stickiness by occasionally cleaning the ceramic pan with a little baking soda.
Best to keep below 260 degrees C, since higher thermal stress seems to accelerate aging of ceramic and make it less non-stick over time.
– Ceramic is hard but brittle, so it doesn’t react well to hard impacts. So don’t use metal utensils on the ceramic, as that can lead to chipping.
So here are a couple of great Greenpan pieces & sets to consider:
And a 10Pc Cookware Set
2. Glass Ovenware
This is a super-clean choice for baking, and SO much easier to clean than any other bakeware.
Here are a couple of great choices:
3. Enameled Cast Iron
This is my preferred choice for any acidic cooking (tomato based).
Enameled cast iron cookware is one of the safest types of cookware. But be aware that not all enameled cast iron is created equal!
High-quality enamel coating is non-reactive and is safe for all types of cooking. As long as the enamel is not scratched or chipped the cooking surface prevents metals from leaking into food.
A low-quality enamel may contain lead or may chip, allowing materials under the coating to leach into food. Enamel cookware should not be used once the finish has been damaged.
I would avoid any brands made in China. Generally, the ones made in France (Le Crueset, Chasseur) are the way to go, and the ones from China just won’t last as long.
Cheaper enamel cookware has only a thin layer of enamel and is not as durable as that with two or more layers.
Having said that I still have a standard range but lovely enameled cast iron casserole dish that is still very much intact & safe to use (despite being around 10 years old!)
Why I’ve Fallen for Enameled Cast Iron
· It doesn’t leach iron or anything else into your food. You don’t have to worry about any questionable coatings.
· The quality brands are incredibly durable to chipping & scratching.
· Easy to clean. Most things just wipe off with a sponge.
· The high-quality ones are heirloom pieces, and beautiful. Can be passed down to your children.
The Brands to buy (or save for!):
The following are top of the range with a price tag to match but when you purchase any of the following it will be a lifetime (and beyond) investment rather than potentially only lasting a few years, so I figure it’s worth it to pay a bit more.
Le Creuset’s Enamelled cast iron range are made in France and are the gold standard of cast iron cookware. They are the only company I’m aware of that replaces worn cast enamel cookware.
The thing to be aware of is that the exterior enamel base needs to be free of heavy metals or at least have a tested low level.
Avoid the red, orange or yellow enamels since they will often contain cadmium &/or lead in high enough levels to warrant concern since the base is in contact with the heat source.
Even though the interior enamel tends to be fine, the external enamel has been tested up to 11,900 ppm of cadmium, and fairly high in lead too.
The Palm or Marseilles are the only colors that Le Creuset have stated are completely free of heavy metals.
Here are a couple of very nice (& safe) pieces:
For us Aussies one would have thought that going directly to Le Creuset Australia (or one of their stockists) would be the way to go price-wise, but no! I found that even with freight it was cheaper to order from Amazon US (when you find one that delivers to AU of course)
It may also be worth looking on Ebay for a bargain.
Chasseur & Staub.
Other top of the range Enameled Cast Iron are Chasseur & Staub. Tramontina may be a close second.
We recently purchased a beautiful Staub wok, but I got caught out by not realizing that its base was also enameled. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have chosen the red (which can have high cadmium levels)! So we use that one on low-medium heat only, kind of as a slow cooker for stove-top casseroles.
So I recommend that one in the black 🙂
Staub Cast-Iron 7-Quart Wok with Glass Lid, BlackIt takes some adjusting when you are used to non-stick. You need to heat the wok slowly & warm the oil first before adding food, and over time the initial light seasoning will build and create a natural non-stick surface.
It’s wonderful for stir-fry’s and risottos and cooks beautifully.
- One thing we should all avoid is cooking at higher temperatures. The higher the temperatures, the more we devastate the nutrients in the food and compromise the integrity and safety of the cookware.
- Don’t make the pan go from hot to cold too quickly
- Wash by hand – even if the manufacturer says its dishwasher safe
- Use plastic or wooden spoons. Metal utensils can chip or scratch the ceramic or enameled surface.
That’s it! For now anyway 🙂
Over to You!
Have you discovered any safe cookware that I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you!
I’ll be adding updates as I discover more …
If you want more Holistic Family Wellness, Positive Parenting and Spiritual Science content join the tribe to receive all our updates and some goodies too. As a gift for signing up, you’ll receive my Ultimate Healing Green Smoothie Recipe and inspiration to take the smoothie challenge!