You are likely wondering what the best non-stick, non-toxic cookware is if you value your health. There are many alternatives to toxic cookware, and this guide will cover them all. We also detail what the most popular toxins are in cookware and how to avoid them.
For many families, their kitchen is the center of their home. With that in mind, it’s alarming to know that some nonstick cookware contains dangerous chemicals like PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), aluminum, and more. These coatings can break down when heated at high temperatures and send particles into your food, or if scratched, they could chip off during agitation leading to potentially harmful elements right onto one’s plate!
First, let’s discuss what makes cookware toxic. When most people think about toxic cookware, they refer to Teflon, but other chemicals can make cookware unhealthy.
- 8 Chemicals and Compounds in Dangerous Toxic Cookware
- Non-Toxic Cookware Alternatives
- What Are PFAS and Why are They Bad?
- What About “Safer” Substitutes for PFOA?
- What is non-stick cookware made from?
- 5 Ways that You Can Avoid PFAS?
- 5 Affordable Non-Toxic Cookware Brands
- Great Jones
- Conclusion for this Guide on Non-Toxic Cookware
8 Chemicals and Compounds in Dangerous Toxic Cookware
1. Fluoride – One of the main chemicals in Teflon, fluoride helps make it non-stick. The fluoride found in some non-stick cookware can leach into your food.
2. Aluminum – The minerals that we use for aluminum cookware come from the earth, but just because they are natural does not mean they are non-toxic cookware materials. Aluminum is melted down into a liquid form and then molded into the cookware you have seen in your kitchen. Aluminum is a dangerous metal because it can cause memory loss and brain damage, especially in children.
3. Lead – Another chemical found in toxic cookware is lead, and you will also find lead in an older glass or ceramic cookware. Look for lead-free glass cookware to play it safe. Children can experience lead poisoning from various sources, but the most common cause is paint and dust. We can link lead poisoning to several severe illnesses and developmental problems in young children.
4. PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) – This chemical is found in non-stick cookware, Teflon specifically. It has been linked to cancer and is also toxic when heated or scratched. PFOA is one of the chemicals produced in a factory that make pots and pans non-stick since it is also a byproduct of the production of fluoropolymers and is found leaching into water sources.
5. Cadmium is another metal found in some types of cookware, especially some coatings and glazes on pots and pans. In some studies, you can link Cadmium exposure to Alzheimer’s and other age-related health problems, and it’s not safe for your health in any amount.
6. Copper – For copper cookware to be safe, you must coat it with another substance. Pure copper cookware leach into food and cause copper toxicity. If you purchase a copper tea kettle for daily use, make sure that it is a newer model, not a vintage one.
7. Bisphenol A (BPA) -You will not find BPA in the cookware but other kitchen products like plastic water bottles, food packaging, food storage containers, and soda cans. This chemical is another one to be wary of since it can cause reproductive abnormalities in fetuses, infants, children, and adults. Look for BPA-free products.
8. PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene) – Manufacturers use this chemical for non-stick coatings on cookware such as Teflon. Studies in animals link it to many health issues, and the EPA even states that this chemical is a known carcinogen. When Teflon is overheated, it can leach into food and produce air toxins unsafe for birds. If you have a pet bird, do not use any products with Teflon coating.
Non-Toxic Cookware Alternatives
A great non-toxic cookware material. This type of cookware is a timeless and traditional alternative to most toxic cookware. It provides even heat distribution and is very durable. One drawback to cast iron cookware is that it can scratch up glass stovetops. Also, it will not work on an induction stovetop.
Enameled Cast Iron
This type of non-toxic cookware combines the durability and heat distribution that cast iron has with the scratch resistance that glass stovetops have. However, enameled cast iron is usually on the more expensive side of cookware. Consider splurging on it; you will get many years of safe cooking.
Stainless steel is one of the least toxic cookware materials. Ceramic vs stainless steel cookware is an essential topic within the non-toxic cookware world. It is durable, heat-safe, and non-reactive. The most significant disadvantage of stainless steel cookware is that it isn’t nonstick, and you must purchase stainless steel that has been certified for induction for it to work. With stainless steel, it’s crucial to make sure the pan is hot before adding oil; this will help with foods not sticking to the pan. You can even create an omelet in a stainless steel pan with practice.
Ceramic is also a very safe choice when looking for a non-toxic cookware type. As a non-stick surface, ceramic does not require oil or butter to cook. Ceramic cookware is a good substitute for Teflon and, while it may not be as scratch-resistant or scratch-free at high temperatures as some people desire, there are several benefits. The main one is that ceramic coatings don’t contain any PFOA compounds, which can cause health problems in humans and animals alike (especially since they’re persistent). If you buy your ceramic from a reputable company, it is a safe, non-toxic cookware material.
Porcelain is a type of ceramic material that can be made through high-temperature processes such as those involving the use of kaolin. If your porcelain is not an antique then it is more than likely a non-toxic cookware material. As you can see, the porcelain is designed to be durable. It’s resistant to thermal shock which means that it won’t break or change its composition when exposed too sudden changes in temperature. This also makes them oven-safe and dishwasher safe – and a great non-toxic cookware alternative. Is porcelain oven safe? The simple answer is yes, but read our full article here.
Glass cookware is a safe and traditional choice for non-toxic cookware. Glass does not react with food or emit hazardous chemicals into the atmosphere. Glass is dishwasher safe, very durable, and even oven friendly. If you’re looking for glass cookware, our glass cookware guide should be right up your alley. Unlike glass bakeware, glass pots and pans are less common, but they are still very functional, and you can use them on most stovetops, except for induction.
What Are PFAS and Why are They Bad?
Chemicals called PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) prevent water and grease from adhering. However, they don’t stop there. Companies use PFAS in Teflon, firefighting foam, Scotchgard™ stain protectors, and other household items. 3M started using perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in the 1950s for its Teflon products, and companies worldwide have since used PFAS compounds in hundreds of consumer products.
PFAs are an atom of carbon surrounded by fluorine atoms. Because they are so stable, they can stay in the environment for a very long time. And because they are so good at sticking to things, they will accumulate in the tissues of animals and are very slow to exit the body.
The science community links PFOA to cancer, thyroid disease, decreased fertility, and other health problems, and PFOS is also associated with cancer. Studies have shown most Americans have PFOA in their blood, likely from exposure through everyday use of Teflon products. So far, studies have shown that most Americans tested had at least some PFOS in their blood.
Some scientists estimate that more than 98% of people in the United States have PFOA or PFAS chemicals in their blood, based on testing done as part of CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
EPA has also found PFAS in the blood of people who work near sources of chemicals, like chemical plants.
You can find high concentrations in firefighting foam, which is used during training exercises and at airfields. The military has also tested for contamination at hundreds of sites where firefighting foam was used extensively on bases (Fire Fighting Foam Guide).
Name Some Examples of Items that Contain PFAS.
Some examples are Teflon, firefighting foam, Scotchgard™ Stain Protectors, wrappers for fast food, Gore-tex jackets, sunscreen, and cosmetics.
What does PFAS do to Humans?
Some types of PFAS are harmful if they build up in your body over time. Exposure to high levels can affect growth, learning, and behavior in children. A study highlighted these effects in animals that ate food containing large amounts of PFOA. PFOA and other PFAS may negatively affect human health despite low exposure levels, and we need more research in this area.
Studies have shown that PFAS can cause changes in thyroid hormones, growth, development, and behavior of fetuses or breastfed infants. Studies also show that it may affect how the body responds to vaccines (CDC).
Where are PFAS found?
The CDC says that PFAS are widespread in the environment, and some industrial sites where they are in use contain them in water, soil, and sediment. PFAS also exists widely in products made from fluoropolymers (e.g., Teflon), stain-resistant materials, paper and cardboard packaging for food and other consumer goods, textiles, and leather.
Many PFAS compounds resist breakdown in the environment. For example, PFOA persists in the environment for many years and does not break down quickly once released into the ground.
How does PFAS Affect Wildlife?
PFOS chemicals are incredibly toxic to fish and other aquatic life, based on studies with PFOS at low levels over long periods.
PFOA affects reproduction, growth, survival, and behavior in lab animals that drink water with PFOA. For example, rats exposed to PFOA at levels of 100 parts per billion (ppb) had changes in blood chemistry that included decreased thyroid hormone. How PFOA affects wildlife is not fully understood.
Who is exposed? Who should be concerned?
The most common sources of PFAS are food, water, earth, cookware, and consumer goods such as carpeting and clothing treated with PFAS chemicals. Some studies suggest that exposure to PFAS may be higher in specific communities, but further investigation is required. People who live near facilities using or manufacturing PFAS or fluorinated plastics have a higher risk of exposure to these chemicals. Other people that are exposed Include those who work at facilities, manufacturing the chemical. Every day people can get exposed through their drinking water, air, or soil.
How Harmful Are PFAS?
The EPA considers them to be a “likely human carcinogen.” Studies show PFAS can affect the growth, learning, and behavior of infants and older children. Studies show it to cause tumors and harm fertility and liver and immune function in lab animals. We need more research on the health effects of these chemicals. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has looked at the scientific evidence on PFOA and PFOS, two types of PFAS, and found that more research is required to determine if they are human carcinogens (CDC).
What About “Safer” Substitutes for PFOA?
Several companies have stopped using PFOA, PFOS, and other PFAS chemicals, but it has been difficult to find equally effective substitutes. For example, one replacement called GenX was introduced in 2009 by 3M Company. However, the EPA found health concerns with this chemical (NC Health), and it is still under scientific scrutiny for its safety. The science community is still working on creating a non-toxic cookware alternative to PFOA.
What is non-stick cookware made from?
Teflon, which is short for polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), is the common name used to describe non-stick coatings that are made with fluoropolymers. A new generation of PTFE-free cookware has emerged with names like GreenPan and Great Jones featuring natural minerals.
5 Ways that You Can Avoid PFAS?
1. Reduce consumption of PFAS-containing products, such as non-stick cookware, stain-resistant clothing, and carpets. Only purchase non-toxic cookware (see our list below). Replace your nonstick rice cooker with a rice cooker with stainless steel pot.
2. Patronize businesses that have eliminated or reduced their use of PFASs. For instance, food service establishments that continue to use Teflon pans might not get your business.
3. In the home, use powder-free disposable gloves when cleaning jobs to expose you to PFASs.
4. Clean up any spills from products containing PFAS immediately because these chemicals bind strongly to surfaces and can potentially increase exposure in a closed setting. However, be sure to wear protective clothing when doing the cleanup.
5. Consume a healthy diet, including more fresh produce and low-fat or fat-free dairy items, rather than high-fat foods that can also be sources of PFASs.
5 Affordable Non-Toxic Cookware Brands
A shortlist of the least toxic cookware brands on the market for 2022. Here you go!
1. Xtrema – Non-Toxic Ceramic Cookware
- Non toxic
- 100% Ceramic Cookware
- No heavy metals
- High Quality
- No PFOA, PTFE, glues, polymers, coatings or dyes
Many consumers are aware that Teflon-coated nonstick cookware might expose them to hazardous chemicals such as PFOA when cooking. Ceramic-coated pans may seem “green,” but they also contain synthetic bonding materials and chemicals like aluminum shown in studies to be toxic. With that said, I was surprised to find out you can indeed cook with non-stick ceramic pans, but only if the surface is entirely natural. So how do you know if your ceramic pan is safe? That’s where Xtrema comes in! Xtrema is a non-toxic cookware brand.
2. Cuisinart Stainless Steel Cookware
- SET INCLUDES: 1.5 Quart saucepan with cover, 3 Quart saucepan with cover, 3.5 Quart sauté pan with helper handle and cover, 8 Quart stockpot with cover, 8" skillet, 10" skillet, 20cm steamer insert with cover
- DURABLE DESIGN: Elegant and contemporary, the professional Triple Ply Construction features a core of pure aluminum and a handsome brushed stainless finish. Heat Surround Technology allows for even heat distribution along the bottom and sidewalls of the cookware. Cookware also features Cool Grip handles secured with stainless steel rivets, self-basting and tight-fitting lids
- COOKING AND CLEANING: Polished cooking surface does not discolor, react with food or alter flavors. Tight-fitting stainless steel covers seal in food's natural juices and nutrients for healthier, more flavorful results. Cookware and covers are dishwasher safe
- OVEN SAFE: Oven safe up to 550 degrees F with rims tapered for a drip-free pouring experience. Suitable for use with induction cook tops as well
- COMMITMENT TO QUALITY: Inspired by the great French kitchens, Cuisinart began making professional cookware almost 30 years ago. Constructed of the finest materials available to perfectly perform all the classic cooking techniques, Cuisinart cookware continues a long tradition of excellence. Our commitment to quality and innovation continues with our MultiClad Pro Stainless cookware, designed to meet the demands of gourmet chefs everywhere
A great mid-price range 12 piece stainless steel cookware set. Stainless steel is a great non-toxic cookware material, and Cuisinart is a brand you can trust. There are many other brands of non-toxic stainless steel cookware, like All Clad, just pick whichever non-toxic cookware set that is affordable.
3. Greater Goods Cast Iron Skillet
- A Premium Pan: Pre-seasoned with 100% organic, fatty-acid rich flax seed oil from Canada. Only the best-of-the-best in a Greater Goods skillet. All inside surfaces milled smooth, providing a fuss-free cooking experience—a surprisingly hard feature to find. A smooth surfaced pan also makes it so heat is distributed nice and evenly.
- The Bells and Whistles: Cast iron can be heavy, so we made sure our handle grips as comfortably as possible. Not only that, we built a spoon slot into it—no one wants to keep a messy spoon on the counter! And, those pour spouts—on either side of the pan—are chiseled deep into the Greater Goods cast iron, so you won’t make a mess as you pour that perfect sauce over your plate.
- Last You for Life: Ideally, you want a pan that’s going to get better with use and last you into old age. Our cast iron is built to accomplish just that. It’s why we include a limited lifetime warranty.
- Simple and Stylish: Not that a pan will ever be a showpiece in the kitchen, but we take pride in the aesthetic of all our products. With our cast iron, we combined the classic, rustic qualities of grandma’s pan—what everyone knows and loves—with some slick, smooth surfaces, a nice and modern finish. And, we don’t add any paint to any of our cast iron—like some of the other brands out there.
- True Support: Our friendly team in St. Louis are industry experts at-the-ready to assist you with any questions that might arise about your cast iron skillet. We take pride in our work and want you to have a great experience from beginning to end.
Often when other sites make a list of non-toxic cookware, they list cast iron. The thing is that even with cast iron, the brand you buy matters. Sometimes the oil they use to season it in the factory initially is not organic and not from. If you’re looking for the perfect non-toxic cast iron pan, then these are it! The Greater Goods company season their pan with layers of cold-pressed organic flaxseed oil.
Another great thing about buying a cast iron pan from this company is that they have a ton of video tutorials on how to use and season the cast iron properly! No more having to search random YouTube videos on the proper way to season a cast iron pan.
These pans feature an excellent ability to sear and saute foods. The surface of cast iron becomes non-stick over time the more you use it, and the more you season them.
Cast Iron lasts forever, so it’ll be around long after your next kitchen renovation is complete. You won’t regret getting a Greater Goods cast iron skillet because there isn’t anything else out there with this much thought and care into every aspect of the design, with making sure it’s non-toxic at the top of the list.
- Cookware set includes: 2 quart Saucepan, 9.5" frying pan, 3 quart saute pan, and 1 interchangeable lid
- Infused with diamonds, GreenPan’s Thermolon Minerals Pro healthy ceramic nonstick coating is free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, so it will never release toxic fumes, even if it’s accidentally overheated
- Metal utensil safe, our original diamond-infused nonstick coating offers remarkable durability, balanced heating, and effortless cleanup
- Valencia Pro's Magneto Induction Bases bring incredible searing and browning to all stovetops, including induction, plus the hard anodized aluminum bodies are unbelievably durable and scratch-resistant
- Oven and broiler safe up to 600°F
GreenPan has a healthy ceramic nonstick coating free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium. It also will not release toxic fumes, and you overheat it by accident. They are available in various sizes for various cooking needs. The coatings are metal utensil safe and offer easy cleanup, and they are oven safe up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
5. Great Jones
Great Jones is a company that makes products from ceramic, cast iron, and stainless steel. This NYC cookware company is women-owned, and they donate profits during various times to grassroots anti-racism organizations. All of their cookware comes with a 30-day trial and a free return policy. They do not use Teflon in their cookware because it poses health risks to humans and the environment with its toxic qualities! Great-Jones also provides safe materials for cooking without any PFOA or PTFE molecules, which we find on other modern-day non-stick pots/pans.
Conclusion for this Guide on Non-Toxic Cookware
Cookware is one of the most important investments you’ll make in your kitchen. With so many options available, it can be difficult to choose which non-toxic cookware set will work best for your needs. In this blog post, we discussed how non-stick coatings are becoming more and more toxic with each passing year because they contain chemicals like PFAS or PFOA that have been shown to be carcinogenic in humans. If you want a healthy alternative without compromising on cooking performance, consider investing in ceramic coated pans from brands like Xtrema or Great Jones who do not use Teflon coating at all!