Choosing Non-Toxic Cookware

By Nutritional Weight & Wellness Staff
February 20, 2024


This article is where our nutritionists share healthy cookware they personally recommend, along with links to purchase. Nutritional Weight and Wellness may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Nothing was gifted or sponsored, and all of these items we have purchased ourselves, lived with, loved, and recommended

In detoxing your home, what cookware is best? Do you know the difference between toxic cookware and non-toxic cookware options? When upgrading your cooking tools, what should you look out for when purchasing nonstick pans, a Dutch oven, or stainless steel pots and pans? Would a cast iron skillet be a good option?

We're frequently asked these question by clients looking to get the most out of their food and avoid as many harmful chemicals as possible. Not only can we help you with nutrient information and cooking techniques, but we can also help you find quality cookware for safe and healthy cooking!

Do you learn better listening to a podcast episode? Listen to this topic discussed on our Ask A Nutritionist Podcast - How To Choose Healthy Cookware.

The Danger of Non-Stick Cookware

Let's start with a little history of non-stick cookware, because at one point in time, they seemed like an amazing invention. No one likes scrapping eggs that seem to have turned to glue in the bottom of a frying pan!

In the mid-20th century, non-stick pan brands like Teflon became household names, offering convenience and ease of use because of the slick cooking surface to these new non-stick cookware. However, this nonstick coating and the convenience came with hidden costs.

The primary concern with traditional non-stick cookware lies in its use of PFAs (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in the non-stick coating. These chemicals are water, grease, and stain resistant and, for that reason, Teflon cookware was seen as a great option for non-stick pans.

But in recent decades, we've been learning that PFAs (used in a lot of things not just as a nonstick coating in frying pans) may be harming our health. We have discovered that these 'forever chemicals' are not only persistent in the environment but also in our bodies.

Why PFAs Are Toxic Chemicals

PFAs are known as forever chemicals because they don't naturally break down. They stay in our bodies and in our environment, well, forever.

PFA base coatings also release toxic fumes when overheated. When non-stick pans containing PFAs are heated at a high temperature, the coating will actually break down and release the toxic chemicals as a particle or a gas.

These chemicals are hormone disruptors and have been linked to certain cancers, immune disorders, thyroid problems, reproductive issues, and even birth defects. The toxic fumes from overheated traditional nonstick cookware can exacerbate health risks. And unfortunately, they are found everywhere, even in our drinking water.

I also want to note that even though we're talking specifically about cookware, anything that's labeled as non-stick has the potential to be coated in Teflon and traditional non-stick harmful chemicals. This could be a frying pan, a waffle maker, roasting pan, pressure cooker, slow cookers.

Since there's a lot of unknowns about these chemicals try avoiding traditional non-stick items, which may or may not be labeled as Teflon.

How To Make Pots And Pans Naturally Nonstick

frying-egg.jpgBefore I get to our specific cookware non toxic recommendations, let's share a tip Chef Marianne shares in our virtual demonstration cooking classes:

To make naturally nonstick pans, you want to preheat it at a low to medium heat for several minutes. Be patient as this step is really important! Allowing the cooking surface to fully heat, allows the cooking surface to expand.

Once it's fully heated, then you want to add your healthy oil or fat for cooking. Depending on the heat level you're cooking with, you can use a good amount of butter, avocado oil, ghee, bacon fat, or coconut oil once the pan is hot.

After your cooking oil is also heated, you can add your food. Voila! You have a nonstick pan. Giving each step the time it needs is the key!

Best Non-Toxic Cookware For Your Home

So, now you know it's time to get rid of the traditional non-stick cookware because of the chemical leaching and long-term health impacts AND you know the trick of giving the pan plenty of time to heat. Let's discuss non-toxic cookware options!

Fortunately these days there are plenty of non-stick alternatives that don't contain PFAs. The shift towards health-conscious living isn't just about the quality of food we eat or the healthy cooking techniques we use, it's also about the cookware we use for our everyday cooking.

When it comes to choosing the best non-toxic cookware for your home, it's important to consider both safety and functionality. Ranging from ceramic coating to tried-and-true cast iron, these alternatives promise a safer cooking experience without compromising on performance.

Ceramic Cookware: A Safer Alternative?

Ceramic cookware is often marketed as a safer, more sustainable alternative to regular nonstick cookware. You can find great frying pans, sauce pans, sauté pans, and a Dutch oven in ceramic.

Let's look at the anatomy of a ceramic cookware set: the inside of a ceramic pot or pan is coated with a water and oil resistant coating made of silicone oxide on top of a metal base, which is usually made of stainless steel or an aluminum core.

Surprisingly despite the name, ceramic cookware doesn't actually contain any ceramic. Instead, the name comes from the coating's glossy enamel like appearance.

The coating on a ceramic pot or pan tends to be more delicate, so it's going to be more susceptible to scratches and other forms of wear and tear. If you do see any damage to the coating, I would stop using it.

Now here's where it gets tricky because ceramic pans claim to be non-toxic and safe because they don't have PFAs, heavy metals, polymers, coatings, and dyes. However, it is hard to find a lot of information on what is actually IN the coating and some suspicion has been raised in recent years.

A few of the popular ceramic pan companies have recently disclosed the use of nanoparticles in their coatings. The use of nanoparticles is common but not well studied. However, some titanium dioxide nanoparticles have been linked to precancerous gut lesions as well as immune disruption.

Ceramic cookware can be a great option, but I would really encourage you to do research on each individual company and the quality and safety of their products.

Care and Use of High Quality Ceramic Cookware

Even though many ceramic pans are marketed as safe for high heat cooking, we know that sustained high heat can cause the ceramic coating to break down more quickly, which makes it susceptible to those scratches just mentioned. Take care if you intend to use them under those circumstances, but you might want to save searing your meat for your seasoned cast iron, which will get a shout out soon.

Because of the delicate coating, these are not really dishwasher safe. It's best to hand wash your ceramic cookware. Avoid using metal utensils, especially with sharp edges, and instead opt for wooden or silicon utensils.

stainless-steel-pots.jpgStainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel pans are highly regarded as safe because they are generally not reactive with foods, so this is great to use for that high heat cooking and searing. Stainless steel cookware is generally oven safe for when you are making that egg frittata recipe or dishes that you want to pop in the oven.

However, you do want to be careful because sometimes the stainless steel pan can have aluminum or copper coatings on the bottom to improve heat transfer. Again, any damage to the cooking surface could increase risk of the heavy metals leaching into your food.

Care and Use of Best Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel is pretty sturdy, but if you see damage, it's time to replace it to prevent any harmful substances getting into your food. Heating the pan sufficiently before adding food will make it easier to clean, but don't let it get too hot or the food might stick.

To keep the integrity of the surface, stainless steel cookware isn't really dishwasher safe and it's best to use soapy water with a nonabrasive sponge or cloth.

Once you figure out how to use stainless steel cookware, you'll find they are amazing and a favorite among a lot of cooking professionals and home cooks, so stainless steel would be a great alternative.

glass-baking-dish.jpgTempered Glass Cookware

Tempered glass cookware is another safe, non-toxic option and is suitable for high-temperature cooking. Because it's made of glass there aren't nonstick coatings to worry about!

Care and Use of Tempered Glass

Many glass dishes are dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning up much easier. The primary drawback is the potential to shatter, particularly when going from drastic temperature changes.

Make sure to allow things to cool fully before putting them in the fridge or freezer and let it come to room temperature from the fridge before tossing it in the oven. Most glassware will come with product recommendations to follow for safe use.

cast-iron pan.jpgCast Iron Cookware

One of our favorite options is a cast iron skillet. These are very durable, oven safe pans that can go from stovetop to oven. They can withstand very high heat, and distribute that heat evenly through your food. They are wonderful for creating that nice crust for searing, browning meat, and cooking bacon because they can handle the high heat or they can be a great sauté pan for your morning Brussels Sprouts Breakfast Hash.

They do take a little special care and attention, which can make them feel a little intimidating at first. One potential downside is how much they weigh. Most 10-12" cast iron skillets weigh anywhere from 5.5 to 8 pounds without food in them.

Be careful when cooking in a new cast iron skillet or pot, the iron will react with acids found in tomatoes, vinegar, wine, and lemon juice causing your food to have a metallic flavor and become discolored. This is not an issue with stoneware or enameled cast iron.

Care and Use of Best Cast Iron Cookware

Cast iron will be naturally non-stick, like stainless steel, when you use a lower heat, allow it to fully heat up before adding anything into the pan, and using plenty of a good healthy higher heat cooking oil.

Because cast iron retains heat very well, if you heat it too high, food can stick. Again, there's a bit of a learning curve and you need to be patient.

Another important factor to consider with cast iron is that it needs to be seasoned. When oil or fats are heated in cast iron at a high enough temperature, they will change from a wet liquid into a slick, hardened surface through a process called polymerization.

This reaction creates a layer of seasoning that is molecularly bonded to the iron. Without this layer of carbonized oil, the iron cookware could corrode and rust due to the oxygen and moisture in the air, and in our cooking.

When you buy a cast iron pan, most of them are pre-seasoned. A seasoned cast iron pan is typically pre-seasoned in the store with vegetable oil. When cooking, we recommend avoiding refined oils, like vegetable oil, but it's not a big concern in this case because the oil is polymerized into the coating on the cast iron and it won't actually leak into your food.

When it comes to the upkeep of your seasoned cast iron pans, you can use coconut oil or avocado oil to season your cast iron pan going forward. You could also find a brand that doesn't pre-season the cast iron skillet and then just do your own seasoning.

If you are a visual learner, take a look at this quick Instagram video where our Chef Marianne shows you how to take care of your cast iron skillet.

Non Toxic Cookware Brands We Like 

Of course, upgrading your non-toxic cookware sets can be a bit of an investment, so do what you can and when you can with your budget.

If you prefer ceramic cookware, we like Caraway cookware as a good option for a ceramic nonstick cookware set without toxic metals.

For stainless steel cookware set we like Calphalon. You can buy a whole set or a single sauté pan, depending on your needs.

For a wide assortment of oven safe cast iron cookware in pots and pans, Dutch oven, and even bakeware like muffin tins, Lodge is a great brand. Le Creuset also has enameled cast iron cookware in a variety of Dutch oven shapes, which is non-toxic since the enamel does not react with food.

Making Informed Choices On Non-Toxic Cookware

When selecting non-toxic cookware, consider the following guidelines:

Avoid Traditional Non-Stick Pans: Due to the risks associated with PFAs, it's best to steer clear of traditional non-stick cookware.

Embrace Alternatives: Opt for safer materials like stainless steel, ceramic (with caution), tempered glass, and cast iron.

Understand the Care Requirements: Each material has unique maintenance needs, which might create a learning curve in the beginning. Once you learn the proper care, your best non-stick cookware will have nonstick properties as well as longevity and safety in your kitchen.

Balance Needs and Safety: Choose materials that suit your cooking style while prioritizing health and environmental impact.

By making informed choices about the best non-toxic cookware, you create a healthier kitchen while enjoying your favorite meals. Remember, the best cookware is not only about convenience but also about safety and health of you personally and our planet.

Hopefully you found some guidance on the various cookware materials, their benefits, potential risks, and how to make informed choices for a safer, healthier kitchen.


Would you like specific product recommendations from our Nutritionists?

Check out our product list: Healthy Cookware: Nutritionists' Favorite's


Resources To Learn More:


Podcast Episodes:

Detox Your Kitchen: When you hear the word ‘detox’ what comes to mind? Perhaps doing a juice cleanse or some type of detox powder that is designed to flush toxins out of your body. But there is actually a smarter and more effective way to think about detox and we believe it starts in your kitchen!

Today we are peeking inside your home to help you take the first step in detoxification. We’ll be offering many suggestions (so don’t feel overwhelmed!) from food products to cookware and you can choose the swap that feels most doable for you and your household.

Professional help for healthy nutrition.

If you're ready to make some healthy upgrades to your diet, we recommend working individually with a nutritionist or dietitian from Nutritional Weight & Wellness to help you customize a plan that fits with your unique schedule, likes, dislikes, and health goals. Learn More

Ready to learn more? Take an online class:

Instant Pot Basics online cooking demonstration: Get the most out of your kitchen equipment! Join chef and culinary nutrition educator Marianne Jurayj as she shares what the Instant Pot does best and how it can help you get dinner on the table in a flash. We will explore the features of an Instant Pot® and how it can be just the right tool to make nutrient-dense and flavorful meals easy. Walk away with recipes for real food that you and your family will love.

Slow Cooker Savvy online cooking demonstration: Learn tips on how to use your slow cooker, which is basically ceramic pots with their own heating element! Hectic schedules can often side-track our healthy eating. Learn to save time and master your slow cooker. Chef and culinary educator Marianne Jurayj will show you how to prepare meals for busy weeknight dinners.

About the author

This blog content was written by a staff member at Nutritional Weight & Wellness who is passionate about eating real food.

View all posts by Nutritional Weight & Wellness Staff

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