You’re working hard to eat healthier, prioritize organic produce, and select high-quality animal proteins. But, what about the cookware in which you prepare these foods?
Conventional non-stick cookware may contain harmful chemicals that affect your immune system, hormones, and even your risk of cancer. Fortunately, non-toxic cookware is growing in popularity as the public starts demanding safer kitchen products with less harmful chemicals.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the dangers of non-stick cookware and provide our top 5 choices for non-toxic alternatives to replace your conventional pots and pans!
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The Problem with Non-Stick Cookware
Let’s be honest, non-stick cookware is super convenient. Almost nothing sticks to these bad boys, even when you cook without added oils. But, like many things in life, when it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Unfortunately, the chemicals in non-stick cookware can be toxic. You may be familiar with Teflon, which is the brand name for a man-made chemical known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). It’s a mouthful, we know! Teflon is most commonly used as a non-stick surface for pans and other cookware.
Here’s the problem: when heated beyond 325 degrees Fahrenheit or when scratched, PTFE may begin to release another chemical called perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) (1).
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that “studies indicate that PFOA and PFOS can cause reproductive and developmental, liver and kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals (2).” They also report limited findings related to:
- Low infant birth weights
- Effects on the immune system
- Thyroid hormone disruption
Yikes. As if that’s not enough, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is a part of the World Health Organization, classified PFOA as “possibly carcinogenic to humans (3).”
Many organizations argue that PFOA is extremely minimal in non-stick pans. Unfortunately, PFOA can stay in the environment and the human body for long periods of time, making even small amounts a potential safety concern. In fact, it can take up to 5 years for your body to metabolize and excrete some of these chemicals (4).
Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce exposure.
5 Types of Healthy Non-Toxic Cookware
The best way to avoid the potential dangers of non-stick cookware is to use alternative non-toxic cookware free from PTFE and PFOA chemicals. Here is a list of our top 5 choices for non-toxic cookware.
Cast Iron Pans
If you ask us, cast iron pans are the OG of non-toxic cookware. For starters, cast iron cookware is very affordable and durable. Unlike non-stick cookware, you don’t have to worry about scratching the surface with a metal spatula. With each use, the cast iron slowly absorbs a bit of the previous flavor, making it a seasoning agent on its own.
Cast iron pans can also “fortify” your food with iron and may be a useful tool for people with anemia/iron-deficiency (5, 6). For easy cleanup, take the hot pan to the sink (using potholders) and scrape any food bits with your spatula while running the pot under hot water. Then, wipe the cast iron pan to dry with a paper towel dipped in a little oil. This helps to preserve the cast iron so it doesn’t rust!
We love this super affordable pre-seasoned cast iron pan from Amazon!
Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel is another non-toxic cookware option. Make sure to purchase from a reputable brand that uses food-grade stainless steel. You can find many stainless steel roasting pans or mixing bowls too.
For safer stainless steel cookware, we love Great Jones.
Great Jones offers cookware sets, which include a cast iron dutch oven, or you may choose to purchase one pan at a time.
However, you should be mindful when cleaning stainless steel cookware, as scratching the surface of these pans may cause leaching of metals into your food. After each use, immediately fill the pan with hot water and dish detergent. Soak until the water is lukewarm and use a sponge to remove remaining food particles. Rinse and dry thoroughly!
Glass cookware is another non-toxic choice, although it’s not as versatile and mainly used for baking casseroles or yummy desserts.
For casserole options, this set containing three glass casserole dishes is a great choice.
It’s also recommended to store your leftover food in glass containers to avoid other hormone-disrupting chemicals commonly found in plastic. We love these glass meal prep containers that even have airtight locking lids!
Many companies have developed non-toxic, non-stick ceramic cookware.
Brands like GreenPan and Cuisinart Green Gourmet use ceramic-based non-stick surfaces that are free from PTFE and PFOA. This allows us to enjoy the convenience of non-stick cookware without potential toxin exposure found in conventional non-stick items.
Ceramic may break if exposed to drastic temperature changes, so make sure to use ceramic pans that are at room temperature (not ones directly from the fridge storing leftovers) before cooking with them.
Copper is our fifth non-toxic cookware option. Many people like the lighter feel of copper pans, however, others voice concerns regarding copper toxicity. While copper toxicity from cookware is unlikely, you may opt for a copper pan with a stainless steel lining. This provides the best of both worlds – copper’s quick heating properties with the safety of stainless steel.
Here’s the downside: high-quality copper cookware can be quite pricey! This set from Amazon is a great example of a high-quality copper cookware set.
The Best Non-Toxic Cookware
Your top choice for non-toxic cookware depends on how you plan to use it! We like to have a variety of cookware options, including cast iron, stainless steel, glass, and ceramic to use in different cooking situations.
Although elimination of all toxins in the environment isn’t possible, you do have some control over your exposure to many of the toxic chemicals in non-stick cookware. However, there is a fine line and it’s important to find balance here.
We should all be cooking from home more often. If you aren’t able to afford new cookware right away, don’t stress. The most important thing is that you are cooking more meals from home using fresh, minimally processed, and nutritious ingredients for your body.
Non-toxic cookware is an interesting topic and definitely should be considered in the overall picture of your health. So, focus on making small changes to the appliances and cookware in your kitchen to gradually reduce toxin exposure over time.