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You may have already ditched your melamine plates or decided to eat clean and buy organic food, but it’s just as important to choose green, non-toxic cookware to ensure that you’re keeping your family safe.
This is of the utmost importance when it comes to nonstick cookware, which could be made using poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These substances release perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a carcinogenic chemical when heated. In addition, many of them contain dangerous heavy metals that can flake off into your food during cooking.
Choose the Right Cookware
When you're choosing cookware, there are a few important keywords you can seek out to make sure you're not bringing toxic chemicals into your home (or serving them for dinner.)
When you're buying pots and pans, whenever possible, choose items made from safe, non-toxic materials like carbon steel, ceramic, lava rock, porcelain enamel, or tempered glass. Cast iron and stainless steel are generally okay, though they too can leach heavy metals – iron and nickel respectively – into your food, so it's generally a good idea to stick to other materials for long-simmering dishes or recipes that contain a lot of acid, such as tomato-based foods.
There are two materials, however, that you should avoid whenever possible: aluminum and Teflon (made before 2013). There's been quite a bit of research linking elevated aluminum levels to central nervous system problems, including one 2013 study in Immunologic Research that linked aluminum to Alzheimer's, ALS, and autism spectrum disorders.
As for the latter, it's the material used in most nonstick cookware, but studies have shown that the polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) coating on the pans turns into toxic Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) at high heat, making it dangerous both for the cook and for diners. In fact, award-winning filmmakers Morgan Spurlock and Stephanie Soechtig teamed up to take on the chemical with a new documentary featuring activist Erin Brockovich: "The Devil We Know".
4 Safe Cookware Brands We Trust
Whether you're frying an egg or making crêpes, sometimes you want a surface that doesn't need heaps of fat to release your food. And that's where non-toxic, nonstick cookware comes in handy.
Here are four of our favorite non-toxic cookware brands to try.
1. Made In Cookware
About Made In Cookware
Inspired by 100 years of family history in kitchen supply, Made-In co-founders Chip and Jake set out to create the best performing five-ply cookware and make it available to consumers at half the price of competitors. This company produces stainless clad pans, as well as both carbon steel and non-stick pans. The former are seasonable, much like cast iron, meaning that they actually develop non-stick abilities the more you use them. They're lighter than cast-iron but hardier than non-stick, standing up to high heat and more abrasive cooking utensils. Basically, carbon steel is the perfect happy medium in the kitchen.
The brand's non-stick line, meanwhile, is nothing to turn up your nose at: it's made with high-grade, American-produced PTFE and is completely devoid of PFOA and PFAS.
These safe, durable pans are also made with the environment in mind: any unused metals are recycled and anything that can't be used are upcycled into tailpipes for cars. Damaged and returned merchandise is sold to restaurants or donated to ensure nothing is wasted.
You can read more about Made In Cookware here, and how transparency and quality are the keys to their success.
2. Xtrema Cookware
The cookware from Xtrema is California Prop 65 tested and approved, and each shipment is further tested for the presence of heavy metals. Unlike many other brands that are merely coated in a ceramic layer, Xtrema is made of pure ceramic, which retains heat well, allowing you to cook on lower settings.
While Xtrema is not the ideal cookware to use over high heats and requires care when handling while hot due to its sensitivity to sudden drops in temperature, this cookware is quite durable and boasts a non-scratch surface perfect for cooking even foods that tend to stick to the pan, like delicate fish or eggs. Eco-friendly and safe to use in the microwave, dishwasher, oven, and stovetop, this cookware is a fantastic, non-toxic non-stick choice. To learn more about ceramic cookware and Xtrema check out our profile here.
GreenPan is a higher-end Belgian brand that makes nonstick, non-toxic cookware coated with Thermolon – a ceramic material derived from sand. It contains no lead, cadmium, PFAS, or PFOA, and it is heat-resistant up to 450°C, meaning that it won’t blister or release toxic fumes when overheated. They are currently on their fifth generation of coating technology which enhances their Thermolon coating with diamonds for even better performance and durability.
The company has also taken strides to make its production methods as green as possible, emitting 60 percent less CO2 during the curing phase of the nonstick coating as compared to traditional coating. They also utilize upcycled stainless steel and aluminum whenever possible.
With over ten years of experience, GreenPan has sought to improve its nonstick coating again and again.
The company has multiple lines that feature their patented diamond infused ceramic non-stick surface, which is free of PFAs, PFOA, lead and cadmium. Below you will find retailers that offer distinct GreenPan collections and seasonal deals.
- The Valencia Pro Set is a popular choice and with superior induction technology that allows food to cook evenly while preventing warping at high heat. As mentioned above, we found a 13-piece exclusive collection at Bloomingdales that goes on sale periodically and an 11-piece set you can get right now at Walmart (only 2 left!) for approximately $170 less.
- (Sur La Table) The Jewel Set on Sur La Table is a simple yet vibrantly colored set that includes 8", 10", and 12" skillets. Perfect for those who do a lot of stove top cooking but aren't looking to buy an entire set of cookware.
- (Sur La Table) The Craft Collection, in partnership with Sur La Table, is specially designed for durability and efficiency on induction stovetops. Not to mention the pieces are designed to have up to 40% more cooking space then conventional designs.
- (Sur La Table) The Diamond + Evershine Collection on Sur La Table happens to be made of upcycled stainless steel and won’t blister or peel when heated to temperatures of up to 850°F.
- (Walmart) GreenPan's most recent line is the Venice Pro Set, which features its Thermolon Mineral Pro ceramic nonstick interior. What sets this non-toxic line apart is it's gorgeous stainless steel exterior and durable interior, which happens to feature GreenPan's most durable nonstick and non-toxic coating yet. The set is available on Walmart (while supplies last) for approximately $100 less than the retail price listed on GreenPan's website.
A family owned Danish company, Scanpan has been manufacturing high-quality PFOA free nonstick cookware for over three decades. The latest nonstick cookware by Scanpan is made with Stratanium+, a nonstick surface made from a proprietary ceramic-titanium coating that is not only free of PFOA and PFOS, it can also handle metal untensils. Scanpan is also environmentally friendly, as they use 100% recycled pressure-cast aluminum in their cookware for better heat distribution and heat retention - reducing their carbon footprint.
Here two of our favorite ScanPan collections featuring their latest nontoxic and nonstick surfaces:
- The Scanpan CS+ collection on Sur La Table is not only stunning in appearance with its brushed stainless steel exterior, it boasts Stratanium+, the brand's commercial grade nonstick coating free of PFOA and PFOs. For home chefs looking to upgrade their kitchen, this cookware is ideal for browning, searing or deglazing.
- The Scanpan HAPTIQ collection on Sur La Table. This cookware collection also boasts Scanpan's newest nontoxic nonstick ceramic based coating, Stratanium+ and has a polished stainless steel exterior.
Editor's Note: Previously we recommended the Scanpan Classic Collection. It happens to use an older generation of Scanpan's nonstick coating called Green Tek, but it's still a great set and at a lower price point.
Editor's Note: Previously we recommended Ecolution's Bliss Line, Ozeri Green Earth, GreenLife Soft Grip, and Cuisinart's Green Gourmet 12-piece set. In the case of Ecoution and Greenlife, while very affordable, we didn't like that they aren't oven safe and can't handle high heat cooking (something that our top brands are able to handle). As for Ozeri Green Earth (also a low price point), we liked that it touted much of the same specifications of our top brands. However, user reviews indicate that the nonstick GREBLON® ceramic coating wears out after about a year of use. Meanwhile, the Cuisinart Green Gourmet set, is priced closer to our top picks (if not slightly cheaper). However, it's nonstick coating seems to be less advanced and we saw on multiple review sites that the nonstick coating tends to erode quickly as well.
We frequently add or remove products based on our research and testing, please let us know in the comments below of any brands you'd like us to look into or if you'd like to share your own experiences with the brands you've tried.
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