Affiliate Message: Organic Authority earns a commission from the links in this article. Rest assured, our team spends hundreds of hours researching and vetting non-toxic cookware.
Since you’d never be caught dead with melamine in your cabinets (literally; and on style grounds alone, a capital crime), you don’t really need to be told not to use it. You also really don’t need another article telling you to buy organic zucchini. But what you do need to know? Your cookware is just as important as the food you choose to eat.
We really do need to use clean cookware. There is a legitimate health factor to the cookware you choose, and it’s not just “Teflon is toxic.” But let’s take it up another notch. A lot of health and sustainability recommendations boil down to not just human health but environmental health (what's really happening with those chemicals used to create those Teflon coated pans? Hello toxic water ways). But, just like the best-appointed apartment, a thoughtful mix and match of cookware is critical for both style and functionality, and yes, your health.
Each of these brands and product picks have been thoroughly tested by our in house, professionally trained chef, and editor-in-chief, Laura Klein. We've tested a lot of non-toxic cookware brands over the years and update this guide yearly removing any brands that just don't meet our standards. We've discovered that a lot of non-toxic and nonstick cookware simply doesn't last, sometimes wearing out in as little as three months time. That's not good for your pocket book, or the environment and creates more waste. In fact if you scroll all the way to the bottom of this guide, you'll find out which brands we've tested and removed. Spoiler alert, we don't recommend one hit wonders and there's a good reason why.
What's the Safest Cookware For Your Health?
There are so many to choose from! With the advances in cookware technology over the past few years, nontoxic and nonstick cookware have come a long way. Here's a short list:
- Ceramic coated cookware. It's nonstick and doesn't leach chemicals into your food or off gas at high temperatures. When treated well it can last for several years. The catch, the low end cheap brands wear out quickly, in as soon as three months. It's worth it to invest in a quality brand (see our picks).
- Stainless steel, it's a workhorse for professional and home kitchens alike and there's a reason why, it can last a lifetime and take a beating.
- Cast iron has been an heirloom classic in the kitchen passed down from generation to generation. It retains heat like nothing else and can sear anything.
- Carbon steel is relatively new to the American home chef, but it's been used in professional kitchens and in France for years because of its versatility. It has the heat retention of cast iron and the lighter weight of stainless steel.
- 100% Ceramic. This might be the safest cookware out there, it's made with just one material, ceramic. It's great for low and slow cooking.
Our Top Picks for the Healthy Home Chef
Best Stainless Steel
Best Nonstick Design
Best Outdoor Grilling
Best Cast Iron
Best Carbon Steel
Most Durable Nonstick
Why this Safe Cookware Guide Matters
Though traditional non-stick pots and pans may *seem* like they’re getting the job done, they can release toxic fumes when overheated. The processing method used during production also pollutes our water supply and has been linked to testicular and kidney cancer, infertility, liver damage, and thyroid disease. No thanks.
Rest assured, we spent hundreds of hours (we really did) poring over documents from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as research papers in PubMed while consulting experts along the way. We also considered cookware material characteristics and took into account the potential for heavy metals to leach due to long exposure to highly acidic foods (more on this down below).
Our research-backed collection of cookware recommendations fits every need and only features cookware that we have personally tested from brands that are transparent about their production practices and the safety of their products.
Not everyone’s a chef (thank the deities). But even the most takeout-loving friend has a special recipe up her sleeve. We’ve thoughtfully researched and tested cookware not only for use, but for frequency. Our recommendation? Start with a base set and fill in from there based on your daily mileage, with pots and pans that will help you get what you need and want on the regular, whether that’s pan-seared veg, meat, or braised and slow-cooked dishes. Remember: We’re here to help you get to where you need to be, so ask us anytime you need help deciding which pan or pot to buy--or what recipe to try.
Making Sense of "Non-Toxic" & NonStick Cookware Jargon
Before getting to our cookware picks in the next section, let’s review common terms associated with nonstick cookware, as it can be hard to separate the clean from the claims. You may often see claims that indicate "PTFE-free", "PFOA-free", and "made without PFOA” and either feel frustrated or reassured. The reality is that much of the terminology is used to imply that cookware products are clean (even when they are not) and understanding the terminology will help you read between the lines.
PFAS: This is a class of man-made chemicals (numbering in the thousands) that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX,. Both PFOA (phased out) and Gen X (currently in use), have been used to produce PTFE nonstick coatings commonly used in cookware.
PFOA: Also known as C8— this is a type of PFAS chemical produced and used in products that resist heat, oil, stains, grease, and water as well as stain-resistant carpets, fabrics, and PTFE based nonstick cookware. After decades of use in the U.S., chemical producers such as Dupont and 3M phased PFOA out due to public health concerns that were kept hidden from the public until a class action lawsuit brought internal documents to the attention of the EPA and general public.
Gen X: Also part of the PFAS class of synthetic chemicals, Gen X is a trade name used to make PTFE nonstick coatings and is a direct replacement for PFOA. According to a draft toxicity report by the EPA, people can be potentially exposed to GenX via drinking water, inhaling air, and consuming food wrapped in PFAS containing products. Emerging data from animal studies point to health effects in the kidney, blood, immune system, developing fetus, and especially in the liver following oral exposure. The data is also suggestive of cancer.
PTFE: Originally discovered in 1938 by DuPont, “PTFE” is best known as Teflon (Dupont’s brand name). While PTFE coatings in cookware are generally safe if used as intended, overheating a PTFE pan can result in off-gassing that may lead to flu-like symptoms called polymer fume fever. These fumes are potent enough to hospitalize humans and kill pet birds.
If there is one takeaway from the above terms relating to clean cookware, it’s to avoid PTFE and PFAS altogether. In our research, we’ve seen brands rename their PTFE coatings with fancy brand names while using the “PFOA-free” label. We know now that PFOA has been phased out for years, so we consider this label as the bare minimum. Instead look for nonstick coatings (see our ceramic nonstick rec’s) that are made without PFAS, which encompasses all of the bad stuff associated with PTFE.
The 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. Here are the non-toxic cookware brands and products that we think you should consider.
Why Cook with Demeyere?
Belgian family-run Demeyere has been a benchmark in stainless steel cookware for over a century. It stands out in large part thanks to its Silvinox technology, a unique electrochemical surface treatment (not a coating!) that enriches and purifies the stainless steel surface, making it easier to clean and allowing it to retain its shine and silver-white color years down the line. It also stands out thanks to its proprietary flat bottom tech, which keeps the pans from warping at high temperatures.
And seeing as they're a favorite for chefs in professional kitchens, it's no surprise that home cooks love their efficacy too.
Klein loves these pans for their excellent heat conduction and for how easy they are to clean. She tested the Atlantis, made with seven layers of metal, and the Industry 5, with five layers. Both, she says, "have excellent conduction, eliminating hot spots."
"The Atlantis comes with a little more weight with the two extra layers, but the superior heat conduction and retention, in my opinion, is worth it."
Her favorite pan? The 1.75 quart saucier.
"I use this saucier for so many things, like making weeknight tomato sauces, melting chocolate, caramelizing onions."
It'll soon become a staple in your kitchen, too!
The elegant Atlantis collection features 7-layer construction, providing exceptional heat distribution and retention. On straight-sided pans, the InductoSeal copper disk offers improved heat conduction, and the proprietary Silvinox surface treatment maintains a silvery white matte finish over time.
The Industry series boasts the fruits of over a century of stainless steel expertise, with a thick aluminum core surrounded by layers of stainless steel. Demeyere's signature flat-base technology ensures even cooking, and the proprietary Silvinox surface treatment maintains a silvery white matte finish over time.
2. Caraway Cookware
Why Cook With Caraway?
Caraway cookware is gorgeous and thoughtfully designed, non-toxic, ceramic, non-stick cookware. Simply put, Caraway makes clean cookware that's easy on the eyes, and designed for healthy conscious cook, without the chemicals all the while keeping you organized.
Made without PFAS (including Gen X), there’s no need to worry that your cookware choice is detrimental to our environment or your health. Since Caraway understands clean-up and storage is a pain, they make their cookware extra easy to clean and store after use. With magnetic pan racks that house each pot for sideways access, and canvas lid holders for kitchen cabinet doors to better organize your shelves, is form and function in perfect harmony. To learn more about the brand, read our profile and review of Caraway cookware after several months of daily use.
This ceramic nonstick set has everything you'll need (think: a fry, sauce and saute pan, dutch oven and magnetic pan rack, and canvas lid holder for organization).
Every home chef needs a good nonstick frying pan. If you enjoy frying eggs, pancakes and delicate fish, this ought to be your designated low to medium heat pan.
A good saute pan is a must for bigger batches of pasta sauces, curry, and gravies and much more. The possibilities are endless, which is why this is a must own piece in any kitchen.
A good sauce pan is ideal tool for recipes that require you to boil or steam your veggies, eggs, and grains.
A good dutch oven will serve your baking, oven roasting and boilingneeds. It's a 6.5 quart piece, which is perfect for boiling pasta or baking casseroles and bread in the oven.
3. Made In Cookware
Why Cook With Made In?
A family owned business, 100+ years in the making, we’re blown away by the superior quality of the 5-ply stainless steel and carbon steel pans that Made In produces. Their cookware possesses such high quality that 3-Michelin star chef, Grant Achatz, not only uses Made In at Alinea, and is also an investor and member of Made In’s advisory board.
From the Organic Authority Files
Boasting the high heat capacity, heat control, and even cooking capabilities Made In' carbon steel is as if cast iron and stainless steel had a baby. Perfect for blistering greens and searing your favorite grass-fed piece of meat to add that extra caramelization of flavor and texture. You’ll also want their 5-ply food-grade stainless steel pieces as a kitchen staple workhorse and safe non-toxic option that most home chefs should have in their pantry. Not only stainless steel safe & extremely durable, but the company also recycles their unused metal: anything that can't be used are up-cycled into tailpipes for cars. Damaged and returned merchandise is sold to restaurants or donated to ensure nothing is wasted. For a more in-depth look at Made In Cookware, you can read our profile on Made In here.
Shop Made In Cookware
A workhorse in professional kitchen’s like Alinea and Le Bernardin, we recommend building around this starter set depending on your cooking style.
Used in professional kitchens in Europe and perfect for blistering greens and searing your favorite grass-fed meats to get that caramelization of flavor and texture. Includes: two frying pans, a wok, a roasting pan, a paella pan and some seasoning wax.
Light enough to pack with you for a camping trip or to grill on your back patio, Made In's Carbon Steel pans are ideal for outdoor cooking.
Why Cook With Staub?
For nearly five decades, Staub has been a reference for a French culinary specialty: enameled cast iron. Originally developed in part with famed French chef Paul Bocuse, this heavy-duty cookware boasts both the phenomenal heat retention of cast iron and the acid-resistant, slick surface of glass enamel studded with quartz crystals that stands up even to metal utensils – its no wonder the pros love to use it as not just cookware but as a serving dish! The result is a heavy-duty, durable cookware that stands the test of time (no matter how long you leave it soaking in the sink). Perfectly suited for everything from braises to bread, a Staub Dutch oven will only get more seasoned the more you use it.
A special callout to Staub's innovative lid design, boasting a super snug fit to trap condensation and spikes all along the inner surface to drip moisture back into the dish as it slow cooks and retains enough steam to make your sourdough bread tender and moist with a sublimely crisp crust.
The staple Staub dish, these vessels are made from cast iron coated in a unique, crystal-based black enamel made to last. Perfect for braising and bread baking.
These fry pans and skillets boast excellent heat conduction and retention thanks to their heavy-duty cast iron base, and searing is a breeze thanks to the black matte enamel coating.
Durable enameled cast iron is perfect for getting lovely caramelization and retaining heat, no matter what you're baking or roasting. And these pretty dishes transition beautifully from oven to table.
Contemporary design meets French tradition in these beautiful au gratin dishes. Their shallow, wide design makes them ideal for achieving the perfect bubbly brown crust.
Enjoy the flavor of grilled foods any time of year with cast iron stovetop grill pans. Their superior heat retention helps you get those gorgeous grill marks every time.
Why Cook With GreenPan?
The main concern with any nonstick coating is durability and safety. Ever notice a coating on your pots and pans that blisters, flakes or chips? Sometimes it affects the taste of your food as it tends to leach heavy metals, with coating flaking into your meal, making it detrimental to your health.
Each piece features GreenPan’s signature Thermolon ceramic nonstick coating for incredible nonstick performance without PFAS, PFOA, lead, or cadmium. It will never release toxic fumes, even if overheated. The collection’s ergonomic stainless steel handles are contoured for a comfortable grip while the tempered glass lids give you a clear view of what’s cooking.
GreenPan 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.
The textured SearSmart surface has excellent food release so that you can brown and sear your food for extra flavor.
This collection features Greenpan's advanced diamond infused non-stick coating. The exterior sports a finish that prevents stains and discoloration common to stainless steel, making it super easy to clean.
Why Cook With Xtrema?
Made of pure ceramic to lock in total heat, Xtrema allows you to cook on lower and slower settings. It’s really the only pure ceramic cookware on the market that can go on the stovetop, in the oven, and in the microwave, making it the perfect vessel for one-pot recipes, as well as braising, boiling, and baking. Unlike PTFE non-stick cookware, it is PFAS and PFOA free, but it doesn’t have the same non-stick qualities. To avoid using more fats than you’d like for good food release, we recommend getting specific pieces from Xtrema that are ideal one-pot-wonders that are ideal for the oven, soups, and slow braising/cooking recipes. These pieces complement the ceramic nonstick, stainless steel, and blue carbon steel options we’ve mentioned in this guide. Xtrema is FDA-approved and meets California Prop 65 standards, meaning its free of more than 800 compounds that may cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. Xtrema products come with a 10-year warranty and are oven, microwave, grill, and dishwasher safe.
If you are health conscious and deal with chemical sensitivities, or just hyper-vigilant about what you eat and what you cook with, pure ceramic belongs in your kitchen. Read our xtrema profile to learn more about the brand.
All set with high heat pans (think: stainless steel, cast iron, and blue carbon steel)? This set covers large batch and one-pot meals. Perfect for meal preppers that love cooking in large quantities for the week ahead. All 12 pieces can be used and served directly to the table - less dishes to wash? Yes please!
Perfect for slow cooking and long braising recipes (you can even use it on the grill), the Versa skillets are one-pot-wonders that are easily moved from stovetop and oven directly to your tabletop for serving.
Perfect for slow cooking or braising, one-pot-pasta recipes, soups and stews, casseroles, risottos, no-knead bread, and more! If you like to cook in large batches for the week ahead, and can appreciate cookware that doubles as tableware (fewer dishes to clean).
Clean Cookware Considerations
We get it. Choosing the right, non-toxic cookware set for your home can be overwhelming. As our clean cookware picks suggest, cookware brands offer a wide range of pots and pans with materials varying from stainless steel, cast iron, aluminum, and copper. Below you'll find a chart that illustrates strengths and weaknesses of each type of cooking medium. Use it to decide which trade offs you're willing to make and which factors are non negotiable.
When buying new pans we also recommend making a conscious purchase for both the environment and your health, always. Consider socially conscious companies that follow high safety standards and adopt environmentally friendly production methods. Also look for companies that comply with California Prop 65 Guidelines to ensure that your pans are lead and cadmium free.
The Bottom Line Regarding Nonstick Cookware
In our research regarding nonstick cookware, as it pertains to human health and environmental contamination, the main area of concern lies with PFAS, a synthetic chemical used during the production process of PTFE coatings (aka Teflon).
- When heated to high temperatures, PTFE can start to break down and release toxic gas fumes that cause flu-like symptoms. Breathing these fumes can be hazardous to both humans and pets (especially birds).
- When cheap nonstick coatings wear out, the exposed core is typically made from a reactive metal (e.g. aluminum or copper) and may leach heavy metals (e.g. aluminum, copper, lead, cadmium). Not to mention that nonstick coating can flake into your food.
- The manufacturing process for today’s PTFE based nonstick cookware involves another type of PFAS chemical called GenX, which has an unproven safety profile.
Even if most of the industry properly handles and disposes of PFAS, all it takes is a few bad apples to contaminate the environment (see EWG report on PFAS in our water supply).
Choosing the Right Cookware for the Right Job
This clean cookware guide is all about helping you get your kitchen stocked with the right tools while avoiding cookware that is bad for your health and the environment.
Of course, depending on your style of cooking, you’ll want a customized collection of cookware that will execute your favorite cooking techniques, like searing, braising, or prepping delicate foods on clean, non-stick surfaces, and allow you to get creative in the kitchen.
If you’re a supremely experienced home chef and love to cook for friends and family on the weekends and squeeze in a few sessions during the week, start with a foundational set of cookware like Made In’s Stainless Steel, or a Caraway set and fill in from there. Then, if you like to use high heat cooking techniques to add extra texture and flavor, we recommend one, two, or even a set of Made In’s Blue Carbon Steel. If you’re quicker in and out of the kitchen with minimal prep, cook, and clean time we definitely recommend Caraway.
So: We know. This is...a lot. (You can probably tell we’re passionate about clean cooking around here.) For the fast track to cleaner cooking pastures, just take our personalized cookware quiz to learn which clean cooking items will set you up for cheffing success. (It’s quick and easy.)
Brands & Products We Don't Recommend: Here's Why
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, or sooner. Meanwhile, the Cuisinart Green Gourmet set is priced closer to our top picks (if not slightly cheaper). However, its nonstick coating seems to be less advanced. In our experience with Cuisinart’s Green Gourmet, their non-stick coating only lasted a few months. That same sentiment was echoed on multiple review sites that the nonstick coating eroded quickly as well.
As for some popular brands that other sites have recommended, here’s what we think. Lodge skillets are good value, but we prefer Staub for its superior performance. Staub comes pre-seasoned with a crystal-based black matte enamel coating, which means you don’t have to worry about re-seasoning the pan or rusting; it also reduces the probability of iron leaching when cooking acidic foods. Staub is easier to clean and wears much better over the long term, and (this is a big deal) stands up to metal utensils (unlike others, like Le Creuset). If you want to learn more about Staub, see our brand profile. However, if budget is a big consideration for you, consider the Lodge cast iron skillet, it is an excellent value option.
Many of Cuisinart and All-Clad’s stainless steel product lines are 3-ply and don’t perform as well with regard to heat conduction and even heating as Made In’s 5-ply or Demeyere’s 5 or 7-ply (Demeyere is easiest to clean and stays shiny with their Silvinox finish).
The Always Pan seems to be a popular all-in-one choice (we’re not fans of gimmicky one hit wonders that have a very short shelf life and end up being replaced quickly, which is not green and costs you more money.) Products like these tend to produce average, or below average results, because they simply try to do too much. Like many ceramic nonstick picks (we’ve tested a lot), it seems like the consensus is that it doesn’t last but a few months, perhaps a year if you’re lucky. If you must have a nonstick pan and are willing to treat it properly, we can confirm that our GreenPan and Caraway picks will last a little longer (all nonstick pans wear out eventually).
Bottom line? If you want to be a top home chef, we believe in using the right tool for the right job. If you want to sear veg or meat for that extra layer of flavor and texture, pull out your carbon, stainless steel or cast iron pan and crank up the heat! If you want delicious, moist braised beans, veg or meat, grab your beloved cast iron Dutch oven.
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.
Related on Organic Authority
5 Non-Toxic Bakeware Materials to Consider & Our top Brand Picks
How the FDA has Regulated PFAS Chemicals the last 40+ Years
3 Reasons Cast-Iron Cookware Will Change Your Life Forever
Stone, Steel, or Cast-Iron: Which is Best for Homemade Pizza?