2023 Safe Non-Toxic Cookware Guide

Written by:

Maia James

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Are There Toxins in Cookware?

Unfortunately, pots and pans might be introducing toxins into your food as you cook. The big takeaway from our research is that most types of cookware do infuse small amounts of material into our food. Some of those things are bad for us, some are good in the right quantity, and some are neutral.

And as much as we should avoid toxins in what we breathe and touch, we REALLY should avoid eating them! For this reason, we consider upgrading to non-toxic cookware an important step for those of you looking to make your homes safer.

My Favorite Non-Toxic Cookware

You’ll find lots of details on a variety of non-toxic cookware options in this guide, as well as materials we’d rather see you avoid. If you’re short on time, here is a cheat sheet of the brands we love.

1. Xtrema / 2. Lancaster Cast Iron / 3. 360 Cookware / 4. Visions / 5. Caraway / 6. Our Place/ 7. Le Creuset / 8. GreenPan

I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood with lots of great “healthful” restaurants. I put that word in quotes because while organic French fries cooked in trans-fat free oil are better than what you’ll get at McDonald’s, they aren’t exactly kale chips.

So we try to cook at home most nights. My husband is much more of a chef than I am, so he is the one who purchases most of our pots and pans (and woks and stockpots and mandolins and 87 different knives…he loves kitchen gadgets!).

As with many products in our home (from toilet paper to laundry detergent to shampoo), Daylon is primarily worried about the performance of his cookware, and I am mainly worried about the safety. The good news here is that you really can have both. We’ve managed to find high-performing AND non-toxic cookware that both Daylon and I are happy with.

I hope this guide helps you decide what cookware to eliminate, and what non-toxic cookware to buy when it’s time for new pots and pans.

Best Cookware

Lodge

Reasonably-priced cast iron cookware that’s made in America.

My favorite non-toxic cookware pieces from Lodge:

Lancaster Cast Iron

Made in Lancaster, PA, pre-seasoned, and with stout handles and large pour spouts. Each pan is handcrafted and has a beautiful glossy finish that you won’t find in most cast iron skillets.

My favorite non-toxic cookware pieces from Lancaster Cast Iron:

Xtrema

Our favorite brand of ceramic cookware is Xtrema. This line contains no glaze, and each batch is third-party tested for heavy metals. From a performance standpoint, I appreciate that this is much lighter than cast iron cookware.

My favorite non-toxic cookware pieces from Xtrema:

Le Creuset

My friend recently called my from the emergency room after dropping her Le Creuset and breaking her toe. “Is there a more classic Brooklyn injury?” she asked.

In any case, I am sure many of you–wehter you live in Brooklyn or elsewhere–have a hefty piece of Le Creuset cookware in your kitchen. Good news: it’s Best Stuff!

For peace of mind, we got a lead test kit and tested the Le Creuset cookware in two of our homes. No lead was detected. I cannot vouch for other brands of porcelain enamel cookware, but feel good about Le Creuset!

One caveat: Le Creuset says that there are trace amounts of lead on the outside of the bright-colored Le Creuset pots (such as red and orange). They add that “these levels are very low, but the interior enamel is completely free of lead.” I have the orange pot, and the outside still tested negative.

My favorite non-toxic cookware pieces from Le Creuset:

360 Cookware

360 Cookware is our top pick for non-toxic stainless steel cookware. It’s an 18/8 blend, made in the USA, and lasts forEVER.

My favorite non-toxic cookware from 360:

Note: All-Clad also makes toxin-free stainless steel cookware.

Crock Pots/Slow Cookers

Most crockpots/slow cookers contain a ceramic insert. There is a lot of debate about the possibility of lead leaching from the glazing on ceramic pots. In the U.S., all crockpots must pass FDA regulations for lead, but that still leaves the door ajar for small amounts of lead. Many slow cookers are manufactured in China, and there is a general distrust for these products.

We know a mom who went to great lengths to know once and for all if her glazed crock pot might contain lead. First she called several manufacturers and asked about lead in their glazing. Every one told her that there is no lead and their products comply with FDA rules. Not satisfied, she bought a wide variety of crockpots from a local thrift store. These included essentially all of the major manufacturers. She swabbed them with the test kit and found zero lead. She then took the crocks to a testing facility that uses a specific tool that is very sensitive to lead. The results were that there was no lead found in any of the crocks. (I tested my own and had the same result.) So, if you’re a crockpot fan, we say it’s the Good Stuff, across the board.

All-Clad makes a really nice crock pot that is our top pick. You can find others that are less expensive, too.

Titanium Cookware

We found just one brand on Amazon, Wild Peak, that doesn’t appear to be coated with any non-stick chemicals.

Tempered Glass Cookware

We like this set from Visions.

Good Cookware

We are calling the following brands Good Stuff rather than Best Stuff only because they do not disclose exactly what they use to achieve their nonstick coating. The brands below all provide independent testing results that show that their cookware is not leaching toxins or heavy metals. However, it is important to note that this is only true when the cookware is not scratched or degraded. We recommend replacing any non-stick cookware if it becomes damaged.

GreenPan

We originally called GreenPan Sneaky Stuff, because they don’t disclose exactly what they use in their nonstick cookware line. They’ve recently provided the results of independent tests, and these are hugely reassuring regarding contamination with heavy metals.

GreenPan’s nonstick coating is the proprietary Thermion, which is “made by a Sol-Gel process that results in forming a coating layer on the surface of the pan. This layer comprises mainly Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), which is the same composition as glass.” We are now comfortable calling GreenPan Good Stuff!

My favorite non-toxic cookware from GreenPan:

Caraway

Caraway cookware is non-stick and does not contain PFAS. The company has provided reports on lead, cadmium, PFOA, PFOS, and PTFE, which show no detectable levels. One thing to keep in mind is that we do not know the exact composition of Caraway’s non-stick coating as it is patented. While this is not ideal, Caraway has reliable third-party tests that show no detectable levels of harmful contaminants, so we can consider it a good product. Most new non-stick brands use a Sol-Gel process to make their pans non-stick, so it is likely that Caraway does the same.

My favorite non-toxic cookware pieces from Caraway:

Our Place

Our Place is slightly less transparent than GreenPan, but I still consider this to be a reasonably non-toxic cookware brand. Our Place has disclosed the independent testing that reveals that their pan doesn’t contain heavy metals. It looks to me like they are using the same exact technology (Sol-Gel) as GreenPan. While we’d love them to be more transparent, we can’t call them Bad Stuff or Sneaky Stuff. I have and use various pieces of cookware from Our Place to cook for my family.

My favorite non-toxic cookware pieces from Our Place:

Types of Toxic & Non-Toxic Cookware

Pots and pans come in a wide range of materials. Some cookware materials are okay, if you have the right variety, or if you don’t use them every day.

non toxic Cookware

Safest Bets for Non-Toxic Cookware

The following materials are always non-toxic, and we will share our favorite brands below, under The Best Stuff.

Carbon Steel

Carbon steel is sometimes used for frying pans and woks. It’s similar to cast iron, and can leach small amounts of iron into food, which is great if you happen to have someone with slight anemia in your home!

Cast Iron

For most of human history, people suffered from iron deficiencies, so cooking with cast iron helped to prevent anemia. In modern cultures, the opposite is true. Most of us get plenty of iron, and there’s a point at which ingesting too much can be problematic. In our kitchen, we try to switch between cast iron pans and pans made of other materials  throughout the week. If you want to be extra cautious, you could avoid cast iron for recipes with long cooking duration or acidic foods, as this will cause increased iron leaching.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pans are generally Good Stuff, but stainless steel is made with nickel. The more nickel in the mix, the more “stainless” it is. The problem is that our bodies can handle some nickel, but too much isn’t healthy. This means that high quality stainless steel cookware, which has higher percentages of nickel, is actually of more concern than lower quality stainless steel! We know that stainless steel pans do leach nickel (along with some chromium and iron), especially with longer cooking times and when cooking acidic foods such as tomatoes. To minimize the potential for nickel leaching, you’d ideally want a pan that’s 18/4 or 18/0 stainless steel (that first number is the percentage of chromium; the second is nickel). I wouldn’t be concerned about using stainless steel as long as you just switch up your cookware. If you sometimes using cast iron and enamel pots and pans, you won’t be exposing yourself to too much nickel from stainless steel. If you’re still worried, you could avoid stainless steel when cooking acidic foods for long time periods.

Tempered Glass

Glass is probably the most inert of any cooking surface, and you can even get pots and pans made of this ultimate Good Stuff!

Titanium

Titanium is a non-toxic and biocompatible metal, so it is used for medical instruments, dental implant devices, and joint replacements. Titanium is also lightweight and extremely strong. Titanium cookware uses an aluminum base for even heat transfer and distribution. The non-porous, non-stick titanium outer surface does not allow any aluminum to leach through.The only reason to be cautious about titanium cookware is that it seems that most manufacturers now coat their titanium cookware with non-stick finishes, rendering it “Bad Stuff.”

Materials That May Be Safe (or Not) in Cookware

When shopping for non-toxic cookware, some of these materials come in safe forms. Other times, they are treated (or untreated, as the case may be) in a way that renders them less safe.

Clay

Without testing a clay pot for every possible contaminant, you have no way of knowing what might be leaching into your food—without a glaze on the pot, there is no protective barrier between what’s in the clay and your meal.To me the risks of unglazed clay pots and pans outweigh the potential benefits of the good minerals that might leach into your food—calcium, iron, etc.

Coated Ceramic

Made from natural materials such as clay and minerals, ceramic cookware offers excellent heat retention and distribution. Its non-reactive surface makes it ideal for cooking acidic foods, and it is also appreciated for its nonstick properties, requiring less oil or fat during cooking. Furthermore, it is generally considered safer than nonstick alternatives since it doesn’t contain potentially harmful chemicals like PFOA or PTFE. Ceramic cookware can be considered a safe less-stick if not truly truly non-stick material. Some ceramic cookware is coated with materials that may contain harmful substances like lead, cadmium, and other heavy metals. To ensure safety, it is crucial to choose ceramic cookware that is labeled as free from toxic materials and is certified as being compliant with safety standards.

Enamel

In essence, enamel is a form of glass. Enameled cookware is most often cast iron with an enamel coating. This type of cookware is wonderful to cook with. Some people have worried about lead in the enamel cookware, since the enamel coating is often made of clay, which can leach lead. For this reason, we suggest choosing high quality enamel cookware from well-known brands.

Newer Non-Stick Materials

For more details on these materials, and the brands we like most (and which brands should be avoided), check out the Best, Good, Bad, and Sneaky brands that follow.

Top Pick for “Less-Stick” Cookware

Xtrema‘s non-toxic cookware is the best option if you want NO non-stick treatment. We can’t call it non-stick, but it is “less stick” than the other safest options. You’ll read more about traditional non-stick pans and the newer materials, below.

Materials to Avoid in Cookware

The following materials are always unsafe when used for cookware. You’ll learn more about how to avoid them under the Bad Stuff and Sneaky Stuff, below.

  • Aluminum.
  • Copper.
  • Nonstick/Teflon
  • Plastic

More About Nonstick Cookware

The main concern with nonstick cookware is the chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAS), which has historically been used in the manufacturing process of many nonstick coatings.

There are two big problems with PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals“:

  1. Health Risks. Studies have linked PFAS exposure to a variety of health problems, including cancer, liver damage, immune system dysfunction, and developmental issues in fetuses and infants.
  2. Environmental Risks. PFAS can persist in the environment for a long time and can accumulate in plants, animals, and the food chain. This can lead to contamination of drinking water supplies and other environmental problems. (We have a PFAS water filter in our store, by the way.) Worse, PFAS do not break down easily in the environment and are resistant to degradation. This means that even if their use is stopped, they can continue to be present in the environment and potentially cause harm.

If you choose to use traditional nonstick cookware with PFAS, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid using metal utensils or abrasive scrubbers that could scratch the surface of the coating. Overheating the cookware can also cause the coating to break down and release toxic fumes. Of course, our recommendation is that you switch to one of the less toxic types of cookware below.

Toxic Cookware

Plastic

Believe it or not, you can actually get a plastic pot. Don’t buy one; all kinds of Bad Stuff—from phthalates to BPA to worse—leaches out of many types of plastic when heated. (You probably already know that you shouldn’t microwave food in plastic either, right?).

Aluminum

Various studies have linked elevated aluminum levels to everything from anemia and other blood disorders to ALS and Parkinson’s. Avoid all aluminum cookware. Note that pans with an aluminum core within cookware made of safer metals (such as stainless steel) are fine—you just want to make sure that no aluminum touches your food.

Unprotected Copper

Like iron, copper is an essential mineral. A healthy diet supplies plenty of copper, but elevated levels of copper in your body can be toxic.

Many foods can react with unprotected copper cookware (where the food comes in direct contact with the copper) and leach too much copper into your food. Copper-core cookware is fine, though copper cookware that is “protected” with a coating of stainless steel is subject to the same concerns as stainless steel (see above, under The Good Stuff).

Nonstick (Teflon or PTFE)

You can read many reports claiming that Teflon is harmless, but the studies showing it to be toxic are far more convincing. The EPA told companies in 2015 to phase out some of the chemicals in their formulations due to health concerns, and the EWG advises consumers to avoid Teflon.

Most nonstick pans are aluminum coated with polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), otherwise known as Teflon. The big issue with Teflon isn’t ingesting it, but rather breathing it in when it gets hot (it’s actually toxic enough to kill pet birds!). Teflon-coated pans should be avoided.

And yes, even expensive, high-tech non-stick pans (such as Circulon) should be avoided. You can read more about PFAS chemicals in this posts’s introduction, above. A few examples of nonstick brands that have been found to contain PTFE:

  • Cuisinart
  • Hexclad
  • ScanPan
  • Zwilling

Sneaky Brands

“Non-Toxic” Nonstick Cookware

Newer “safe” nonstick pans are increasingly available, but unless we’ve included them above, under The Good Stuff, we advise you to proceed with caution.

Any nonstick pan that says it’s “PFOA-Free” is really Sneaky, because no nonstick pans contain PFOA (it’s created during production but always burned off in the final product). Pans that specify that they are free of PFOA almost certainly contain PTFE.

One especially Sneaky brands is Ozeri, which claims to be PTFE free, but which was found to contain it in samples tested in 2020 by Ecology Center.

Unglazed Clay Cookware (“Earthenware”)

Companies like Earthen Cookware and Vitaclay have gained popularity because they contain no finish of any kind. However, the clay itself can provide a health risk, as it may contain harmful—albeit natural—things like aluminum, cadmium, and lead.

While both Vitaclay and Miriams’s Earthen Cookware do provide testing showing their products free of specific heavy metals, the actual composition of the clay in both cases is “proprietary,” which is why I’m calling both of them Sneaky Stuff.

Coated Ceramic Cookware

Under The Good Stuff, I mentioned ceramic cookware. This is just remember to avoid any ceramic pots and pans that are treated with nonstick materials, which includes brands like Caphalon and Farberware.

Bonus: The Best Non-Toxic Teakettle

caraway teakettle

Lots of you have asked about the best non-toxic teakettle. Our picks are the kettles from Xtrema, Staub, or Caraway.

Stay sane,

About the Author

Maia, Founder & CEO

Maia grew up in a Vermont household without a TV or microwave. She has been researching and writing about non-toxic products since 2010, and has appeared in a variety of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, New York Magazine, and The Dr. Oz Show. Maia lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons, and you can follow along as she tries to live a less toxic, more planet-friendly life here.

Note: This article contains affiliate links or sponsored content, which means that if you make a purchase, we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that meet our strict standards for non-toxicity and that we use (or want to use!) ourselves. Thank you so much for supporting the brands that make Good Stuff! 

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247 responses to “2023 Safe Non-Toxic Cookware Guide”

  1. temperate Avatar
    temperate

    I know that Our Place has a new Titanium Always Pan Pro out now. This is supposed to be a new innovation in pans. Is it really non-slip & non-toxic? Do we have any info on these pans?

    1. Maia James Avatar
      Maia James

      I have not tried the new pan (so I can’t speak to how it performs), but it should be as non-toxic as their others:).

  2. nicole.m.keller Avatar
    nicole.m.keller

    I left a comment already but forgot to add, where can I find good quality baking pans that are *less expensive*? The good stuff (and even okay stuff) here prices a single loaf pan at over $50 and in some cases a few pieces of bakeware is $300 🙁 I’m struggling to find plain stainless steel that isn’t of dubious quality… thank you!

    1. Graham Goss Avatar
      Graham Goss

      Hey Nicole! I totally get it. The sad reality is that we are forced to pay much more to ensure that the proper certifications and safeguards are in place. Similar to organic foods, sometimes what we are paying for is the certifications and transparency of the “Good Stuff”. But if we find anything that is more affordable AND Good Stuff we will update this guide and let you know.

  3. nicole.m.keller Avatar
    nicole.m.keller

    Hello, any good choices for baking sheets? I need to order a springform cake pan, donut baking tray, a pie pan, and loaf pans. I don’t know where to find non-toxic ones! Thank you so much!

  4. Angus Chang Avatar
    Angus Chang

    Drawing from the insights on Iupilon (https://iupilon.com/cast-iron-vs-iron-cookware/), it’s important to note that while both cast iron and iron cookware have their merits, they are not the same. Cast iron, with its 2% to 5% carbon content, offers excellent heat retention and a natural non-stick coating. Iron cookware, on the other hand, is elemental and raw, adding a rustic flavor to food and enriching it with iron content. This information complements the comprehensive guide on Gimme the Good Stuff and provides additional context for those seeking the best cookware options.

  5. John Mullins Avatar

    Great reviewing on choosing the Safe Non-Toxic Cookware. It’s always terrible work. Your post reminds me of the best cookware to keep in your collection.
    Thanks.

  6. Rachel Avatar
    Rachel

    Hello. I wanted to follow up on the question about Caraway cookware. Is it good stuff? Thank you so much!

    1. tyler morz Avatar
      tyler morz

      euna cookware is also a good purchase to be considered.
      FYI, https://eunaknife.com

    2. Sherrill Callender Avatar
      Sherrill Callender

      I would like to know too

    3. Liz M. Avatar
      Liz M.

      I’m curious about the caraway brand too!!

      1. Meredith Avatar
        Meredith

        Yes, please! I would love to know more about Caraway. They recently released a line of bakeware and I’d like to know if it’s safe…. I haven’t found any good resources for safe bakeware.

    4. LoriB. Avatar
      LoriB.

      I would like to add my request also for information about Caraway cookware and bakeware.