You see a lot of lists about the best cookware, but what about safe materials? Nonstick cookware surfaces can be convenient, but what are the dangers of those materials? And hasn’t aluminum been linked to Alzheimer’s?
If you have questions about what cookware is safe, you aren’t alone. Finding the right cookware isn’t just a matter of performance – it’s also about doing the best for your family’s and your own health. Luckily, there is cookware out there that’s both safe and reliable.
Let’s take a look at some of the safest cookware around. You can find the right type of performance without having to worry about what’s going into your family’s food every day. Here’s what you need to know about cookware materials and their effect on your health.
Types of materials
It can be hard to separate fact from myth when it comes to cookware materials. That worry about aluminum and Alzheimer’s, for example? No definitive links have connected aluminum cookware to degeneration of the brain. Those studies were oversimplified and sensationalized.
The safety of cookware materials isn’t guaranteed, but in many cases, safety has to do with different factors than the material itself. Here’s what you need to know about the different materials.
Ah, yes. Aluminum cookware has gotten a bad reputation over the years, but in reality, it’s an affordable, durable material that produces reliable heat. The World Health Organization estimates that adults can consume upwards of 50 milligrams of aluminum per day with no known links to adverse effects. There’s also been no definitive connection to Alzheimer’s.
Aluminum is lightweight and suitable for people who can’t carry things like cast iron or ceramic. One of the potential adverse effects of aluminum is that it can heat up very quickly, scorching food and causing damage to the surface of the cookware.
When aluminum ages, it’s more likely to pit and shave off. When you begin to see damage to the surface of your aluminum cookware, this is when you’re most at risk for ingesting more than the estimated limit of aluminum. Also, if you store acidic foods like tomatoes (or simmer them for a long time), they can pull more aluminum into what you’re eating.
One way to help ensure that your cookware remains safe is to look for something called “anodized” aluminum. This process involves dipping the aluminum into an acid solution with an electric current. Aluminum oxide forms on the surface of the pan, creating a slightly nonstick layer that’s more robust and can withstand damage.
Copper is a highly sought after cooking material for its heat-responsive properties, but large amounts of copper can be poisonous. While it’s unlikely that enough could come from your cookware to harm you, manufacturers play it safe by coating copper in other materials to reduce your exposure.
These coatings can come off if you scour your pans or cook highly acidic foods on their surface for a long time. In many cases, the best use of copper is part of the core of a cooking set with safer materials along the outside.
Stainless Steel and Cast Iron
Stainless is one of the most popular cooking materials in the US. It’s sturdy, long-lasting, and holds heat well. It can take a long time for a pan to heat up, however, and stainless is one of the worst offenders for food sticking.
Iron, nickel, and chromium are all present in stainless steel, and each of these has been suspected in the past of contributing to ill health. However, it’s not so simple.
Iron, like copper, can be poisonous in large doses, but you aren’t likely to get that dosing just from your stainless or cast iron cookware. In the US, we’re also more likely to be iron deficient, further reducing the risks.
Nickel can cause allergic reactions for people allergic to the metal, but for the rest of us, it’s not known to cause any harm. Even with highly acidic foods, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience issues if you aren’t allergic to nickel in the first place.
Chromium can also be harmful to your health, but only in large doses. In small doses, it’s good for you. Meals prepared in stainless steel give you far below the estimated daily dosage and are not shown to be anything to worry about.
Ceramic, Enamel, or Glass
These materials are highly safe for cooking, but the pigments in glazing for ceramic and enamel cookware could be a cause for concern. You should always buy your cookware from a reputable company known for following regulations in pigments and coatings.
Again, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience enough quantity to suffer ill health effects, but keep an eye on your cookware just to be sure. If you notice chipping in the enamel or scratching and cracking, it’s best to replace that pot with something new.
Some enamel pots and pans are for decoration or storage only. Be sure to check that it’s safe not only to serve food in these pots but safe to prepare food as well.
Nonstick coatings also have a reputation for being hazardous, but the materials have come a long way since those early Teflon pans. You need to watch the temperatures to ensure you don’t release toxic fumes into your home while cooking, but overall they’re relatively safe.
Ceramic nonstick coatings could be a good alternative if you’re worried about traditional ones. They have a slight less risk of fumes and can handle higher temperatures during cooking.
At the moment, nonstick cooking surfaces don’t show much risk overall, but experts recommend that you keep a careful eye on the surface and stop using the pans when scratches, chips, or cracks appear. Avoid scouring your pans so that you can prolong the pan’s life.
There are no known health risks cooking with silicon. Silicon is a synthetic rubber made from bonded silicon and oxygen. It’s durable, stain-resistant, and comes in bright colors as well as neutral options. If you’re baking, this is one of your safest bets as far as we know.
Safest Cookware Brands We Trust
Let’s get to the good part. These cookware brands offer durability, safety, and excellent cooking properties. They blend safety with function and should provide a way to keep cooking for your family without worrying about what’s ending up in each meal.
Scanpan is a progressive cookware company, producing higher-end options that look great and keep you safe. Scanpan products are manufactured by a family-owned, Danish company that’s been providing safe products for over three decades.
Why Scanpan Is Safer
Scanpan uses a coating called Stratanium+, a proprietary nonstick material made of a ceramic-titanium blend. It withstands higher temperatures better than traditional nonstick materials and can hold up to metal cooking utensils without chipping or cracking.
The durability of Stratanium+ means you won’t risk ingesting any foreign materials through a damaged pan. You can use it for browning and searing, two big no-nos with traditional nonstick surfaces.
The body of the Scanpan uses recycled aluminum, an excellent heat conductor, but with a reduced environmental footprint. It uses layered cladding to encase the aluminum core, and stainless steel provides a durable body that won’t warp.
Our Favorite Scanpan Options
1. Scanpan CS+
This collection boasts a brushed stainless exterior and Scanpan’s proprietary Stratanium+ nonstick coating. It features redesigned handles for cooler handling, a five-layer cladded body, and tempered glass lids for visibility. It’s induction capable and safe up to 500 degrees. It’s a significant investment, but it’s nearly a professional grade.
2. Scanpan HaptIQ
The HaptIQ line is a commercial-grade nonstick option with Scanpan’s Stratanium+ coating and a five cladded stainless steel and aluminum body. It’s commercial-grade, metal cooking utensil safe, and suitable for cooking on induction cooktops. It’s rated to 500 degrees and features a mirrored polish.
Scanpan Quick Look
- free of PFOA and PFO
- Stratanium+ cooking surface
- five clad aluminum and stainless steel
- induction compatible
- safe to 500 degrees
- dishwasher suitable (handwashing recommended)
- lifetime warranty
Made In Cookware
The company is new, founded in 2016, but the founders have families that have been in the restaurant business for over 100 years. They’re a direct to consumer brand, bringing professional-grade cookware at a lower price point.
Why Made In Is Safer
Made In Cookware is a professional grade cookware set with a triple cured frame designed to last a lot longer than standard nonstick cookware. They’re PFOA free with stainless steel and carbon steel options.
Carbon steel is a lot like cast iron, meaning its seasonable and develops nonstick capabilities over time. They’re induction compatible and use PTFE coatings with recycled materials. The company donates returned cookware to reduce the carbon footprint further.
Our Favorite Made In Options
1. Made In Carbon Steel Line – Made In’s carbon steel is hybrid cast iron. It’s seasonable and offers stainless steel’s heat control. It’s lighter than cast iron options, making it great for those who want a lighter option without losing the benefits of cooking in cast iron.
2. Made In Nonstick Cookware – The Made Slick coating is PFOA free. Cladded stainless makes this set induction compatible with the heat conduction and retention of 18/10 stainless while helping control scorching. Handles are designed to stay cool, and the set is an affordable, yet safe choice.
Made In Quick Look
- PFOA free
- Stainless, Carbon Steel, and nonstick options
- 45-day risk-free trial
- PTFE-based Made Slick nonstick coating lasts longer than traditional nonstick
- Five-layer cladded frame
- Lifetime warranty
- Direct to consumer brand
Greenpan is a Belgian brand founded in 2007 to be a safer alternative to traditional nonstick cookware. It uses Thermolon, a nonstick ceramic coating that’s PFOA, Cadmium, lead, and PFAS free.
Why Greenpan Is Safer
Thermolon is currently in its fifth generation. The latest iteration uses diamonds for even more durable performance. The company also seeks to reduce its footprint by reducing CO2 byproducts during the curing process.
Greenpan has a lot of different lines, many of which feature its diamond-infused nonstick coating. They’re relatively affordable and offer a lot of pieces separately for those who love to put their own sets together.
Our Favorite Greenpan Option
Venice Pro – Greenpan’s Venice Pro set offers a beautiful brushed stainless exterior with the Thermolon diamond coating for nonstick performance. It’s metal utensil safe, suitable for oven temps up to 450 degrees and coated with Evershine to preserve the coloring. These are hand wash only.
Greenpan Quick Look
- PFOA free
- Thermolon nonstock coating
- More heat safe than some other nonstick options on the market
- Metal utensil safe
- Diamond infused nonstick interior
Xtrema is a unique, ceramic-based cookware company that uses simple materials to create safer cookware overall. They have a few different lines, including a space-saving option.
Why Xtrema Is Safer
Xtrema offers a California Prop 65 approved line of cookware made of pure ceramic, not just a ceramic nonstick coating. This material is durable and doesn’t carry some of the worst risks of other cookware materials.
You’ll have to be careful of sudden temperature drops and ensure it doesn’t go over its heat rating. However, it offers a balanced option for those of you who’d rather go with a different material entirely than the traditional metal or nonstick cookware.
It’s eco-friendly and is dishwasher, stovetop, oven, and microwave friendly. It’s one of the only pure ceramic options on the market that can handle the oven. Plus, it offers a lead-free, cadmium-free, PFOA, and PTFE free lining.
Our Favorite Xtrema Options
1. Xtrema Traditions – Traditions offers the Xtrema classic ceramic material with nonstick surface and timeless design. It features a nonreactive cooking surface suitable for microwave, dishwasher, oven, and the stovetop.
2. Xtrema Versa – The Versa set includes cookware made from the same nonreactive ceramic material, but with a unique handle set that stores out of the way. The handles are lips designed to provide a low profile and simple silhouette for better, more compact storage.
Xtrema Quick Look
- Classic ceramic material
- PFOA and PTFE free
- Cadmium free
- Dishwasher, stovetop, microwave, and oven safe
Deciding on safe cookware is a big part of ensuring your family stays healthy and safe. The cookware on this list all have nonreactive surfaces, durability, and simple designs made for the beginner to professional cook.
Once you’ve chosen your cookware set, ensure that you always keep an eye on the surfaces for any scratches or marks that might indicate an issue with the integrity of the cooking surface. It’s best to make sure that your cookware is intact to avoid any potential problems with ingesting the cooking surface materials.
You won’t have to worry about the type of materials and what’s going into your food. Invest in a good, eco-friendlier cookware set and get back to worrying about what food goes into your body, not what’s ending up in your food.
Last update on 2021-05-16 / This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API