Sourcing safer cookware is a complicated matter. There are safe and unsafe materials, and then there are the per- or polyfluoroschemicals (PFC) chemical coatings associated with hormone disruption, reproductive and developmental defects, and immune system suppression, among other concerns. While DuPont’s infamous Teflon chemical in its original compound was officially phased out in 2015, with a slight change of chemical structure and a brand new name, some of its successors are just as bad. Here, we try to break it down further with a few key pieces of information to keep in mind and 10 naturally non-stick or low-stick cookware brands we trust.
Safer Cookware Materials
- Carbon steel
- Tempered glass
- Cast iron*
- Stainless steel*
Less Safe Cookware Materials
- Unlined copper
- PFC non-stick coated pans
- Unglazed clay**
*Cast iron and stainless steel, while on the safer side of the spectrum, can leach iron and nickel when cooking acidic foods or simmering food for long periods of time.
**Unglazed clay may, at times, naturally contain aluminum, cadmium, or lead. To check for lead, we recommend using a lead test kit on your unglazed clay pot. It’s also useful for double-checking enamel surfaces.
Notes on Non-Stick
- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is the synthetic coating to avoid at all costs.
- Polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE) can be just as bad, at high temperatures PTFE turns into toxic PFOA. Many alternative non-stick brands boast their rejection of PFOA but still use PTFE-based coatings.
[Editor’s note: While we’ve done our best to research the issue using sources from credible agencies like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), we are not scientists, doctors, or environmental toxicity experts. We welcome any additional constructive insight in our comments section below.]
Further resources on the subject:
- Environmental Working Group (EWG) Tips to Avoid PFCs
- 3M LeadCheck Swabs for testing enamel-coated pans for lead
- The Devil We Know documentary on Teflon featuring Erin Brockovich
For more cookware see our posts:
- 10 Easy Pieces: Cast Iron Cookware
- 10 Easy Pieces: European Ceramic Bakeware
- 10 Easy Pieces: Classic Fondue Pots
- 10 Easy Pieces: The Best Woks
- 10 Easy Pieces: Paella Pans
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