Which Cookware is Healthiest?

So you spend a lot of time thinking about your food, but how about what you use to cook your food?

Chances are this doesn’t get as much thought.

But it absolutely should!


Some cookware leaches unhealthy toxins into your food.

Nonstick Cookware and Bakeware (including Teflon)

Nonstick synthetic surfaces are made with the plasticizer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), which emits a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) when heated. The PFOA from heated nonstick cookware is known to kill pet birds! Yes yes, we are much larger than little birds, but this is still concerning nonetheless.

Unfortunately, nonstick surfaces are easily damaged, allowing the coating to flake off and get into food. According to a study by the 3M company, PFOA is found in the blood of 90% of Americans, including the 600 children tested. PFOA bioaccumulates and persists in the environment. That is, it is not excreted by the body but builds up and up and up. Toxicologist Tim Kropp of the Environmental Working Group told the New York Times in 2005: “Any amount of PFOA you are ingesting may be a problem because we don’t know what levels are safe.”

Plus, PFOA is released at relatively low cooking temperatures. Teflon maker DuPont reached a $16.5 million settlement with the US Environmental Protection Agency for failing to report the health risks of PFOA — DuPont had claimed that Teflon starts to emit dangerous chemicals only at temperatures above 660ºF, but EWG conducted tests that showed it does so at 325ºF.

Aluminum Cookware

Aluminum is a heavy metal that attacks your central nervous system. Research shows aluminum can produce toxic, oxidative stress in the brain. For this reason, aluminium has been linked to degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Some studies suggest that Alzheimer’s patients have an abnormally high amount of aluminum in the amyloid protein plaques that characterize the disease, although the exact connection remains unclear.

For me, I follow the precautionary principle with this one: if there are safer alternatives (like the ones discussed below!) conveniently available, I’m going to choose those.


Luckily, there are a number of healthier cookware options.

Stainless Steel Cookware

Stainless steel is my personal favorite option. I have a great 8-piece set that covers all of my 2-person-household’s needs (in addition to some tempered glass and one porcelain-enameled cast iron piece, which I talk about below). Stainless steel pots and pans brown foods better than most other options, and are very easy to clean.

You can also season stainless steel pots and pans to make them virtually nonstick:

  • Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of salt into your pan
  • Heat the pan to the point where the oil is almost starting to smoke, and then let it cool
  • Scrub the salt into the pan using a clean cloth or paper towel
  • Wipe the pan out, oil it again, and wipe it out again
  • Do this process when the pan is new and repeat it periodically

As with seasoned cast iron pans, clean the pan by wiping it with a bit of warm water but without soap/detergent. If any food gets stuck to the pan, you may need to scrub it with detergent and redo the seasoning process.

SUGGESTIONS


Tempered Glass Cookware

I’m sure we all have at least 1 piece of tempered  glass cookware (likely a casserole dish).

This option doesn’t work for stove-top cooking, but it works very well for cooking and baking in the oven. It is also safe to marinate foods in tempered glass cookware, which is convenient. And the best part? You can take it from the oven straight to the fridge for storage when your meal is over! Less dishes to clean = awesome.

SUGGESTIONS


Cast-Iron Cookware

The classic cookware can be preheated to temperatures that will brown meat, and can withstand very high temperatures. It is extremely durable and can be seasoned to provide a smooth, stick-resistant surface, and can even be purchased pre-seasoned.

However, there is some concern regarding the iron leached into food as its being cooked — an excess of dietary iron promotes oxidation and has been proven to promote dangerous oxidation of cholesterol. So it may not be the best option for everyday cooking.

SUGGESTIONS


Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Cookware

Generally speaking, porcelain-enameled cast iron cookware yields great cooking results and are very long-lasting, making them well worth the upfront investment (they are a little more pricey).

Most can be used on the stove top, in the oven, and under the broiler, making them very multipurpose (and, again, worth the investment).  Plus, the enamel is impervious to acids, so it can hold raw or cooked foods that are marinating — in other words, less dishes to clean!

Le Creuset is the French darling of the porcelain-enameled cast iron cookware brands. Pricey, but in my personal opinion, 1 piece is all you need: a dutch oven.

SUGGESTIONS


Have you transitioned to healthier cookware options?

If yes, what is your favorite option? Please share in the comments below!

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  1. The link showed a “green pan”. I know there have been many of these pans show up in recent years. However, Scanpan (made in Denmark) has been around for 50 years. They are superior quality and have a lifetime guarantee. You can even use metal utensils. I use Silicone utensils, but know people who do use metal utensils. The stockpot doubles as a oven roaster with the glass lid up to 400 degrees as due all of their pans. The handles on the fry pans are round for a comfort/sturdy grip. All of their pans are hand made. I also have their regular pans without the non stick coating. Prefer to boil water in the regular pans. Can any of these “green pans” stack up? Like I said in an earlier post, these are lifetime pans. You will pass them down, after you die.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion, Kelly! Honestly, I’m personally still skeptical of these options. I worry that they claim they’re “safe” because they don’t contain PTFE or release PFOA… but what is making them non-stick!? To me, it could be just like the whole BPA-free thing: companies are all “oh we’ve gone BPA-free with our product” but neglect to tell us the chemical they use in its place is just as bad. I need to do more research for sure. But personally until I feel 100% I’m going to stick with the other options.

  3. Hey, Nic! Sorry for my belated reply!! Yes, I have actually heard great things about Xtrema! Wellness Mama recommends it. I was actually going to buy myself a piece as a holiday gift to myself 🙂 and see how I like it before writing about it. If you give it a go, please let us know how you like it too!!

  4. Sorry for my belated reply, Leah! Huh… those look super interesting! It says it’s “porcelain fused onto heavy-gauge steel”. I’d need to look into it more but at first glance those seem like a safer option. Have you tried them yet?? I’d love to hear how they hold up in action!

  5. Hey, Emilie! Sorry for my belated reply — the holiday season is always busy!! Honestly, I’m personally very skeptical of these options. I worry that they claim they’re “safe” because they don’t contain PTFE or release PFOA… but what is making them non-stick!? I need to do more research for sure. But personally until I feel 100% I’m going to stick with the other options.

  6. We use the old Corelle Corningware “Pyroceram” with the detachable handles. It does stovetop, oven, tabletop and storage (refrigerator or freezer). Pyroceram is a glass-ceramic heated material and originally developed by Corning Inc. in the 1950’s to be used in rocket nose cones… All our dishes and glassware are Corelle as well. The stuff is lightweight, lasts forever and is easy to find in thrift stores.

  7. Thank you for this post. It’s come at the perfect time as I have been meaning to replace all my cookware for months now. Im so nervous about buying something which is considered ‘safe’ today but will reveal itself to be dangerous in the future. Nadia, with all your research and knowledge on this subject does this cookware option appear safe? https://www.ceramcor.com/
    I know how hard it is to directly reply to everyone but I’d be so very grateful for your opinion, Thanks xx

  8. All metal pots and pans release metals into your food, including Stainless Steel and Cast Iron. There is no way of getting around it. Be it in small amounts it still does release. All of us need to do a heavy metal cleans at least 1 time a year.
    Now, If you like me and love to research, there are a couple of Companies that have non stick coating and do not use PTFE or PFOA.
    The first , which is my favorite, is SCANPAN and the other is MANPANS. Neither of these companies use any chemicals when manufacturing. SCANPAN is made from Belgium and MANPANS are made in USA.
    SCANPAN is pricey, but you will never have to buy pans agin.

  9. I’ve switched my old non-stick pot set for one that is coated with ceramic. I’ve had the ceramic coated set for 3 months now and I’m noticing that my food is starting stick. Your post couldn’t have come at a better time for me! I’m hesitant to use s.s. due to my previous experience with food sticking to my pots. But with your suggestion on seasoning them, I’ll give them a try.
    Too, my husband has been asking me what I would like for Christmas…I’m thinking I’d like some porcelain enameled cookware 🙂

    Thanks for another great and informative post!

    Vanessa