When we use the term “dangerous cookware to avoid” we’re referring to the type of cookware that can cause health problems if used over an extended period of time.
It’s surprising that this type of cookware is still in use these days, but unfortunately, consumers don’t know much in regard to what’s the safest cookware to use and which type of cookware can potentially damage their health. And it doesn’t take extremely high temperatures to cause this dangerous cookware to emit fumes that are harmful to humans and lethal to birds.
The most dangerous cookware to avoid is low-priced nonstick cookware, such as Teflon. These pots and pans contain chemicals that can be harmful to your health when inhaled. Unfortunately, when these pots and pans are burned, or when used for high heat cooking, toxic fumes are emitted. Additionally, while not harmful when ingested, over time, the nonstick coating can begin to flake off into your food.
Fortunately for you, we have compiled a list of the most trusted and safest cookware to use for everyday cooking, in addition to a list of the safest cookware for high heat use.
Keep on reading to learn more about the safest and healthiest cookware for your kitchen.
Cookware You Should Avoid at all Costs
People are more health conscious these days, making better food choices and generally leading a more active lifestyle. Unfortunately, not many people know much about cookware, the safest cookware sets and the type of dangerous cookware to avoid.
If you’re doing everything right, choosing whole foods over processed foods and spending more time in the kitchen preparing meals in order to lead a healthier lifestyle, this can have a major positive impact on your weight and overall health. However, if you’re using unsafe cookware or you don’t know how to tell which cookware is safe then you’re putting yourself and your family at risk.
We’ve compiled a list of the safest cookware on the market and what type of cookware you need to avoid at all costs and why.
If the cookware you use is toxic, then you may experience health complications even if you follow a healthy diet. Dangerous cookware can actually introduce harmful chemicals and toxins to your food when you cook.
Did you know that most types of cookware tend to infuse a small amount of minerals or metals into your food as it heats up? Fortunately, most cookware these days is safe to use, however, there is still unsafe cookware on the market that you’ll want to steer clear of at all costs.
So, which cookware is safe and which cookware should you avoid?
First up is nonstick Teflon.
The Teflon Nightmare
Nonstick cookware has been popular for years, mainly because it takes a lot of the work out of cleanup after you cook a meal. We’ve all been there, spending too much time in the kitchen scrubbing stuck on food from the bottom of our favorite pots and pans. The introduction of Teflon cookware essentially eliminated the need to soak cookware or spend too much time cleaning up after a meal.
But as Teflon cookware rose in popularity, we began to learn just how dangerous this cookware really is
While the cookware can prevent your food from sticking to the surface, the coating also scratches quite easily, requiring the use of plastic or wooden utensils when cooking and a mild cleanser and soft sponge for cleanup. Make the mistake of using a metal spoon or spatula and the surface is essentially ruined.
Is Modern Teflon Cookware a Safe Choice?
When the Teflon coating is scratched the particles can end up in your food. While reports from the manufacturers have shown us that these particles do not pose a serious health risk, they should not be consumed. But are manufacturers telling us the truth? Are there any health risks associated with the consumption of Teflon particles or Teflon use in general?
According to the American Cancer Society, the real concern here is the toxic fumes the coating emits when the cookware is overheated. Exposure to these fumes can cause polymer fume fever, a condition that’s potentially fatal to humans and animals. So, is Teflon cookware safe if it’s kept at the recommended temperature?
Even if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t place this cookware in the oven and keep it at an ideal temperature the Teflon can heat up to an unsafe temperature. This can cause the coating to break down and emit harmful fumes. These fumes are toxic to people and animals but can be especially dangerous to birds.
PFOA is a chemical found in Teflon cookware. Some studies have shown that people who primarily use Teflon cookware that’s not PFOA-free have suffered from reduced fertility, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol levels. These harmful chemicals are released when the cookware reaches a temperature of six hundred degrees or higher. When it reaches one thousand degrees the cookware can release a chemical called PFIB. PFIB is actually a type of waste byproduct of freon production.
If you’ve ever accidentally burned a pot or pan when you’re cooking, then you know how easy it can be. Just one slip up with this type of cookware and you’re exposing your family and pets to these harmful chemicals.
Fortunately, because of this, many companies that produce nonstick cookware are now producing pots and pans with a PFOA-free coating.
But unfortunately, there are currently no federal regulations regarding cookware, so not every manufacturer that produces nonstick cookware makes PFOA-free products.
If you still use Teflon cookware, avoid using pots and pans that have been dinged, scratched, or damaged in any way. Each year, research shows us that the chemical contaminants in this cookware get worse with use, not better.
Fortunately, there are many types of safe cookware alternatives that you can use that provide many of the same benefits that Teflon does, without risking your health.
The Dangers of Aluminum
Aluminum is a lightweight material that offers better than average heat conduction. However, this material is also highly reactive to foods that are acidic. Cooking highly acidic foods in this type of cookware can negatively impact the taste and quality of the food and can also damage the cookware itself. Many people who have cooked acidic foods, such as tomato sauce in an aluminum pot have reported that the food has a metallic taste to it. This is due to a small amount of the aluminum leaching into the food, however, the amount is minimal at best.
Most modern aluminum cookware sets are much safer to use, however, they should never be used with acidic foods which can damage the cookware and negatively alter the taste of your food.
Anodized aluminum cookware or aluminum cookware that’s clad in stainless steel, a type of nonreactive material, will not react to acidic foods or leach into your food.
To learn more about the dangers of aluminum cookware and how to choose safe aluminum cookware, click here.
Cast Iron Cookware Can Increase Your Daily Iron Intake
In the past, people commonly used cast iron skillets as a way to treat and prevent iron deficiencies since cast iron leaches iron into food. These days, an iron deficiency can easily be treated and prevented. In fact, getting too much iron is more of a concern, especially for people who have hemochromatosis, an inherited metabolic disorder that affects more than one million Americans.
Symptoms of a diet that’s too high in iron includes:
- Stomach pain
- Joint pain
- Heart palpitations
- Increased fatigue
- Loss of menstrual blood.
Additionally, a diet that’s too high in iron can also increase your risk of heart disease, the formation of free radicals, accelerated aging, and cancer.
For these reasons, most healthcare professionals don’t recommend cooking with cast iron pots and pans every day, especially if your diet already consists of foods that contain iron.
Aside from leaching too much iron into your food, using cast iron can pose other problems.
Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware to Prevent Rust
When you’re shopping for new cast iron cookware, search for pots and pans that feature a smooth, fine surface. This type of surface will be more receptive to seasoning. Make sure you avoid using pans that have chips, cracks, jagged edges, and pits. High quality cast iron will have a uniform color on the inside and out.
Before you use cast iron cookware, it should be seasoned. The inside of the pot or pan should be coated with vegetable oil, then heated in the oven at three hundred and fifty degrees for approximately one hour. This may need to be repeated a few times before you use the cookware. This process will give the cast iron cookware a type of nonstick surface. If you fail to season the cast iron pots and pans before use the cookware can rust over time. While there have been no studies conducted to determine the dangers of ingesting food prepared in rusty cookware, not much is known regarding the long-term effects that can occur, so why take the risk?
While for some, cast iron may not be dangerous cookware to use, especially those with a diet that’s low in iron and people with an iron deficiency, for others, frequent use of cast iron cookware can lead to a number of health problems.
To learn more about cast iron safety, click here to read our latest article.
How Some Copper Cookware can cause Copper Toxicity
Considered one of the most beautiful materials to use for cookware, copper cookware remains a favorite choice among the pros. However, the wrong type of copper cookware can lead to serious health issues.
Copper is a type of toxic heavy metal that can leach into your food if you don’t purchase the right type of copper cookware. These days, most copper cookware is lined with tin or stainless steel in order to avoid copper toxicity, a condition that occurs if you use copper cookware that’s not lined with a safe material. However, you’re still at risk of copper toxicity if you use tin-lined cookware. Tin is a thin metal that can easily get scratched if you don’t use the right type of utensils when you’re preparing a meal. In the event that the lining becomes scratched or damaged in any way, the pot or pan will need to be relined right away.
What Cookware is Safe?
Below we’ve compiled a list of the safest cookware to use and why. Each type of cookware will come with its own advantages and disadvantages, however, each type has been deemed a much safer alternative to aluminum, cast iron, and teflon.
Stainless steel pots and pans are made with nickel. The higher the nickel content the cookware has the more durable it is. However, the biggest issue with a higher nickel content is that the human body cannot handle too much. Higher quality stainless steel pots and pans are not as safe to use as lower quality stainless steel because it has a higher nickel content. Nickel is what gives stainless steel its shine.
It’s common knowledge that nickel can leach into food, especially when you’re cooking acidic foods or cooking a dish for a longer period of time. In order to minimize nickel leaching you can purchase a stainless steel pan that’s 18/0 stainless steel. The first number represents the percentage of chromium, while the second number represents the percentage of nickel. However, this percentage can be difficult to find. You’ll have an easier time finding stainless steel cookware at 18/8 or 18/10, both of which are acceptable.
If you’re concerned about the nickel content in your cooked food, keep in mind that the amount of nickel that can leach into your food is minimal, thanks to the bond of the alloy, which is very strong. The alloy strength is what helps cookware to resist leaching, which makes it very safe to use. Obviously, higher priced stainless steel sets will have top of the line construction, meaning a stronger bond. So, while the higher priced stainless steel may have a higher nickel content, the better bond of the alloy basically cancels that out.
It’s also important to properly care for your stainless steel cookware in order to prevent leaching. Make sure you use utensils that are made out of material that won’t scratch the surface of the cookware, especially if you’ve purchased low-quality stainless steel. Special utensils aren’t a major concern for top of the line stainless steel cookware because of the stronger alloy bond.
To learn more about stainless steel cookware, click here.
A much safer alternative to Teflon, nonstick ceramic cookware is one of the most popular types of cookware on the market. A ceramic coating provides many of the same benefits that Teflon cookware offers, but without PFOA.
There are two types of ceramic cookware: pure ceramic and ceramic coated. Since there are no labeling regulations that can make it clear if you’re purchasing pure or ceramic coated cookware, buying this type of cookware often leads to confusion.
However, if you educate yourself regarding the differences between these two types of cookware, then choosing the right option based on your cooking style, stovetop type, and general preferences, will be much easier.
Pure ceramic cookware can be made out of quartz sand, minerals, and clay. This mixture is hardened after the formation process, which involves firing the cookware at two thousand degrees to vitrification, which turns the quartz sand, minerals, and clay into glass. After this step, the cookware goes through a glazing process.
Higher priced classic ceramic or pure ceramic cookware is made out of just clay.
Ceramic coated cookware is made of a metal such as aluminum, that is then coated with a hard film of polymer materials with a ceramic appearance. This coating contains binders, non-stick components, color pigments and reinforcing agents.
Older pure ceramic cookware features a handle and a cooking surface designed as one piece. This cookware can be difficult to handle when it’s hot. Newer pure ceramic cookware sets now come equipped with detachable handles and a lightweight design that makes it easier to manage.
Unlike ceramic coated cookware, pure ceramic cookware is microwave safe. It also retains heat better than other types of cookware, long after it has been removed from the oven. Ceramic coated cookware is not able to retain heat once it has been removed from its heat source.
Modern pure ceramic cookware can handle oven temperatures up to two thousand degrees, while ceramic coated cookware can only handle oven temperatures ranging from four hundred to four hundred and fifty degrees.
So, how safe is pure ceramic cookware? This type of cookware is nontoxic and non-reactive, making them a much safer option compared to Teflon cookware.
But is ceramic coated cookware as safe?
To learn more about the benefits of pure ceramic cookware, click here.
Ceramic Coated Cookware
As we mentioned, ceramic coated cookware refers to metal cookware that has been coated with a layer of ceramic. The ceramic coatings are often made from inorganic minerals, which do not contain any carbon, but usually contain silicon. Because the chemicals that are used to create the ceramic coating are inorganic, they are free from the same harmful chemicals used for Teflon cookware. Additionally, these inorganic chemicals also make the cookware more environmentally friendly.
A sol-gel process is used to apply the ceramic nonstick coating, which is applied by dipping the cookware directly into the mineral gel or the cookware is sprayed down with it, for a single layer. Teflon pots and pans undergo a similar process, with the use of harsh chemicals for a total of three layers.
Many brands of ceramic coated cookware offer a heat resistance of up to four hundred and fifty degrees while Teflon has a heat resistance of five hundred degrees.
In terms of cookware safety, ceramic coated cookware tops the list. Unlike Teflon it will not emit harmful fumes if the cookware is overheated. The ceramic coating also will not break down.
Click here to learn more about ceramic coated cookware.
Carbon steel cookware is another safe option. Similar to cast iron pots and pans, carbon steel can leach a small amount of iron into food, which can be a plus for people who have an iron deficiency.
However, carbon steel actually contains more iron than carbon and is made up of about one percent carbon and ninety-nine percent iron. Cast iron is only made up of three percent carbon and ninety-seven percent iron.
The extra carbon content found in cast iron is what makes it more brittle than carbon steel. This is because the carbon tends to clump or can form flat sheets of graphite, both of which end up disrupting the grain in the iron.
There are actually two different types of carbons steel cookware: black steel or blue steel.
The different names simply refer to the type of surface hardening treatments used, both of which work to prevent rust.
While carbon steel cookware has a better reputation for durability, even despite the fact that it weighs much less than cast iron, just like cast iron, carbon steel pots and pans should also be seasoned in order to form a nonstick surface.
To learn more about carbon steel cookware, click here.
Lined Copper Cookware
Copper cookware landed on our unsafe cookware list, but only in its raw form. Lined copper cookware is totally safe and a great option that can offer many benefits in the kitchen.
When lined with a different metal on the interior, copper is considered a safer alternative to nonstick cookware. In the past, copper was commonly lined with tin. While it’s true that many high-end brands still line their copper cookware with tin, now, many brands line the interior of the copper cookware with stainless steel. This eliminates the need to reline the cookware in the event that the interior is scratched or damaged. Stainless steel lined copper cookware is also more affordable.
Surprisingly, many home cooks aren’t familiar with titanium cookware and have never used it. But in fact, many of the leading brands of cookware manufacturers also produce top of the line titanium cookware sets.
A biocompatible, nontoxic metal, titanium is often used to make joint replacements, dental implant devices, and medical instruments. This lightweight metal is impressively strong.
It’s no secret that titanium cookware is pricey, however, many cooks can agree that the metal’s durability and heating efficiency make it worth every penny. Typically, titanium cookware features an aluminum base for improved heat distribution and transfer. Titanium is considered a non-porous, nonstick material, which works to prevent the aluminum from leaching through. It also has a reputation for being incredibly strong and lightweight.
Titanium sets with an aluminum base and a natural titanium finish make it one of the best and safest cookware on the market.
Click here to learn more about titanium cookware.
Tempered Glass Cookware
Want a more affordable alternative to pricey copper, carbon steel, or titanium cookware? Tempered glass cookware isn’t as popular as it used to be. It can be difficult to clean at times, it’s heavy, and yes, it can shatter if you drop it. But it also comes with many benefits that every cook will love, including a lower price tag.
Cooking with glass pots and pans also ensures that the food you prepare will not contain metal or harmful chemicals. Tempered glass is designed for high-temperature baking and cooking. It’s actually very durable and features a nice weight.
When you use this cookware, you must be careful in terms of cooling it down slowly. If you take a hot glass pot from the stove to the sink and use cold water, the cookware can crack or shatter. Most manufacturers will include care instructions which will warn you against sudden severe temperature changes.
If you’d like to learn more about tempered glass cookware and the many benefits associated with it, click here for an in-depth look.
We looked at some of the most dangerous cookware to avoid, and the safest cookware, but what about the healthiest cookware to use?
- Lined copper
- Pure ceramic
- Coated ceramic
- Stainless steel
- Tempered glass
These options are free from the harmful chemicals used in popular nonstick cookware brands. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about metals leaching into your cookware as you prepare food.
Cookware such as cast iron and carbon steel can leach iron into your food, which is both a pro and a con, depending on your diet and whether an increase in iron is needed in your diet. If your diet already consists of the recommended daily dose of iron, then using this type of cookware can be overkill.
Safest Cookware for High Heat
If you’re not into trying new dishes or getting fancy in the kitchen, then the idea of trying high heat recipes may not seem appealing to you. But you don’t have to be a pro in the kitchen to try out this style of cooking. In fact, you may already be familiar with some dishes that require higher than average temperatures. Mainly this can involve meat such as steaks or chicken, but there are also side dishes, such as sautéed veggies, that benefit from using a higher temperature.
A higher temperature can awaken new flavors in your food, cooking it to perfection.
Cooking at a higher temperature is popular for several reasons. Aside from the obvious fact that this method cooks your food much faster, compared to cooking food at a lower temperature, it also nicely sears and browns food. Additionally, cooking food at a higher temperature can kill off harmful bacteria and it can also add new interesting flavors to your favorite meals.
Cooking food at a higher heat is considered an art form of sorts. If you get it wrong you can end up with food that’s frozen or raw on the inside and burned on the outside. But if done correctly, you can end up with a more flavorful steak or chicken breast.
Unfortunately, not every type of cookware is designed for high heat cooking. But when you’re following a recipe and it calls for panfrying, sauteeing, stir-frying, or browning a dish, this implies that a higher temperature is needed.
When a higher temperature is required, it’s important to use the correct type of cookware in order to avoid overcooking your food or damaging your cookware.
Best Types of Cookware for High Heat Cooking
If you’re eager to try high heat cooking, then your first step is purchasing the right type of equipment. We don’t recommend using nonstick cookware for high temp cooking because the coating tends to melt at higher temperatures.
You’ll find that pans without any type of nonstick coating are a much better option. Stainless steel, carbon steel, enabled cast iron, and traditional cast iron are all great choice. Aluminum and copper cookware is not recommended.
Now, let’s delve a little deeper into why certain materials are better than others for high heat cooking.
Cast iron: Cast iron is often the go-to cookware of choice for high heat cooking and it has been for decades. It’s a reliable choice because cast iron can be used with an open flame. It can also easily go directly from the stovetop into your oven. It also offers above average heat conductivity and is more durable than most materials used for high heat cooking. For one reason or another, many people tend to steer clear of using cast iron, mainly because it can be difficult to care for, especially if you have no experience with seasoning this type of cookware.
In order to season a cast iron pot or pan the surface of the cookware must first be coated with oil, heated up, and then allowed to cool down. This is a process that must be completed a number of times in order to correctly break down the oil to create the type of slick surface that will make the cookware nonstick.
As we mentioned earlier, iron is a type of reactive metal. This can cause some issues with the flavor of certain foods, especially when you prepare alkaline or acidic foods. However, when the pot or pan is seasoned properly, you won’t have to worry about this type of reactive issue.
Cast iron can also be a more affordable option and it’s not as delicate as traditional nonstick cookware in the sense that you have to use special utensils in order to avoid scratching the interior.
Enameled cast iron: Cookware that’s made out of cast iron and coated with ceramic offers both the benefits of ceramic pots and pans and cast iron cookware. With the addition of the ceramic coating, you also won’t have to bother with seasoning the pots and pans. This style of cookware excels at retaining heat and can easily go from the stove to the oven. The coating on the cookware makes it non-reactive so it will not leach iron into your food or add an unpleasant flavor to your alkaline or acidic dishes.
Considering how durable this cookware is, it’s an excellent choice for high temp cooking. Just keep in mind, that like traditional cast iron cookware, this type is also very heavy and can be difficult for some cooks to lift during meal prep.
Stainless steel: It comes as no surprise that stainless steel made it on the list of the safest cookware for high heat use. This type of material is dishwasher safe, durable, and non-reactive. These pots and pans are difficult to damage, have a nice heft to them, and are easier to clean compared to traditional cast iron cookware.
Some cooks may find the fact that stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat well to be a major drawback, which is why most pro chefs recommend tri-ply cookware. Tri-ply cookware features a stainless steel construction with an aluminum core and copper bottom, for improved heat conductivity.
Carbon steel: This style of cookware needs to be seasoned, just like cast iron, but it offers a lighter weight and is a more affordable option. It can also handle higher temperatures and can go from the stove directly to the oven. Many cooks choose this type of cookware over cast iron because it’s much lighter and it’s easier to clean.
So, what’s the best type of cookware for high heat cooking?
Most chefs will go with traditional cast iron. While it does require seasoning, after the process, the cookware is very easy to care for. Cast iron is also very versatile, more durable than carbon steel and tempered glass cookware, and it can withstand daily use. Decent quality cast iron can be pricey, especially if you’re interested in a larger skillet, however, you’ll find that the cookware’s versatility is often worth the higher price tag.
However, if you’re not a fan of cast iron or carbon steel cookware, then pure ceramic or ceramic coated cookware are both great alternatives. Both types of ceramic cookware also do not require any type of seasoning and are much lighter than cast iron.
What is the Best Cookware Material?
This will depend on what you’re cooking. If you want to cook at a higher temperature, then cast iron, ceramic coated cast iron, and carbon steel are all great choices. If you want durable cookware that’s heat efficient and designed to cook your food evenly and to perfection each and every time, then go with what the pros commonly use and that’s copper.
What is the Best Nonstick Cookware that’s Nontoxic?
Pure ceramic cookware or ceramic coated cookware are both great choices. The ceramic coating may not work quite as well as Teflon coating, but it’s close and it’s a much safer option. It can also withstand higher temperatures, is easier to wash and maintain, and will not flake off into your food.
Can Fumes from Teflon Cookware Really Kill Birds?
Yes. If birds inhale these harmful chemicals it can actually kill them. Each year, hundreds of birds die from Teflon toxicity, despite the fact that manufacturers claim that the nonstick coating is safe.
Even if you don’t burn the pan, using Teflon or other types of nonstick cookware, in general, can kill your bird. While many of the leading nonstick cookware manufacturers claim that the nonstick coating can remain intact up to five hundred degrees, bird owners have reported that their birds have died from the fumes generated by the cookware, even when it was used at normal temperatures.
What is the Easiest Cookware to Clean?
Unfortunately, the easiest cookware to clean is also the most dangerous cookware to use. Nonstick cookware is popular, not just because it makes cooking certain dishes easier, thanks to the slick surface, but because it eliminates the need to scrub pans once the meal is over. However, easier cleanup definitely doesn’t make purchasing this type of cookware worth the health risks associated with it.
Seasoned cast iron and carbon steel pans may not offer the same type of ultra-slick surface, but they’re a much safer alternative.
Pure ceramic and ceramic coated cookware also feature a nonstick surface of sorts that can make the cleanup process much easier.
What is Healthy Cookware?
Healthy cookware is cookware that doesn’t leach dangerous chemicals into your food and cookware that will not emit harmful chemicals when it reaches a certain temperature. There are many healthy alternatives to nonstick cookware on the market these days, such as lined copper cookware, pure ceramic cookware, and coated ceramic. Each of these options is much safer to use than even top of the line nonstick cookware.
If you’ve stuck with us this far, then you now know that nonstick cookware such as Teflon, tops our list of the dangerous cookware to avoid. Not only will the interior of the cookware break down over time and can end up in your food, but when it reaches temperatures exceeding five hundred degrees it can emit chemicals into the air that can be harmful to your health and can be lethal to birds. Our list of the safest cookware to use features the best alternatives to nonstick cookware. Not only does the list contain safer options, but each type of cookware also offers other benefits including versatility, ease of use, lightweight designs, and low maintenance needs.