Stir, Sear and Sauce With These 10 Non-Toxic Cookware Items

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Are you a choosey grocery shopper who reads nutrition labels, avoids produce from the dirty dozen list and prepares healthy meals for yourself or your family only to cook up a meal on an old, warped, non-stick pan whose coating has been worn, chipped or rusted after years of use and abuse?

If the thought of pots and pans "leaching" unhealthy chemicals into your pasta primavera scares you, consider switching your cookware. Some types of cookware can be giving off toxic fumes and chemicals when they are heated. These chemicals can build up in your system over time, potentially wreaking havoc on your health. Teflon (the brand name for the man-made chemical PTFE), a popular coating found on non-stick pots and pans, releases toxic fumes when overheated. PTFE has been known to cause flu-like symptoms in humans and can be fatal to birds. 

While there can be issues with any type of cookware depending on cooking temperature, storage and user error (so be sure to follow the manufacturer's care instructions to keep you and your family safe), there are quite a few healthier alternatives out there, and one is sure to suit your lifestyle.

Cast Iron

They may look old and greasy but that's what makes cast-iron skillets excellent for cooking, baking, frying, roasting, searing and a host of other cookery. Because they are incredibly dense, they heat evenly and the seasoning formed from years of use makes them naturally non-stick. A new cast iron pan will need to be properly seasoned to create a non-stick surface and keep it rust-free.  

Break out grandma's hand-me-down skillet or get your own—these days they even come pre-seasoned so there goes that excuse. We love this version by Lodge.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

If you're looking for something a little fancier than your run-of-the-mill, maybe-not-so-pretty cast-iron pan, Le Creuset makes a enameled/cast-iron skillet combo featuring the same benefits as cast iron but with a chip- and crack-resistant enamel and an easier-to-grip handle.


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

Due to the dangers of removing the skillet's seasoning which can lead to rusting, you can't clean your cast iron using  soap, steel wool or the dishwasher. You can, however, get medieval on it with this awesome chainmail scrubber.


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

Stainless

Stainless steel cookware is non-reactive, so you won't have to worry about your salmon tasting like you're eating the pan too. These pots and pans move easily from stove to oven and the surface is great for achieving a crusty sear on your meat, as well as scraping, deglazing and making sauces.

Solid stainless is not a great heat conductor by itself; typically, they feature an aluminum or copper core to help them heat more evenly. Invest in thicker, more sturdy stainless cookware for the most even cooking surface and the longest use. When taken care of properly, a good set could last up to 50 years, like this set from All-Clad.


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

Since it's common for stainless pots and pans to gain brown spots and some discoloration over the years, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and give them a good scrub with Bar Keepers Friend or another cookware cleaner and polish to restore them to their original shine. 

Clay

For thousands of years, clay pots have been used in the kitchen, so why not call upon them in your own home? Inexpensive and nice to display, clay pots become seasoned after a few uses, much like cast iron. Food inside the vessel is steamed as heat and moisture circulate throughout the pot, and, as they require no oil to cook, oftentimes your meals will be lower in fat, yet still moist and delicious. Because food is steamed, that means nutrients are locked in during cooking. And since clay is non-reactive, the material will not leach into your food.

Make traditional Spanish dishes such as Bacalao Al Pil-Pil in a casserole dish like this cooking tureen or try your hand at a Moroccan fish tagine with a decorative, conical tagine pot.   


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

Clay pots require extra care and a watchful eye to make sure they don't crack or overheat during cooking. Cleaning your clay pot requires no soap—only water, a brush and some baking soda.

Copper

Julia Child chose to cook with her beloved copper pots for a reason. As a master of French cuisine, she knew that copper was king when it came to high-performance cooking. Faster cooking times and even heating means when you reach to turn your burner down before your rice burns, the pot will respond quickly in kind, rescuing dinner.

Even though copper is an essential mineral found throughout the human body, too much copper can be poisonous. To avoid the possibility of too much copper leaching into your food, many pots and pans are lined with stainless steel (check the product's description before you buy) so you can experience quality cooking without any unwanted side effects.

Whether you're looking to add one quality piece to your collection or a whole set, you can rest assured that the next time you find yourself dutifully stirring a risotto or hollandaise, your new copper pot will help keep the heat nice and steady.


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

To clean copper, fill your pot or pan with water and a bit of soap and let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. If bits of stuck food need a little nudge, try a bamboo scraper, which is hard enough to scrape the pan clean but soft enough not to scratch it.

Enameled

Enamelware is created similarly to ceramics in that it requires a glazing process. With enamelware, though, the coating (or enamel) is applied over cast-iron or steel cookware instead of pottery. The enamel helps prevent rust and to evenly distribute heat throughout the surface of the cookware. It's also resistant to acidic foods, which makes them perfect for long, slow cooking, as with a meaty ragù or a hearty tomato sauce.

Good quality enamelware can be passed down alongside your great-grandmother's recipes so long as you follow handling instructions and treat your cookware with care so it doesn't chip, scratch, rust or fade. Invest in pieces such as the classic Le Creuset Dutch oven or try the budget-friendly Lodge enameled cast iron as a starter piece.


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

Cleaning enamelware is like cleaning copper, but you should use baking soda instead of soap. Employ a bamboo scraper or colorful wooden spoon (no metal) to remove any remaining stubborn bits from the bottom.

Glass

The Corning company launched its familiar glass Pyrex brand before WWI and glass bakeware has been used ever since. But did you know you can also cook with some types of glass (read the manufacturer's instructions for stovetop or microwave safety)? Though less popular, glass pots and pans have their advantages. They heat up more quickly than metal cookware, which can shorten your cooking time, and since they are see-through, you can more easily monitor your food as it cooks. Glass pots also radiate heat through the sides, which produces more even heating. To shorten cooking time even further, you can place your food in its glass pot all together in the microwave before moving it to the stovetop.

Try this economically priced saucepan with lid from Corning Vision and watch it cook perfect hard-boiled eggs every time.


Photo courtesy of Amazon 

Because it retains heat, more food can get stuck to and burned on the inside of the glass pot. Fortunately, the best part about glass pots is you can clean them however you like—by hand, with soap and a scrubber or place right in the dishwasher.

What's your favorite non-toxic cookware?  

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Comments

ALICEALICEAN 5/28/2018
I just bought a couple pieces of "Green Life". It is supposed to be a healthy non-stick ceramic. Report
I LOVE my cast iron. I have 6 skillets of various sizes. To clean mine from oil and grime, I just use a paper towel and some salt. I also keep mine lightly coated in oil. I also love my aluminum stock pot I got at Big Lots years ago. It has a vented lid and I use it for steaming and cooking rice. I don't do acidy foods in it though. My other fav is my stoneware au gratin casserole. Report
I agree with HLEGACE. We still have one of my mom's Corning Ware Casserole dishes that she recieved when she married my father, in 1968! That is the best dish, and out performs anything newer by the same company. I am trying to get my hands on a 12" and 10" vintage Griswold or Wagner pan, but they are hard to find here. Report
Years ago we had the aluminum scare -- that aluminum pots and pans were poisonous to us. Then some doubt as to the accuracy. I seem to recall an article in Spark some time ago that agreed that aluminum had been given a bad rap and that it isn't harmful. Aluminum is omitted (except for mention as a core in stainless cookware) from this article, leaving room for continued confusion. Report
I love my cast iron pans. They are old, seasoned and great. I also love my pyrex bakeware. Again, they are old. The newer stuff they're selling today in cast iron and pyrex is not as good. Sad but true. Report
I have revere ware, at least 40 years old. I used to have cast iron but stopped using it. I wanted to get a pan recently but they are all the cheap sand cast pans with rough insides now not the nice milled pans I had in the past. Report
Oh just buy what you can afford, many of us still use cookware we received as wedding gifts, let's be honest. Why must there always be this drive to be perfect in everything, whether in what we eat or cookware too? Report
AZURE-SKY
I have a ceramic cooktop, and won't use cast iron on it because of the risk of scratching the surface. I do use stainless steel, which I love.

I also have some Corning Wear pieces that I've had since I got married in the late 70s.

I used to have Revere pots, but the quality has deteriorated over time. The early ones were great, with thick bottoms, but the last one I bought - a 6 quart stock pot, warped because the copper bottom was so thin. Report
Revere Ware pans, the older (thicker), the better. Revere Ware has a copper clad bottom on stainless steel. Also cast iron skillets - great for scrambled eggs. Use a lot of Pyrex in the microwave - I've found plastic pits with the microwave when there is any fat present. Also use my aluminum Presto pressure cooker a lot to make batches of soup. And I'd better not forget my Crockpot... Report
Thanks for the great blog! Cast iron, enameled and stainless are my favorites! I dream of owning a copper pot someday. :) Report
I use cast iron almost primarily. It lasts forever. When I go away and know I will be cooking some I have to bring it along. I do use small stainless steel for making my oatmeal or other items that I don't want the flavoring in. My favorite is a dutch oven but I burned a dishtowel in it .. accidentally of course. I can't get it back to a nice cast iron seasoned finish. Report
Iron can also leach into your food from cast iron cookware, which is why it's not recommended for simmering acidic foods (tomatoes, foods and sauces containing citrus, etc). Enameled cast iron does not leach iron because of the enamel coating. Some think that a very well-seasoned cast iron pan is less likely to leach iron.

Too much iron can be toxic, especially in those with certain conditions such as hemochromatosis. Report
I love my old corning ware and cast iron skillets. Report
Being not versed in cookware, I've used stainless steel. But recently decided to revisit cast iron. New skillet and trying to get it seasoned. Will need to cook in it more to get the nonstick coating. Thanks for the article, very informative. Report
I just got a ceramic cookware set, the Green pan, it's amazing, the best advance and ease of cooking ever, so quick and easy, fast clean up, only need low heat, little or no oil Report
Got a better link to some actual science regarding the dangers of non-stick? Your source is biased. Report
I've had le Creuset since 1975. It still looks good and works well, but it was and is e xpensive. Report
HEALTHYSHARMIE
I use cast iron, stainless steel, enamelware and glass. I love them all! I've been wanting to get some clay and also copper items, as well.

Utensil-wise, I use stainless steel, wood and bamboo on my cast iron, stainless steel and glass. On my LeCruset, I use wood and bamboo while cooking, but I do use stainless steel items to get the food out; I'm just careful about it.

Report
ANNE-IN-GTX
Chain mail scrubbie is the best thing invented since sliced bread. Love it for cleaning my cast iron. Report
NOT LeCruset. Had some years ago garbage total garbage in my experience couldn't use certain utensils with it and had to treat it with kid gloves. And I have cleaned my cast iron with soap and water and did NOT lose its seasoning. Report
 
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