7+ Safest Cookware Brands & Materials (2023)
When choosing cookware for your home it is important to know the risks of each type of cookware and decide which is the safest cookware for you. This list includes the safest cookware brands and materials, plus which types of pots and pans to avoid.
When it comes to choosing the best cookware these days, we are spoiled for options!
There are countless options, from classic cast iron to modern silicone cookware. With so many options available, we can afford to be pickier when choosing cookware.
In particular, there are legitimate concerns about the safety of certain types of cookware, especially around non-stick coatings. Learn what are the safest cooking pans and best non toxic cookware sets are for both home cooks and professional chefs.
Some of the safest cookware materials include stainless steel, ceramic, copper, and cast iron. Nonstick and aluminum cookware is generally regarded as safe as well.
All of the items on this list fall into the category of non-toxic cookware, but there are pros and cons of each option.
Cooking at Home Using Quality Cookware
Cooking at home is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Research shows that you will save money, have more control over the quality of your ingredients, and likely eat better when you are in charge of your own meals.
But, of course, to cook at home you need to have the right equipment.
A well-stocked kitchen will have a healthy pantry, the basics like an oven, stovetop, and refrigerator, and then a variety of accessories like knives, cutting boards, and other helpful appliances such as an air fryer or an electric pressure cooker. See my full list of the best appliances for healthy eating.
And, of course, you need to have a set of quality cookware to make meals at home. That’s where this article comes in!
I’ll help you decide which type of cookware to get that is the least toxic and the most durable. This article is based on both personal research and expert scientific research to help separate the toxic materials from the non-toxic cookware material and options.
Types of Cookware to Avoid
There is a lot of information being put out there about the dangers of certain types of cookware. If you read the headlines you might get concerned about toxic chemicals in certain types of pots and pans.
However, most modern cookware brands, including non-stick cookware brands, are safe and non-toxic as long as they are used properly and are not damaged.
That said, the types of potentially toxic cookware to avoid includes:
- Damaged or scratched non-stick pots and pans
- Vintage nonstick cookware (or even cookware made prior to 2013) made with perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) due to health concerns
- Cookware surfaces used improperly, such as cooking acidic foods in aluminum pans or people with iron overload cooking with iron pots and pans
That said, it is important that you do your own research to determine which type of cooking surface is best for your needs and your budget.
Safest Cookware Options
When it comes to to actually choosing a cookware set or even just a couple of pots and pans, it’s important to consider the options.
Whether you’re a young person just starting out with your new kitchen or you’re a veteran home cook looking to replace your existing cookware, this is the only guide you need to make the best choice for your healthy kitchen.
These are the safest options of cookware available, listed in no particular order. I’ve included pros and cons of each, with links to available and affordable options.
The healthiest and least toxic cookware for your kitchen will include:
- Ceramic cookware
- Aluminum cookware
- Stainless steel cookware
- Nonstick cookware
- Cast iron cookware
- Copper cookware
- Granite, glass, and clay cookware
Let’s review each of these healthy cookware materials in detail, including pros and cons of each, plus suggested brands.
1. Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic cookware is clay cookware that’s kiln-baked to high heat, rendering the quartz sand surface effectively non-stick.
It’s a popular choice but here are some pros and cons to help you decide if it’s the best choice for your kitchen.
Pros of Ceramic Cookware:
100% ceramic cookware and ceramic-coated cookware both have natural non-stick properties, and does not leach or emit potentially harmful fumes.
So, ceramic cookware is among the best of the non-toxic cookware options.
Eco-friendly and Long-lasting
Ceramic cookware is made of durable, inorganic materials. It’s an eco-friendly choice that will last for decades if maintained properly.
Cons of Ceramic Cookware:
Not Completely Nonstick
It’s hard to compete with synthetic non-stick coatings, especially if you’re accustomed to eggs sliding right out of your pan with no residue at all.
While ceramic cookware is effectively non-stick, it’s still advisable to use a little bit of oil when cooking.
Can Be Pricey
It’s important to trust the sourcing of your ceramic cookware.
The labels “100% ceramic” and “non-stick ceramic” or “ceramic-coated” are not FDA regulated, so be sure you’re getting authentic 100% ceramic rather than ceramic-coated metal or nonstick ceramic pots and pans.
It’s very difficult to find 100% ceramic cookware, though, so you will probably have to make some compromises. A company like Greenpan uses a nonstick ceramic coating that is free from PFAS and PFOA.
Caraway is another competing ceramic-coated brand that offers pots and pans in a variety of colors.
2. Aluminum Cookware
Aluminum cookware is just that–pots and pans made from aluminum. They can also be nonstick coated or anodized, meaning that the pan won’t react with acidic foods.
Here are some pros and cons of aluminum cookware.
Pros of Aluminum Cookware:
Conducts Heat Well
Aluminum is a great heat conductor, which means that your pan will heat up quickly and cook food evenly.
Aluminum cookware is a popular option because it’s relatively inexpensive. Anodized aluminum will set you back only about $100 for a complete set, so aluminum is still one of the more affordable options out there.
Cons of Aluminum:
Potential for Leaching
Uncoated and non-anodized aluminum cookware can leach metals such as aluminum and lead into food during the cooking process.
Acidic foods in particular increase leaching. The amount of leaching has been found to be minimal and well under the tolerable level, but it is still a contribution to your overall metal intake.
Aluminum cookware, especially non-anodized, isn’t as durable as options like cast-iron or ceramic.
Watch for scratching and corrosion with this type of cookware.
Aluminum cookware is pretty low-stick, but not non-stick. You’ll need to coat the surface of your pan with oil to prevent sticking.
Suggested Anodized Aluminum Cookware:
3. Stainless Steel Cookware
Stainless steel pans are popular and have been in kitchens for decades. These are made from a metal alloy that also contains percentages of nickel and chromium or other metals.
Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if stainless steel should be your cookware of choice, especially as you consider what is the safest cookware.
Pros of Stainless Steel:
Stainless steel is pretty resistant to scratches, dings, and corrosion.
Most stainless steel pots and pans can go into the dishwasher. When properly cared for, they will last you for years!
You’ll still need to use a little bit of oil, but high-quality stainless steel generally cleans easily.
Cons of Stainless Steel:
High-quality stainless steel cookware is an investment that can reach almost a thousand dollars for a set.
You can choose mid-range sets for a few hundred dollars–just keep in mind that you get what you pay for, and high-quality stainless steel will likely be safer and more durable.
Similar to aluminum cookware, lower quality stainless steel cookware poses a risk of leaching.
While stainless steel isn’t treated with a chemical coating, it is comprised of an alloy containing nickel and chromium. Nickel isn’t necessary for the body, while chromium is only needed in trace amounts from food.
When you’re cooking acidic foods in such as tomato sauce in stainless steel cookware, leaching can be a concern.
Suggested Stainless Steel Cookware:
4. Nonstick Cookware
Nonstick cookware is any form of cookware coated with a non-stick surface, rendering it slippery and mess-free. Non-stick cookware commonly is coated with PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene, often referred to as Teflon) or silicon.
Here are some pros and cons of non-stick cookware so you can make the best decision for yourself.
Pros of Nonstick Cookware:
Mess-free and Easy to Maintain
Non-stick cookware is coated with silicon or PTFE.
The non-stick finish allows for easy clean-up and quicker cooking. All you need to do even after cooking a messier meal is rinse with water or wipe out with a damp cloth.
Non-stick cookware is a pretty affordable option.
I have a set from Analon that I really like. You can find a range of brands from less expensive to more expensive, and it’s generally available at any large department or homewares store.
Cons of Nonstick Cookware:
Not Suitable for High Temperatures
The coating on some non stick cookware can emit toxic fumes if heated past 450-500 degrees; it may be a surprise that a frying pan can easily reach or surpass that temperature on the stovetop.
Leaching and Fumes
PFOA and PTFE are suspected of being linked to health problems (such as breast cancer.)
Even high-quality non stick cookware may start to stick eventually. The coating isn’t as durable as the surface of regular cookware, so scratches are common and the coating may become less effective over time, especially if heated to temperatures surpassing 350°F.
Even though some brands claim to be dishwasher-safe, regularly putting this cookware in the dishwasher can damage the coating.
Lastly, it is unlikely that any non-stick pot or pan will last a lifetime. This means that you will more than likely have to replace your nonstick pans at some point, meaning that they will likely be discarded and end up in a landfill.
Suggested Nonstick Cookware:
5. Cast Iron
Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries. This cookware is cast as a single piece of metal and then seasoned (through a process of oiling and heating) to protect the bare cast iron and give it a low-stick coating.
In addition, some cast iron cookware is enameled, giving it a nearly non-stick finish and more aesthetically-pleasing appearance. Here are some pros and cons of cast iron in your kitchen.
Pros of Cast Iron:
Holds Heat Well
Cast iron is unique in its heating abilities. It’s a solid, heavy piece that requires pre-heating to best conduct heat, especially to incredibly high temperatures.
Meat sears well and pan-fried food turns out crispy. If your cast iron pan is pre-heated properly, you can even take it off the stove and it will retain enough heat to cook or warm food.
Can Be Used in the Oven
Cast iron is formed as a single piece of metal, so you can easily transfer from the stovetop into the oven.
This technique is often used for cooking meats or finishing dishes.
Affordable and Durable
Bare cast iron (such as Lodge) is affordable, often costing less than $30 for a large skillet.
Enameled cast iron (such as Le Creuset) is pricier, but just as durable.
Cast iron of all types is notorious for lasting generations; cast iron skillets from the 19th century are still used in many households today.
Properly seasoned and maintained cast iron cookware is virtually non-stick and easy to clean.
Cons of Cast Iron:
Cast iron cookware will require more of a time investment than other options.
You’ll need to make sure it’s seasoned and stored properly, and follow proper cleaning procedures if the seasoning fails to make it nonstick enough.
Not Great for All Types of Cooking
It’s generally advisable to avoid cooking acidic foods in cast iron so as to avoid harming the seasoning. In addition, you may want to avoid cooking delicate food like fish or crepes in cast iron.
Take care when choosing what to cook in cast iron–savory dishes may linger and impart a taste to sweet foods and some may notice a distinct metallic taste with foods such as fish or eggs.
May Leach Heavy Metals
Cast iron is a great choice if you wish to avoid chemically-treated cookware, but it presents its own risk of leaching iron into food.
This iron is not easily assimilated in the body and may contribute to iron overload for some individuals. You can help avoid this by not cooking acidic foods in your cast iron cookware.
Copper cookware has been around as long as, or longer than, cast iron cookware.
Made from copper, this cookware is often lined with tin. It’s a beautiful option for cookware that many chefs favor.
Here are some pros and cons to see if copper cookware is right for you.
Pros of Copper Cookware:
Conducts Heat Well
Copper is notoriously nimble with heat.
It conducts heat quickly and also loses heat quickly, which is a reason many chefs prefer it. You can easily control the cooking temperature with copper.
Copper cookware is lined with tin, giving it a nearly non-stick surface.
The tin lining won’t react with acidic foods, so it’s great to have on hand for sauces and tomato dishes!
Cons of Copper Cookware:
Copper cookware is a serious investment, with the cost of a copper set generally much higher than other types of cookware materials. The brand Mauviel is nice because it offers a copper and stainless steel blend so you get the benefits of copper without having to pay for 100% copper.
Doesn’t Retain Heat
Though some appreciate the easy temperature regulation, keep in mind that your copper cookware will rapidly cool down if taken off the heat.
Make sure to time your cooking correctly so that food cooked in your copper cookware is plated last.
Suggested Copper Cookware:
There continue to be different and safe cookware materials introduced to the marketplace. Some others to consider include granite, glass, and clay.
Always be sure to do your research and make sure you know the pros and cons of each option before purchasing.
FAQs About Safest Cookware
There is not one type of cookware that is the safest over all the others.
But, if you are looking for the least toxic cookware material, you should probably stick with ceramic or stainless steel options.
Always be sure to read the manufacturer guidelines and stay within the recommended temperature maximums when cooking.
Most modern nonstick pans are made coatings that can release harmful chemicals if they are over heated or scratched with metal utensils.
If you choose to use pans with non-stick coatings, then always be sure to use the non-stick pans according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
This includes not heating them to higher temperatures than what they are tested for. You may also want to hand wash your teflon cookware to make sure it doesn’t get scratched or overheated in the dishwasher.
There are several types of cookware that are both safe and long-lasting. Some types of cookware can last a lifetime or even be handed down to the next generation.
Ceramic cookware, cast iron cookware, copper cookware, and stainless steel cookware are long-lasting and are less likely to end up in a landfill as opposed to aluminum or nonstick cookware.
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There are so many choices available for cookware now. Whether you choose a matching set or a hodgepodge of different types, consider what you cook most often and choose your cookware based on that.
All of the items on this list fall into the category of non-toxic cookware, but there are pros and cons of each option. Stainless steel is probably the most versatile and easy to maintain.
Those who cook acidic dishes such as tomato sauces most often may want to choose ceramic or copper. Those who cook at high temperatures may go for cast iron, while those who want mess-free clean up may choose nonstick options.
Ultimately, my recommendation is to choose which works best for your budget, but know the pros and cons of each option and then decide what works best for you. This post has the most up-to-date information for the current year, and I will update it with any changes or new research that comes out in the future.
About the Author: Carrie Forrest has a master’s degree in public health with a specialty in nutrition. She is a top wellness and food blogger with over 10 million annual visitors to her site. Carrie has an incredible story of recovery from chronic illness and is passionate about helping other women transform their health. Send Carrie a message through her contact form.
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.