Non-Toxic Non-Stick Cookware

non-toxic non-stick cookware

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about non-toxic, non-stick cookware in my Facebook Group, the Green Product Forum, so I wanted to share some tips and specific product recommendations here.

Many people think first of reducing or eliminating plastic from their kitchen, to reduce exposure to chemicals like BPA. But the conversation is moving now to a different challenge: how can you replace your Teflon™ cookware, without sacrificing performance – and why would you want to?

What is Teflon™?

Teflon™ is the trade-name for chemical manufacturer DuPont’s non-stick cookware. It’s like the “Kleenex” of non-stick cookware, but other brands exist. It is made from polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE. (Yes, PTFE, not PFOA. If you’re royally confused because all you’ve heard about Teflon™ is how toxic PFOA is, you aren’t alone… read on.)

Is Teflon™ Toxic?

Teflon™ got a bad reputation because PFOA (perfluorooctanic acid) was historically used in the manufacturing process. PFOA is now banned, not because of a health risk in cookware, but because it was found to be contaminating water supplies near manufacturing plants. It is a carcinogenic, hormone disrupting, persistent environmental toxin (meaning that once it enters the environment, it doesn’t leave). It is generally accepted that very little PFOA remains on a product by the time it gets to the consumer.

The Canadian Cancer Society appears to be more concerned about TFE, which is used to create the non-stick coating. It has been identified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a “probably cause of cancer” and it may be released from PTFE-coated non-stick cookware at high heat.

And for those of you interested in the Rock Pans, they still contain PTFE. The ceramic options are PTFE-free, but from what I’ve seen don’t have great performance reviews online.

If you wish to continue using Teflon™ or other PTFE coated pans, do not dry-heat them (i.e. make sure there’s always water or oil in them when heating) and use them only at low heat. Studies have shown the chemicals can off-gas at normal frying temperatures. It is commonly recommended to discard scratched Teflon™ products, as this exposes the centre of the coating which is not intended to come in contact with food.

 

Non-Toxic Non-Stick Cookware

If you’re ready to move away from Teflon™ for your pots and pans , the good news is that you’ve got options. If non-stick is your primary goal, cast iron and ceramic are probably your best bets.

Cast iron pans are heavy, but they really will last a lifetime. Keep them well-oiled (“seasoned”) and make sure they’re dry before storing. Avoid cooking acidic foods, like tomatoes, as they will eat away at the pans. The washing process can seem daunting, but once you learn it, it takes very little time.

Here’s a quick video where I walk you through how to season cast iron:

If cast iron isn’t for you, then consider ceramic. These enamel-coated pans have a shorter use history, but from research I’ve done they are generally considered safe. Look for brands that are lead- and cadmium-free (like Lagostina or Green Pan), as there are some concerns that products made outside North America may not follow the same safety standards. Like Teflon™, the coating is prone to scratching and these pans have to be treated with care. They have a much shorter life than cast iron, so you probably only need one – perhaps a larger one if the large cast iron pans are too heavy for you.

Stainless steel cookware would not be considered non-stick without copious amounts of oil or grease. But it does clean up nicely with a scouring pad and some elbow grease. They are also long-lasting and affordable. The elements that make up stainless steel (and cast iron), iron, nickel, and chromium, are thought to be released at low enough levels to not pose a concern to our health (unless you’re allergic to nickel).

 

I hope this helps you navigate the options for detoxing your kitchen with respect to non-stick cookware. As a heads up, bakeware is also typically coated with Teflon™, but that is a topic for another day.

Tell me in the comments below – what are your favourite (green) non-stick products?

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Comments(6)

  1. Gregory says

    Thanks for the posting.

    One material I’ve wondered about is the new silicone bakeware, utensils etc.

    They are also non-stick, but cooking in a rubber mould seems like a recipe for some unexpected ingredients to seem into our food. Thoughts?

    • Emma Rohmann says

      Great question! The research done on silicone to-date suggests that it is safe and does not leach harmful chemicals. However, petrochemicals are used in the manufacturing process and the colours typically found in silicone products may be made with chemicals we would otherwise like to avoid. Health Canada deems it safe for cooking, indicating that it does not react with food or release harmful fumes. Right now, it is considered a better option than Teflon by many health advocates. As with any new product, it may take years before we know how safe it is.

  2. Kristy Wellwood says

    Thanks for this. Great article. Off to buy a cast iron pan now! (c:

  3. Susan says

    Hi Emma,
    I’ve always enjoyed cooking with cast iron. I’ve read that we even get some dietary iron from it. Not sure if it’s a significant amount. A few years ago, we bought a skillet with a “carbon steel non-stick cooking surface”. It was promoted as non-toxic. I wonder sometimes though. It does seem to be getting less non-stick as the years go by. I wonder if it needs deep cleaning, or seasoning, or is just wearing out.

    • Emma Rohmann says

      If it’s purely carbon steel, it should be. It’s similar to cast iron, but lighter. Try giving it a good scrub and reseason it a few times to see if it sticks less.

  4. Laura says

    Hi Emma!
    I wonder what the safety is around enamelled cast iron (the cuisinart sold at Canadian tire or le creuset as an example)… they have a coating (I believe the cuisinart says porcelain, but perhaps that’s the interior…) and so I find these a little more user friendly than a full cast iron, but as I start to make changes in my home, this is on the ‘is it safe’ list!!
    Thanks Emma

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