There’s a lot of confusion about safe, natural cookware, in part because it can be hard to tell the difference between a safe piece of cookware and a “green-washed” one. When I wanted to switch out my non-stick cookware for something better I delved into the research to find the best cookware options. Ceramic cookware was one of the winners. And when I got a few pieces of Xtrema cookware one year for Christmas, I was hooked.
What Is Ceramic Cookware?
Ceramic cookware is entirely made of ceramic clay that is shaped, dried, fired, and glazed. Ceramic cookware is the safest option I’ve found for cookware.
And it makes sense that ceramic would be a good choice. For many centuries ceramics were the best, if not only, way to cook and store food. Over time other materials were used including metal like iron, copper, and aluminium. Later came chemical coating like Teflon that promised a non-stick surface.
Ceramics are still used after all this time because they are such a safe (and pretty) option. The quality of ceramics just keeps getting better, too. The ceramics of centuries (even millennia) ago were much more fragile than the ceramics we have today.
Many people know the dangers of Teflon-coated non-stick pans. The coating is made from perfluorochemicals (PFCs), which have been shown to be carcinogenic, disrupt hormone balances, and affect fetal development. There’s also the concern of overheating the pan and accidentally killing your pet bird or giving yourself a flu-like illness.
So Teflon’s out. But what about other more natural cookware like cast iron? Cast iron is certainly a better choice than Teflon, and if that’s what you have and can afford it’s a fine choice. There are some downsides to cast iron, though. For one, it may leach iron into the food (but a form of iron that is not bioavailable). Avoiding cooking liquids (for long periods of time) or acidic foods helps avoid this problem.
Enameled cast iron can help reduce leaching but is very expensive. Other natural cookware like stainless steel may still leach some metal into food, so I prefer ceramic for the simple fact that it doesn’t leach anything at all. Period.
Understanding Ceramic Cookware: Real vs. Fake
As I mentioned, there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to ceramic cookware. Some companies coat their metal cookware with a ceramic glaze and call it ceramic cookware. This fake ceramic doesn’t cut it. As Rich Bergstrom of Ceramcor mentioned in this podcast, these types of lower quality ceramic-coated cookware use glazes that are chemically derived (read: full of toxic chemicals) and won’t last longer than a few years.
I was concerned at first that ceramic cookware (including Xtrema) is made in Asia and other places where the glaze may contain lead. From updated research, I do have concerns about this based on
Pros of Ceramic Cookware
Obviously I love my ceramic cookware from Xtrema and here are some of the reasons:
- Very easy to clean – Because you can use soap and abrasive cleaning supplies like steel wool and baking soda, cleaning these pans is a breeze (much easier than cast iron!).
- Won’t scratch – Though some ceramic cookware may scratch, Xtrema cookware is so durable it’s scratch resistant. You can use metal utensils without worrying about ruining the pan.
- Cooks on low heat – Because it holds onto heat well, there’s no need to cook on anything higher than medium/high.
- Dishwasher safe – Some ceramic may not be able to go in the dishwasher but Xtrema is 100% dishwasher safe.
- Oven safe – Great for going from the stove-top to the oven.
- Stove safe – Can be used on electric, glass, or gas stove-top.
- Fridge/freezer safe – Can also be put into the freezer, avoiding plastic.
- Resists high heat – Some ceramic may not be able to withstand extremely high heat, but the Xtrema can withstand being heated to 2500 degrees F. No one is going to heat it that high, but it shows that it can be used in the highest heat situations without failing.
- Better tasting food – Some say the taste of food cooked in ceramic cookware is better and the food doesn’t get as dried out.
- Overall appearance – It may seem like a small thing but, ceramic cookware is just so beautiful!
- Cooks food evenly – Food cooks on the inside as well as the outside (no more burnt on the outside/raw on the inside problems).
You can read my full review of Xtrema here. If you choose to purchase a brand of ceramic cookware other than Xtrema, I recommend making sure it is similarly tested.
I love ceramic but there are a couple of disadvantages to ceramic cookware. For one, it takes longer to heat up (but retains heat very well). Also, it is breakable but can be very durable when cared for properly.
Also, recent data has emerged about possible lead and heavy metal concerns with this type of cookware. I am doing my own research on this currently and will update the post as I get more data. For now, it is worth researching before considering this type of cookware. Note that testing showing heavy metals is done with XRF testing which shows composition. In leach testing, these pans test safe and they pass Prop 65 testing in California, which means they should not be leaching metals into foods.
How to Cook With Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic is a natural and safe choice for cookware but it comes with a small learning curve. For the most part ceramic can be used the same way as other cookware. Some folks have found that ceramic is much easier to use for things like scrambled eggs than cast iron or stainless steel. But there is one big difference between ceramic and other cookware.
As I mentioned, ceramic cookware takes a few minutes to get up to temperature, unlike metal pans that heat up quickly. On the flip side, it also holds onto heat better than most other cookware, which means you can turn off the heat a few minutes early in the cook time and the food will continue to cook. This means it takes less energy to cook your food! (But be sure to adjust cooking times to avoid over-cooking).
Other tips for using ceramic cookware:
- Don’t put an empty pan on high heat. Add some water first or stick with medium heat.
- Don’t use a non-stick spray. It can cause build-up on the pan (and isn’t healthy anyway). Choose a high-heat tolerant fat like coconut oil or avocado oil.
- Though Xtrema is non-scratch, some other brand may not be. Using wooden spoons over metal can help avoid scratching.
- When storing, don’t stack or nest pans (unless you’re using a buffer between pans).
- Use low to medium heat for most things. Because ceramic doesn’t require a lot of oil, foods will sear at low temperatures.
Though cooking with ceramic cookware may require some adjustment, it is easy to clean and scratch proof. Ceramic is durable when cared for, and can replace almost all of other cookware. Unfortunately, there may be safety concerns with top brands so for now I’m researching and sending out cookware for testing.
What is your favorite kind of cookware? Would you try ceramic?