I’ve gotten multiple emails this week from readers who are engaged and wondering what the safest (and healthiest) cookware and bakeware options are to put on their gift registries. This is a topic I’ve researched quite a bit, so I’ve compiled my top five choices in order of preference. Thankfully, there are some great options out there that aren’t much more expensive than the harmful teflon and non-stick varieties.
Hopefully, this list will be helpful to some of you, as there are many changes I’d make if I could do my registry over again! In fact, I’ve thrown out quite a bit of what was on my original registry when we got married and am slowly buying replacements as I can afford them.
The main issues with traditional bakeware like non-stick and aluminum is that they can leach hormone disrupting chemicals and toxins into food… probably not the best choice! Some of the new-old-fashioned options are a lot better, and are much more fun to cook with once you get the hang of them!
Here are my favorite bakeware/cookware options in order of preference:
1. Ceramic Cookware and Bakeware
I am a huge fan of X-trema Cookware since I got several of their pans for Christmas a few years ago. They are the most inert cookware I’ve found and they don’t leach anything into food. The one downside is that they can break if you (or kids *ahem* drop them while being taken care of by extended family *ahem*). They are the absolute easiest option to clean, as you can use steel wool or scrubbing pads without scraping the surface. They have a non-scratch cooking surface, heat evenly and hold in flavors in foods.
They are technically dishwasher, oven, microwave and stove safe and can be scrubbed with anything. I love these pans so much that despite my kids breaking my skillet TWICE, I’ve replaced it. They cook better than cast iron or stainless and are easier to clean!
There is a learning curve as you get used to cooking with ceramics, but with a few tips to get started it’s definitely something worth learning!
My favorites are the 10 inch skillet (which I use multiple times a day), and the 3.5 Quart Saucepan, which I use to cook soups, heat foods, and even bake in.
Xtrema-Ceramcor also has some collapsible silicone food storage sets that are very compact in the cabinet but can safely store food in the fridge or freezer (and can technically be heated, though I prefer not to heat in silicone).
Pssst… Xtrema is giving a 10% discount on any order with the code WMX10 if you use this link. (That is an affiliate link, so if you decide to purchase through that link, or any other link on the site, I may receive a small commission to help support my blog. Many thanks!)
2. Cast Iron Cookware
Funny though it sounds, I am glad I listened to my great-grandmother-in-laws and my dad’s (who was a boy scout) advice and started cooking with cast iron. At first, I was worried because it sounded complicated to season cast iron and clean without using abrasive soaps, etc. Now that I’m used to it, I love cast iron and the added benefit of the extra iron in our diets. I mainly use it for cooking meats and for deep frying in coconut oil (I have a large skillet that perpetually holds about an inch of coconut oil or tallow for frying… talk about good seasoning!).
As long as you don’t scrub it with soap and a brillo pad, a good cast iron skillet can be an excellent non-stick surface to cook on and cooks evenly and with good flavor. The one downside is that you can’t cook tomato products in it as the acid interacts with the pH of the pan and gets an off-flavor. Cast iron is great because it can be used in the oven or on the stovetop (or on a campfire!) or all of the above.
My favorite cast iron piece is my large skillet, which is great for frying, cooking meats and even oven-cooking. A smaller skillet is great for eggs and oven omelets and I love my dutch oven with skillet top as it does double duty and cooks a mean roast in the oven or cobbler on the campfire. A grill pan is also great for meats, especially in the winter when it’s too cold to grill… though perhaps with all the talk of cold therapy lately, I should just suck it up and grill in the cold 🙂
Just make sure you season your cast iron well before using it, so that food won’t stick and it will cook better.
3. Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron and Stoneware
The reason this isn’t one of my first two options is because of the cost. Le Creuset is the gold standard of coated bakeware and cookware and they have the prices to go with it. The one Le Creuset piece I own cooks wonderfully and I hope to add to my collection one day. If you have the budget, or are looking for a great option for a wedding registry, I’d include some Le Creuset pieces.
My personal favorite (i.e. the only one I’ve tried) is their coated stone ware baking casserole dish, which cooks amazingly evenly and makes delicious food and which is also easy to clean. (It’s also gorgeous and comes in colors that match your kitchen… I love the red ones!). They also have matching color pieces including their french oven which is on my if-I’m-rich-one-day list.
4. Regular Stoneware
More for baking than cooking on the stove, stoneware is a great alternative to aluminum baking sheets or roasting pans. There are also muffin tins, bread (not grain!) pans, and many other stoneware pieces.
These can be tricky to clean but give amazing flavor to food and cook very evenly. You won’t want to use soap, as the stone absorbs the flavor, but a properly cared for stoneware piece can last a lifetime!
My favorites: The basic stoneware baking sheet (large) which I use to grill veggies, bake healthy cookies, and re-heat food. It is so versatile, plus I get an arm workout lifting it! 🙂 I also really like their baking dishes which can make casseroles, meats, etc. They also have bread pans, but who uses those… 🙂
5. Glass and Corningware
Corningware especially has a lot of nostalgic value to me, since I remember seeing it in both my parent’s houses and using it in my parent’s house growing up. It’s not as versatile and is mainly used for baking, but it is inexpensive (comparatively) and is low on the leach-poisons-into-my-food scale.
My favorites: This set of Corningware which I’ve used (and broken) extensively and my beloved Pyrex Storage set which I use a lot since I don’t use plastic and everything in my fridge is stored in this or mason jars.. so classy! 🙂 I also use my Pyrex Bowls with Lids and my Bake and Store Pyrex Set a lot! If you’re registering for your kitchen, I’d put a lot of Pyrex and Corningware on it! (and Corell dishes.. those things don’t break easily… my kids have tried!)
6. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is also a good option, though I personally prefer the other types above. We have several good stainless pieces that have lasted us for over a decade and still look new. Our most used stainless item are these large roasting sheets that we use daily for roasting meats, veggies and almost everything else…
This is the set we got when we were married and it works really well, plus it is a more cost effective option than some of the above. I also have these stainless steel bowls and I use them daily and love them.
What cookware do you use in your kitchen? Plastic or glass? Aluminum or Iron? What is your favorite? Weigh in below!