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 in many types of ceramic cookware but have found one brand that publishes independent test results to show that their pans do not leach any lead or other metals.
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, it’s important to address concerns about lead and heavy metal concerns with this type of cookware. I have done my own research on this and found that in leach testing, these pans test safe. They also pass third party and Prop 65 testing in California, which means they should not leach metals into foods. For this reason, I personally consider them safe but encourage you to do your own research on safety if this is a concern for you.
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.
As an affiliate partner of Xtrema, they’ve agreed to offer my readers a discount. If you decide to try this type of cookware, you can save 10% with the code WMX10 at this link.
What is your favorite kind of cookware? Would you try ceramic?
Discussion (30 Comments)
I do a lot of steaming. It simplifies matters and there is almost no cleanup. For steaming, I use stainless steel. For cooking things like oatmeal, I use Visions glassware. Absolutely no environmental problems and easy to clean up. I recently purchased something called a Greenpan. I have yet to make a final decision on this one.
I have an induction cooktop. Is there a gadget one can use to be able to use Ceramcor too?
Is ceramic cookware non-stick?
Elizabeth t Crowe
I use cast iron and ceramic and like them both. Cast iron, when seasoned correctly, will not stick.
I’ve been using Dr. Mercola’s ceramic cookware for more than two years. I’m down to one large pan and a small pot, my other egg pan and a soup pot I accidentally broke. Looks like Extrema cookware is of similar quality as Dr. Mercola’s (please correct me if I’m wrong), both companies manufacture their pots and pans in China. I learned to like my ceramic pans and pots and used to make omelets exclusively in ceramic cookware. I’d like to buy a large soup pot (10 quarts) from Xtrema. Though, they’ve been out of stock for a while! Another handy pot is my organic clay from VitaClay. I use it every day!
You write, “Be aware that some ceramic cookware made in China and some other places may contain lead in the glaze. To avoid lead or other heavy metals leaching from ceramic glaze, stick with quality ceramics made in the US or Europe. Xtrema is made in China. I bought it after reading your article I invested quite a lot of money and bought complete sets. Never again. Most difficult to cook with. I didn’t even donate them as I found out they are also made in China. I would recommend you check your sources before going to print. Please let me hear from you if I am wrong. Thank you Sue
Katie - Wellness Mama
I’ve explained this in another article about safe cookware but Xtrema tests their cookware and there is no lead or heavy metals in their cookware. I don’t normally buy from China either, but they actually do lead the world in ceramics and as long as they are tested for lead and heavy metals, I feel comfortable buying ceramic from there. Editing the article to be more clear.
When researching each piece, it says the country of origin is CHINA on the xtrema website!
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes it is, and while you need to be careful with many items made in Chine, ceramics are one product they they have been making for centuries and do an excellent job of…
I am very disappointed in the pan. It cooks very unevenly- eggs, pancakes, and even stirfry are all a disaster. I regret purchasing this pan. I have been following Wellness Mama for many years and have always been happy with all the products that you recommend, but I am disappointed at your endorsement of such a terrible product. Reading my comment and the comments of your other here, would you be willing to reach to the company on our behalf for a refund.
Katie - Wellness Mama
Thanks for the feedback, I’ll see what I can do. Trying to find a truly healthy set up pans that also cook well is tough… I might just have to design some myself! 😉
Romatopf cookware is unglazed ceramic. Used for baking and as a casserole. New they are also expensive, but I have found a number in thrift stores for as little as #3.00 – #10.00. Excellent flavour to food – a bit more fragile than the ones you recommend, but for $3 – $10 you can’t go wrong!
Heavy stainless steel, preferably with copper bottoms or at least triple core bottoms.
Cast iron thats sealed with flax oil.
john s marquez
I tried the Xtrema brand per your recommendations. It was a nightmare. I am a very experienced and former professional chef. When I had issues with eggs sticking to to the pan after following product instuctions and recommendations, I tried calls and emails. The customer service was horrendous. (You can only reach Bob on certain days, Thursdays I believe). At one point the main founder, (Richard) was very harsh critics implying I just didn’t know how to use a skillet, and went so far as to ask me why was it his problem that I don’t know how to cook an egg???. In the end I accidentally banged the almost $100 skillet against the sink while washing and it broke into pieces. Total loss. Never again!
Katie - Wellness Mama
I am so sorry you had a poor experience and I will reach out to them on your behalf. I definitely do think there is a learning curve and they don’t cook like many other pots and pans. I’m actually working on developing a healthy non-stick skillet and hope to be able to share it within the next year or so.
Let us know when you come up with it. I like making eggs and cooking things on the stove, but the downside of all of it is I have to wash all my dishes by hand, and my bane is having to scrub the egg pan with my fingernails (after letting it soak for at least a day) in order to get the residue off, even if I’ve used plenty of butter (I can’t do steel wool for various reasons, and the scrubber I do have doesn’t cut it on the eggs). I’ve also been on the hunt for a safe non-stick pan that won’t break no matter what and isn’t super heavy (because I will be taking it on backpacking trips), and the best I’ve found so far is an anodized stainless steel pot (that I didn’t buy because it’s out of my budget).
Yes. That would be wonderful. The only problem is I found out there are not too many companies in the USA that make these pots. However, I believe there are two companies in the USA that make the cast iron pots. They do make a nonstick however they coat them with soy bean oil (a big no no). Keep me updated on the pots. My whole family is lined up.
I once bought a pricey nonstick skillet. That eggs stuck to. I went to the store and said, what am I doing wrong? She demo’d it there for me how to fry an egg. Used 2-3T of butter to fry it. Um, its a NONstick pan, I dont need ANY butter to fry it. (I was using a good T or more when I cooked them anyway). So—waste of money. It was one of the anondized pans…
We have a cheap walmart one for omellettes, I replace when it flakes. Nothing else works for omellettes lol
I had a horrible customer service experience as well. They don’t send any order acknowledgement emails like every other company in the world so I didn’t know how to contact them. No one answers the phone number on the website and my browser won’t let me click on the email address on the website since the website is not secure!
I left a comment on Instagram which was immediately deleted instead of trying to help me.
When I finally had to file a paypal dispute, I immediately received an email scolding me for filing a dispute!