What Are the Safest Cookware Options?

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Oh cookware… it is something most of us use daily but one of the toughest categories to determine safety. And the safest brands have their fair share of convenience problems. In this in-depth post, our team evaluated the top types and brands of cookware and ranked them based on safety and convenience.

The bad news… perfect options don’t exist (yet). The good news… there are a few good brands. This investigation has been a decade-long project and it involved testing many types of cookware that didn’t work (and a few that have) over the years.

Now, let’s get into the weeds!

What to Avoid When Evaluating Cookware

The main issues with traditional bakeware like non-stick and aluminum are that they can leach hormone-disrupting chemicals and heavy metals into food. The research is divided on the newer non-stick options and some of them fall into the “better than before and maybe safe but we don’t know yet” category. There are also recent concerns with lead and other heavy metals in ceramic.

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! That said, there are a few cookware options that I’d recommend always avoiding. These are the types you’ll never find in my kitchen:

Teflon, Non-Stick, PFOA, and PTFE

The original non-stick pans were coated with compounds like perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA or C8) or polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). PTFE was developed by DuPont in 1938 and is patented and trademarked by a name you’ll recognize: Teflon.

From a convenience standpoint, Teflon was a game-changer. It made cooking and cleaning so much easier as it grew in popularity. When released, companies marketed this as a non-polar, very stable substance that didn’t react with other chemicals. It was considered completely safe.

Unfortunately, the dark side of these compounds started to emerge.

See the full details on all of the problems with these non-stick coatings in this post, but in short, birds started dying and people experienced “Teflon flu,” a series of symptoms related to exposure to Teflon that had been heated to really high temperatures.

Verdict: Avoid any cookware containing Teflon, PFOA, PTFE, or traditional non-stick.


Our grandmothers often cooked with aluminum cookware. This type of cookware was popular for years as it was lightweight, easy to use, and relatively easy to clean. Aluminum exists naturally in the environment. Traces exist in paints, colorings, household items, light bulbs, glass, baking powder, and many other substances.

We all have some aluminum exposure daily. But recent research shows that aluminum is toxic at certain amounts. Scientists just can’t agree on what that amount is. This post details more, but some studies suggest that aluminum exposure may be linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and neurological problems.

Verdict: I avoid any cookware containing aluminum as there are much better options.

Controversial Cookware: More Research Needed

In response to the data about the dangers of the original non-stick surfaces, many new types of non-stick cookware have emerged. Many consumers also turned to more time-tested surfaces like enameled cast iron. Unfortunately, these two surfaces are still considered controversial until more research is published:

Ceramic Coated Non-Stick

Various types of ceramic coated cookware claim to be non-stick and safer than Teflon. Most use Thermalon, a sand derivative containing silicon dioxide instead of Teflon.

By all accounts, these new ceramic-based compounds do seem to be much safer than the original non-stick surfaces, but we don’t have the time of use or the testing available like we do with other types of cookware. Some companies disclose their third-party testing, which is somewhat reassuring.

Some sources, however, claim that there is a potential concern with heavy metals and nanoparticles. Titanium dioxide nanoparticles are of special concern because they are linked to pre-cancerous lesions in the colon in one report. I was unable to find any studies showing if Thermalon definitively releases titanium dioxide nanoparticles so the verdict is still out.

Types of Ceramic-Coated Non-Stick Cookware:

So many of you have asked about these specific brands:

Verdict: These are all likely much safer than traditional non-stick and get an A+ for convenience. I’m still cautious and awaiting further research but have ordered several brands and am sending them out for testing. If convenience is your main motivation, I’d consider these a much better choice over traditional non-stick cookware.

Porcelain Enamel

This is a broad category to squeeze into a single type of cookware since there are so many different options. These pans are typically cast iron with an enameled ceramic coating of some kind. It gets complicated because this coating can be made in a variety of ways so there is no clear safety data across the category.

Testing shows a wide range of compounds in different brands and some are safe while others aren’t. Recent controversy emerged about the potential of lead and cadmium leaching from even high-end brands like Le Creuset. However, the company published their safety data and testing and showed no trace of lead or cadmium. I own several blue Le Creuset pans made in France and when I tested them they showed no trace of lead or cadmium, which cheaper brands did test very high for lead.

For Le Creuset specifically, some reports indicate that the color of the pan makes a difference and that blue is one of the safer colors so this could be the reason (but I have not verified this yet).

Verdict: Likely still one of the safer options and arguably much safer that PFOA and PTFE. I’m keeping my vintage Le Creuset pans from France but this wouldn’t be my first choice to purchase if I was buying new pans today.

Safest Cookware Options

Now for the mostly good! There are some brands that have good options but unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a perfect option (though I’m working on research to develop one!) In general, if you aren’t using old-school non-stick or cooking at super high temperatures, you can probably feel ok about your cookware options. If you’re in the market for new cookware or want to upgrade what you currently use, consider the pros and cons of these options.

Here are my favorite bakeware/cookware options of the safe ones currently available:

Safe Ceramic Non-Stick

I recently found a new brand of ceramic coated non-stick cookware that is versatile and works great. It uses a PTFE and PFAS free coating that is tested to be safe for your family and that works wonderfully. Called The Always Pan, it is designed to replace a 16-piece cookware set and comes with a steamer basket. I find myself using this pan at least once a day. It’s also dishwasher safe and super easy to clean. One thing to note: this pan is aluminum but is completely coated in the safe non-stick so as long as it is taken care of and not scratched, it is tested not to leach aluminum.

Verdict: This pan gets an A+ for convenience and versatility. I’m keeping an eye on safety data, but the testing I’ve seen indicates that Our Place is a safe non-stick.

Safe Ceramic Cookware and Bakeware

There is one brand of ceramic surface cookware that is tested to be safe and free from heavy metals and nano-particles. It’s called X-trema Cookware and they score big points for safety. Unfortunately, they lose points for convenience as they are entirely ceramic and can easily break.

They are, however, the most inert cookware I’ve found and they don’t leach anything into food according to the tests I’ve seen. Xtrema publishes their testing and safety data and is very transparent on this issue. Another plus, this is 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 and are technically dishwasher, oven, microwave, and stove safe.

Like I said, the major downside is that they can break if you (or kids *ahem* drop them while being taken care of by extended family *ahem*). Also, learning to cook on full ceramic can be tricky, but with a few tips to get started it’s 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.

Verdict: Top of the line for safety based on current data but not at the top of the class for convenience. If safety is your main priority, they are worth a try. I have many of their pieces in my kitchen though I have broken a few over the years. If you want to try them, you can get a 15% discount on any order with the code WELLNESS 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 running the blog. Many thanks!)

Cast Iron Cookware

Funny though it sounds, I am glad I listened to my great-grandmother-in-law and my dad (who was a boy scout) when they told me to cook with cast iron. At first, I was worried because it sounded complicated to season and clean cast iron and 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 pan frying in coconut oil or avocado 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 mostly non-stick surface to cook on for years to come, as it cooks evenly and with good flavor. The one downside is that it isn’t good to cook tomato products with as the acid interacts with the pH of the pan and creates 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 (like this one), 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… although 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.

Verdict: A time-tested solution that cooks well if you take care of it. Can have issues with certain acidic foods and not great for anyone with high iron but a natural option.

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.

Verdict: Considered non-toxic based on current data.

Glass and Corningware

Corningware especially has a lot of nostalgic value to me, since I remember seeing it in both my grandparent’s houses and using it in my parent’s home 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 avoid plastic and everything in my fridge is stored in this or mason jars.. so classy! 🙂 I also use my Pyrex Bowls with Lids a lot! If you’re registering for your kitchen, I’d put a lot of Pyrex and Corningware on it! (and Corelle dishes… those things don’t break easily… my kids have tried!)

For stovetop cooking, glass cookware is available but carries the same risks of breaking as ceramic and is more expensive.

Verdict: Considered safe based on current data.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is also a good option, though there are some concerns with nickel and chromium leaching. This seems to increase with long cook times, cooking something acidic (like tomato products), or high-temperature cooking.

This isn’t my first choice for cookware but I do think it is a decent option and is widely available and relatively inexpensive. In stainless steel, look for the number 18 and see what comes after it. For instance, you might see 18/0, 18/8 or 18/10. The first number (18) represents chromium and the second represents nickel in stainless steel alloy. So the lower the second number, the better. Nickel-free cookware like this set are available now.

I do have a couple of stainless pieces in my kitchen. My most used stainless items are these large roasting sheets that we use daily for roasting meats, veggies and almost everything else… I also have these stainless steel bowls and I use them daily and love them.

The Whole Set

If you’re looking to buy a whole set of cookware instead of mixing and matching different pots and pans, I recommend the Caraway brand. They’re made with earth-friendly ceramic and are completely free of harmful chemicals. The stackable set includes a frying pan, saucepan, Dutch oven and sauté pan, plus organization tools like a pan rack and a lid holder. It makes it so much easier than trying to stack up random cookware that doesn’t fit together!

What Is the Best Cookware?

The bottom line is that it absolutely depends! No options get perfect scores for safety, convenience, and functionality. If you’re like me and cook three times a day, you’ll probably need a combination.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

What cookware do you use in your kitchen? Weigh in below!

My highest rated cookware and bakeware that is eco-friendly and won't leach chemicals in to food. In order of preference, X-trema, cast iron, enameled cast iron/stoneware, and glass.
  1. Krewski, D., Yorkel, R. A., Nieboer, E., Borchelt, D., Cohen, J., Harry, J.,… Rondeau, V. “Human Health Risk Assessment for Aluminum, Aluminum Oxide, and Aluminum Hydroxide.” 2007. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health. Part B, Critical Reviews, 10 (Suppl 1), 1-269.
  2. https://ireadlabelsforyou.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/GreenPan.pdf
  3. https://www.mamavation.com/health/all-nonstick-pans-cookware-are-toxic.html
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/srep40373
  5. https://www.foodpackagingforum.org/news/nanoparticles-released-by-quasi-ceramic-pans
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


551 responses to “What Are the Safest Cookware Options?”

  1. Liam Avatar

    Are there any good lightweight cookware options out there that are non-toxic? Ceramic tends to be quite heavy and my partner’s disability limits there ability to balance the weight of heavy objects in their hands.

  2. Nikki Avatar

    Curious if you have a stainless steel saucepan recommendation? I’m reading the 18/10 stainless steel pans leach nickel. Heritage Steel claims to not leach nickel
    “We use a specialty titanium-strengthened stainless steel known as 316Ti, adding durability and performance.”
    Not sure what to think.

  3. Sarah Avatar

    I’m looking for a healthy non-toxic wok suitable to use on an induction cooker. Mostly for stir fries which will include some acid foods such as tomato. Still haven’t found anything suitable. BTW, non-suction hard anodised aluminium is said to be safe as if it’s hard annodized it doesn’t leach anything. Do you have an opinion on this? Even Dr Andrew Weil states it’s safe.

  4. Bo Coburn Petersen Avatar
    Bo Coburn Petersen

    Can anyone tell me if Carbon Steel is safe to cook in? I’m having trouble finding a wok under these guidelines and brands. Thanks!

  5. Leanne Cheung Avatar
    Leanne Cheung

    Hi Wellness Mama,

    Thank you so much for you posts! I find them very helpful and your blog is one of my go-tos whenever I research about anything related to health!

    I have two questions:
    – I want to buy a good tea kettle. Do you have any recommendations?
    – I’m thinking of the Xtrema tea kettle, but I’m also wary that I may break it easily. I’m curious if you have any tips on how to prolong and protect the tea pot. Thanks!

  6. Heidi Avatar

    Hi Katie!

    Do you know if the main plates dinner plates on the our place site are safe to use? I need new plates and they are really pretty. But wondered if you knew anything about them or had used them?

    Thank you!

  7. Susan Avatar

    From all the research I’ve been doing on safer cookware, it seems cast iron and stainless steel are the two best and it is recommended that you rotate between the two (as there is still some leaching).

    I just learned that aluminum oxidizes within minutes of being exposed to air and thus forms an aluminum oxide coating that is impervious to leaching. So aluminum pans and baking sheets shouldn’t be able to leach into food. Hard Anodized aluminum cookware have a thicker layer of aluminum oxide and thus are safe to use.

    So maybe aluminum cookware shouldn’t be dismissed so quickly for leaching heavy metals, as you state.
    Your thoughts?

  8. Jennifer Avatar

    What about blue carbon steel? Anyone familiar with that?

  9. Kathy Houck Avatar
    Kathy Houck

    I’ve been using parchment paper and parchment muffin cups for years for non-stick baking –
    does this make the older pans safer? Also, use an old set of corning ware for cooking in the microwave –
    also use a Pyrex measuring cup for boiling water for tea – is this safe?

    Need to replace frying pans – any recommendations.

    1. susan Avatar

      Not if you’re using most common brands of parchment paper and muffin cups. They have PFAS in them that will leach into your baked goods. Mamavation did a study and have recommended brands that I buy now:

      I would also read her cookware study to supplement this one to be super thorough: https://www.mamavation.com/food/nontoxic-cookware-bakeware-investigation-nontoxic-safe-brands.html#Le_Cruset_is_Breaking_Our_Hearts_about_Cadmium

  10. Lisa Swisher Avatar
    Lisa Swisher

    I know this article is about bakeware, but when reading about nickel content in bakeware I wondered does it matter that there is a higher nickel content in my silverware. I just did a lot of research and 18/10 silverware seems to be of higher quality. Does this matter? Should one opt for cheaper 18/0 silverware? You don’t heat the silverware.

  11. Antoinette Avatar

    I’ve read and referred this article so many times, thank you for your work. What is your opinion on Black Steel (Carbon Steel) cookware?

  12. Amber Avatar

    Have you looked into Scanpans at all? I was debating buying those until I saw this article and now wondering if Caraway would be better or not.

  13. tamia souto Avatar
    tamia souto

    Is there any affordable recommendation? LOVed the article but Seems hard to cook healthy without having to spend 400$ on a set. Anything you recommend for under 200$. Thanks!!

    1. ElizabethK Avatar

      Hello. What would you suggest cooking acidic foods like tomatoes in… Given it doesn’t cook well/isn’t safe for many options. Thank you!

  14. Kendra Avatar

    Out of all your suggestions, I was unable to find any of the companies in your article that carried a 12-cup muffin/cupcake tin/pan. Disappointing.

    1. Marie Cullis Avatar
      Marie Cullis

      I am looking for a muffin pan as well. Lodge cast iron had 6 cup muffin pans but they are currently out of stock. Anyone else have a suggestion?

  15. Maxine Avatar

    Hello Katie,
    Any results from the testing of BLUE DIAMOND. I just read your article and must get rid of TEFLON asap.


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