Non-stick pans gained popularity because they’re so easy to clean. Unfortunately, this convenience is paid by sacrificing health and safety.
In fact, non-stick cookware is most often coated with Teflon, also known as polytetrafluoroetheylene, a carcinogen.
In 2006, 90% of all aluminum cookware sold was coated with this toxic substance (1).
Other harmful health effects of the chemical include:
- Elevated cholesterol,
- Abnormal thyroid hormone levels
- Liver inflammation
- Weakened immune system
- Developmental problems
When heated during the cooking process, Teflon releases toxic fumes which can cause flu-like symptoms. These fumes can kill a bird in just a few seconds (2).
To test these claims, the Environment Working Group heated non-stick cookware on a conventional stove top to see if it would trigger toxic fumes.
In just 2-5 minutes, the surface of the cookware exceeded the temperature at which the coating began to emit toxic particles and gases.
Safety officials were so concerned that 8 large cookware companies were forced to phase Teflon out from their production line in 2015.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, here are five cookware materials to try.
1. Cast Iron
Cast iron is the most time-tested, nearly indestructible and inexpensive cookware on the market. It’s also versatile as it can go on the stovetop and into the oven.
You can also use it to sautee, fry, braise and stew but it’s best not to use it for boiling or steaming. Best of all, your can easily clean it by using a scrub brush and hot, soapy water.
The only downside is that cast iron tends to be heavy and must be fully dried after washing to avoid rust. However, companies like “Le Creuset” also offer enameled & rust-proof cast iron cookware.
2. Stainless Steel
If you often boil and steam food, it may be best for you to cook with stainless steel.
Although lighter pots and pans may take longer to heat up, heavier cookware conducts heat quite well.
The material also doesn’t absorb the flavor and scent of food, making it ideal for families who like to get creative in the kitchen.
The only downside of stainless is that food can quickly burn if the heat gets too high or the pan gets too dry. Then, the pan can be difficult to scrub clean.
Ceramic makes for a more attractive and Eco-friendly kitchen material. Most ceramic cookware can be used on the stove and in the oven and can even be cleaned in the dishwasher.
However, it’s important to purchase high-quality safety-tested ceramic, as some more inexpensive options can be contaminated with lead and other toxic chemicals.
4. Anodized Aluminum Cookware
Traditional aluminum cookware can leach into foods through high temperature cooking, scratches and dents on the material’s surface and contact with acidic foods. Overtime, exposure to aluminum can cause Alzheimer’s and breast cancer.
However, anodized aluminum cookware is covered in a layer of aluminum oxide, making it scratch-resistant and easy to clean as well as dramatically reducing its leeching tendencies (3).
If you’re looking for a non-stick option for infrequent use, this material may be best for you.
Glass is the safest, completely non-toxic and most versatile product to use in cookware. It’s often used in anything from food storage containers to skillets, baking pans and casserole dishes.
The only downside to glass is that it’s temperature sensitive, so placing a hot glass container on a cold metal surface, like a sink or stove range will cause it to shatter.