Unless you’ve been living under a pile of perfluorochemical-coated pots and pans, you know it’s time to ditch the nonstick. Why? Until recently, the majority of nonstick cookware was manufactured with perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). PFCs are used to make products stain-, grease-, and water-resistant. The problem is, when overheated to 446 degrees Fahrenheit, PFCs break down into perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and release toxic gases and particulates into the air.
PFCs are highly persistent in the environment; a 2007 study detected them in 98% of the population tested. They are a likely carcinogen and have been shown to cause cancer in animal studies, according to the EPA’s Science Advisory Review Panel. A 2007 study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health detected PFOA in 100% of the newborns examined. According to the Environmental Working Group, PFCs are associated with smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, and weaker immune defense against disease.
What’s a food-loving cook to do? DuPont (the last U.S. maker of PFOA, used in its trademarked Teflon products) completed phasing out PFOA in 2013. The chemicals used to replace PFOA are considered safe for normal cooking when temperatures do not exceed 570 degrees Fahrenheit. But those old Teflon nonstick pans are still in many kitchens, and it’s easy to overheat cookware. For your health, you may prefer to use less concerning materials to bake, fry, stir, and sauté your next meal. Here are seven healthier alternatives to nonstick cookware.
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- Xtrema – This cookware is 100% ceramic and is nontoxic, durable, and easy to clean. Xtrema cookware is free of lead, cadmium, heavy toxic metals, PFOA, PTFE, and other unsafe nonstick coatings.
- Cuisinart GreenGourmet – Cuisinart’s GreenGourmet nonstick cookware uses a hard-anodized pan construction for nonstick cooking, free of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and PFOA. It provides fast and even heat distribution, with a scratch-resistant nonstick surface that won’t peel.
- Calphalon – Look for their Tri-Ply stainless steel cookware designed with three layers to ensure even, consistent heating. A heavy-gauge aluminum core surrounded by stainless steel provides excellent heat conduction for browning and enhanced control of the cooking process.
- All-Clad – Their stainless steel cookware features innovative bonded construction combining an interior layer of aluminum for even heating and an 18% chromium/10% nickel stainless cooking surface that’s hygienic and safe. It’s safe for use in the oven and under the grill.
- Lodge – Since Roman times, cast iron has represented the preferred material for cooking pots, and it is still forged and crafted by hand today, maintaining evenly proportioned heat. Lodge cast-iron cookware is known for its heat retention, durability, and value, even compared to the most expensive stainless-steel cookware.
- Le Creuset – The cooking surface of Le Creuset’s enameled cast-iron cookware is hygienic and impervious to flavors and odors, and distributes heat more evenly to prevent hot spots. Easily cleaned by hand or dishwasher, the cookware is also suitable for marinating or for storing raw or cooked foods in the refrigerator or freezer. Once hot, Le Creuset’s cookware requires only a low to medium heat setting to maintain consistent cooking performance.
- Staub – French brand Staub is another option for enameled cast-iron cookware. It is a solid choice for slow-cooked meals that are seared, roasted, or caramelized, thanks to its nonstick black matte enamel interior. Unlike traditional cast iron cookware, it doesn’t require seasoning before use.
Feature image courtesy of Nik Stanbridge. Originally published on May 21, 2018, this article was updated in November 2021.