Pots and pans – who knew there were so many options. I certainly didn’t, until I was in my late 20’s. But, I’ve researched quite a bit about cookware in the past few years, and excited to share my experience with you in this post.
Over the past 6-7 years, I’m slowly replacing my cheap kitchen items that I picked up as early as college with sturdier, healthier choices.
I honestly was pretty lucky when I got my first apartment, because that year my mom scored an awesome deal on a set of sturdy cookware from a department store, which she wrapped up as a gift for me that Christmas.
I used that set of cookware enthusiastically for several years. But as they approached their 7th year of nearly daily usage, I started to read about how the Teflon coating could be more harmful than helpful. I also read that aluminum can leach hormone disrupting chemicals and toxins into our foods as well.
Reading about the danger of using non-stick (Teflon coated) cookware – cookware I thought of as traditional – I took a while to decide whether the risk was worth taking action over. Teflon is a popular, cost-effective manmade chemical that is used by companies to make their cookware non-stick. It chips easily, and is found to release carcinogenic fumes when overheated. (source) Each Teflon coated pan I’ve ever purchased says right on the package not to heat while empty and to avoid overheating. Dupont, it’s manufacturer, phased out production of Teflon by 2015.
I find it unfortunate that we’re exposed to so many chemicals that are used to make products cheaper and “better” without any proof whether or not the chemical is safe or not. Have you seen the documentary called The Human Experiment? I suggest it to EVERYBODY. It sums up everything I’ve been saying for years into a easily understood movie. I watched it for free on Netflix.
I eventually took action, asking my mother if she’d trade me the set I had for a set of stainless steel pans she had but disliked and used once or twice. She was fine with it. And instead of keeping my Teflon coated pans, she passed them on to someone on a strict budget that needed new pans.
Do I suggest you throw out and replace your Teflon pans today? Well, sure, if you have that sort of disposable income. But if you’re like me, and have trouble actually spending money (or trouble coming up with money to spend!), I do suggest that you slowly consider replacing your cookware with safer options. If the trade & barter method doesn’t work for you, try to replace what you have in the order of what you use most often. Buy only what you need. Donate, recycle, or repurpose your old cookware.
So, what pots and pans are known to be safer? Cast Iron, Enamel Coated Cast Iron, Stoneware (which can also be enameled), Ceramic, Stainless Steel, Glass and Corningware. Each has its own set of pros and cons. I have found that I like best keeping several different types on hand.
- Cast Iron. These can be found at bargain prices at garage sales & estate sales. I actually found a 12″ Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillet at a garage sale for $2. They will last foreeeevvveeerrrrr. I have a Griswold brand skillet that was my grandmother’s. She probably acquired it in the 1950s.The awesome thing about cast iron is once it gets warm, it stays warm for a long time, and it distributes heat more evenly than other types of pans. You can put the pan right into the oven from the stovetop. It’s great for cooking meat or frying.
Cast iron cookware does transfer the iron into food, but this is considered a good thing by the US FDA.
I also have and use a cast iron grill/griddle. I use it at least once weekly for breakfasts. I don’t have the Lodge brand one that I linked to, but Lodge products are affordable and high quality (in my experience).
The negative thing about cast iron is that it’s heavy and it must always be hand washed. However, sometimes a good hot rinse in the sink is all it takes to get it clean. You need to avoid abrasive soaps and excessive scrubbing. You’ll also need to avoid cooking tomatoes in it.
- Enameled cast iron. I do not have personal experience with enameled cookware yet, but I have learned that good quality enameled cast iron is pricey but worth it. Cheaper products may flake or scratch too easily. Another concern would be that lead or cadmium might be used in the making, glazing, or decorating of the cookware. The substances are known to be highly toxic. If a pan says “not for food use,” you really need to adhere to that warning.
Lodge and Le Creuset are two brands known for high quality enameled cast iron products. If you do go with enameled cookware, remember that, in this case, high quality is better than a bargain.They clean easily and cook evenly.
- Stoneware. These are for baking more than stovetop cooking. I picked up some like new Pampered Chef stonewear at – guess what – garage sales for a couple dollars a piece. There is a similar product to my favorite piece here on Amazon. It says it’s a pie baker/pizza dish, but I use mine for rolls, cinnamon rolls, breads, frozen chicken strips, and so much more. I much prefer this to aluminum baking sheets.I’ve heard that it’s tricky to clean stoneware, but I’ve found mine to be dishwasher safe. You’re not suggested to use soap, though. A couple of stoneware baking sheets is definitely on my wishlist.
- Ceramic. I think that GreenPan is considered to be ceramic cookware. Please correct me if I’m wrong. A high-quality ceramic pan is nontoxic and it’s also dishwasher safe. I have one 8″ ceramic pan and one 12″ ceramic pan that I love to use when I’m in a hurry. I have nothing bad to say about these skillets, still prefer to cook in stainless steel or cast iron when possible.
- Stainless steel. The first thing I noticed after switching to stainless steel is that food sticks. However, I quickly learned that when cooking meat, the food is “magically” released and un-sticks when it’s ready to flip over. So it comes with a slight learning curve.
This is my preferred type of cookware. It is dishwasher safe, usable at high temperatures, lightweight, shiny and pretty, and scratch/chip-proof so you can use metal utensils with no worries.I have found that good food tastes even BETTER when cooked in stainless steel. It’s an inert material that will not react with food or alter flavors.
Stainless steel is my personal favorite pan to use for about everything except for frying eggs (I use a ceramic “GreenPan” for that) or frying meat (I prefer cast iron for that).
- Glass. Like stainless steel, glass won’t absorb odors or flavors, nor will it react to the foods you prepare in it. You have to be careful to buy decent quality glass cookware, as foreign manufactured glass pans may have lead in it. It’s not as pricey as other cookware, either. I have this $16 set of Pyrex baking dishes and I love them!You can also purchase glass cookware for on the stove.
One of my favorite childhood memories is of when my grandmother used to fry us grandkids french fries in a glass pan. From what I gather, glass pots and pans are best used for water-based cooking, though.
- Corningware. I only own one piece of Corningware, and honestly have only used in the microwave. Once again – a garage sale bargain, 50 cents. They have an affordable 12-piece gift set on Amazon, though. It is a coated stoneware. The surface is nonporous and will not absorb food odor. Dishwasher safe, oven safe, freezer safe – this is a great classic product and I’d love to own a few more pieces.
I would love to hear what your favorite types of cookware are. Feel free to let me know in the comments!
Disclosure: This post is not sponsored by any company. All opinions are my own. I received no compensation or free product for writing this post. I do, however, participate in the Amazon Affiliates program. With that program, I may receive a small commission if you purchase the products from Amazon using the links in my posts.