Healthy home-cooked meals not only require fresh ingredients and good cooking methods. Cookware with low levels of toxicity plays an important role, too. Make an informed choice when selecting a new pot or pan with our list of recommended low-tox cookware.
What makes cookware toxic?
Some materials used in certain cookware have been identified by studies as dangerous to both human and animal health. Polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), of which Teflon is a widely known brand, is a synthetic polymer with extensive non-stick applications that has been much focus of concern.
Once exposed to extreme high heat, PTFE breaks down and releases perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that PFOA can cause liver injury and affect growth and reproduction in animals. According to the American Cancer Society, PFOA exposure is also linked to increased risk of cancer development in humans.
By and large, however, non-stick cookware is safe to use as long as they are used as intended. The danger lies in exposing the cookware to extreme heat over 340C, temperatures at which food should not be cooked to in the first place. For most cooking, low to medium heat is enough.
Nonetheless, alternatives to non-stick cookware abound for anyone keen on a new cooking experience or those who want to avoid non-stick altogether. Read our list of highly recommended low-tox cookware suited for both kitchen beginners and seasoned home cooks.
1. Cast Iron
Cast iron is perhaps the most popular low-tox material used for cookware. It is generally made with iron and a small percentage of carbon, so it is definitely PFOA and PTFE-free.
Many cooks and chef swear by cast iron for its superior heat retention and durability. These heavy-duty pots and pans are truly of heirloom quality. Cast iron requires seasoning to develop a reasonably non-stick surface and prevent iron from leaching into food.
What we especially love about cast iron is its superior versatility. It’s great on the stovetop or grill, over the campfire, and in the oven—perfect when you love experimenting with various recipes and cooking techniques.
- Victoria cast iron cookware has grills, griddles, and even a tortilla press, included in the range.
- Lodge Logic is preseasoned cast iron so they are ready to use right out of the box.
- Pyrolux Pyrocast has cast iron skillets with matching maplewood trays for serving.
- D.Line Integra has a specialised cast iron pan for cooking oysters on the stovetop or grill.
2. Enamelled Cast Iron
Compared with raw cast iron, this type of cookware has a special non-toxic coating that makes it easier to clean and maintain. It does not require regular seasoning as cast iron pans do and also works well even with acidic ingredients like tomatoes. Enamel is actually made from glass particles turned into a non-permeable and heat-efficient layer.
- Le Creuset signature cast iron from France is exceptional from stovetop to oven to table.
- Chasseur cast iron is sustainably made and comes in colours exclusive to Kitchen Warehouse.
- Victoria enamelled cookware has a smooth cooking surface that is also rust resistant.
- Staub enamelled cocottes have special self-basting lids for moist cooking results.
- Pyrolux Pyrochef is 40% lighter than conventional cast iron and has a three-layer coating.
3. Wrought Iron
This special low-carbon steel is not only non-toxic but also a sustainable material. It also has a durability that lasts for centuries. When used on any stovetop, oven, or campfire grill, wrought iron cookware works like cast iron but with half the weight.
- Solidteknics AUS-ION is a seamless cookware range and 100% made in Australia.
4. Carbon Steel
Cookware made of heavy-gauge carbon steel is a cross between stainless steel and cast iron. It is a lighter version of a cast iron pan but with the same cooking versatility. Carbon steel cookware is also a good heat conductor and stays stable at high temperatures.
- Lodge Seasoned Steel is preseasoned carbon steel cookware with fast heat reaction.
- D.Line offers heat-efficient woks that are perfect for quick stir-fries.
- Garcima carbon steel pans are great for cooking paella and other Spanish favourites.
5. Uncoated Stainless Steel and Copper
The strong points of stainless steel include its extreme durability and rust resistance. By combining it with other materials like copper and aluminium, stainless steel can efficiently generate heat, making it versatile when working with various recipes. Stainless steel cookware is also easier to maintain than cast iron and, in general, less expensive than other cookware types.
- Scanpan Impact includes individual cookware and sets with polished and matte finish.
- Scanpan Fusion 5 is made with five layers of high-grade stainless steel for superior durability.
- Jamie Oliver Premium Triply is stainless steel cookware reinforced with copper and aluminium.
- Essteele Per Vita cookware is made in Italy and comes with a copper-lined base.
6. Glass and Vitroceramic
Glass cookware is yet another option for low-tox cooking. Aside from being a good heat conductor, glass is also resistant to stains and non-reactive to acidic ingredients. Glass however has a tendency to shatter when exposed to high heat. Advanced technology resolves this by developing a more thermostable material called vitroceramic. With ceramic and glass combined, vitroceramic cookware can withstand extreme temperature changes.
- Maxwell & Williams Vitromax has vitroceramic casseroles that stay stable at -40C to 300C.