The Best (and Worst) Cookware Materials

With the wide range of cookware available on the market today, it is easy to see why consumers may be confused about which materials to look for. I am frequently asked about my opinion on various cookware materials, particularly regarding their safety and potential toxicity. In addition to the health issues with various cookware, there are also differences in quality, durability, and ease of use that may influence your decision on what type of material to use. With all these different factors in mind, choosing the best cookware can be challenging.

While many popular brands and styles of pots and pans are perfectly safe and versatile in their uses, there are a few types that may pose health risks if used regularly. In this article, I will clear up any confusion about which types of pots and pans are safest and easiest to use for all types of cooking.

The following are my picks for the three best and three worst types of cookware.

Best Materials

Enamel

Enamel cookware is ideal for dishes where heat retention and balance are required. The best quality can be found in enameled cast iron, but enameled ceramic or steel are other great choices. It is one of the safest types of cookware that comes close to a non-stick surface, making it easy to use and clean up after cooking. The cooking surface is nonreactive, so there is no need to worry about dangerous chemicals or metals leaching into food.

Though it can take a long time to heat up, the heat is distributed evenly and is easily maintained, making it a versatile cookware material for many types of dishes. Enamel cookware can also easily go from stovetop to oven, so these pots and pans are great for slow cooking or braising.

The major downside of enamel cookware is it tends to be very expensive, particularly when made by a reputable brand like Le Creuset. That said, high quality enamel pots and pans can be a worthwhile investment, as they are extremely durable and will last for many years. I personally love my enamel cookware and use it on a regular basis to create many of my meals.

My top picks for enamel cookware are the Le Creuset 5-1/2-Quart Round French Oven and the Le Creuset Stoneware Square Baking Dish.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is another popular and traditional style of cookware that has been used for hundreds of years. Cast iron is durable and provides great conductivity and heat retention. It is perfect for cooking dishes that need to go from stove-top to oven, and is excellent for searing meat. Cast iron tends to be far less expensive than enamel, but lasts just as long and can be used for a variety of recipes.

People with iron overload should probably not use iron skillets, as inorganic iron can leach into the food, particularly when cooking with liquids and acidic ingredients like citrus or tomato. However, the amount of iron that is released into the food is generally safe for those who do not have any issues with excess iron.

Cast iron does require some extra effort in its maintenance. A cast iron pan should be seasoned by coating with an oil like coconut oil, tallow, or lard (do not use butter), and then putting it in a 300° oven for three hours. While it is heating, you should remove it at least three times to wipe it clean and re-grease it. Seasoning your cast iron cookware will help give it a natural nonstick coating and will prevent rusting. Never use soap on a seasoned cast iron pan, simply wipe it out with a nonabrasive sponge or washcloth, or use salt as an abrasive if extra cleaning is needed.

Some popular cast iron cookware items are the Lodge Logic 10-Inch Chef’s Skillet and the Lodge Logic Square Grill Pan.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel can be used for any type of cooking, but is especially useful for quick dishes, browning meat, or for recipes that require gauging the color of a broth or a sauce. If you are just looking to sauté something quickly, stainless steel is your best choice. Stainless steel is great for quickly heating things up, is far less expensive than ceramic, and is easier to clean and maintain than cast iron.

Stainless steel can withstand dishwashers and abrasive cleansers without scratching or denting, so clean up is relatively painless. Stainless steel is quite durable, and even the less expensive brands will last a long time. Also, stainless steel is one of the few metal cookwares that are nonreactive, so the metal doesn’t interact with the food or affect the final flavor of the dish.

One of the major drawbacks of using stainless steel for cooking is that many types can be prone to sticking if the cookware is not used correctly. It is important to add adequate oil to the pan, and allow it to get hot before adding the food, in order to minimize sticking. Unfortunately, compared to enamel and cast iron, stainless steel is not a great conductor of heat and doesn’t distribute heat as evenly.

Be sure to find a stainless steel pan that does not have any non-stick coatings. My favorite stainless steel items are the All-Clad Stainless 10-Inch Fry Pan and the All Clad Stainless Steel 1-1/2-Quart Sauce Pan with Lid.

Worst Materials

Teflon

If there is one cookware material I would never use, it’s one with a non-stick plastic coating like Teflon. While non-stick cookware is a tempting purchase due to its inexpensive price point and easy clean up, the health risks from using this type of material for cooking overshadow any time or effort you may save in the kitchen.

Teflon, made of the chemical known as PFOA, is the most persistent synthetic chemical known to man, and is found in the blood of nearly every person tested. (1) Animal studies have shown that PFOA causes cancer, liver damage, growth defects, immune system damage, and death in lab rats and monkeys. An EPA advisory panel reported that PFOA is a “likely carcinogen” in humans. (2)

Besides just leaching chemicals into the food, Teflon cookware has also been shown to release dangerous chemicals into the air during use. Toxic fumes released from heated non-stick cookware has been shown to be deadly to birds, with many hundreds of birds dying every year from “Teflon toxicosis.” (3) Even more scary is that DuPont’s own scientists have admitted that polymer fume fever in humans is possible at 662°F, a temperature easily exceeded when a pan is preheated on a burner or placed beneath a broiler. (4)

There is no amount of time or stuck-on food that could be saved that would make up for the likely dangers that cooking with Teflon brings, and any cookware made with this toxic material should be thrown out immediately. It amazes me that this product is still allowed on the market, considering the warnings from the EPA about its toxicity.

Aluminum

Aluminum cookware, while not as toxic as Teflon, may pose some health risks as well, and is not recommended for use in cooking. Aluminum cookware has been shown to leach a significant amount of aluminum into food during cooking, which could pose a toxicity threat. This raises some concerns due to the effects of aluminum on the human nervous system and the hypothesized connection between aluminum exposures and Alzheimer’s disease. (5) Studies in animals show that the nervous system is a sensitive target of aluminum toxicity. (6) While there is yet to be a scientific consensus on the dangers of low level aluminum ingestion, avoiding aluminum exposure in cooking is generally a good idea for optimal health.

Depending on the type of food cooked in aluminum cookware, levels of aluminum in the food will be highly varied. Leafy vegetables and acidic foods, such as tomatoes and citrus products, absorb the most aluminum during cooking. (7) If you absolutely must use an aluminum pan, avoid cooking highly acidic or basic foods, and do not scrape the pan with a spatula or metal spoon.

Copper

While copper may be a safer choice than Teflon or aluminum, I do not recommend using copper cookware due to leaching concerns. An excess of copper can cause a variety of health problems, many stemming from a copper-zinc imbalance. Some symptoms of this imbalance include behavior disorders, depression, acne, eczema, headaches, and poor immune function to name a few. You can learn more about the symptoms of copper-zinc imbalance by listening to my podcast on the topic.

Most copper cookware these days is coated with stainless steel to improve durability and ease of cleaning. Despite this steel coating, copper should never be used to cook acidic food, since over time the acid can cause copper to leach into the food. Older copper cookware may be coated with tin or nickel, which is unsafe for food use and should not be used for cooking. If you are unsure of the age of your copper pots and pans, it is probably safer to just discard them. Regardless of whether your pot is new or old, the risk of copper leaching into your food is still significant, so replacing your copper cookware with a safer alternative is recommended.

Good cookware is worth the investment!

While enamel, cast iron, and stainless steel tend to be more expensive, they are durable, versatile, and safe. I feel it is worth investing a little extra money into high quality cookware, and I am confident these non-toxic kitchen tools will last you and your family a lifetime.

What kinds of cookware do you use in your kitchen? Do you plan to make any changes having read this article?

Note: I earn a small commission if you use the links in this article to purchase the products I mentioned. I only recommend products I would use myself or that I use with patients in my practice. Your purchase helps support this site and my ongoing research.

Image Credit: Penny De Los Santos

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Sumati says

    If I have a stainless steel pot that has “caught” (ie I didn’t watch it carefully enough and the food started burning), my all time favourite cleaning tip is to put some Electric Soda (sodium bicarbonate) crystals into water and boil. The burn just comes off.

  2. Angela says

    Hi Chris. What do you think of salad master pans? I used to sell them and they did a test to show how even stainless steel goes into the water. They l

  3. Marlene Locke says

    Your information is excellent! Our daughter and family want to purchase a new frying pan that is not toxic. They have children under four and believe investing in a few good pans is well worth it. You gave us the information we need to make an intelligent decision. It is not easy to find facts put out so clearly. Thank you very much!

  4. kay iversen says

    Chris, I know that stainless cooking pans are considered safe — but what about the ones that have aluminum interiors sandwiched between outer & inner layers of steel to more evenly conduct heat?

    Can that aluminum leach into either the food or the air?

    Kay

  5. Marg says

    I am in Australia, not sure what brands avail here.
    Have Haemochromotosis and have been using Bessemer collection of pans for years, have been thinking may be better to change. They are all nonstick. Have been reading thru this blog and writing notes, I am leaning towards ceramic. Like the sound of Silit Sillirgan, but would have to trade in my car to afford it if it’s available here. ;-)

  6. Melissa says

    Also with Le Cressuet (spelling!) the reason I haven’t bought these is my husband has high iron. Unless I missed it the article didn’t mention this?
    I’ve read about bioavailability (very very briefly!) but I still feel it may be an issue? I hope I have this correct.

  7. Melissa says

    Hi Chris
    clay pots aren’t covered here, check out miriam eathern cookware (think I’ve got the name right!), 100% lead free.
    I have stainless steel 18/10 with an aliminium core (I have read this is ok as the aliminium is not coming into contacting with food? do you agree?). Still issues of other things leeching from stainless steel, but can’t win them all? (nickel, chronium)

    Next I’ve got to look at all my oven trays etc :/

  8. Gregory Shilov says

    Dear Chris Kresser,
    I would like to know if you are just using scare mongering tactics for low income families. Have you even considered about the families who can’t even afford to buy stainless steel pans. Also have you even though about the families who’ve already invested in non-stick frying pans coated with Teflon. Are you telling me that the have just wasted their own money for buying “crap” in your owns words.

    Do you even have any medical proof, as I can’t see any in the article you wrote. Even if there is any medical proof, how old are the studies that you’ve used in this article.

    The comparison that I’ve made between your article and other articles that I’ve read about direct and indirect links to cancer, in particular, is that we are individuals and YOU don’t have the power to try and force individuals into trying what YOU want them to do. Don’t you get that each individual has their own right into what product they can buy. Also, are you one of those people who gives information in a community that is already feeling the pressure from other health related topics.

    That’s all I have to say and thank you for taking the time to read this.

    Yours truly,
    Gregory Shilov

    • Gregory Shilov says

      There was one point that I have forgotten to raise and it is about throwing away all Teflon coated pans and students.

      Students up and down the country are using these pans to cook with, bar a few exceptions, so this means that they can’t afford to go out and buy new stainless steel pans because they may have issues with saving money for monthly rent at accommodation and also dealing with the pressure of being at university and upcoming exams.

      With these upcoming exams, students will need reliable cookware in order to maintain strong levels of concentration while they are revising. So this means that if they are using a Teflon coated pan then this suggests to me that they trust the product that they are using.

      So are you advising students to throw away all Teflon coated pans and replace them with the alternative, for example stainless steel.

      • Sabi says

        I’m certain if you look, you can find documentation regarding Teflon, and the fact that if you own a bird, you cannot use non-stick cookware, due to the fact that the fumes kill them. If they are fatal to birds, then they are clearly silently harming us as well. If that’s not enough evidence to sway you, then not much would. Cast iron Lodge pans are very affordable and available discounted in places like tjmaxx or marshalls — I’ve paid $10 for a brand new 10″. Thrift store prices.

    • Jennifer Guthrie says

      I hardly take this article as “scare tactics” aimed at poor people. Simply information. You only have to overheat a teflon pan once and breathe in those caustic fumes to know that there’s something not right about it.
      I have a very nice set of cast iron pans. Each one was picked up for very little money at yard sales. I bought them, brought them home & seasoned them. They were each about $1. But once I splurged and paid $15, because the seller knew that the old cast iron pan was collectible, and it was a size I needed to complete a set.
      I would love an expensive set of LeCruset pans, and I could complain that “I’m being discriminated against because I’m poor.” But sometime you just have take responsibility for your own health. Besides, my yard sale cast iron does the job nicely. I’ll save my money for that expensive grass fed beef!

        • Jess says

          Hi Laura, Why would Chris suggest cast iron to cook with, when the iron is oxidized ie. you would be consuming rust. All because our ancestors cooked with cast iron doesn’t mean it’s healthy. what are your thoughts?

  9. J says

    Thanks for sharing the information. It truly is of a great help. I would be keen on learning more about the ceramic cookwares in the market these days. I have seen a lot with cast iron and aluminum. Like you have mentioned in your post, aluminum is not a preferred material; what are your thoughts on these products ? Most claim to be eco friendly and have ceramic non-stick interior; aluminum and silicone exterior. What would you recommend with these as there are not many products made from pure ceramic or cast irons?

  10. Terry says

    Is it possible to coat or paint an aluminum pan with a food-safe enamel? I have some old pieces of aluminum bakeware that I’m using as drawer organizers, but as they’re not all that pretty I’ve been looking for a way to paint them without rendering them unusable for baking. And after reading this article it may be a good idea in general. Would appliance paint work? Obviously our food touches the top of the oven, although the outside doesn’t go to 400-500F. Any ideas?

  11. [email protected] says

    I just bought a set of ceramic lined aluminum cookware. The pot itself is aluminum but the inside, where the food touches, is ceramic. Any concerns?

  12. smittyfan says

    “Older copper cookware may be coated with tin or nickel, which is unsafe for food use and should not be used for cooking.”

    With that being said, should i be concerned that the fast-food restaurant i work at uses nickel-plated, brass fryer baskets and utensils? Should i also be concerned that it’s a widely accepted industry standard for restaurants, and restaurant supply stores?

  13. Heidi says

    Great article – thanks!
    We are seriously considering the stainless steel set made by Tramontina…it is ALUMINUM CORE, are the concerns the same for copper core (as you mentioned?)
    And for red sauces/acidic you’d recommend the enamel?
    Thanks again!

  14. says

    One of the best cookware materials I seem to love is the Romertopf. It leaves your meats so juicy and tender. The meat always falls of the bone and gives you that juiciness that you look in for all your meats.

  15. Ahmed says

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    I’ve been having a debate with my wife concerning the handles of some brands of cookware. I maintain that two piece handles, where part is silicone and part is stainless steel, allow food crud to build up and grow bacteria. It’s next to impossible to be sure that the cracks have been thoroughly cleaned. I prefer one piece handles, since they are less likely to get food build up. Please share your thoughts with us on this. Thanks!

  16. Kayla Parks says

    Chris-

    I am wondering about the safety of the All-Clad Stainless 7-inch Nonstick French Skillet? It is PFOA-free, but still nonstick. Does that mean it is safe to use or might it still leach harmful chemicals into food?

    Thanks!
    Kayla

  17. Christina says

    I really don’t understand the “enameled cookware”?

    Also, it seems that cast iron leeches iron; teflon coated leeches aluminum; and stainless steel leeches nickel or copper (sorry cannot remember). What is left???? Confused! :)

  18. carla says

    You can find great prices on enameled cookware like Le Creuset at discount stores like Marshall’s and Tuesday Morning. I shop for almost all my cooking items at these stores because you can find high-end quality ( I have seen all-clad and logic cast iron too) cookware at GREAT prices!!!

  19. Galina L. says

    I noticed that skillets with lids are often expensive. I obtained a great variety of lids from flea market and Good Will stores and bought skillets in a normal store. The best skillet for light vegetable cooking is a stainless still one (in order to cook with tomatoes) with a thick aluminum bottom or copper or sandwiched bottom .Never saw any advantage in all-clad things. Let others to be ripped-off. I also have one stainless still 8″ pot (half gallon) with a copper bottom to make stews with tomatoes. I have never paid for any item more than $25, often much less. The best cookware for soups – a thin, big and light stainless-still pot. It is a fan to own and use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet, something like a Wagner or Grishwold #8 for cooking in oil. Check that out http://blackirondude.blogspot.com/2008/05/seasoning-cast-iron-cookware.html and http://www.richsoil.com/cast-iron.jsp.

    • Ro says

      Yeah if we’re talking price here’s what I did: That single-item 20% off coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond is good for Calphalon products. All-Clad is excluded from use with the coupon unfortunately. However they have a full 10 piece set of Calphalon, commercial, stainless. The set is already cheaper than buying them one piece at a time and of course at 20% off… The largest skillet is only 12″ though which is about enough to cook for 2. On a separate visit, armed with another coupon I grabbed a 15 incher.

      • Galina L. says

        Sure, coupons is a way to go as well. A still pan would last at least a life-time, if you feel like there is one you just love, why not to get it. My big skillets are just 10″, probably it is why I didn’t pay much.

  20. Christina says

    Hello! Great information and from everyone who contributed; however, now I am even more confused. I use glass (pyrex) for baking in the oven (meat loaves, etc.). But still looking for stove top items like skillets with tops, and the larger quart sizes for soups and lightly cooking veges, etc. Really, what IS the best type of cooke ware that is not too expensive, no risks, no PFOA’s or PTFE’s???? Sorry, just confused.

    • says

      Hi Christina, I can understand how easily it is to be confused over what is the best choice in cookware. Might I recommend the Classic Kitchen Cookware which will help clear up some of the confusion. Cook on!

  21. ReneeAnn says

    “You should also avoid so-called “green pans.” The manufacturers purport that these PFOA-free products are healthier and “earth-friendly.” But many still contain the moisture-repellent chemical PTFE – another harmful toxin.”

    http://blog.grasslandbeef.com/are-you-using-the-kitchen-tool-linked-with-cancer-and-infertility?utm_campaign=KitchenTools&utm_source=newsletter&utm_source=July+22+Newsletter+-+New+Template&utm_campaign=120722&utm_medium=email

    I am still wondering about nano-ceramic, Corning Ware ceramic and Corning Ware clear tempered glass.

  22. Ro says

    Only slightly off topic: Last week on Science Friday they were interviewing scientists who’d made a coating so that you could get all of the ketchup out of a bottle. They were praising its versatility as it could be used for ketchup, mayo, de-icing airplanes… Haha airplane de-icer in your condiments. I’ll stick with my own pureed vegies.

  23. Ro says

    Chris, I’m curious about your POV on teflon. I was concerned about my 2 commercial teflon pans a year or so ago. While they represent a small portion of my total stock, they represent the 2 workhorses in terms of frequency of use. In my research, the studies I turned up could only refer to chemical release during the production process, not during use. In fact they had to reheat a finished pan to something like 800 degrees in order to recreate any release of chemicals at all. I think here in your own post you or someone else mentions a heat of 600 degrees. I don’t know about you but my oven tops out at 450 degrees and a thermometer in the thick of the flame on my stove-top wont reach anywhere near that level.

    I’m torn between searching for a reason to get rid of the teflon and the research that I’ve seen. Research meant to help legislate against teflon couldn’t produce the necessary result. Can you site any better or more recent research on this product?

    • says

      Interesting comment, Ro. I’d love to hear Chris’s input on this. I’m trying to transition us from teflon to all stainless steel, but there’s just no denying that for many foods (especially fried eggs), teflon is FAR easier to cook with. Although I’m loving the stainless steel in terms of clean-up: it’s so great to be able to actually scrub the pan to get it clean, which of course you can’t do to teflon without damaging it.

      • Ro says

        Teach me Anthony! My set it mostly stainless and eggs are virtually impossible unless I’m doing scrabbled and keeping them moving in the pan. I cook a lot and my stainless skillets sit on the sideline while my stainless pots see more regular action. For skillets I use teflon with wooden implements so as not to scrape the finish. I don’t love the idea of teflon but like I said, the research I found couldn’t point to any potential harm within several degrees of normal kitchen use. Frying eggs with a blow torch may have a different impact.

        • says

          I have a brand-new 8″ stainless steel pan. I just got it last week, so I’m still figuring out how to cook fried eggs in it. I’ve done it a few times, but each time I’ve ended up with a little bit of stickage, enough that I had to use a spatula to unstick them, which is super frustrating, because it tends to break the yolks, and it defeats the whole purpose of an egg pan, which is to be able to flip the eggs by just flicking your wrist.

          Anyway, from what I’ve read, with enough butter (~1 Tbsp) and the right level of heat (somewhere around medium or a bit less) and with the pan pre-heated before you put the eggs in, you should be able to make it work.

          • ReneeAnn says

            I’ve heard to have the eggs at room temperature, also. I’ve never gone to the effort, but let us know how it goes for you.

            • says

              I have some input on Eggs in stainless. Eggs don’t have to be stored in the fridge generally, but the eggs that are in grocery stores are expected to keep a very long time, so they are trying to squeeze the longest life out of them. If you get fresher eggs you will probably eat them long before they go bad. This is one of those problems we’ve created by by supporting modern food systems. If thin stainless is used, eggs will almost certainly stick. With a thicker stainless pan or more likely with a thick laminated bottom, you should be able to cook eggs without sticking. If the eggs are actually fried, as in cooked quickly in hot oil, they will probably stick no matter what. If plenty of butter or other fat is used though and the temperature is kept very low, they will stick very little if at all. I actually prefer to “fry” my eggs sunny side up with a very small splash of water in the pan and a lid (thanks grandma Fran!). That way the steam cooks the tops of the eggs. Using a low temperature takes some patience, but I think the eggs are much, much better and I would imagine the proteins in the whites come through less damaged.

              For scrambled eggs I really prefer a seasoned cast iron pan, but they can be cooked in unseasoned stainless without sticking. First off, use enough oil. Most people who read this blog are probably less fat phobic than average, but I know it took me some re-conditioning to use enough oil after growing up in the fat phobic 80’s. Another common mistake is having the pan too cold. It should be pretty hot because the scrambled egg liquid will cool the pan quickly. Heat pan, then add oil, then the eggs. Over stirring is another common cause of sticking. Each time the eggs are stirred, the layer of oil between the pan the eggs becomes thinner. I allow the eggs to jell for a time, then push them aside with the spatula to allow new egg to run onto the bottom of the pan. Toward the end of cooking, simply lift and fold the eggs a couple of times to finish. Scramble the eggs in the bowl, not in the pan! Almost everyone fidgets with their scrambled eggs at the wrong time and in the wrong amounts. I also don’t like the eggs browned at all which takes some attention to timing since they will brown if left too long before lifting from the pan, but will begin sticking if they are stirred too often. Like most things, success is in the details. Finally, this whole system will not work if you cook too many eggs at once. If I have a lot of people to cook for, I’ll cook the scrambled eggs a few at a time. Even for a few eggs, a large pan is better. Of course it is easier to use a teflon pan, but using stainless or cast iron will force you to pay attention to detail and superb tender scrambled eggs with no browning, and little if any sticking can be produced. I’m also convinced that over cooked eggs are difficult to digest, at least for me. Oh yeah, and a little water or milk beaten into the eggs is an improvement in my book.

          • Galina L. says

            You can make an egg warmer quickly by running hot water over it, the skillet should be hot, not medium, approximately 350F, you can put some pork fat on the skillet, wait when it just starts smoking, wipe it off, add batter ,sprinkle some salt on the pan surface, than immediately put eggs on it . May be you can put some chopped deli meat first on the skillet and add eggs on the top. In order to be less sticky, stainless still should be absolutely clean, unlike cast iron, in order to be sure it is the case, use some abrasive paste when washing your stainless pan. I even managed to make cripes on my stainless Marta Stuart skillet with thick copper bottom. When you cook something else, fish for example, dust it with a flour or crumbs, dry not cold food sticks less.
            Last thing – I don’t turn mine sunny eggs, just carefully brake yolks in couple places in order for it to be slightly more done.

            • Ro says

              Thanks Galina. Super useful information on making better use of the stainless. Yeah I use Bar Keepers Friend in a thick paste to keep it spotless.

          • ReneeAnn says

            Galina, great tips! Yes, I make sure to have enough grease to splash up on the eggs a bit to slightly cook the tops.

        • Galina L. says

          Ro,
          My cooking became more enjoyable after I discovered that particular heat-resistant Norpro nylon spatula http://www.amazon.com/Norpro-99DC-My-Favorite-Spatula/dp/B003KIVYHC/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1342878074&sr=1-1&keywords=norpro+spatulas.I bought it by chance in some restaurant-supply store, loved it, bought three more for my mother, my son and his girlfriend. I use it on my un-coated cast aluminum(great material!), stainless still (I don’t want too many scratches) and newly seasoned cast iron. It is unbelievably convenient, narrow with much thinner age than wooden ones or any silicon type. I quit using Teflon or any un-sticky skillet because the gradual loss of un-stickiness was driving me nuts. They managed to turn skillets to be the most often sold kitchenware item! I am off out of paying for other people financial brilliance. However, nothing is close to the un-stickiness of a new Teflon or ceramic item, there is no way even perfectly seasoned cast iron will replicate that, but you can develop skill how to use what you have intelligently and skillfully and get pretty much the same result plus the satisfaction from your growing skills and your skillet getting better with use not worse.

    • Lasse Larsen says

      The exact same goes for me! These Belgian “Greenpans” seem very nice, but are they as good as they are claimed to be? :)

  24. jack says

    I looked into some stainless steal cookware and cuisinart and All-Clad are stainleess steel with ALUMINUM. As I understand it the aluminum is uncased or sandwiched with stainless. What are your thoughts on that.

    • Galina L. says

      I hope you don’e imply, Jack that you can’t figure out by yourself is sandwiched Aluminum dangerous or not.

  25. Lp johnson says

    I’d like to add that people should stay away from the cutesy silicone bakeware. I assume most reading Chris’s blog aren’t baking cupcakes etc, however, it is worth mentioning. I live near the factory where they first started making the silicone bakeware. My uncle whom worked there emphatically told us not to use it, as the workers and Quality control guys at the factory became very ill making it and testing it. Can not give any scientific info, sorry.

  26. Celine says

    Hello !

    What about hard-anodized aluminum ? Is it as bad as plain aluminum ?

    Thanks for your insights on this.

  27. Galina L. says

    Guys, I recently decided to start selling on eBay mine own homemade silicon sleeves for cast iron skillets and I think about making silicon handle covers for enameled cast iron dutch ovens. I will start doing it not sooner than in a month, maybe later. Could you tell me main concerns for thous who use such cooking-ware? Is a knob cover needed as well?

    • Donna says

      To Galina L…..This is an idea that demanded fruition!…One unfortunate dilemma when cooking with cast iron is the necessity of using mitts/gloves….Excellent thought to cover the handles and top knobs of the cookware for handling ease. I am sure there are several cooks who would be interested in your ingenuity.

      • Galina L. says

        My own main problem is even not the inconvenience of using mitts or pot-holders, but forgetting how hot that cast iron is even after a while after being removed from the heat. I could be plain dangerous for an absent-minded person . I tried to train myself to keep a pot holder on a hot handle until it stopped being damaging(like they said it in an American Test Kitchen), but forget in 50% of all occasions. After that last burn I decided that prevention was a way to go, and right now I am in a process of ordering some material I found suitable from the main-land China. (I worked as a mechanical engineer, a design engineer, have a master degree in an Industrial engineering, and also some artistic background, like doing side job of being an artist on commission, I hope my background will be helpful). Chinese sell in more quantities than I need for my personal use, so it will be plenty left for eBay. I also plan to cover handles of my stainless-still pots with silicon sleaves. Their hollow shape is fine for use on a stove, but they can be quite hot when it is necessary to take it from the oven.
        I am not trying to be a marketing troll, I just need other people opinions. Probably, I will let you know when I have some staff available.

        • Lp johnson says

          I have never grabbed hot handles, but I have grabbed the hot knob on top of the Dutch oven too many times (how do I forget one & not the other?).

          • Galina L. says

            I also have some burns after accidentally touching the rim of a very hot skillet with my arm while trying to reach for something. Probably, I would make also something to cover the rim for personal use, but I am sure it is not sell-able.

  28. Donna says

    This is all valuable information…thanks to all contributors!…Chris, or anyone in the know…What are your thoughts on Rommertöff (sp) clay pottery cookers?..Are these safe for roasting?..I love my All-Clad, Le Creuset and am keen on acquiring a few Staub mini-cocottes once the budget allows!

  29. Debbie says

    I don’t have Le Creuset but something similar that’s not as expensive and I have been very happy with that. I think it is important not to price folks out of the paleo/healthy lifestyle and I admire Chris for his efforts in this regard.

    I got an Oster 5-quart enamel on cast-iron casserole for 75% off at Target and unfortunately it’s sold out now. I tried to get my friend to buy one as well but he could not wrap his head around even spending $39 for a pot

  30. Galina L. says

    I think non-stick skillets is a part of a low-fat life-style – you can put a cold raw egg on a dry unheated surface of a NEW nonstick pan and it will not stick. With traditional cookware you have to use a cooking oil or some fat and to pay attention to temperatures if you want close result.
    I am glad there is a paleo-movement, it makes me feel less of a dinosaur – I cook every meal eaten in my house all my life, my menu consists of old-fashioned dishes, I mend what is broken, use a manual meat-grinder, do canning, know how to knit, have at my disposal a wide variety of old-fashion medical remedies,but mostly practice prevention, and opting for a vintage iron, stainless still and an uncoated cast aluminum cookware seems to be a natural choice.

  31. Ulli says

    Last year I switched to Silit Silirgan. It’s terribly expensive but after a year of extensive daily use I can say that it was the right choice and that these pots and pans will stay with me for the rest of my life and can probably still be passed on. It’s basically enameled steel, very high quality, several layers of ceramic on high quality steel combined at very high temperatures. It is extremely heavy and hard to kill/scratch/destroy. Even after some burning accidents the pan comes out shiny new after soaking and washing with hot soapy water and soft clothes. And it’s still made in my home country Germany. I am in my fifties now, went through numerous different cookware in my life, and now I will never switch again. IMO the best there is. No, I don’t sell it, I’m just a very, very happy customer. Oh and despite being steel it’s nickel-free, also an issue for me.

  32. Nijole Ladd says

    I love Extrema ceramic cookware- it’s the next generation ceramic- and cooks like a dream. If you ever loved Corningware (which I do), then you’ll know how to cook with Extrema- and absolutely NO off gassing or transfer into food. Please add this to your list as it is the healthiest cookware I know. (Enamel can chip off and go into the food!)

    • Ron says

      I’m with Nijole. I replaced all my SS cookware with their ceramic cookware over a year ago and I love it. They carry a non-PFOA non stick skillet that works great.

  33. Jeanmarie says

    Here’s how we clean our cast-iron pans:

    Let cool. (Optional: add some water to let it soak a bit.) Place on floor. Highly trained kitchen dogs proceed to clean off anything that sticked, as well as residual cooking oil. Rinse in very hot water while scrubbing with a brush. Place back on stove, heat on high until water evaporates. Additional oiling at this point is optional, but I do it occasionally.

    Alternatively, sprinkle the pan with salt and scrub with a barely damp scrubby thingie, and rinse with hot water.

  34. Clint says

    Looks like I’m dumping my Teflon coated Woks, I love cooking with a Wok. I do have 4 cast iron skillets that I’ll be using more often now!

  35. Zora says

    While I agree with most of what you have written here, Chris, I must disagree with your assessment of aluminum, especially where Alzheimer’s is concerned. There was one study done, in the UK, which associated Alzheimer’s with high levels of aluminum in the brain. Several months after the study was published, and highly publicized, another researcher looked at the methodology used and found that, before tests were run on the brain tissue samples, the samples were dyed. The dye contained aluminum, thus negating the findings of the study. No other studies have associated aluminum with Alzheimer’s.

    It is unfortunate that the reversal of the study was so poorly publicized, and that the original results are still reported.

    • Galina L. says

      Thank you Zora, I got sick and tired to listen all that BS about dangers of aluminum – a wonderful material for skillets.

    • Paula says

      Very nice & useful article.
      After realizing we have literally been eating little peaces of chipped Teflon coating from our cheap pan, we are investing in a new cookware set ASAP. Any recommendations on how to clean our systems after months of exposure to those metals?

      What’s your opinion about PYREX cookware? It’s another safe material.

      I inherited from my mum a little skillet, comes with metal detachable handle so it can be used in oven & stove.
      This brand is used in labs equipment, I’m sure it does not leak or contaminates food.
      Thanks again for such interesting article.
      Regards,

  36. says

    A great cookware alternative that hasn’t been mentioned is carbon steel. Most woks are made of carbon steel and it’s commonly used in restaurant cookware. You treat it like cast iron (season it, no soap) but it’s very lightweight. I can’t fry an egg without sticking on my cast iron pans, but my Matfer Borgeat carbon steel pan is perfect for eggs.

    I have read a few sources about stainless steel possibly leaching nickel and chromium, but nothing definitive. Cast iron and carbon steel don’t have nickel or chromium added (to prevent rusting) so they need more babying but are healthier choices (unless you have iron overload problems).

    For enameled cast iron, I’m a fan of Staub. The black interior doesn’t show stains like Le Creuset does. :)

    • Sue Hepworth says

      pleased to see someone mention carbon steel. I have been using them for some time, they’re very inexpensive and, having “proved” them as you would a wok, they are as non-stick as teflon. All I need to do to clean them is to put in a little water, bring to the boil, take a pot brush to swish around, tip the liquid out, rinse with water and put on a high heat to dry (it takes seconds) Sometimes I wipe it out with oil .

  37. says

    Chris,

    Although you have dealt with many Retail cookware’s,
    I notice you did not mention Waterless and Greasless
    Cookware such as Vita Craft, or Salad Master in your discussion.

    What are your thoughts on this type of cookware, being
    Surgical Grade Stainless steel?

  38. Christopher (Squatchy) says

    I know many people are skeptical that the Le Crueset cookware is worth it or not, as I used to be. Let me tell you, after getting and using a Le Crueset 5.5qt french oven, they are fantastic and worth the money. Lifetime warranty, well made, and work very well. If I could only have one piece of cookware, this would be it. Their stoneware baking dishes are great too. We got our french oven and baking dishes from Marshall’s for a significant discount. I also use some ceramic and stainless steel pans and pots, and a stoneware/terracotta type glazed tagine a lot. You can usually find some of the ceramic coated pans at some of the discount stores for pretty cheap too.

    • Liane says

      I agree completely with you about the Le Creuset enamel. Mark Sisson did a cookware article around Christmas. I was able to snatch up 3 great pans. A huge soup pot, a deep Dutch oven, and a high domed braiser. And I grabbed an All Clad roaster. All at TJ Maxx. There are also outlet stores all over the US and because this stuff lasts forever look for it at garage sales and estate sales. Just avoid eBay unless you get free shipping. My exhaust manifold weighs less than my big pan.

      I listened to Robb talking about his Calphalon non stick. And also his All Clad. He seems to be okay with the Teflon. I stll use mine that is intact, but never with fat.

      My biggest concern is that to pitch my expensive made in Toledo Ohio Calphalon top of the line stuff and replace it with Chinese made stainless or ceramic is moving the wrong direction. All Clad is the only US manufacturer left of stainless. But it is so pricey. I take a very close look at my Teflon pans and when one looks scratched I replace it.

      And, as an aside, Le Creuset bakeware is also made in China. For good bakeware look to Italy.

  39. Shayne says

    I’ve known about teflon being absolutely horrible for years. I bought a set of stainless steel cookware almost a decade ago and I’ve been buying up cast iron – I prefer the cast iron. I also have a glasstop stove and my cast iron does not damage it.

  40. Daria says

    Chris,

    I’m still not sure about your reply on how it is OK to cook on stainless steel cooking surface with aluminum core, yet in the article you recommend not to use copper cookware even with the stainless steel coating? I presume you meant that this stainless steel coating is on the interior of the copper cookware and thus would be safe to cook on.

  41. nopavement says

    I like the fact that just like paleo is relying on older, proven results, now the same goes for cookware. It really makes sense, cast iron and enamel have been around for hundreds of years?
    Pottery, thousands.

    I can see us whole foodie peeps now having a new topic to bug our favorite restaurant wait-staff about.
    In addition to wanting to know the origin of the meat and veges being served, now we will be asking what cook ware materials they are using….actually its a fair question.

    Many restaurants I have seen use aluminum skillets, and pots, and some old-world Mexican restaurants I have seen simmer pork in copper pots….

    It seems like we as a society never learn:

    From enamel and cast iron to aluminum and non-stick
    From sugar and honey to saccharine….ad nauseum
    From butter and lard to margarine and seed oils
    Meat to soy and grains

    Each with associated disease patterns……

  42. says

    Another reason to steer clear of Teflon…. it was used in jaw implants back in the 80’s, and most people who were implanted with it are now VERY, very sick. Like holes in the brain and allergic to every medicine they take, everything they eat, put on their bodies, etc kind of sick. The immune system issues alone are horrific…. your body starts to reject everything and attack its own tissues. So, please, please do not use teflon.

  43. Suzan says

    Chris, maybe you could elaborate on these related topics in a followup post:
    cooking with aluminum foil
    cooking in a microwave
    non-stick alternative “green” cookware
    safe cooking temperatures i.e. grilling.
    lead in crock pots

    Many people recommend Le Crueset and cast iron cookware, but it is too heavy for some people (who have health issues) for daily use. All-Clad is too expensive for some, and doesn’t stainless steel leech nickel? And what exactly do you mean by aluminum cookware? Even the cookware that has aluminum on the bottom?

    And please clarify for some folks who might not know: most non-stick cookwar is teflon. But they use different names for the non-stick, like silverstone, etc., so people might not know.

    Thanks

    • nopavement says

      The word “Teflon” is trademarked by DuPont, so you could have a material that is chemically the same, e.g. PTFE (polytetraflouraethylene) and have the same negative properties to cook on, and not be called Teflon. I am not well versed in all of the names of non-stick surfaces, and which one contain PTFE and which don’t, just beware that some may not use the word “Teflon” if they don’t buy their PTFE from DuPont.

    • Galina L. says

      American vintage cast iron is lighter than LeCrueszet and costs less. Instead of all-clad, get a stainless still with copper or aluminum bottom for acidic food preparations.

  44. says

    What about the Martha Stewart enameled cast iron cookware that Macy’s sells? I also love Le Creuset, but it is very expensive. Do you have any thoughts about the other brands of enameled cast iron cookware?

    • Miranda says

      Staub!!!

      Comparable to Le Creuset. Made in France! I prefer the colors, shapes, and configurations of Staub over Le Creuset.

      http://www.staubusa.com/

      Pricy, yes, but you sometimes can find deals on discontinued colors on the web.

      I have the Cocottes for soups and braising, and a saute pan, which can also go in the oven. The saute pan has two handles for ease of transfer to the oven. I also cook eggs in the saute pan and they mostly do not stick. Even when they do, it comes right off. There are little hexagons on the surface, which is their version of “non-stick”: http://www.staubusa.com/prod_saute/index.asp

      • Danielle says

        Some of Le Creuset are made in China/Thailand. At the time of this posting, it seems mostly their bakers. A lot of complaints about them cracking. Just a heads up for future purchases.

    • MarkB says

      Good point. I just did some research and apparently we’re supposed to eat 6 servings of whole grains per day, plenty of low fat dairy, and avoid red meat because it causes the plague… Point being, why wade through hundreds of online articles/studies/blogs when we can post questions on here that are often answered by someone who already has?

      • says

        Couldn’t have said it better myself… I’m pretty sure most of us here have done a fair amount of research, but it never hurts to get a second opinion from someone who might know more/have a different insight.

    • says

      Really? There is a reason why we’ve subscribed to scientists blogs… A simple Google search doesn’t always provide you with solid answers. *He* did the research on this topic, *he* is a scientist, why *not* ask him?

  45. Teresa G says

    There is a type of aluminum cookware that is “hard-anondized”… Does that offer any protection against toxins leaching? Thanks!

  46. Lauren says

    I heard a talk from a doctor that stainless steel can leach nickel when cooking with an acidic medium? Is this true?

    Also, obviously the microwave is not a traditional way to cook, but is there research showing it to be dangerous to our health?

    • Chris Kresser says

      Most research shows that microwaves are safe. But they still freak me out. Irrational, perhaps. But there it is.

  47. Suzan says

    I use Ecolution cookware, which is Hydrolon water based nonstick – PFOA Free. It’s not the best-quality cookware, but it’s easy to maintain and affordable.

  48. Jana says

    How about the possibility of stainless steel leaching nickel in some cases?
    Thank you for the article, I always wondered about the best way to cook.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I’ve heard of this, but haven’t seen any data on it. If you have some, I’d love to see it.

  49. says

    Chris, when you say that you don’t recommend aluminum, you’re talking about the cooking surface, right? So a “tri-ply” stainless steel pan, which has an aluminum core that’s covered in stainless steel, should be fine, right?

  50. Slandy says

    I mainly use basic Farberware, which is stainless steel with an aluminum bottom on the outside. I also have some teflon pans, mostly used for frying eggs, burgers, etc. You’ve made me question whether I should keep using them. I plan to check into the alternatives you suggest.

  51. Kathy says

    Thanks for the recommendations. I’m slowly transitioning from teflon to enamel/stainless/cast iron. But I have to say, I cannot get my cast iron skillet (Lodge) to be nonstick. I’ve tried every instruction I can find on the internet, but food still sticks (leaving about half behind when it comes to scrambled eggs). Any special tips?

    Also. . .how about silicon? Any problems there?

    • Linda says

      Eggs will stick to my well-seasoned cast iron pan if the pan is not hot enough. I let it warm for 10-15 minutes before cooking. It’s hot enough if water sprinkled on the pan sizzles away.

    • Galina L. says

      Lodge is a bad type of cast iron, but your egg will stick much less if your run hot water over your egg to make it room temperate, heat your pan to 350F before cooking, put enough oil on pan right before cooking the egg, sprinkle salt on the pan surface before braking the egg.

  52. CatsandGarlic says

    Le Creuset 6″ for sauteing shallots and garlic (in grass-fed ghee, coconut and red palm oils, crushed red pepper, crushed mustard seed, and turmeric); keep the temp low, and there will be no problems with sticking.
    An old Wally Nash low-carbon steel wok for stir-frying my (in)famous Sinus Chicken, parboiling potatoes, and poaching eggs. Again, ghee, coconut and red palm oils; no clean-up issues with a stiff nylon brush.
    The other meats (wild boar; grass-fed beef, bison, and lamb) get broiled on a rack five minutes a side at 200 degrees or less to keep them rare.
    Everything else is VitaMixed or eaten raw.

  53. says

    By some coincidence my favorite cookware is from Lodge Logic, Le Creuset, and All-Clad (LTD2). My experience is that sticking is not an issue with stainless steel (All-Clad) if it is well seasoned and as long as proper (low!) cooking temperatures are maintained.

    I clean my cast iron and stainless steel pans while still warm using warm water and a soft wire-and-natural-fiber brush (no plastic). The residual from the saturated fat I cook with does the rest.

  54. Smalls says

    Good article! I wanted to share some tidbits since kitchen tools are a hobby of mine:

    – Just to clarify, All-clad and similar high quality stainless cookware is actually and aluminum core sandwiched in 2 layers of stainless steel. Clad-aluminum stainless actually heats up very fast and evenly, while protecting from the possible dangers of aluminum and overcoming the low conductivity of steel. I don’t know if this makes a difference to anyone, but in case there were some out there who wanted to eschew aluminum even if it weren’t in contact with the food I thought I’d chime in. Otherwise, steel-clad aluminum is awesome.

    – The best oil I’ve used to season my cast iron is Flaxseed oil, which is close in composition to linseed oil, which is used to season fine hardwood. Only drawback is that I think the flaxseed needs about 500f to season properly, and that can fill your house with smoke, so I used my charcoal weber grill, and did a couple of coats. You could almost put your cast iron in the dishwasher with the coat that flaxseed makes, though it isn’t a very ‘paleo’ oil, so I don’t know if some would be reticent to use it.

    – As a bird owners, we’ve known for years about the dangers of teflon at even ‘safe’ temperatures. (Canary in coal mine? I think so.) For those who are worried about their food sticking in the absence of teflon, I have two points: 1) A well-season cast iron pan is just as nonstick as teflon. Really, it is. And 2) in a lot of cooking, the browned bits that stick to the bottom of the stainless pan make the dish tastier when scraped off with a bit of liquid and incorporated into a sauce. Yum! (Bonus: if scrubbing is your issue, soak your pan as soon as you’re done cooking in water and soap. The crud will come right off!)

    =D

    • Liane says

      I would never use a vegetable oil of any sort in cooking, especially one that turns into a sticky rancid mess. I still remember how that old Wesson oil bottle felt on the outside, LOL. My best choice of fat for seasoning a pan and one I have used for decades is good old fashioned lard. I also put my cheapo Calphalon brand cast iron grill pan (Target) in my Weber. We also have a Lodge griddle for camping that gets tossed onto the fire, and it does a bang up job of grilling bacon with zero cleanup. Just wipe it off when warm, wrap in newspaper to tote home and never let it near soap and water.

      My favorite scouring substance for the cast iron that I do have is kosher salt and a natural bristle brush. Hard to find those these days. I got a bunch from the Vermont Country Store. They also have a ton of old fashioned cookware.

      Like you, I am a long time gadget collector, foodie, and food writer. Learning to cook Paleo-ish is my latest adventure. But being a from scratch cook for decades makes it easy.

  55. Michelle says

    What would you recommend for ultra-light backpackers? My husband and I just lugged an aluminum pan down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back out. We basically boiled water in it and added our dehydrated food (some of which contained tomato). I just thought that it wouldn’t kill us to use a few times a year?? We have stainless steel pots for regular camping.

    • Liane says

      Michelle, we have for years and years used stainless nesting cookware. I honestly think it came from REI in Berkeley. Bought in the 80s.

  56. Daria says

    All-Clad Copper Core cookware is marketed as 5-Ply bonded layers of stainless-steel, aluminum and copper with stainless-steel interior that will not react with foods. Is it as harmful as stainless steel coated copper cookware Chris does not recommend? Or is it a safe option?

  57. Robin says

    Lodge also makes ceramic coated cast iron cookware. It’s every bit as good (and attractive) as Le Creuset, but at a much lower price.

  58. says

    I’m using this non stick pan from Korean market that’s made from marble stone..It’s pretty light actually despite made from marble stone..it’s very good and very easy to clean as well. Have you heard about it, Chris?

    • says

      That sounds like soapstone. Very few stones can take repeated heating and cooling. Soapstone is probably the best at tolerating repeated heating and cooling and has been used for cookware since pre-historic times. It is also used for woodstove and furnace linings. Marble is not resistant to heat as far as I know and I’ve seen it go to pieces when heated in a fire. They can look somewhat similar though.

  59. Shiva L. says

    I second Doug’s question. I’ve been using one of those “orgreenic” or whatever pans for two months and I love it. Nonstick, easy to clean, no teflon etc. But is this stuff safe?

  60. says

    I am wondering about aluminum foil. Since I stopped using a microwave to re-heat leftovers I have been wrapping it in foil and heating it in the oven or toaster oven – is that bad?

    • Sharon says

      I used to do that, but a safer method would be to use parchment paper.
      Make sure it’s unbleached, chlorine free.
      I tends to leak so you can probably put the foil under the parchment paper or on a tray as not to make a mess.

    • Sharon says

      I use pyrex and glassware all the time. I love it! Cleanup is not too bad.
      I also use some Corningware frying pan skillets.
      Is CorningWare safe?

  61. Erin says

    I have been reading a lot about crock pots leaching lead. Is this true? Have you done any research on this Chris? Due to lack of time I am making usually 2-3 crock pot meals per week and I am concerned with lead, especially being that we are trying to conceive. Thank you in advance!!

    • Heidi says

      Hi Erin,

      My mom used to own a ceramic shop, and she occasionally fired stoneware. She told me to toss any ceramic or stoneware that developed cracks in the glaze or those gray scratches (that come on from vigorous scrubbing or scraping). The reason was that the item would leach lead. This also applies to non glass casserole dishes and your regular household plates.

      She also told me to be wary of any food/beverage container with the deep/bright(underglazed) colors. Those colors have lead in them too. (you put a lead free clear coat over those colors, but you can’t be sure unless you are glazing them yourself, or if you’re buying from a reputable company)

      I hope that helps you.

      • ReneeAnn says

        Heidi,

        Thank you so much for that info! I’ve been wondering about a couple of old plates that will now get tossed!

  62. says

    I just bought a “Greenpan” brand skillet for omelets. It’s supposedly a natural, non-stick mineral-based coating and completely PTFE-free and contains no silicone oil. I’ve been using it about a month and it’s a great pan (as non-stick as tephlon).

    Any thoughts on this type of technology?

    • Alex says

      I recently spent some quality time with one of my Lodge pans, an angle grinder with flap discs, and an orbital sander. I got the bottom of that pan as smooth as glass. Right now, the pan is in the oven at 500 degrees, getting its fifth coat of flax seed oil seasoning. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll just get some vintage Griswold or Wagner.

      • Galina L. says

        Way to go, Alex! When buying vintage staff pay attention on the “sits flat” in the description. Any degree of wobble is unacceptable .

        • Alex says

          In Googling about grinding down Lodge pans, I came across a forum post from a guy who did it with an orbital sander. I started doing it that way but very quickly realized I needed something that would remove metal more aggressively. So, I used an angle grinder with 60 and 120 grit flap discs to remove the sand casting texture. I then used the orbital sander with 180 and 320 grit discs to do the final polishing.

          As for seasoning, it makes sense to me that flax oil would polymerize into a hard coating more quickly than other oils, and I’m very pleased with the results.

    • Christie B. says

      This is a great idea, UNLESS a person is sensitive to trace amounts of gluten. The gluten will not come out of cast iron, and when buying used, you don’t know what the previous person used the pan for. I spent hours shopping around to find a new, unseasoned, and good quality cast iron pan. I can’t speak to today, but about 3 years ago, it was still possible.

      • Galina L. says

        Most people who buy cast iron strip it first from all layers of polymerized oils (often in a self-cleaning oven at 900F) and re-season it . There is no way it would be even traces of gluten left after such procedure.

        • Christie B. says

          My husband and I thought the same thing, until my son still reacted. Some other people have had the same experience. Some people are extremely sensitive.

          Some other surfaces we were able to put in a self-clean oven and “purify” them (like grill-plates), but not the cast iron. And fortunately the self-clean worked on the oven itself, too. Of course, in running the self-clean for this purpose, we had to keep our son out of the house until the air was completely cleared.

          Fortunately, the only cast iron that I had used for cooking gluten was the griddle. I got to keep my favorite cast iron skillet.

          Maybe some ovens don’t get as hot on self-clean, or maybe it’s that the cast iron is more porous than other materials. I don’t know the reason, but I wanted to caution folks, in case gluten is an issue for them. Because what *should* work doesn’t always work.

    • says

      Thanks for posting this article. I was just scrolling my way to the bottom of the page to say that all the Lodge stuff I have seen is best sent to the scrap heap. As far as I can tell from observation, all old cast iron skillets were turned on a lathe after casting. That is why there are fine concentric lines in the bottom of the pan. The turning also thins them to a more useful weight. The pans are essentially cast in sand and the new ones from lodge that I have seen are left that way out of the factory making them of very limited use when it comes to keeping food from sticking in the pan. I found this out the hard way when I bought a couple of lodge pans, grrrrrr…. They are just exploiting the reputation of cast iron producing literally tons of cookware that stops just short of being any good. What a waste of valuable resources and labor. There are still plenty of excellent older cast iron pans out there. Find a lighter weight and smooth bottomed old pan and save yourself some disappointment. As long as there are no cracks or deep rust pits in the cooking surface and the bottom is flat enough, they’re good to go for decades more. I’ve thought about the angle grinder, but I have enough old ones now, good for you though Alex!

      Personally, I like the low sided cast iron frying pans as they are easier to get a spatula into and also easier to use when flipping food in the air. I also don’t cook very wet or soupy stuff in them because I don’t want the iron taste and it ruins the seasoning pretty fast. Their niche is quick cooking when I don’t want stuff to stick like scrambled eggs, crepes and the like.

  63. Alex says

    I’m always baffled by claims that enamel is nonstick, because my experience is that food sticks to it like crazy. Enamel is basically just glass, and that Visions glass cookware was a similar sticking food nightmare. I bought a set of Safepan cookware, that has a ceramic nonstick, and the nonstick qualities are outrageously excellent… for about six months, and then the nonstick starts fading. From what I’ve read, that’s a common experience with all the new ceramic nonsticks.

    • Christie B. says

      I haven’t had a sticking problem in my enameled pans. EXCEPT the black, pebbled-looking ones (they look a bit like cast iron). Those are terrible! And I got rid of them. But the smooth ones are fine. You do need to use enough fat, though.

    • Liane says

      Alex,
      I do tons of braises in my Le Creuset pans. I think I have cooked every meat dish on the nom nom Paleo site in those pans, LOL. I have cooked everything from Kalua pig, to carnitas (Melicious style) as well as stews and chiles and all sorts of veggies. The white surface gets brown and crusty, but comes clean with soap and water. I have looked at those green coated pans and they all look cheap and flimsy. My cookware doubles for kettlebells lol. Heavy cast iron with a fabulous coating that is as non stick as any Teflon. Visions glass was something I had in the 80 s to go with my 80 s track home electric range. I think I kept the SOS and Brillo Companies in business. If you want to boil water visions is fine but that glass is totally tenacious. Also, you can grease your pan with coconut oil before cooking just like you would for baking. Has same release effect.

    • Galina L. says

      You could keep in mind that food sticks less even to a stainless still if pan if heated to 350F, enough of oil is used, foot is dry and not cold. For example room temperature egg sticks less to a skillet than one from a fridge.

    • Chris Kresser says

      Glass is a good choice for some applications, like making tea. But it doesn’t hold/distribute heat like ceramics.

  64. Emily says

    I’m confused about the copper. I have Revereware stainless steel pans but they do have a copper bottom for heat distribution. Is this the same thing you are talking about when you say, “Most copper cookware these days is coated with stainless steel to improve durability and ease of cleaning. Despite this steel coating, copper should never be used to cook acidic food, since over time the acid can cause copper to leach into the food.” Also, some cookware says it is 100% stainless steel that encapsulates an “aluminum core” to provide heat distribution. Is that okay?

    • Jeanmarie says

      Copper bottoms help with heat distribution, but since your food isn’t touching it, it doesn’t leach into the food.

    • Liane says

      Emily,
      There is copper ON THE BOTTOM of Revereware Stainless. I used to have an entire set of it. I got tired of scouring the insides and polishing the copper bottoms, and the bakelite handles got funky after 30 years of use. I pitched it all and bought a combination of Calphalon, All-Clad and Le Creuset. Now, am in the process of replacing the Calphalon. The Calphalon they sell these days is cheap. I have a small saucepan (2 qt) that cost almost $200 more than ten years ago. The teflon interior is intact. Whereas I bought a small Calphalon skillet at Bed Bath and Beyond less than a year ago and it is peeling and scratched, although I never use anything but wood with it. I am one of those who feel that well maintained teflon in perfect condition that is not used at high temps is the least of my worries. I would rather spend my money on pastured eggs and raw milk, and just use my existing quality cookware in a sane manner. Meaning, I cook veggies at a simmer, in the 200 degree range, and not fry in the 400 degree range.

  65. Steve says

    Wow thanks Chris ! I’m throwing out the Teflon frying pans that I cook breakfast fort whole family with everyday! I’ve been wondering about it for ages! Thanks again.

    • Liane says

      Anolon is another nonstick cookware line that got gobbled up by giant Meyer. Just like Calphalon. My Calphalon was made by Calphalon back in the dark ages. Circulon is another of these companies.

      So, if you want to avoid nonstick Anolon is off the table (stove?).

  66. sarah sprouse says

    I have a lovely Le Creuset stock pot that gets a lot of use and then I have a set of Kitchencraft (waterless cookware) – it is fully coated in surgical quality stainless steel but has some aluminum in the core. This stuff cooks amazingly well and cleans up really easy! And it is made in the USA with a lifetime guarentee. Now I just need a really good roasting pan – I didn’t worry about it much when we only cooked a turkey once a year but since going Paleo we are using it a lot more so I need a healthier one as I’m sure my cheap one not made of quality materials.

    • Liane says

      Sarah,
      I got really lucky finding an All Clad stainless roaster at TJ MAXX. It was the old anodized exterior, discontinued model. I found myself cooking way more roasted poultry too after going Paleo. What I really like about mine is you can put it right on the gas burners to reduce the pan drippings. Look for the old LTD line. Polished stainless inside, but dark outside to hide burned on stuff. I don’t know much about the newer LTD2 line. I would google it and see what you can find. Expect to pay a lot but this will last forever. My mom is 80. She has had one forever. Stll looks and performs great.

  67. Deb says

    I agree with Dan above in comments. I have a ceramic skillet and it is by far the best non stick cookware I have ever used. I love it! The nano ceramic is very non reactive and safe from what I have read. Hope that is the truth.

  68. Darren says

    Chris, thanks for the great article on something myself, and I’m sure many others, have been unsure about for a long time. I was wondering if you could say how you feel about other quality non-stick cookware, such as Calphalon. From an ease of use and cleanup perspective they are pretty fantastic, but I’d like to know if they present any risks.

    • Edward Smith says

      Anodized Aluminum Cookware May Be a Safer Alternative
      These days, many health conscious cooks are turning to anodized aluminum cookware as a safer alternative. The electro-chemical anodizing process locks in the cookware’s base metal, aluminum, so that it can’t get into food, and makes for what many cooks consider an ideal non-stick and scratch-resistant cooking surface. Calphalon is the leading manufacturer of anodized aluminum cookware, but newer offerings from All Clad (endorsed by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse) and others are coming on strong.

      • Galina L. says

        After initial seasoning, an un-caoted cast aluminum pan is covered with polymerized oil and aluminum doesn’t touch food, and nothing sticks to it. I bought mine 10″ Adcraft in a restaurant supply store for 18 bucks, works better with every use, which is opposite to coated skillets.

  69. JennieMo says

    Here, here! I agree, I recently dumped all my teflon and replaced with enamel pots and nano ceramic coated frying pans. Do you have thoughts on the new nanoceramic coating? It releases food like nothing else I’ve cooked on. I’ve also wondered it there is a difference.between the inexpensive and expensive versions. Please tell me you have an opinion, Chris! Thanks for the post!

    • Galina L. says

      Just wait, it will get sticky , expensive ones are usually better made thicker, but will stick to food anyway in a while.

    • RobG says

      True, they start to stick but most people give it a spray with the non-stick oil (though I don’t – just to save money and don’t like the idea of what’s in the spray). They also eventually scratch (my wife did it after two weeks to mine). So I have no idea what a compromised pan might do.

      • Galina L. says

        Eventually compromised pan will be the equivalent of stainless-still one with an aluminum extra layer for a better heat distribution – somewhat sticky but non-reactive, still suitable for many food preparations that require to use more fat or liquid. I re-seasoned some of my old Teflon ones (with nice design and good thickness) with the same technology suitable for cast iron after using power tools on the inside, and it became usable and rather un-sticki again, but it can’t be done with ceramic. There is no way I will ever buy another ceramic skillet ever in my life, that rip-off is over for me.

  70. MarkB says

    I’ve read about Teflon a few times, but this article finally motivated me to hit the store this weekend. I’m seeing some cast iron pans/skillets that state “Exterior is coated with silicon to prevent rust.” What’s up with that?

    Thanks

    • Galina L. says

      American vintage cast iron is the best in the world, relatively light, with glossy like black mirror cooking surface, there are a lot of reasonably priced pieces on ebay, Grishwold is more pricy, but Wagner is more affordable. Modern Lodge is super heavy, with extremely rough unfinished surfaces. It is suitable only to give a college kid to cook because he would ruin anything else.

      • Liane says

        Hi Galina,
        The reason Griswold antiques cost more than Wagner is that many decades ago, the Wagner Brothers bought out Griswold. I think it was in the 20s. So buying a Griswold (there are many on eBay) would mean buying a genuine antique. I grew up with Wagner pans which are still made today. You can buy brand new ones at their website. I grew up with Wagner pans (I am in my 60s) and then lost one in a divorce and the last three I had to a larcenous roommate. I had tucked them away in the garage since they did not work well on my then electric stove. Wish I had them now. I just ordered a set from Wagner. Under $50.

        • Galina L. says

          After realizing I don’t want to loose money on various non-stick skillets forever, I recently got myself couple of Grishwold skillets 9″ and 10″ from the period 1930-1939, each under $20+shipping, and some Taiwan very shallow and light 8″ cast iron skillet for $5 from a flea-market to make buckwheat pancakes for my son. All needed cleaning and seasoning, I used instruction from Sheryl Cantor blog ( http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/) and now it looks like black mirrors inside. I don’t understand what Lodge people are thinking about. OK, finishing skillets costs money, but they should at least try to make their product weight less. May be their ore is so crappy they can’t do it. I also bought last year a wonderful thick cast aluminum Adcraft 10″skillet with high sides, nothing sticks to is after initial seasoning. My son cooking with it on a campus, it is impossible to ruin , he doesn’t cook with tomatoes or vinegar, the real kitchen working horse.

    • Christie B. says

      I have a glasstop stove, and I use cast iron and enameled cast iron. I haven’t damaged either the stove top or the cookware in all these 11 years (except when my husband put his knee through the stove top early on…). There is no reason to use toxic cookware just because you have a glasstop (and IMO anodized aluminum is toxic – it’s still aluminum).

      • Galina L. says

        I looks like the toxicity of aluminum is an urban legend. Also, a well-used and properly cared for pan is usually coated with a layer of polymerized oils, like a cast iron one.

        • Nick says

          I suppose Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are also urban legends?
          Aluminum is necessary for the human body, like Vitamin C. But while you’d have to ingest ridiculous amounts of the latter to feel adverse health affects, the former will get you at much smaller doses. It’s a composite metal that stores itself away in important places (e.g. the brain, the kidneys) and causes oh so many health problems.

          • Galina L. says

            Only the connection between the aluminum and Alzheimer is the urban legend, or rather the result of press hysteria about some unproven hypothesis 40 years ago..
            Here is from Alzheimer society on myths surrounding Alzheimer:
            “During the 1960s and 1970s, aluminum emerged as a possible suspect in Alzheimer’s. This suspicion led to concern about exposure to aluminum through everyday sources such as pots and pans, beverage cans, antacids and antiperspirants. Since then, studies have failed to confirm any role for aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Experts today focus on other areas of research, and few believe that everyday sources of aluminum pose any threat.”
            It looks like you one on few.

            • john w says

              There were “scientific” disputations of cigarettes and lung cancer, for a while. Then the truth smothered those smoldering lies. This is similar. Let it go, yer wrong.

  71. Dan says

    How, in the wide, wide, world of sports, could you leave CERAMIC cookware out of this article??? In my opinion, that seems to be the only way to go.

    • Jen says

      I’d honestly never heard of ceramic cookware before. Looks like its coated over aluminum, Chris, would love to hear your opinion of it.

    • says

      I second Dan’s question… Ceramic based non-stick “green” cookware is all the rage now in stores, and picking between one brand and the next is difficult… are they all the same? Are they all good? I have a white Ceramic Bialetti pan and it performs as well as teflon w/ eggs, no complaints. However, is it safe? Please add these pans to your review.

      Also, while I won’t argue that Le Creuset makes good enamel cookware, I think you should also mention Lodge Enamel cookware. The Lodge 6qt enamel pot costs 80% less than the comparable Le Creuset, and in my experience lodge products are excellent and very durable: Lodge Color Dutch Oven, Island Spice Red, 6-Quart

      • says

        Curious to hear the verdict, too. I know I *love* my enamel pans, but they sure are the more affordable kind – but seemed the best choice when ditching teflon a while ago. Oooh, and they come in crazy colors. I’m a girl. I like orange pans. :)

      • Jeanmarie says

        I have one of the ceramic Bialetti pans and it’s great for eggs, or anything. But, even though I only use wooden or bamboo or silicone spatulas, it is all scratched up after just a few months. Maybe silicone implements only would work.

      • says

        I have been using 6 quart Lodge enameled dutch oven DAILY for about 4 years. It is just awesome. My skillets are Lodge cast iron, not enameled because their enameled versions don’t have a smooth cooking surface, not sure the purpose of the texture. I have to tell everyone that if you find a very old cast iron pan, the quality will be much higher (barely liftable) and should have a flat, gray, shiny cooki g surface (newer pans don’t get this). Also, you MUST use a heavy metal spatula with a sharp, flat edge (very hard to find new) on non-enameled cast iron, never plastic or a curved edge spatula do to an uneven “scrape” on your cooking surface (not to mention leaving behind some plastic that will distort the pan). BTW, rust cast iron is no problem, can easily be converted with proper seasoning.

    • Fraser says

      Since Ceramic is pretty new there are zero regulations that the manufacturers have to abide by. They have found heavy metals leaching out of the ceramic (ie. Lead). I used my roommates ceramic once and loved it. I wont use it again due to those concerns. Ill stick to my stainles. Just think how long it took them to recognize that regular non stick was bad for you…

    • smd says

      great article! tossing my teflon & looking for ceramic (cast iron to heavy for me, do have stainless steel, but stir frying in it is too hard to clean)

    • Michael says

      The Green pans are not very good quality. However the scanpan CTX range is quite good from my experience and is PFOA free as well. shop around online to get a good price. in my case it was about 50% cheaper than in the shop. Probably the best pan I’ve had. I also got a pot in the same range which is also very good.

    • Galina L. says

      Ceramic-coated “green” pans are great, but as all kitchenware with un-sticki surfaces they loose such quality after several moth of even very gentle use. Only cast iron and cast un-coated aluminum get better with use.

      • Jeanmarie says

        This has been my experience, they don’t last long, with their super-thin ceramic coatings. I’d love to find one better made. Anyone have experience with the “Orgreenic” pans? My spam file is filled with offers for them.

    • safecook says

      your cookware is as important as the food you eat because unless its an inert or 100% non-reactive materiel like natural clay (the original cookware material for thousands of years). all other material is reactive and will leach into your food. if you can get some 100% natural clay cookware (not the lab made ceramics), that’s the best this you can do for your healthy and your futures. i got mine from Miriamsearthencookware.com. have been using these for about a year now, really like it!

      The ceramic coated green pan is actually a synthetic polyurethane coating , some kind of a plastic material. if you don’t like to eat plastic don’t cook with it.

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