Holistic Health

Your Complete Guide to Non-Toxic Cookware

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I'm wendy!

I'm a environmental toxins lawyer turned clean living coach who is obsessed with morning sunshine, Ningxia Red and all things holistic living (but for real life).  Catch me over on Insta and come say hi.


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I am going to start with just admitting this. I think companies like Caraway and Our Place (the makers of the Always pan) are marketing geniuses and I love love love all the cute colored pots, pans and baking trays. They would look amazing in any kitchen! Right?!! Then add on to the fact they say that are non-toxic?! Well now….if that’s true, seriously, take all my money.

As a mom who cooks a lot and a consumer, I’m stoked on this idea! As a toxins attorney, I’ve got some alarm bells going off and I always go in to researching companies from a place of being skeptical. Didn’t your mama teach you that if something is too good to be true, it probably is? I get asked All. The. Time. to write about this topic, so I am happy to finally publish my findings for all of you. Enjoy!


In this post I’ll give you a short history and the health impacts of the toxin used to make teflon and the toxins most cookware manufactures use today. I’ll also cover a product review of several non-toxic pans sold on the market, what their non-stick coatings are made out of and then finally, the big reveal! I’ll tell you what cookware you’ll find in my kitchen and what I use most.


2018 marked the 70th anniversary of the discovery of Teflon, the non-stick surface that most of us know as the slick coating on our cooking pans. The material’s invention was a happy accident but all these years later, I’m positive that if Roy Plunkett, the 27-year-old American chemist at DuPont who invented it, knew the fall out of the chemicals that he invented, he would wish that he’d never invented it at all.

The chemical that gave Teflon its slick surface was perfluorooctanoic acid, which is widely known as PFOA. PFOA is a single chemical that is part of a class of thousands of other chemicals called PFAS. PFAS chemicals include over 4,700 different chemical compounds with new compounds being invented nearly every day. While the EPA has taken efforts to measure and control up to 29 chemicals in drinking water (but not products), they lack the money, staff and authority to study or regulate PFAS as a whole.

Fast forward 70 years and all of our waterways and aquifers around the world are contaminated and 99% of the population has these chemicals in their bloodstream. What makes PFAS toxins so amazing is also what makes the chemical impossible to destroy. It’s been dubbed the “forever chemical” because it persists…. everywhere. PFAS chemicals are a series of compounds that linger on in our bodies and in our environment long after the products that contained them have broken down. These chemicals accumulate over time, leading to adverse health conditions like cancer, birth defects, and heart disease. Side note: we also now know that DuPont knew of the health impacts for decades.

For those that are new here and to my blog, as a toxins attorney, I will tell you this… DuPont had no legal requirement to make the government or regulators aware of the health harms, nor are they legally liable for harm. The law protects corporations and allows them to self regulate their own ingredients, with very few exception. The EPA did finally step in and require that PFOA be removed from non-stick pans by 2015. So as of 2015, you won’t find PFOA in any non stick pans.

(You want to learn more? Watch the documentary The Devil We Know. It’s the whole story about the lengths that DuPont went to hide their scientific findings about the toxicity of Teflon.)

Now I know what you are thinking… then WHAT IS in current teflon non-stick pans and should you be concerned?


Since 2015, most brands use PFOA Free PTFE on their non stick pans, which stands for polytetrafluoroethylene. The problem with that? It’s still a PFAS chemical and there are only a few studies that describe the toxicity of PTFE and without solid conclusions. But, what they don’t tell you is that PFOA is literally USED in the creation of PTFE. There are some reports that PFOA was detected in the gas phase released from the cooking utensils under normal cooking temperatures. Sooooo…. they replaced it with a chemical that potentially has the very same toxicity issues??? I suppose it might take another 70 years before we know that answer. It’s a pass for me.


There are A LOT of opinions on this topic and so many options, which is probably why it took me 5 years to write this! I’ve used them all. This wouldn’t be a very good product review if I didn’t, now would it? Here are all the most popular and most widely used types of materials you have to choose from when you are deciding on cookware.


It’s nonstick and the companies that sell it claim that the coating is non-toxic and that it doesn’t leach chemicals into your food or off-gas at high temperatures. The manufacturing process with this material is different for each brand, but all of them are significantly better than PFAS chemicals. The catch??? The coating wears off some of these really fast and you have to follow the cooking and cleaning directions carefully so that you don’t ruin them out of the gate. It’s worth it to invest in a quality brand (I’ll tell you my favorite at the end of this post).


It’s a workhorse for professional and home kitchens alike because it can last a lifetime and take a beating. Look for reputable brands that use food-grade stainless steel. I want you to hear this …. high quality stainless steel that is used correctly can be just as non-stick as a pan with a non-stick coating! No, I’m not joking. It’s true.


An heirloom classic in the kitchen passed down from generation to generation, cast iron retains heat like nothing else and is a master at searing and also extremely non stick when seasoned correctly over time. While cooking with this material is safe, those susceptible to iron overload should use with caution and not cook acidic foods in it. Cooking with cast iron takes a commitment but is worth it.


Carbon steel is like Cast Iron’s little sister. Rather than the seasoning being deep in the porous surface like cast iron, the seasoning sits on the surface, which makes it more naturally non stick. One of the main reasons why people love cooking with carbon steel is because of its versatility. Carbon steel pans can be used on the stove, under the broiler, over an open flame, or in a pizza oven. It’s versatile and while you do have to take care of it and keep it seasoned, it doesn’t have the same upkeep as a cast iron pan (in my opinion) and is much lighter weight.


It might be the safest cookware out there, this type of cookware is made with just one material – ceramic. Best for low and slow cooking, another bonus to using ceramic is its low carbon footprint. Not so great if you need to legit cook things up quickly, but great for pots that slow cook in the oven. You won’t catch me making eggs and bacon on it during a hectic morning, but it has its place in my kitchen.



If you just can’t get on board with the possibility of any toxins in your cookware, then Xtrema is one of the few brands that sells 100% ceramic cookware. The pure ceramic build means the skillet won’t leach any toxins into your food, but there are some draw backs. For example, it can’t be used on induction stovetops, and fragile foods like eggs tend to stick to it. The ceramic material is also very fragile at high temperatures, and the pan itself doesn’t tend to heat evenly.

Still, this skillet is scratch-resistant and straightforward to clean, even if you get some sticking. It’s also oven and microwave safe, and Xtrema provides silicone handles for use with the skillet to protect your hands.  This is great for long, slow cooking. But, suffice to say; this is for the truly toxin free committed chef who is willing to put up with the hassle in the name of being 100% toxin free.

I am a busy mom and this is not something that I use, but if you uncompromising in your pursuit for a toxin free home, go for it. This is the safest cooking material available.


Stainless steel is one of those buy once and last forever kind of things in your home, so choose wisely! In spite of its great reputation, stainless steel by itself is a poor conductor of heat. To make sure it distributes heat evenly, virtually all stainless cookware is either clad, meaning it has at least one layer of aluminum sandwiched between interior and exterior layers of stainless steel, or has a solid disc of aluminum on the bottom. The problem with that is that you don’t want aluminum to leach. (Also why you shouldn’t cook on aluminum foil, my friends). Cheap stainless steel isn’t a good option because you don’t know the quality and whether it will leach aluminum.

The only brand I use for stainless steel is All-Clad. All-Clad is a fully bonded cookware that is handcrafted using the highest quality materials at their mill in Canonsburg, PA. They are bonded so well, that you don’t have to worry about leaching and they are an amazing every day, last for decades cookware.

Pssst. Here’s my secret to cooking eggs on stainless steel: Beef tallow or coconut oil work best. Heat the pan FIRST. Make sure it’s nice and medium hot. Put in the fat or oil you’ve chosen to cook with. RIGHT when it’s finished melting and hot, put the eggs right on top. You’ll find that the fat is all that it really takes to make eggs in stainless steel and they slide right off. Enjoy 😉


Cast iron pans have been around forever and there are a lot of reasons to love them…. and maybe a few that will make you love it not as much. I will tell you this much, I use my cast iron skillet A LOT and I love it dearly. But, owning a cast iron pan isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes time and care and attention…. and some love sprinkled in there.

Here is the good stuff. Cast iron is tough and it’s durable, so it’s hard to ruin or destroy. Even if you have an unusable pan, it can be restored without too much effort. And after years of use, cast iron doesn’t wear out. In fact, it gets better as long as you take care of it. It’s like the fine wine of cookware.

I make a lot of single skillet meals that go from stove top to oven and after I’ve finished cooking my meal, my food will stays hot longer in the cast iron than if you use another type of pan. This is a really nice benefit, so I serve those meals right out of the pan and leave them on the table for seconds. Cast iron also cooks evenly and sears meat better than any other material.

I know you are thinking it though…. does cast iron really count as a non-stick pan? Yes! It absolutely does. As long as you season your pan in between uses, the oil will bake into the pan as your food is cooking, creating a nonstick surface. It does take a little time and it is also important to follow the three steps for cleaning your pan (wash, dry, oil).

Because cast iron pans can get better over time, it’s one reason people go to garage sales, flea markets, or antique shops looking for vintage to buy. I personally own several pieces of Lodge Cast Iron that you can pick up from just about anywhere.

The downsides? It takes some love and you have to be willing to care for it properly and keep it seasoned. (Side note: never season a pan with seed oils like canola, vegetable or grape seed. They are high in polyunsaturated fat and you don’t want that in your food. I use beef tallow, the grease from bacon or extra virgin olive oil to season my pan.)

One last possible downside. If you are someone who suffers from too much iron, you will want to avoid cooking on cast iron. Most people don’t fall in to this category and leaching only really occurs when you cook foods with high acidity, like tomatoes. But, it’s best to avoid just in case.


I know this is why you are here even reading this blog post! And that’s ok, I don’t blame you, their marketing is so good! Right? The number one question in my inbox? “How do you feel about Caraway??? Greenpan??? The Always Pan???” I’ll go ahead and address the ceramic non-stick craze as a whole and then I’ll tell you what brand might be worth your time and money. But first, let me just say this. Hex-Clad is not non toxic, they use PTFE and are sticking to the story that it’s safe. Sorry… no. OK, moving on.

Green Pan

Greenpan is one of the popular ceramic non-stick brands available. Greenpan uses what they call Thermolon instead of Teflon (TFFE) for their coating. Thermolon is made by a Sol-Gel process that results in forming a coating layer on the surface of the pan. The main ingredient of the coating is Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), better known as sand. That’s good! But what else is in there? According to Green Pan, there are some additional materials such as pigments that give it color, but all the materials in Thermolon are 100% safe for use in food contact coatings.

So, here is where I stand on this. Green Pan won’t say what the additional materials are. So, you have to go on faith. You have to believe that they are telling the truth and that all the ingredients are safe. From a performance perspective, the non-stick coating on average will last a couple years if you don’t cook with them on high heat and don’t use spray oils.

Bottom line: Their pans are not super expensive and you can grab them at Target, so if you are ok knowing that you’ll replace it every couple years, then this pan may work for you.

The Always Pan

I like the idea of the Always Pan being eight cookware products in one. According to their website, the pan replaces your “fry pan, sauté pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, non-stick pan, spatula, and spoon rest.”  So, Our Place promises that with just this one pan, you can braise, sear, steam, strain, sauté, fry, boil, serve, and store. What cook wouldn’t love that? Especially if it’s non toxic!

The goods news is that is is compatible with all cooktops, including induction stoves, comes with a lid, and is relatively lightweight. It is made of aluminum – which is a rather good heat conductor, similar to those used in stainless steel.

But, what about the non-stick coating? According to the company, the coating is a proprietary sol-gel technology. They consider it a ceramic precursor, i.e., if you were to fire the sol-gel chemistry, it would turn into ceramic.  But because we are heating it at a lower temperature, it never gets to that ceramic state.  Ceramic is totally in-organic whereas sol-gel has organic and inorganic substances.  The inorganic material is glass/silica.  The organic material is an organic polymer.

I’ve seen several of the heavy metal testing reports done (and good for them for releasing them!) Their heavy metal testing shows that that lithium, lead, cobalt, cadmium, and mercury are non-detectable on their pans.

For the most part, I am comfortable with the ingredients used in this pan, BUT, you need to know, the coating will not last. In my experience and the experience of my community, you MIGHT get a year of use out of this pan before the non stick coating starts to rub off. Even if you follow the direction carefully, you don’t ever cook any higher than low/med heat and you only use silicone and let it cool before washing, the coating will still not last very long.

Bottom line: It’s non-toxic but it won’t last. I am truly hoping with time, that new technology will be more durable, because it truly is an ingenious product.


Caraway is the current golden child and most popular non-toxic pan on the market. Anyone on Instagram has seen these beautiful, colored pans. While you will find these in my kitchen, I have to be honest and say that they don’t last. Do I love having a non stick option for eggs on a lazy morning when I don’t feel like taking out my cast iron pan? Yes. But after 3 years of use, they coating is beginning to no longer be non stick. They have lasted longer than the Green Pan and Always Pan I purchased.

Now, Caraway is quite pricey, it will set you back a few hundred dollars for a handful of cookware or bakeware. (you can save $150 buy purchasing a set of cooking or baking pans here. ) For that price, it’s not really the kind of pan that you want to have to replace every few years.

The good news? Caraway claims it’s Inon-toxic coating is free of:

  • PTFE, such as Teflon

  • PFOA

  • PFAs

  • Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and toxic metals

The part that makes my environmental lawyer heart so happy? They publish their lab results. If you are reading this, you know that transparency is everything to me.

What makes Caraway stand out as well is that the pans are sturdy and are oven safe. Caraway’s instructions recommend cooking at low heat, using a little bit of oil (no sprays), and non-abrasive hand washing once the pan has cooled.  If you follow these instructions, you can get a few years of use out of them. While splurging on a $400 set of pans that you have to replace in 3 years still seems like a lot, it’s currently the best, most durable, non-toxic non stick pan option available.


So what do I use? I sear all my meat in my Lodge cast iron skillet and use it a ton for one skillet meals that go from stove top to oven. 80% of the pots that I use are All-Clad stainless steal. When I need to cook something that requires a nice non-stick coating, like lots of scrambled eggs, I’ll reach for my Caraway. I exclusively bake with Caraway pans as well as I think they are the best non-stick baking pans available (and seem to last longer than their cookware options). If you want a Caraway set, you can get them here.

Want to shop my favorite cookware and bakeware brands?

Check out the cookware section of The Toxin Free Shopping Guide.

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