They're simple to clean, can be used at high heats (up to 842 degrees Fahrenheit) and are resistant to acidic foods, like tomatoes. But the chemicals in enameled ceramic cookware won't break down at high temperatures, making them a safe choice for cooking.
Many enameled pots and pans are specifically designed for cooking both on the stove top and inside an oven, making them a good choice for a variety of recipes. Since all ceramic products sold in the United States are required by law to be free of lead and cadmium, the risk of being exposed to toxins are very low.
The ceramic coating on an enameled piece of cookware might crack if it is exposed to a sudden dramatic change in temperature, if it is dropped or if using metal utensils on the pot, which can cause scratches on the surface. To keep it clean, wash by hand using a mild detergent and avoid steel wool or scour pads.
We have a great way of seasoning them and using them, so they act like non-stick pans for eggs, searing meat, and much more. When iron toxicity is severe, a person may get gray skin and develop heart, liver, and blood sugar issues.
(Donating blood is a great way to lessen iron load!) It functions like a barrier between the cast iron and the food that's cooking in it.
Acidic foods “react” with metals, and cast iron is no exception. Your food tastes metallic and takes on an unappetizing grayish color.
You can mitigate against this by ensuring your cast iron pans are well seasoned as I show you right here on #Awardee 062. It's hard to know the exact amount of iron transferred into the food.
More acidic, longer cooking times, and worse seasoning all contribute to more iron transferring into the food. That is true, however you have to be very careful because there's a huge problem with lead and cadmium contamination, especially in brightly colored ceramics.
Lead is a known neurotoxin that causes brain damage and it takes the place of calcium in bones, among other things. This is a big problem for pregnant women, who pass on a large portion of the calcium in their bones to their unborn babies, especially during the third trimester.
And while this one isn't cast iron, right here you can see a Le Crest Mixing bowl that tested at 40,700 ppm lead! For reference, the safe level of lead in the U.S. for children's toys is below 90 parts per million (source).
For drinking water (or anything else that could be ingested), the safe standard for lead is below 15 parts per BILLION, although many scientists consider water contaminated with lead over 5 ppb to be unsafe (source). The safe standard of cadmium in drinking water is below 5 parts per billion, as well (source).
Ideally, we don't want ANY lead or cadmium in our cookware, or at least we want it to be within safe levels, so since learning this I'm not sure I can recommend any enameled cast iron at this time. I know that the men in our household probably don't need more iron as we women do, so we also cook a lot with stainless steel to balance it out.
Through regular blood tests, we are able to ensure and monitor that iron levels are where they should be for all members of our family. The #Awardee Show is the weekly show devoted to answering your niggling questions about Traditional Cooking: whether it's your sourdough starter, your sauerkraut, preserving foods, broth, superfoods or anything else to do with Traditional Cooking or your GNOWFGLINS lifestyle.
The big takeaway from our research is that most types of cookware do infuse small amounts of material into our food. (Please note: We will cover bakeware in a separate Safe Product Guide.
Part of the reason that this guide has been months in the making is that reviewing cookware for safety is complicated! To simplify things, I’ve indicated by the color of the text if the material is always good (green), always bad (red), or more nuanced (orange) in my list below.
In our kitchen, we try to switch between cast iron pans and pans made of other materials (mostly stainless steel) throughout the week, and if you wanted to be extra cautious you could avoid cast iron for recipes with long cooking durations or acidic foods, as this will cause increased leaching. Our favorite cast iron pan is this one from Lodge, and it’s made in America. I wouldn’t be concerned about using stainless steel as long as you just switch up your cookware, sometimes using cast iron and enamel pots and pans.
They add that “these levels are very low, but the interior enamel is completely free of lead.” I have the orange pot, and the outside still tested negative, as you can see below. Most, including the big name brands (like Freeware and Clifton) are coated with nonstick materials.
There is a lot of debate about the possibility of lead leaching from the glazing on ceramic pots. Many slow cookers are manufactured in China and there is a general distrust for these products because it is difficult to know their practices.
The easiest way to detect lead is to purchase an inexpensive test kit. Not satisfied, she bought a wide variety of crackpots from a local thrift store.
She then took the crocks to a testing facility that uses a specific tool that is very sensitive to lead. Titanium is a non-toxic and biocompatible metal, so it’s used for medical instruments, dental implant devices, and joint replacements.
Titanium cookware uses an aluminum base for even heat transfer and distribution. I found one brand on Amazon, Health Pro that doesn’t appear to be coated with any non-stick chemicals.
Glass is probably the most inert of any cooking surface, and you can even get pots and pans made of this ultimate Good Stuff! We originally called Greenspan Sneaky Stuff, because they don’t disclose exactly what they use in their nonstick cookware line.
You can read many reports claiming that Teflon is harmless, but the studies showing it to be toxic are far more convincing. The EPA told companies in 2015 to phase out some chemicals in their formulations due to health concerns, and the EWG advises consumers to avoid Teflon.
Most nonstick pans are aluminum coated with polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), otherwise known as Teflon. The big issue with Teflon isn’t ingesting it, but rather breathing it in when it gets hot (it’s actually toxic enough to kill pet birds!).
Newer safe nonstick pans are increasingly available, but unless we’ve included them above, under The Good Stuff, we advise you to proceed with caution. And even pans that are free of both often contain “proprietary” nonstick materials, which carry unknown risks.
Under The Good Stuff tab, I mentioned ceramic cookware; just remember to avoid any ceramic pots and pans that are treated with nonstick materials, which includes brands like Cap halon and Freeware. As I said above, we are only aware of one company making safe ceramic cookware, and that’s Extreme.