In this post, we’ll uncover which types of cookware you want to steer clear of and why, as well as unpack the pros and cons of the best cookware options out there. But some contain chemicals or elemental metals that can contaminate food and cause health problems.
(And what’s more frustrating when your beautiful culinary creation is ruined due to sticking!?) Some say that the Mycenaean Greeks might have been the first to use non-stick pans to make bread more than 3,000 years ago.
The holes seemed to be an ancient non-sticking technology, ensuring that oil spread evenly over the griddle.” The modern day non-stick pans were discovered accidentally by Roy Puckett while working with the DuPont company.
Later coined as “Teflon”, this polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE material, was first used in World War II to make seals “resistant to the uranium hexafluoride gas used in development of the atomic bomb”. During this time, they also discovered its powerful, non-stick properties and started using commercially in cookware in the mid-1940’s.
The problem with non-stick cookware is that it’s made with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (FOA). This is so toxic that the FDA is pressuring manufacturers to phase this chemical out due its health and environmental concerns.
It’s been classified as a health-jeopardizing toxin by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. While exposure to small amounts of aluminum is unavoidable and probably not harmful, we’re exposed to much more of this element than our grandparents ever were (from food additives, to cookware, contaminated water, and more), so to play it safe, it’s best to avoid any additional exposure.
Now that we got the bad news out of the way, and we know which cookware to avoid, here are some safe, non-toxic alternatives. Bonus: If a cast iron pan is seasoned properly, and then it’s virtually non-stick.
Cast iron pans are also super easy to clean as you don’t want to use soap because it can break down you're seasoning. “A study published in the July 1986 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association showed that cooking in cast iron skillets added significant amounts of iron to 20 foods tested.
)Raw iron contention after cooking in cast iron Applesauce0.35 mg.7.38 mg. Spaghetti sauce0.615.77Chili (meat/beans)0.966.27Medium white sauce0.223.30Scrambled egg1.494.76Meat spaghetti sauce0.713.58Beef vegetable stew0.663.4Fried egg1.923.48Spanish rice0.872.25Rice, white0.671.97Pan broiled bacon0.771.92Poached egg1.872.32Fried chicken0.881.89Pancakes0.631.31Pan fried green beans0.641.18Pan broiled hamburger1.492.29Fried potatoes0.420.8Fried corn tortillas0.861.23Beef liver with onions3.13.87Baked cornbread0.670.86Iron is a pro-oxidant (the opposite of an antioxidant), meaning it promotes oxidative stress, and isn’t eliminated easily from the body. Avoid cooking wet sauces, especially tomato, citrus or acid-based ones.
Stick to drier, less-acidic foods, like pancakes, hash browns, chicken, and burgers. The enamel coating is non-stick and non-reactive, so you can cook anything without problems (hello tomato sauce!).
It’s safe, heats evenly, and lasts a long time. Ceramic cookware is also ideal for going from stove top to dinner table (it retains heat well) to refrigerator.
It is also more fragile and can break when compared with cast iron or stainless steel. Pros: Stoneware is a great choice for anyone worried about chemicals leaching into food.
Cons: It can be heavy and may chip, but when cared for, stoneware can really be your best cookware and it last a long time. In fact, glass is the most inert material on the planet if you get from a good source (and therefore the best cookware !).
Cons: Again, be careful of foreign products that may be manufactured with heavy metals. Pros: The metals, which usually includes aluminum, used in stainless steel are particularly stable, so leaching is a low concern.
Stainless steel tends to be inexpensive, and retains heat, which is great for evenly cooked food. Cons: Don’t use stainless steel for things like broth, which is cooked over many days and could cause leaching of metals.
Foods cooked in stainless steel pans are also more prone to sticking However, reader Emily suggested heating the stainless steel pan first, then adding your oil of choice. Skillets are perfect for everyday meals like frying bacon, eggs, sausage, pancakes, chicken and veggie stir fries, and reheating leftovers.
If you’d rather avoid iron or tend to cook a lot of acidic or moisture-rich foods, pick an enameled cast-iron option here. If you love making large vats of bone broth, I like the 16 quart size.
For most people, these are great ways to support your gut health, as well as make use of the whole animal. Stockpots are also wonderful for vegetable soups, steaming veggies like broccoli, and cooking pasta.
I tend to go with stoneware like this for baking sheets because they stand up to long cooking times and high heat. Even if you aren’t a big stir-fry fiend, woks are excellent for deep-frying and steaming too.
You can cook risotto, meat dishes, apple butter, bread, or a whole chicken. For Dutch ovens, I prefer enameled cast iron, since they are heated for long periods of time, and food sits in them for even longer.
By following this best cookware guide, you can feel great about the food you're preparing for your family. Don’t feel overwhelmed or discouraged if you need to buy lots of new pieces.
Pots and pans make great Christmas and birthday gifts (or maybe it’s just me!) Each week you’ll get a box with great recipes and remeasured ingredient packs that will save you time.
Some services even offer organic meal delivery, bringing non-GMO produce, sustainably-sourced seafood, and hormone-free meats to your door for about $10 a serving. Regularly retailing for around $299 at Amazon, you can currently get it for $209.99 when enter promo code FRIEND at checkout at Macy's through Wednesday, December 9, or while supplies last.
In fact, everything about this set, right down to its handles, was designed with comfort at top of mind, making it a solid choice for anyone looking to upgrade their existing cookware or get into the cooking game. The set includes two saucepans (1.5- and 3-quart), an 8-quart stockpot, a medium 3.5-quart sauté pan, two skillets (8- and 10-inch) and a steamer insert.
Take Stock Take inventory of the pots and pans you own to determine what needs to be replaced or what is missing from your cookware arsenal. If you only need to swap out a scratched frying pan, open stock is a cost-saving way to go, and what’s popular now.
A Dutch oven can brown, braise, boil, and bake bread. It has high sides, and when made of enameled cast iron, it holds heat well, making it a good choice for deep-frying.
For example, if you sear meat often, cast iron pans will facilitate even browning. If you like to cook stews or sauces low and slow, consider a Dutch oven.
A great Dutch oven can bake, braise, simmer and sear, with excellent results. Cladding refers to the layers of metal fused together to create the cookware.
Clad can also mean a material was added to the bottom of a stainless steel pan, enhancing heat transfer. Familiarize yourself with cookware terminology to make the best choice for your cooking style.
You need a variety of pots, pans, and casseroles, maybe even a few specialty items. A set that contains more pieces might not be the smartest choice if you use only a few and the rest take up space in your cabinet.
Note: Utensils and even a cookbook can count as pieces of a set. Pick It Up We all shop online, but it’s essential to handle the cookware at a retailer.
Glass Lids These allow you see what’s going on inside the pot without having to lift it off, letting steam escape. But they add weight and can break, which could be a problem in a household with young kids.
For example, sautéed foods turn out best in pans that transmit heat quickly, braised foods need pans that retain heat over long periods, and you shouldn’t cook white sauces or tomato sauces in unlined copper or aluminum cookware because those ingredients react with the metal. Long-lasting, classic, uncoated stainless steel is a good choice for browning and braising.
Often sold in sets, stainless cookware can be the kitchen workhorse, tackling everything from pickling to pasta sauce. Durable nonstick coatings effortlessly release even delicate foods, including eggs and pancakes.
Because little or no oil is needed, nonstick pans are a good choice for low-fat or nonfat dishes. Depending on the primary material, most pieces are ideal for use on any type of cook top, including induction.
Great for searing, sautéing, browning, and frying, these classic, colorful pieces transition seamlessly from stove top or oven to your dining table. Covered pieces are also perfect for braising, stewing, slow-cooking, and roasting meat.
Small handles can make transport from stove top to oven a bit cumbersome. Lodge, America’s oldest family-owned cookware manufacturer, has referred to its cookware as “natural nonstick.” Cast iron is extremely durable and can be preheated to temperatures that will brown meat.
It will also withstand oven temperatures well above what is considered safe for nonstick pans. A Dutch oven, which keeps food warm for a long time, is a handy piece to have.
These pans are favorites in professional kitchens because they’re extremely durable and efficient, and designed for high-performance cooking. Must be seasoned (rubbed with multiple coats of oil) to avoid rusting.
Pros: Ideal for everything from high-heat searing, sautéing, and frying to gently simmering delicate sauces. Heavy models with iron or brass handles are safe for oven use.
Aluminum cookware is an excellent heat conductor, as well as reasonably priced and lightweight. It is, however, prone to staining and can discolor light-colored foods and sauces, and can make them taste bitter.
As a countermeasure, anodized aluminum is coated to prevent such side effects. Frying Pans (Nonstick) Ratings The cookware industry consists mostly of large corporations that manufacture several brands.
For example, Meyer manufactures Anglo, Circular, Freeware, and Rachael Ray brands. The industry has seen several consolidations in the recent past as the Global Home Product brands Mirror, Regal, and Wherever became part of Group SEB, which also includes All -Clad and Total.
These products are distributed primarily in upscale department and specialty stores. There is also a line that is endorsed by the chef Email Agassi called Metalware.
Cuisinart is a mid- to high-priced brand that offers products in stainless steel, hard-anodized, and multi clad materials, nonstick and uncoated. Cuisinart's Green Gourmet Cookware line uses ceramic rather than petroleum-based (claimed PTFE- and Scot-free) surfaces.
The products are sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, specialty stores, and numerous online retailers. The brand offers products in uncoated and nonstick stainless steel and aluminum.
Other brands on store shelves include Chef mate, Kitchen, Le Crest, Mainstays, Swiss Diamond, Total, Tramontina, Rachael Ray, and Wherever, among others. When you shop through retailer links on our site, we may earn affiliate commissions.
“In boxed sets, manufacturers count a lid as a piece,” explains Marion Wilson-Spencer, CR's market analyst for cookware. We buy and test cookware sets ranging from less than $100 to $600 or more, from well-known brands such as All -Clad, Anglo, Clifton, Cuisinart, and Willing J.A.
Heckles, as well as sets sold under the names of celebrity cooks like Ayesha Curry, Rachel Ray, and the Pioneer Woman. We cook pancakes, fry eggs, boil water, and simmer tomato sauce.
We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil. With Excellent ratings on both our cooking evenness and speed of heating tests, the Greenspan stands up to the competition.
The coating appears pebbly, but that doesn’t affect its nonstick properties, and we effortlessly cooked pancakes and eggs. Cooking evenness is superb, and this 8-piece set aces our speed of heating test by quickly bringing 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 5-quart stockpot.
The surface stands up to our durability test, in which we rub steel wool over the coating 2,000 times, earning a Very Good rating. Simmering a sauce produces impressive results, and this set earns a Very Good rating for cooking evenness.
Heckles Motion Grey is made of anodized aluminum and works with any type of range. Simmering in the saucepan, however, is only so-so, and the eggs needed nudging out of the pan in our food release test.
Clifton designed this set so that it stacks and nests, which frees up precious cabinet space. The Clifton Premier Space Saving 8-piece stainless set earns a Very Good rating in our evenness tests, like our other top performers in this category.
The stainless handles are long and sturdy, and you can use these dishwasher-safe pots and pans on any type of range, including induction. It earns an Excellent rating on our cooking evenness test, and when we brought 4 quarts of water to a near-boil in the 6-quart stockpot, speed of heating was also impressive.