The Risks of Standard Non-Stick Cookware + The Top 7 Non-Toxic Cookware Brands

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What are the potential dangers of traditional non-stick pots and pans, and what are the best non-toxic cookware options?

Madeleine from The Wise Consumer explains everything you need to know below!

What kind of cookware are you using to prepare your meals? To be honest, I used to only cook with non-stick pots and pans in the past. They made cooking so much easier — no more stuck on food or messy pans!

Unfortunately, I later learned that my convenient non-stick pans were coated with a material called polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), also known as Teflon, a type of polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS). This coating was likely releasing toxic fumes and leaching into my food when cooked at high heats.

So it got me wondering — what exactly are the chemicals used in non-stick cookware, and are there any safer non-toxic cookware options available today? Let’s find out.

We’ll start with the alternatives, and if you want more details on the toxic chemicals found in standard non-stick cookware, keep scrolling down below!

The Top Non-Toxic Cookware Materials and Brands

While there are many products labeled as safe non-stick pans and other cookware, the Environmental Working Group suggests using cast iron, stainless steel, and oven-safe glass. This is because “manufacturers don’t have to make their safety data public,” according to the EWG. Some ceramic brands also offer non-toxic cookware.

This guide contains affiliate partners. As always, we only promote brands that meet high sustainability standards that we believe you’ll love too!

Cast Iron

Pros: Cast iron pans have been used for generations. They’re durable, retain heat very well, are non-toxic, and when properly seasoned, are almost as non-stick as traditional pans. A quality cast iron pan (with proper care) could even last a lifetime!

Cons: The downsides are that cast iron is heavier, not always easy to clean, and can leach iron into food. If you don’t get enough iron, iron leaching can be beneficial. But if you have too much iron (hemochromatosis), you may want to avoid cooking with cast iron.

Tip: Avoid cooking highly acidic foods like tomato sauce in cast iron.

Our Top Cast Iron Cookware Picks

Field Company

Field Company makes non-toxic cookware started by two brothers seeking to create lighter, smoother cast iron like vintage pans. They share helpful tips on caring for cast iron to extend its life. Products range from skillets to dutch ovens.

Check Out Field Company

Cake in non-toxic pan from Field Company


Finex handcrafts non-toxic cast iron in Portland. Their skillets are pre-seasoned and polished. Unique stainless steel handles stay cooler. Products include skillets and grill pans.

Check Out Finex on Made Trade

Vegetables in non-toxic iron skillet from Finex

Lodge Cast Iron

Lodge makes cast iron since 1896. They recycle to reduce landfill waste and are a member of the Tennessee Green Star Partnership. Products include skillets and bakeware.

Check Out Lodge Cast Iron

Food in eco-friendly frying pan from Lodge Cast Iron

Stainless Steel

Pros: Stainless steel is scratch resistant, non-toxic, durable, and long-lasting.

Cons: It’s not non-stick, so more oil is needed to prevent sticking. Also, replace if corrosion begins.

Tip: Buy food-grade stainless with less nickel/chromium that could leach into food. Avoid if sensitive to nickel.

Our Stainless Steel Cookware Pick

360 Cookware

360 makes stainless steel cookware in a Green E-Certified Wisconsin factory with high quality steel and unique vapor technology for better cooking and nutrition. Products include pans, pots, and bakeware.

Check Out 360 Cookware

Soup in plates and stainless steel stockpot from 360 Cookware


Pros: Ceramic is a great non-stick alternative, easy to clean and cook with.

Cons: Best used at low/medium heat. Overheating can damage the coating. Avoid metal utensils.

Tip: Choose 100% ceramic like Xtrema or ceramic coating without lead/PTFE/PFOA.

Our Ceramic Cookware Picks


Caraway uses a non-toxic mineral coating free of toxins, lead, PTFE, and PFOA. Ethically made with zero plastic packaging. Products include colorful pans, pots, and dutch ovens.

Check Out Caraway

Use code CONSCIOUSSTYLE10 for 10% off Caraway

stack of colorful non-toxic cookware from Caraway


Xtrema cookware is made of 100% pure ceramic. FDA-approved and Prop 65 compliant – free of over 800 harmful compounds. Products include skillets, pans, and dutch ovens.

Check Out Xtrema

Ceramic pans from Xtrema

Emile Henry

Emile Henry bakes ceramic cookware from Burgundy clay in France since 1850. All materials are food-safe, including CA Prop 65 compliant.

Check Out Emile Henry

Pie in non-toxic dishes from Emile Henry


Pros: Glass doesn’t release chemicals, absorb flavors, and is dishwasher safe.

Cons: Not non-stick, so use plenty of oil. Can break if not cared for properly.

Tip: Look for oven-safe glass options.

Where to find: Many brands offer glass cookware and bakeware.

More Tips for Choosing Non-Toxic Cookware

Before buying non-stick cookware, check for third party certification and material transparency. Reach out to brands directly if unsure.

If unable to replace non-stick pans, here are tips from EWG and Healthline to reduce exposure to Teflon:

  1. Never preheat an empty pan, especially at high heat.
  2. Don’t use pans in ovens hotter than 500°F.
  3. Use an exhaust fan over the stove.
  4. Use wooden utensils to avoid scratches.
  5. Handwash gently with soapy water.

The Toxic Chemicals in Standard Non-Stick Cookware

When non-stick cookware first came out, it was a hit due to its convenient frictionless cooking surface. At the time, the public was unaware of the health concerns posed by the non-stick material called Teflon.

What are PFAS Chemicals?

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. This group contains PFOA, PFOS, GenX and many other chemicals.

PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment and human body. That’s why they’re often called “Forever Chemicals.”

Two common PFAS are PFOA and PFOS. They are stable C8 chemicals that repel oil and water well.

Until recently, PFOA was used to make Teflon. PFOS made products like 3M’s Scotchgard fabric protector resistant to stains, grease, and water. (3M no longer uses PFOS in Scotchgard).

Where are PFAS Found?

PFAS can enter your body by breathing contaminated air, eating affected food, or drinking tainted water, says the ATSDR.

They’re commonly found in:

  • Non-stick cookware (Teflon)
  • Food packaging like microwave popcorn bags
  • Waterproof/stain-resistant textiles
  • Personal care products like shampoo, hairspray, mascara, and nail polish

PFAS have also been discovered in drinking water near facilities that manufacture these chemicals.

Here is the continuation of the paraphrased article:PFAS have even been detected in remote regions like the Arctic and open oceans, says the CDC.

Are PFAS Harmful?

Exposure to PFOA and PFOS has been linked to concerning health issues, according to the EPA:

  • Developmental effects during pregnancy or breastfeeding
  • Cancer
  • Liver damage
  • Immune system impact
  • Thyroid disruption

Those working in PFAS facilities or living nearby are most vulnerable to these risks.

Studies found nearly all Americans have been exposed to PFAS and have them in their blood, especially PFOS and PFOA.

Are “Safer” PFOA Substitutes Better?

It’s unclear if short-chain PFAS like GenX are safer than legacy versions like PFOA.

According to The Intercept, these new PFAS may present similar threats.

Experts recommend avoiding these “safer” substitutes if possible.

How to Avoid PFAS

While avoiding PFAS completely is difficult, here are some tips to reduce exposure:

  • Check your drinking water quality
  • Avoid fast food packaging
  • Limit waterproof/stain-resistant textiles
  • Choose non-toxic cookware alternatives like stainless steel, glass, ceramic, and cast iron

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