What do perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), and polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) all share in common besides a first letter and some pretty nefarious-looking syllables? They’re all synthetic materials commonly found in cookware—largely for nonstick coating purposes. For years, they’ve been presented to us as one of the greatest modern-day kitchen conveniences. The issue here? Simply put, many of these types of chemicals have been linked to everything from cancer and liver injury to growth, development, and reproductive harm. They also don’t break down, so they’re horrible for the environment. You want to stock your kitchen with non-toxic cookware.
Perfluorochemicals (PFC) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are two more P’s you’ve likely come across (knowingly or not) related to chemicals found in cookware coatings and other products for their miraculous stick and stain resistance. In 2016, the FDA removed approval for use of PFC (PFAS is sometimes used interchangeably with PFC) in food packaging.
While all of these interrelated P’s may sound like gobbledygook to you—and what’s the big deal if it makes omelets slide off the pan like magic?—these synthetic substances generally aren’t things you want to be gobbling up with your dinner. PFOA, for instance, is believed to be a human carcinogen also associated with kidney damage, reproductive problems in animals, and weakened immune responses in children.
Steering clear of such chemicals is a good idea—but researching non-carcinogenic pots, pans, Dutch ovens, and the like is about as fun as watching lead-free paint dry. That’s why we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Here’s a lineup of non-toxic cookware (e.g. PFAS-, PFC-, PFOA-, PTFE-, and P-whatever-else-free) that your stove and stomach will thank you for.
Best Non-Toxic Cookware You Can Buy Right Now
1. Nest Homeware 12-Inch Braising Pan with Lid
Braising season is upon us. This roomy pan is almost a work of art, especially with the cherry branch-inspired top handle on the lid. Made of cast iron, it also does an excellent job of cooking up dinner or whatever bread pudding you’ve decided to tackle for dessert. For ease of use, two side handles make lifting and cleaning this braising pan hassle-free, and the self-basting nubs on the underside of the lid recirculate moisture into whatever you’re cooking. Now where’s that braised fennel recipe you’ve been wanting to try?
2. Chantal Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Available in yellow, turquoise, blue, and grey, this seven-quart Dutch oven is PFOA-, PFOS-, and PTFE-free. Healthy, high-quality enamel is used for a worry-free cooking surface which doesn’t leach metals into your food and won’t alter flavors. It adds a beautiful depth of color too—and it’s a snap to clean.
3. Great Jones Deep Cut Sauté Pan
With a 10.25-diameter, this stainless steel piece is a cross between a classic French sauté pan and an everyday skillet for that plant-based Bolognese or healthy stir-fry you’ve been perfecting. The versatile, non-stick assembly comes with a lid and looks elegant on your countertop. While you’re at it, go ahead and pick up their wonderfully handy Small Fry nonstick pan. ($60) too.
4. HexClad 12” Hybrid Wok
HexClad manufactures a stellar line of hybrid cookware that’s nonstick and stainless steel, rounded out by a patented laser-etched hexagon design and tri-ply construction. This PFOA-free wok gives home cooks an excellent sear with less oil or butter thanks to the hexagon pattern. Easy to clean and scratch resistant, it provides superb heat distribution with a spacious interior that helps you avoid mushroom-and-peppers overcrowding syndrome.
5. Kuhn Rikon New Life Skillet
Choose from an eight-, 9.5-, or 11-inch diameter frying pan, when selecting this eco-friendly skillet made of 100% recycled materials with the PFOA-free, DURIT nonstick coating to make cooking and cleanup a breeze. Manufactured in Switzerland, the pan is made from a unique aluminum blend alloy created from recycled soda cans and (not a typo) bicycles along with other recycled metals. It’s said to have five times the durability of traditional aluminum cookware while requiring up to 95% less energy than that used to make a standard new pan. In addition to being nonstick, the DURIT coating is green, long-lasting, and scratch-resistant.
[from $128; kuhnrikonshop.com]
6. Chantal Cast Iron Four-Quart Sauté Skillet
Another winner from Chantal, their recently released four-quart skillet is as adept at sizzling up stir fries as it is at omelets. You’ll love the even heat distribution, easy-to-clean surface, and zero PFOAs. Additional cheerful color options include yellow, turquoise, and blue.
7. Brandless 8-Quart Stainless Steel Stock Pot with Lid
If you’re looking for a great pot that won’t give you sticker shock, this five-ply stainless steel offering with aluminum interior layers from Brandless is a no-brainer. Since the stainless steel surface doesn’t have the negative health properties associated with fluorinated, non-stick surface treatments, you can feel good about serving that next epic French onion soup, homemade tomato sauce, chili, or killer pasta.
8. Brandless 10″ Stainless Steel Fry Pan
From Brandless, we’re also big fans of this high-quality fry pan with a 10-inch diameter that’s made from five-ply stainless steel (just like the lidded stock pot above). The grade 304 stainless steel food surface is a safe alternative to chemical-laced nonstick surfaces—and it’s long-lasting and stain-resistant too. The riveted handle is comfy to maneuver and the aluminum interior of this pan helps ensure solid heat distribution, so your eggs don’t incinerate.
9. Borough Furnace Enameled Dutch Oven
This 5.5-quart Dutch oven is free of PFOA, PFAS, PTFE, lead, and cadmium. Made in the USA following strict environmental standards, but created in the tradition of French legacy brands, this workhorse of a kitchen tool is well worth the splurge. Here, the semi-gloss enamel finish makes for an easy-to-maintain cook surface that performs well at high temperatures or when simmering a temperamental wine sauce reduction. As far as non-toxic cookware goes, this is a must.