My favorite brands of safe, nontoxic cookware that last for years and look beautiful to boot!
My husband and I recently took a trip up the East Coast. During this driving marathon, I was amazed by the number of cookware outlets we saw along the way!
With the many brands of cookware on the market today, which are the safest and best for the constant cooking required to raise a healthy family?
I outline my favorite types of cookware as well as brands I’ve vetted and which of these I personally use below.
I love stainless steel for cooking everything except acidic foods (more on what to use instead for these types of dishes below).
As you’ve probably already noticed, stainless steel comes in a wide range of grades and types.
The grade of stainless steel is usually identified by three numbers such as 302 or 304. These digits are used to describe the overall quality, durability, and temperature resistance of the steel. The second number associated with stainless steel comes paired, such as 18/10 or 10/0. This indicates its composition, giving the percentage of chromium and nickel used in the alloy.
304 stainless steel is the same as 18/8. It is often called surgical stainless steel. It is also the minimum type one should purchase for cookware!
There are a couple of brands of surgical stainless cookware that I have vetted and recommend that meet these specifications.
Cuisinart ($$) is a decent quality stainless steel cookware brand. If the budget is tight, I recommend buying a piece at a time at places like TJ Maxx, Ross/Marshalls, Homegoods, or At Home stores. You can frequently find pans for half the normal retail price this way.
Cuisinart pans have an aluminum core to improve heat conductivity. Since the aluminum does not touch the food, however, it is safe to use unlike some other brands such as All-Clad that blend the aluminum with stainless steel.
My second recommendation is what we use in our home: Queen Cookware ($$$$). I was fortunate to receive a complete set as a wedding shower gift thirty years ago!
Three decades later, these Made in the USA pieces are all still beautiful as well as functional. They’ve held up perfectly even with all the cooking I’ve done raising three kids! It is still the primary cookware I use on a daily basis.
I thought they no longer made Queen cookware, so I’ve told people over the years to find pieces at estate and garage sales. However, my husband recently told me that they do still make it under the new name iCook. You can check it out here via my husband’s distributor link.
Enameled Cast Iron
While enameled cast iron is a safe choice for cookware, please note that I do not personally use it myself for several reasons.
First, I find it too heavy for my liking.
Secondly, the heaviness of cast iron is such that it will also scratch glass cooktops or crack them if one slips from your hand. Since our stovetop is glass, this is another reason I avoid this heavy type of cookware.
If you choose cast iron, be sure to use enameled versions.
Unenameled cast iron tends to result in food that is excessively high in this mineral. Adult men and post-menopausal women are susceptible to negative health effects from too much iron in the diet.
More on hemochromatosis (iron overload) from cast iron cookware in the linked article.
LeCreuset and Staub are my favorite vetted brands for cast iron pans or dutch ovens.
LeCreuset is available online or via outlets around the United States.
Staub is also available online. In addition, like Cuisinart, pieces can be found at half the normal price at stores like TJ Maxx, Ross/Marshalls, Homegoods, and others.
Keep your eyes peeled especially during off-peak buying times.
Cookware for Acidic Foods
For acidic foods, stainless steel is not ideal as it can leach nickel (toxic in any amount) or excessive chromium into the food.
For these dishes, I use my clay or stoneware Vitaclay.
These beautiful appliances look amazing on the counter and can quickly simmer up a pot of bone broth or pasta sauce just as efficiently as the stovetop approach. I prefer the low setting used with the timer so things shut off properly if I am busy doing other things.
Not sure if the clay or stoneware model is right for you? See my review of the stoneware versus clay Vitaclay at the link.
I do not currently recommend any of the nonstick bakeware on the market.
In addition, any bakeware containing silicone is toxic and should be avoided.
While aluminum is not the best choice either, there is a way to use aluminum bakeware safely if better alternatives are not in the budget for the time being.
Unfortunately, the toxic bakeware choices tend to be the most widely available as you have likely noticed!
Despite the preponderance of nonstick, silicone and aluminum, there is still safe bakeware on the market that is also budget-friendly if you know what to look for!
My favorite brands of bakeware are Norpro and Pyrex.
I use Norpro cookie sheets, cake pans, and pizza pans. They are shiny and beautiful and clean up easily even after use with the oven broiler. I also purchased a set for my son’s off-campus house at college.
I use glass Pyrex loaf pans to bake bread and have for many years. They are very durable and I have yet to even crack one!
Brands to Avoid
I am not fond of any of the newfangled brands that tout safe nonstick surfaces.
For example, GreenPan is one brand that I have examined in detail. My review of Greenpan is available at the link.
When you call these companies to inquire about what the nonstick surface is made of, you are typically told that it is “proprietary”, but that all the materials are safe and tested to be non-leaching.
Sorry, but that answer doesn’t fly with me.
I want to know EXACTLY what is in these materials! Assurances by a customer service representative that all is on the up and up isn’t sufficient information for me to buy these products.
Due to the tendency toward deception and half-truths in the industry, I tend to stick with the tried and true: quality stainless steel, enameled cast iron, and (tested) clay or stoneware.
Considering a Different Cookware Brand?
Since there are so many cookware brands on the market today, I wanted to give you a few safe ones to consider that I use (or would use) myself.
If there is another brand that you have your eye on but are not completely sure if it is truly safe, I am happy to take a look for you via Healthy Home Plus!
After signing up, use the purple chatbox on any page of the blog to reach out to me with the brand in question, and I will dive in to examine it for you 🙂