You are what you eat. As a health-conscious person, you probably put a lot of thought into what you put into your body. You likely read ingredients labels carefully when shopping for groceries. But have you ever asked yourself whether the cookware you are using is as safe as the food you are preparing?
It turns out that there are some health concerns with some traditional types of cookware, such as frying pans which include Teflon coatings.
Because these pans are unhealthy, it is important to consider switching to non-toxic, organic cookware. In this article, we’ll break down the problems with your existing cookware, and share a healthy organic alternative.
What is Wrong With Traditional Teflon?
If you own a non-stick pan, it is likely coated with “Teflon.” This is a proprietary name for a synthetic compound called Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). The brand name associated with Teflon is DuPont. But keep in mind, there are other PFTE brands and brand names as well.
If you want to understand the problems with Teflon, a good starting point is to glance at the pages and pages of search results on the topic over at the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
As explained here, “Teflon pans produce toxic fumes which can create allergies and flu like symptom for users.”
And if that weren’t bad enough, “Researchers found higher levels of prostate cancer in men and cervical and uterine cancer in women exposed to C8 than in the general population.”
EWG continues in the article linked above, “Teflon chemicals are not just in your kitchen, either. Lots of surfaces are treated to resist spills or stains – carpets, fast-food packaging, clothing, cars, and more: all of these convenient products are likely making use of Teflon chemicals. They are found in more than consumer products, though — C8 and similar chemicals are now in over 90% of Americans’ blood as well.”
DuPont even came to blows with the EPA when it withheld the results of water and blood pollution studies involving Teflon.
Oh, and if you are a bird owner, did you know you could kill your birds by cooking on non-stick cookware, even at regular temperatures?
As this article explains, “Avian veterinarians have known for decades that Teflon-coated and other non-stick cookware can produce fumes that are highly toxic to birds … Although an accurate national accounting of deaths is not available, in a single year this Chicago veterinarian documented 296 bird deaths in 105 cases involving non-stick cookware.”
DuPont is less than forthcoming about this too. The linked article above goes on, “DuPont claims that its coating remains intact indefinitely at 500°F . Experiences of consumers whose birds have died from fumes generated at lower temperatures show that this is not the case. In one case researchers at the University of Missouri documented the death of about 1,000 broiler chicks exposed to offgas products from coated heat lamps at 396°F .”
Given everything you have read above, do you want to continue to add a likely carcinogenic toxin to your bloodstream so that a company that has a history of lying can continue to profit from your compromised health?
Yes, that was a rhetorical question. We know you’re ready to ditch the Teflon after what you just read. And that’s great—because there are other options on the market which are much safer.
What to Avoid in Your Cookware
Along with Teflon, what else should you steer clear of in cookware?
Other forms of PTFE. For example, “Syncolon” is the same thing as Teflon—it’s just a different trade name for the PTFE produced by the Synco Chemical Corporation rather than DuPont.
Perfluorooctanoic acid. Similar to PFTE, this compound is sometimes referenced almost interchangeably with it, and is abbreviated PFOA or C8. It is another non-stick chemical. Like Teflon, it is toxic, and should be avoided.
Aluminum. Researchers suspect that past a certain point of exposure, aluminum may have toxic effects. As a result, cooking on aluminum surfaces may not be wise. No one is really sure how safe aluminum cookware is (if it is safe at all).
Is Organic Cookware a Thing?
So, now you know what you should stay away from when you are shopping for safe, non-toxic cookware. But is there an alternative?
The answer to that question is “yes.” You can purchase cast-iron cookware, which comes in two varieties: enameled and non-enameled.
If you purchase cast iron without enamel, it does develop a non-stick surface over time if you use and maintain it properly.
If you purchase cast iron with enamel, it is non-stick from the start.
It is important to put care and thought into your selection of cast iron cookware with enamel.
Some enamels are higher in quality than others, and will hold up better to heat without breaking down as rapidly.
Those with truly durable enamel can stand the test of time and provide you with a safe, non-toxic surface on which to cook.
Our Recommended Healthy Non-Toxic Cookware: Le Creuset
We have conducted a great deal of research to identify safe brands of cookware for non-toxic meal prep, and our favorite brand is Le Creuset.
About Le Creuset
Le Creuset has been manufacturing cast iron cookware since 1925. The French brand is known for the bright, fun colors of its cookware as well as for offering an alternative to Teflon for non-stick cooking.
If you purchase cast iron without an enamel coating, you have to go through a process of “seasoning” your pans, or food will stick to them.
Many people find this process daunting and inconvenient. But with Le Creuset cast-iron cookware with porcelain enamel, seasoning is unnecessary. Food will not stick to your cookware even from the first use.
Le Creuset Cast Iron Benefits
Here are the key reasons why we recommend Le Creuset Cast Iron cast iron skillets:
Convenience. Le Creuset cast iron skillets are non-stick and easy to use and clean.
Safety. The safety profile of Le Creuset cast iron enamel is superior to many other brands (see the next section).
Longevity. The enhanced quality of Le Creuset enamel gives it a longer lifespan, even at high heat.
Reputation. With nearly a century of experience, the Le Creuset brand has become a classic.
Le Creuset Uses Non-Toxic Enamel Which is Cadmium-Free and Lead-Free
Cast iron skillets by Le Creuset do have a coating on them, but it is made of porcelain enamel. Porcelain enamel can be a safe choice for cookware, but it depends on its quality.
With some enameled cookware, there may be concerns about cadmium and lead. The majority of brands do not address this, but Le Creuset does.
A previous version of the FAQ at Le Creuset which was located here said, “Cadmium and lead are two elements under strict control in the cookware industry. Our position today for the entire production process is to be in compliance with California Proposal 65 which is the most rigid standard in the world for these elements (approx. 10 times lower than “acceptable” limits). Lead is NOT used in our recipes and for cadmium a special anti-acid enamel fritt is used which will not release the cadmium pigment during cooking. Cadmium is used for coloration purposes in achieving bright exterior colours such as Flame and Cherry. The interior enamel which makes contact with food is either sand, white, or black.”
We have also come across the parties that have conducted independent testing and have discovered no cadmium or lead in Le Creuset products.
You will notice while browsing available products from this brand that Le Creuset cookware does cost more than many competing products.
Why is Le Creuset so expensive?
Part of the answer comes down to the safety and quality difference mentioned above. A lot of less expensive products are contaminated by lead and/or cadmium.
Another reason has to do with the durability of the porcelain enamel.
A lot of enameled cookware is unsuitable for cooking at higher temperatures because the enamel is fragile and rapidly breaks down when exposed to high heat.
But Le Creuset explains that their satin black enamel has “been specially designed for higher surface temperature cooking, which is not the same as simply using a piece on a high heat. With cast iron, higher surface temperatures can be achieved by allowing any piece to heat thoroughly on a medium setting. This makes the satin black interior ideal for frying, grilling and searing.”
That means that with Le Creuset products, so long as you achieve high heat by using a medium setting for a longer duration, you can safely prepare your food without concerns about the enamel coating breaking down.
Having investigated competitors to Le Creuset, we have found that is not the case with most of them.
We want to know we and the people we are feeding are safe when we prepare food on our skillets.
We also want to invest in cookware which is going to last, providing years of service before needing replacement.
That is why the premium price for Le Creuset shouldn’t be a deterrent. What you are getting for that price is premium quality and peace of mind.
Over time, that should more than pay for itself in terms of health benefits and longevity of your cookware.
Which Le Creuset Cast Iron Skillets Do We Recommend?
Having explained that Le Creuset offers superior benefits in terms of safety and durability compared to competing brands, let’s take a look at some of their top products.
This 10 ¼ inch frying pan features Le Creuset’s signature high-quality enamel interior coating. It is available in a range of fun colors, and comes with a regular handle on one side and a large loop handle on the other. That way, you can pick it up with both hands. It is safe to wash in your dishwasher.
If you prefer a square shape to your skillet along with ridges to texture your food, this cast iron pan from Le Creuset is worth considering. It features the same large handles, bright colors, and durable, safe enamel as the Le Creuset LS2024-2667 round skillet above.
Along with skillets, Le Creuset also manufactures other types of cookware such as this 5-quart braiser. It features two large handles on either side, a wear-resistant sand-colored enamel coating on the interior, and a range of colors for the outside. You can wash it in the dishwasher.
If you are in search of a Dutch oven which features a safe non-stick coating, think about the Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven. Like the brand’s other products, it features extra-large handles for a safe, easy grip, high-quality animal coating, and a variety of exciting colors.
If you want to save on Le Creuset cookware, consider this five-piece set which includes a 5 1/2 qtr. Signature Round Dutch Oven with Lid, a 1 3/4 qtr. Signature Saucepan with Lid and a 9″ Signature Iron Handle Skillet. Choose from a variety of colors and enjoy a purchase backed by a lifetime limited warranty.