Beyond “Non-Toxic”: Our approach to cookware safety
John Martelli, our plant manager of over 40 years
Everyone deserves to cook with the confidence that the kitchen tools that they’re using won’t negatively affect their health. However, this logical concern over one’s health is often exploited by marketers and manufacturers to make vague, unsupported, or fear-mongering statements designed to sell more products rather than educate and inform.
You may have seen many companies touting their cookware as “non-toxic”, “natural”, “healthy”, or “free of chemicals”. These sound-bites give the impression that they offer some type of healthier product, and that other types of products are in some way toxic, unhealthy, or packed with chemicals. Are they?
What is “toxic” cookware?
So is there actually cookware being sold that is actually toxic in some way? Actually, yes. Most every time you see the term “non-toxic” used, it is to contrast with PTFE-based (Teflon) nonstick pans.
First, it’s important to understand some terms. Teflon nonstick pans used to be really unhealthy. Historically, nonstick coated pans were made primarily with PFOA, a substance that is now widely recognized as harmful.
In modern nonstick pans, PFOA is no longer present in the final product but PTFE is. There’s no evidence that PTFE itself is toxic when ingested, but when heated it will begin to degrade and release fumes that “present mild to severe toxicity”. There are ways to use this type of nonstick cookware without being exposed to toxic fumes, but it precludes cooking at high temperatures and requires paying significant attention while cooking.
Further, there are still many unknowns about these chemicals, including the GenX chemical that is now used instead of PFOA. We’d rather avoid it altogether!
Is ceramic cookware a “healthier” alternative?
Ceramic coated cookware is PTFE-free, and instead gets its nonstick coating from a Sol-Gel process that combines metal nanoparticles. Ceramic nonstick can potentially be considered healthier as it is PTFE-free and doesn’t have the same potential toxicity as PTFE-based nonstick pans.
However, there are some other significant issues with ceramic nonstick pans: they aren’t really ceramic and they aren’t very nonstick!
When you think of the term “ceramic”, you’re most likely imagining pottery or something similar. That’s isn’t what these pans are coated with; the Sol-Gel coating process combines inorganic materials that creates a hard surface that is conceptually similar to ceramic, but not chemically similar. Further, the nonstick properties of ceramic cookware are even shorter lived than PTFE-based nonstick pans, lasting only a couple years at most. So if you want them to keep working as intended, you’re forced to replace them.
Finally, just like PTFE and GenX, ceramic nonstick coatings are a fairly new technology that just doesn’t have a significant amount of scientific literature about its health effects.
Is stainless steel cookware non-toxic?
Yes! While PTFE and ceramic based nonstick pans are either known to be potentially dangerous or are understudied, there are plenty of studies about the safety of cast iron, aluminum, and stainless steel types of cookware.
One concern is metal leaching. Especially when cooking with acidic ingredients, some small amounts of metals can be introduced into the food you’re cooking. For cast iron and aluminum cookware, that means ingesting more iron or aluminum respectively. While those instances of metal leaching can alter your pan’s seasoning or introduce metallic flavors, the additional intake of these metals is not a health concern, and will not significantly increase your regular daily intake.
In the case of stainless steel, miniscule amounts of chromium or nickel may leach in some instances, but never enough to alter the flavor of your food or pose a health concern, even for those with nickel sensitivities.
For us, “non-toxic” is the absolute lowest bar to meet for our cookware. Obviously cookware should be non-toxic, but it should also be reliable, versatile, durable, beautiful, and so much more.
We design our cookware to be completely non-toxic. It’s also unbeatably durable and protects the flavor of your food. All stainless steel cookware is non-toxic, but ours is more durable: our 316Ti surface will last longer without pitting or degrading. Aluminum or cast iron cookware can leach metals into your food, altering the flavor of what you cook. Our cookware doesn’t alter the flavor of your food, no matter the ingredients.