5 Best Materials for Cookware for a Healthy Kitchen


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Here’s the thing.

No matter how careful you are in picking your food, you are still at risk of severe health complications.

How?

By choosing the wrong materials for your pots and pans.

Research showed that certain cookware may affect both your food and health negatively, leading to health conditions like cancer and liver disease.

The US National Library of Medicine stated that this risk arises because some cookware is made of materials that may leach harmful chemicalsOpens in a new tab. and heavy metals that can accumulate in your body and messes up your health.

Some of these toxic chemicals are even more hazardous than any manmade preservative and artificial compounds.

Shocking, isn’t it?

But don’ worry, I’ve got your back.

In this post, I’ve compiled five best materials for cookware for health that are safe and non-toxic, which not only help you prepare tasty food but also help safeguard your health.

Here’s a quick comparison table showing you the beneficial features, disadvantages, usage, and best brands of the best cookware’ materials.

Material

Why they're the best?

Cons

Best use for

Best Pick

Titanium

  • Healthiest and safest not-stick cookware

  • Durable

  • Non-reactive

  • Non-porous

  • Non-allergic

  • Some have antibacterial coating

  • Can resist dent, rust, scratch, and warp

  • Cooks food faster

  • Retains heat longer

  • Requires low maintenance

  • Easy to clean

  • Expensive

  • May burn food if not careful

  • May scratch with aggressive scraping

  • Low-fat or fat-free dish

  • Outdoor cooking

  • Can cook relatively anything

Iron (Cast Iron)

  • Cheaper

  • Does not leak toxic chemicals into food

  • Legendary durability

  • Retains heat

  • Improves with use (seasoned)

  • Can be used with any type of utensil

  • Heavy

  • Does not spread heat evenly

  • Reacts with acidic foods

  • Difficult to clean

  • Requires high maintenance

  • Prone to rust and crack without proper care

  • Frying

  • Roasting

  • Searing

  • Baking

Iron (Enameled Cast Iron)

  • Long-lasting

  • Non-reactive

  • Resistant to rust and corrosion

  • Does not need seasoning

  • Retains heat

  • Oven-safe up to 500°F

  • Some are dishwasher-safe

  • Visually more attractive than cast iron; comes in multiple colors

  • More expensive than conventional cast iron

  • Heavy

  • Does not develop seasoning over time

  • Take a longer time to heat up

  • Some enamel glazes may contain toxic metal

  • Enamel may chip

Without cover:

  • Browning

  • Frying

  • Sauteing

  • Searing



Covered:

  • Braising

  • Roasting

  • Stewing

  • Slow-cooking

Stainless Steel

  • Inexpensive

  • Lightweight

  • Durable

  • Non-porous

  • Non-reactive

  • Resistant to rust, corrosion, scratch, dent, and wear

  • Easy-to-clean

  • Dishwasher-safe

  • Not a good choice for those with nickle allergy

  • Braising

  • Sauteing

  • Searing

  • Preparing sauces

100% Ceramic

  • Long-lasting

  • Odorless

  • Non-toxic

  • Non-reactive

  • Green and Eco-friendly

  • Withstands high temperatures

  • Retains heat

  • Scratch-resistant

  • Dishwasher-safe

  • Expensive

  • Slow-cooking dishes

  • Microwave or oven use

Which material is good for cooking? 5 best materials for cookware

Cookware and kitchen utensils are made of several types of materials, including aluminum, copper, lead, iron, Teflon, ceramic, glass, and stainless steel.

Amongst these materials, the best ones for cooking are titanium, cast iron, stainless steel, 100% ceramic, and glass.

Let’s take a look at why these pots and pans are the best amongst their peers.

Titanium

TitaniumOpens in a new tab. is the 9th most abundant element on the plants. It is an extraordinary metal that is strong yet light.

In fact, the infamous US military’s jet plane, SR-71 Blackbird, which is named as the world’s fastest planeOpens in a new tab., is made of over 90% titanium.

From a health standpoint, it is considered as one of the healthiest and safest metals for cooking. 

Dr. James MeschinoOpens in a new tab., a well-known expert in nutrition, wellness, fitness, and anti-aging as well as the author of several published books, suggest titanium cookware as the best and safest cookware option.

He even stated that experts use high-quality titanium cookware as part of a prudent cancer prevention program.

Rober Brown, MD, an allopathic-trained doctor, and author of the popular book, “Toxic Home/Conscious Home: A Mindful Approach to Wellness at HomeOpens in a new tab.,” also consider titanium cookware safe.

In a reviewOpens in a new tab. published in the International Journal of Implant Dentistry, researchers from South Korea and Ghana reported titanium as being safe and successful in multiple cases where it is utilized.

Although the study did note some minor issues of titanium toxicity in the field of dental care, this element is generally judged to be safe for cooking purposes.

Moreover, due to the non-stick feature of titanium, it is an excellent cookware choice for healthy cooking since you don’t have to use a lot of oil, butter, and water when cooking.

So if you’re the type that loves eating low-fat or fat-free diet, it can be your ideal choice of cookware.

They’re also often coated with antibacterial coating and won’t trigger allergic reactions due to their non-allergic feature.

Apart from their health benefits, titanium cookware can really stand the test of time.

In fact, some manufacturers are so confident in the cookware’s durability that they even offer a 20-year warranty!

They’re also non-porous and are resistant to scratch, warp, and dent.

Since they’re nonreactive, you can cook any alkaline or acidic food without any issues.

When it comes to cooking, titanium helps you cook faster compared to other metal kitchenware due to its quick-heating ability.

Plus, you don’t have to season them before cooking.

As for the cleaning aspect, titanium cookware is easy to clean. You can clean them with just a piece of washcloth or using a sponge pad with warm, soapy water.

Interesting fact: Titanium is named after Titans, the sons of the Greek mythology’s Earth goddess. Since it works well with bone, you can find it in medical instruments and surgical applications like in joint replacements

Disadvantages of titanium cookware

Perhaps the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to titanium cookware is the presence of other metals, if any, which have been added into it.

Sometimes, titanium kitchen tools are coated with aluminum or copper base to increase the ability of titanium to conduct heat (since it’s not really the best heat conductor).

These metals can potentially leak into your foodOpens in a new tab. when the cookware is chipped and may lead to health issues.

For instance, a 2019 reviewOpens in a new tab. released in the Interdisciplinary Toxicology reported aluminum as a neurotoxic element that has been associated with many central nervous system disorders, including Alzheimer’s.

Still, experts said that the nonporous feature of titanium prevents the toxic metal from leaking into food.

Since titanium heats up at a fast rate and retains heats longer, you may burn your food if you’re not careful.

In addition, while titanium cookware can withstand scratch, they’re not impeccable.

If you scrape them aggressively, you can still scratch them.

Tips for handling titanium cookware

  • Never preheat your titanium cookware for more than 1-2 minutes. Prolonged preheating may discolor or deformed your skillet.
  • If you have a non-stick titanium pan, don’t use non-stick sprays as they may accumulate on the pan’s surface and messes up the natural non-stick coating.
  • Don’t scour the pan when trying to remove food residue that sticks on it. Instead, fill the pan up with water and boil it to release the sticky residue.
  • Don’t use abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool as they would ruin the non-stick coating of your pan. Instead, try cleaning the pan with liquid detergent and a soft washcloth, or sponge.

Uncoated Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware have been around for hundreds of years. Originated from China, cast iron was first introduced in the 6th century BCE. Since then, they have become popular cookware.

But by the end of the 20th century. They were becoming less popular as people turn to non-stick pans.

But this is not the end of them.

Cast-iron is placed into the limelight once again as alarming issues on the effects of non-stick chemical coatings on health and the environment arise.

Today, it becomes a healthy, safe, and cost-effective alternative to cookware with low health risks, if any.

So what’s so great about cast iron compared to other cookware material anyway?

Well, for one, they are well-known to be able to last a very long time.

In fact, Mairlyn Smith, an expert home economist and nutritionist who is a regular guest on a Canadian national daytime program, admitted that one of her cast-iron frying pansOpens in a new tab. lasts more than three decades!

Indeed, this material’s durability is legendary.

Plus, unlike other cookware that are prone to wear and tear over time, the surface of the cast iron becomes more seasoned and smoother the more you use it.

It would develop a natural seasoning that works pretty much the same as a non-stick coating, allowing it to release food easily.

Coupled with their indestructibility, they may even outlast and outperformed other non-stick cookware.

That’s not all.

Instead of leaking harmful substance into your food, cast iron help you increase your iron levels naturally by leaking out the iron, which is the only metal found in this type of cookware.

Iron is a nutrient that can be found in your body and in various healthy foods, including eggs, liver, canned salmon, spinach, red meats, and seafood.

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein substance found in your red blood cell that carries oxygen.

During the cooking process, the iron will release a small amount of iron which the food will absorb and eventually end up inside your body as you ingest the food.

In a recent systematic reviewOpens in a new tab. published in PLOS One, researchers from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in the United States discovered that cookware containing iron could help decrease iron-deficiency anemia, especially in children.

Amazing, right?

Compare to other similarly sized cookware, they’re also able to retain heat for much longer.

So if you serve your dish in the skillet itself, chances are, your food will likely stay warm throughout your meal.

The Michigan State University ExtensionOpens in a new tab. recommends checking the food inside your pan and ensure that it doesn’t get lower than 135℉ for over 2 hours.

Cast iron is also one of the most versatile cookware. You can use it to cook almost anything and anywhere, from sauteing healthy vegetables to baking cakes, and from stove to grill.

Still, this kitchen utensil is not without disadvantages.

Disadvantages of cast iron

One of the cast iron cookware’s main drawbacks is that it is quite heavy (which means it has excellent heat conductivity).

So if you’re the type that prefers light cookware for easy handling, then this is definitely not the best choice for you.

Since it conducts heat very well, the handles can get pretty hot. So you need to be cautious when handling it to avoid burning yourself.

Plus, its heavy weight and hot handle cause it to be inconvenient for cooking that need agile and quick movements, such as stir-frying.

Also, it doesn’t spread heat evenly. So before using the skillet, you need to make an effort to preheat it while rotating it every now and then to ensure the heat is well-distributed.

It is prone to cracks and rust if you didn’t care and maintain it properly as instructed by the manufacturer.

Water can make it rust so you need to make sure it stays dry all the time when not in use.

Therefore, compared to other easy-to-maintain cookware, you need to put in much effort and time to maintain your cast iron cookware and prevent it from rusting or cracking.

Moreover, it is reactive to acidic food, including tomatoes and vinegar.

Acidic food would trigger reactive cookware’s surface to release metal atoms into the food, which would either discolor or give your food an off-taste.

However, culinary experts from What’s Cooking AmericaOpens in a new tab. stated that an extremely well-seasoned cast-iron skillet would do just fine with acidic foods like tomato sauce as long as the foods only have brief contact with the cookware.

Tips for handling cast iron

  • Wear an oven mitt when handling the pan.
  • Preheat before cooking on the stove for around five minutes or so while occasionally rotating it. If you’re using it for baking, you don’t need to preheat it.
  • Instead of pouring oil at the center of the skillet, add oil on a paper towel and rub it around the surface.
  • Avoid shocking a hot pan with cold water since this can cause it to warp or crack.
  • Let the pan cool down before washing it.
  • When cleaning, never use strong detergent or an abrasive sponge, such as steel wool, to avoid ruining the seasoning.
  • Avoid scouring it. Instead, rinse and dry it.
  • Always reseason them after use. Flaxseed oilOpens in a new tab. is the best choice for the job, but canola oilOpens in a new tab. would do just fine.
  • When storing, stack it in between sheets of paper towel to avoid scratches and place it in a clean and dry area.

Here’s a helpful video by Chef Billy Parisi to guide you on the proper way to restore old rusted cast iron, as well as how to season and maintain your cast iron.

Enameled Cast Iron 

Enameled cast iron is the coated version of the conventional bare cast iron.

Plus, they look a tad more appealing.

Some enameled cast iron brands provide a non-stick version.

Similar to the uncoated cast iron, enameled cast iron cookware are safe and easy to use.

The big oval or round pot of this type of cookware is also called Dutch ovenOpens in a new tab., which is perfect for soups and stews.

Enameled cast iron cookware shares pretty much the same benefits as the conventional ones.

But unlike ordinary cast iron, the enameled ones have several advantages over the former, such as:

  • They are non-reactive due to the coating. So you can use them to cook acidic foods just fine.
  • They are corrosion and rust-resistant.
  • They don’t need any seasoning.
  • Most types are dishwasher-safe. Still, you need to use the dishwasher in moderation since repeated use may damage the coating.
  • Can withstand high heat (up to 500 °F)

Disadvantages of enameled cast iron

While enameled cast iron does offer more benefits compared to the traditional cast iron, they do lack some features that the latter has, such as:

  • They don’t help increase your iron intake since they’re lined with coating, which prevents them from leaking out the iron. But if you don’t have any problems with your iron, then this cookware would do just fine for you.
  • They won’t develop natural seasoning over time. So you won’t get the non-stick benefit like with the regular cast iron.

Moreover, some enamel glazes used on the skillet may contain a high amount of cadmiumOpens in a new tab. and leadOpens in a new tab., both of which are linked to certain health conditions.

Since the enamel may chip, these toxic metals may leak out and contaminate your food.

Plus, enamel cast iron is also more expensive than the ordinary cast iron.

Tips for handling enameled cast iron cookware

  • Clean them with soap and water. Never use abrasive cleaning tools like steel wool. To remove tough stains, soak them with some water and soap before gently rubbing them with a soft plastic brush.
  • Don’t clean them with dishwasher too often to prevent the coating from wearing out.

Stainless steel

Just like titanium and iron, stainless steel is a safe cookware alternative.

Stainless steel pots and pans are one of the most popular cookware across the globe.

You can find it in most American homes.

The US National Laboratory of Medicine stated that health issues from this type of cookware are rare.

They are called stainless because of its anti-rust and anti-corrosion features, which makes it an excellent material for cooking.

Plus, their hard and non-porous surfaces make them resistant to wear, dent, and scratch.

In addition, they are lightweight, non-reactive, easy-to-clean, and dishwasher-safe.

Since stainless steel doesn’t conduct heat evenly, most stainless steel kitchenware is reinforced with another metal base to help promote uniform heating, typically aluminum and copper.

Those that come with aluminum or copper base are generally more durable and long-lasting.

While copperOpens in a new tab. and aluminum cookware are not recommended due to health concerns, experts stated that stainless steel with these metal cores are generally accepted as the metal won’t come into contact with your food unless you excessively scrub them.

Compared to other cookware materials, stainless steel is cheaper; stainless steel cookware with an aluminum core is more affordable than those with copper bottom.

Disadvantages of stainless steel cookware

While experts recommend stainless steel as safe cookware for the general people, it is not a great option for people with allergies, especially nickel allergy.

Why? Let me explain.

Stainless steel is made of alloys of metals, such as iron, carbon, steel, molybdenum, and titanium. This metal combination contributes to its hardness to withstand damages at high temperatures.

However, some stainless steel cookware may also contain nickelOpens in a new tab. and chromiumOpens in a new tab., both of which are linked to some health issues.

These toxic metals may leak from a broken pan and migrate into your food.

Fortunately, according to Reader’s DigestOpens in a new tab., the quantity of metals migrating into your food is negligible and probably harmless as long as you don’t have allergies.

Dr. Rober Brown advised you to avoid preparing a meal with nickel-plated stainless steel cookware if you or anyone in your family is known to have nickel allergy or have experienced symptoms like skin rashes because of allergic contact dermatitis.

In one studyOpens in a new tab. published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from the Oregon State University’s Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology said that you can effectively avoid chromium and nickel exposure by choosing cookware that doesn’t contain these toxic metals.

So if you are sensitive or allergic to nickel, stay away from stainless steel cookware.

But if you have no allergies and want to buy stainless steel cookware, then be sure to purchase food-grade stainless steel cookware since they don’t have nickel or chromium.

Tips for handling stainless steel cookware

  • Never let any salty or acidic foods remain in your panOpens in a new tab. and pot for an extended period.
  • They are easy-to-clean as long as you cook with lubricants and soak them right away after use.
  • Clean the pan gently with water and soap.
  • To remove tough burnt-on spots, fill the pot with water and boil for about 15 to 20 minutes. This method will help loosen up the spots and help you scrape it up easily with a wooden spoon.
  • When dealing with more stubborn stains, try coating the pan’s bottom with baking soda or stainless steel cleaner like this oneOpens in a new tab.. Then, scrub gently.

Pure Ceramic (100% Ceramic)

Pure ceramic is another best material for cookware. It is safe and non-toxic.

But before I dive into the nuts and bolts of pure ceramic, I want to clarify a few things.

When we talk about ceramic cookware, two types existed, which include:

  • Pure ceramic
  • Ceramic coated cookware

The difference between the two is that ceramic-coated cookware, for the most part, are not pure ceramic.

Instead, they are made of metal and coated with a non-stick substance. The only thing ceramic about them is their base.

So even if pure ceramic cookware is 100% safe to use for cooking, ceramic-coated cookware holds a different story.

It is the harmful version of ceramic kitchenware as their coating may contain toxic metal, including lead and cadmiumOpens in a new tab..

In fact, even though the coating may be free of lead,  chipped coated or glazed ceramic cookware may still pose a danger since aluminum, which has neurotoxic properties, is usually found underneath its coating.

So before you purchase any ceramic cookware, be sure that it is 100% ceramic like this setOpens in a new tab..

Since pure ceramic cookware is made of completely natural materials, it is odorless, does not contain any toxin, non-reactive, 100% green, and eco-friendly.

Plus, it can withstand high temperatures, retain heats, microwaveable, and ideal for baking in the oven.

It also heats up gradually, making it a perfect cookware choice if you love cooking dishes that require slow and even cooking, such as lasagna.

It is also scratch-resistant, won’t chip, and peel off.

It is easy-to-clean and can be washed in the dishwasher.

Disadvantages of pure ceramic

Perhaps the only disadvantage of pure ceramic cookware is that it can get pretty expensive.

Still, it can last you a long time.

Tips for handling pure ceramic cookware

  • Since ceramic conduct heat evenly, you don’t need to crank up the heat. Instead, use low to medium temperatures.
  • Since it has a naturally non-stick feature, you only need to lightly coat the cookware with oil, non-stick spray, or liquid stock. Avoid using butter at high temperatures to prevent burnt spots (since butter burns over high heat).
  • Never let water or other liquids boil away since overheating the cookware may lead to a thermal crack.
  • Never shock a hot ceramic pan with cold water to avoid sudden cracking.
  • Make sure it’s completely cooled off before washing.
  • Wash the cookware with warm and soapy water and dry it after it’s clean.

Which cooking utensil material is best for health? Best  non-toxic and safest kitchen and cooking utensils material for health

If you’re looking for cookware like pots and pans, then the best materials that won’t affect your health would be the following, due to the reasons I mentioned above.

  • Titanium
  • Iron
  • Enameled iron
  • Stainless steel
  • Pure ceramic

But if you’re looking for small kitchen utensils like spatulas and spoon, the best ones would be those made of materials that contain no toxic chemicals, no heavy metals, no BPA, and no harmful plastic element, such as:

  • Bamboo kitchen utensils: Bamboo utensils, particularly those crafted from organic bamboo like this popular utensil setOpens in a new tab. are healthy and eco-friendly. They’re also less porous, can withstand warping, and easy-to-clean. Some even consist of germ-killing components, allowing them to prevent cross-contamination. Bamboo utensils work great with cast iron skillets.
  • Wooden utensils: Wooden cooking tools are made with sustainable materials and have highly durable. They can be used on non-stick cookware. Similar to bamboo utensils, they contain natural antibacterial properties. The most popular wooden utensilsOpens in a new tab. on Amazon are made of natural teak wood, which can resist water, crack, and warp.
  • Stainless steel utensils: Stainless steel kitchenware like this oneOpens in a new tab. are stainless, which means they won’t rust and corrodes, making them a healthy choice for your kitchen.

Recommended read: Are Nylon Cooking Utensils Safe? Hidden Dangers of Nylon

What kind of material is used for making cooking utensils?

According to the US National Library of Medicine, common materials used in kitchen utensils are aluminum, stainless steel, iron, lead, copper, and Teflon. But lead and copper have been associated with diseases, leading to lead and copper toxicity.

Which metal is good for cooking utensils?

The best metal for cooking utensils, according to experts, are titanium, stainless steel, pure ceramic, and iron, which include cast iron and enameled cast iron. These metals are considered safe and result in little to no negative health impacts.

Is cooking in aluminum utensils harmful?

While concerns about the link between aluminum cookware and Alzheimer’s disease arises, the Alzheimer’s Association stated that this cookware does not pose a major risk to the condition. Studies also found that uncoated aluminum, which gives a higher risk, only releases an insignificant amount of aluminum.

Eina Aivoges

Eina Aivoges is a certified health and wellness coach and a licensed medical laboratory scientist. She's also a foodie, avid coffee drinker, cat-lover, blogger, and traveler.

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