There’s little point buying fantastically healthy whole foods if you’re only going to cook them in toxic non-stick pots and pans. So, what kind of cookware is the most environmentally sound, non-toxic, and downright fun to cook with? Here are my top picks for 7 of the best eco-friendly cookware choices for 2020. Curious about how we rate products? Click here to view our methodology, which at its core, is about voting with our dollars to fight climate change.
Our top eco-friendly cookware picks summarized:
- Best eco-friendly ceramic cookware set – Xtrema®
- Best stoneware cookware brand – CorningWare
- Best carbon steel cookware brand – De Buyer
- Best cast iron cookware brand – Lodge
- Best stovetop-suitable ceramic cookware brand – Emile Henry
- Best stainless steel cookware brand – Cuisinart
- Best nonstick cookware brand – GreenPan (updated)
If you’re looking for the best, most eco-friendly, non-toxic ceramic cookware range, check out Xtrema®. This American-made line of eco-friendly, non-toxic cookware is ceramic through and through.
These pots and pans contain no metal, cadmium, lead, PFOA, PTFE, glues, polymers, coatings or dyes. Every shipment is inspected and tested for heavy metals, and Xtrema® cookware is FDA-approved and meets California Prop 65 standards, meaning that it is certified free from over 800 problematic compounds. Xtrema® cookware is also environmentally-friendly as it is created using renewable raw materials and green manufacturing practices.
With Xtrema® ceramic cookware, you can cook food easily on a low heat, because pure ceramic retains heat better than other cookware and helps food to cook evenly, inside and out. Just be sure to warm pans slowly and keep temperatures low to moderate (and add you oil after the pan is warmed).
While Xtrema® cookware is not non-stick, the smooth, non-porous, ceramic glaze makes for easy cooking, once you’re used to cooking on a low to moderate heat. Xtrema® is dishwasher safe, oven safe, stove-safe, and fridge/freezer safe. It is also super easy to clean. If food does stick, it’s safe to use abrasive cleaners such as steel wool, baking soda, and even Ajax without risk of scratching the surface.
Traditional, non-toxic, thermal shock-resistant ceramic cookware with 5/5 leaves, pure ceramic CorningWare is made in the USA and remains a great choice for eco-friendly, non-toxic cooking. While not exactly the same as the original CorningWare Pyroceram, the new CorningWare® (which is actually stoneware) shares many of the benefits: easy to clean, non-reactive to acidic foods, can be used for cooking, serving, and storing food.
Most CorningWare® can’t be used on a stovetop, though, and has a much lower tolerance for thermal shock (don’t put a frozen dish directly in the oven!). There is, however, a stovetop-safe line manufactured in France by Keraglass/Eurokera for Corelle Brands. So, if you are looking for pure ceramic cookware to use on a stovetop, go for CorningWare (made prior to 2000), or CorningWare®’s stovetop range made after 2008, such as this limited edition CorningWare Pyroceram Blue Cornflower 4-piece Glass Ceramic Cookware Set. Alternatively, check out the Emile Henry range of ceramic cookware.
Hands down, De Buyer are the go-to for high quality non-toxic cookware. They make beautiful, robust, hard-wearing carbon steel frying pans and a range of other quality kitchen items that are inexpensive, long-lasting, and easy to use (once you get the hang of basic cleaning and seasoning principles). Check out your new favorite frying pan, which gets a coveted 5/5 leaves and offers excellent heat distribution for easy grilling, searing, and browning of foods on the stovetop (including induction), camping stove, barbecue, or in the oven. The sturdy rivets help make sure that handle is going nowhere, but in case something does happen, the manufacturer offers a two-year warranty.
De Buyer cookware is lighter than cast iron but heavier than stainless steel or ceramic. It tends to lose its seasoning more easily than cast iron, but also puts on seasoning faster. De Buyer are the go-to company for carbon steel, having been in the business for almost two centuries. Their products are still made in France using traditional techniques, but are surprisingly affordable, especially once you consider that a pan will last a lifetime if cared for properly.
For anyone wanting the benefits of cast iron without the weight, carbon steel is an excellent choice for non-toxic, eco-friendly cookware. Carbon steel skillets are also a great option for cooks who like to flip and toss foods as they have sloped sides, unlike cast iron pans.
Lodge offer quality cast iron cookware from a trusted American brand, earning them a 5/5 rating from us. This company has been making cast iron cookware since 1896 and have you covered for pretty much every culinary need. Want to grill some asparagus or halloumi? Check out the 10.25-inch square Grill Pan. Lodge also offer an 8-inch pre-seasoned cast iron skillet with two lips for easy pouring and a handle loop so the pan can be hung for storage or decoration.
From small and large skillets to double Dutch ovens and griddles, Lodge cast iron is versatile, robust and a great investment. These products also have a lifetime warranty and can be used on the stove, campfire, barbecue, and in the oven. Cast iron is virtually indestructible, retains heat and seasoning well, and has a naturally non-stick surface if you treat it right.
Lodge uses cast iron from two foundries on the banks of the Tennessee River in the small town of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. This makes it an attractive choice for U.S. customers wanting to support local business and avoid the environmental toll of importing heavier cookware from farther afield. Lodge cast iron is also California Prop 65 certified and US FDA certified for 188.8.131.52a Leachability of Lead and Cadmium for Glazed Ceramic Surfaces. Their silicone products (like pan handle covers) are certified by suppliers to be both BPA(Bisphenol A) and phthalate free.
Move over Le Creuset, Emile Henry has arrived.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the aesthetic of Le Creuset. Sadly, though, they sometimes use glazes that contain cadmium and other heavy metals. Not so with Emile Henry. This French company makes very attractive, high-quality ceramic cookware that earns a 4/5 at Leaf Score (because they’re not quite as resistant to thermal shock as CorningWare).
I particularly like the Emile Henry Flame range of stovetop-suitable ceramics. These offer a fantastic alternative to hard-to-track-down classic Corning Ware. Emile Henry dishes are designed to resist oven heat up to 480 F (250 C) but are not intended for use over direct flame or hot plates. Emile Henry’s new range of HR cookware is resistant to thermal shock, so can be put in the oven directly from the freezer. These pots are also dishwasher safe and microwave safe.
The classic Emile Henry dish is their ruffled pie dish, the unique design of which makes it easy to turn out an excellent pie without needing to grease the dish before baking. Some of my other favorites from the company include:
- Large Baking Dish
- Roasting and Lasagna Dish
- Pizza Stone
The attractive glazed pots are available in a variety of colors and designs, including the Potato Pot, which can be used to cook potatoes, chestnuts, and various other delights right on the stovetop. It is suitable for induction hobs, if used with an induction disk, and can also be used in the oven.
The glaze is highly resistant to scratching, so it’s fine to use metal utensils with these pots. Some cracks may form in the glaze with use, but this isn’t a design flaw and doesn’t affect performance. As the inside coating is ceramic and non-reactive, these pots are ideal for more acidic foods, including sauces and vinegar reductions that would discolor stainless steel or leach metal from cast iron and carbon steel and affect the flavor of food.
With knowledge, care, and a little luck, Emile Henry cookware could last a lifetime, but do be careful about thermal shock with some items. Classic CorningWare is a better option in terms of durability and strength, but the Emile Henry range, while traditionally made, has a more modern design, similar in some ways to Le Creuset.
Deluxe cookware for home chefs in the know, Cuisinart’s 12-piece 18/10 stainless steel set has your covered for almost all your cooking needs. Earning 4/5 leaves, Cuisinart’s Multiclad offers triple-ply stainless steel construction with magnetized stainless steel, aluminum core, and 18/10 stainless steel.
So, if you’re kitting out a new kitchen, or looking for a comprehensive replacement cookware set, Cuisinart Multiclad Pro 12-Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set is ideal.
The triple-ply construction grants excellent heat conductivity while using less energy, and Multiclad comes with a lifetime warranty against defects. Oven-safe up to 550 F and dishwasher-safe, these pieces are compatible with induction stoves and are an excellent choice for novice and professional cooks alike.
The handles are riveted to the body of the pans, making for sturdy, reliable construction, and the lids are tightfitting, so you can keep steam, flavor, and aroma where you want it. Tapered rims and cool-grip handles make for easier pouring.
If you’re looking for high-quality stainless-steel cookware, Cuisinart’s Multiclad is just the ticket. It’s a lot lighter and easier to handle than cast iron or carbon steel, won’t chip of break like some ceramics, and poses no risk of off-gassing or leaching toxic chemicals into food, unlike PTFE-coated and other non-stick cookware.
GreenPan were the first company to offer non-toxic, eco-friendly, ceramic non-stick cookware, way back in… 2007. They now offer a range of modern non-toxic, non-stick, Thermolon ceramic-coated cookware, and the Paris Pro series was my top pick, originally earning 4/5 leaves.
Unfortunately, a recent class action lawsuit has revealed that Greenpan’s products might not live up to the company’s marketing claims. Specifically, this lawsuit alleges that Greenpan engages in misleading marketing practices by claiming that Thermolon is non-toxic.
To back up that allegation, the plaintiff cites a number of chemicals listed in the patent for Thermolon, including silane, aluminum oxide, tetraethoxysilane, methyltrimethoxysilane, and potassium titanate. These chemicals, as used in the coatings for Greenpan products have not been assessed for safety but are known for adverse health effects when used in other applications. As such, Greenpan might be one to avoid for now, and we’ll keep an eye on this lawsuit until it is resolved either way.
The Greenpan cookware set features hard-anodized aluminum and ceramic Thermolon coating, with tempered glass lids and stainless-steel handles. What is Thermolon? Well, this proprietary finish is made by spraying silicon dioxide onto pans and then baking the pans at high heat to form a smooth coating. Silicon dioxide is the same chemical composition that makes up sand or glass. Thermolon is PFOA-, lead- and cadmium-free and makes GreenPan cookware very durable and resistant to scratching. It doesn’t peel, blister, or release toxic fumes.
GreenPan’s Paris Pro series offers excellent heat conduction and the pots and pans heat up quickly (and cool down quickly). They can be used for high-heat browning and searing, unlike other ceramic pans like Le Creuset or Emile Henry.
I still like the Paris Pro line because both the handles and lids are stainless steel, which means they are oven-safe up to 600 F (the other lines are only oven safe to 350 or 420 F). The GreenPan Paris line is also more robust and versatile, featuring Thermolon Marathon coating that is thicker, longer-lasting, and resistant to scratching and chipping. These are still ceramic coated pans, though, so avoid using metal utensils that might scratch the coating.
These pots and pans are oven-safe, broiler- and grill-safe. They feature stay-cool brushed stainless-steel handles riveted to the pan for extra strength. GreenPan may still be a great cookware choice for anyone who wants to replace their PTFE-coated non-stick cookware but it isn’t quite as non-toxic as the company claims.