If you’re looking for non stick pan alternatives in order to avoid the toxin-emitting fluoropolymers used to make Teflon®, this post lists out all your alternatives to Teflon pans, both the good and the bad.
Kept at the right temperatures, something seemingly harder to do on home stovetops than you might have thought, they say that Teflon (PTFE, polytetrafluoroethylene) is an inert chemical compound that is not considered toxic to humans under the proper conditions.
However, the production of PTFE relies on a group of synthetic chemicals called PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These are the “forever chemicals” in Teflon pans. The old ones had them.
And the new ones do too (they’re just different as you’ll learn in this post).
PFAS chemicals have been shown in studies to be horrible for us. Because of our heavy use of these PFAS in non-stick pans as well as things like waterproof gear and fire extinguishers, we have now polluted our wildlife, waters, animals and ourselves with chemicals known to cause cancer, fertility issues, liver damage and more.
So while ingesting the Teflon or PTFE itself off an old, chipped pan may pass right through you without harm, the PFAS chemicals used to make it are toxic.
And these PFAS are in the fumes you inhale while cooking or being near the cooking.
Indoor pet birds die and people suffer flu-like symptoms if Teflon pans get overheated.
And it’s not just some temporary flu you get.
Who knows, the flu may just be your body angry at you for letting it consume so many man-made chemicals with extremely-long half-lives!
Once you learn about the dangers of PTFE cookware, there really is no going back. It becomes a matter of finding the best non stick pan without teflon.
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But non-stick pan alternatives are not all sunshine and rainbows as their “PTFE-free” marketing ma suggest.
After public knowledge of the damage inflicted by PFOS and PFOA used to make Teflon pans had come out, many non-stick coatings were created as non-stick alternatives. But unfortunately, these have their own sets of toxicity issues (something I’ve learned only after years of using the same ceramic-coated non-stick).
- Diamond-infused ceramic-coatings use nanoparticles which are known to disrupt the endocrine system.
- Many ceramic non-stick coatings use toxic metals like lead and cadmium in their formulations.
If it’s cheap, there’s a reason why.
But expensive non-stick pans can be just as bad (GreenPan).
You must be extremely selective with these new non-stick pan types.
Or better yet, just stick to a seasoned cast iron or carbon steel pan. Both can be made to compete in non-stick-ness.
The Forever Chemicals In Non-Stick Cookware
It’s not easy to eat a clean diet, void of any chemical pesticides these days. It’s virtually impossible to avoid all the manufactured, GMO foods.
By the time you’ve beaten your social-conditioning, unlearned what you needed to unlearn, and know more than well how bogus the USDA food pyramid is – by the time you’re eating mostly organic, grass fed, free range, far lower carb, mostly home-cooked, and all with ease as a part of your lifestyle… you’d think that would be enough.
But if you’re using nonstick pans to cook those hard-earned quality ingredients, PFAS chemicals are tainting your food and the whole cooking experience. You should know about this additional obstacle to overcome in your pursuit of health.
Forever chemicals are a group of man-made chemicals that otherwise would not exist in the environment, called PFAS or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances.
There are thousands of these PFAS chemicals, old, new and soon-to-be. Older ones like PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) and PFOS (Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid) were so widely used because of non-stick cookwares, that today in America they’re in over 95% our bodies.
These chemicals are ubiquitous in the American environment. More than 2,800 communities in the US, including all 50 states and two territories, have documented PFAS contamination. – 2022 report on CNN Health on PFAS
Below, the Pennsylvania Department of Health PFAS Fact Sheet mentions how these chemicals have declined since around the time of the public exposure. Awareness about forever chemicals is undoubtedly behind this decline.
Exposure to PFOS, PFOA and other PFAS like perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA), and perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS) are widespread and have been detected in blood samples of the general U.S. population and wildlife. These chemicals have been detected in 95-100% of samples of people’s blood in the years 1999-2000 and 2003-2004. Recent monitoring data show the levels of these chemicals in people’s blood appear to be declining. From 1999-2000 to 2017-2018, blood PFOS and PFOA have declined by more than 85% and 70%, respectively.
The main cause of this widespread ingestion of PFAS came from this new Teflon material created and manufactured by the DuPont chemical company in the 1930’s. Their teflon non-stick cookware contained PFOA and PFOS.
It also came from their decades of dumping these PFAS chemicals into the Ohio River, poisoning people, animals, lands and everything else in the area and beyond (source).
There was a 2019 movie called Dark Waters that shows how DuPont contaminated a community for decades.
The Devil We Know is probably a more informational docu-film about the subject.
This is an informative article on the situation: “Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg, West Virginia”
PFOS and PFOA have since been removed from Teflon cookwares. However, new synthetic PFAS chemicals now replace them.
Around this same time in 2015, DuPont split off into Chemours. The PFAS chemicals and Teflon operations were split off into the new chemical company.
Today, the problem persists. This article titled “Outrage over Chemours’ plans to expand production after widespread chemical pollution in NC drinking water” shares more about the current PFAS contamination situations.
If everyone stopped buying Teflon, and most importantly taught their children why they did this switch, they wouldn’t be expanding right now in the year 2023.
Is New Non-Stick Cookware Safe?
Today we have big websites like Healthline, who are at the top of every health-related Google search, mirroring Teflon’s safety message that the new Teflon is safe to use.
And it seems all mentions of forever chemicals have ceased because PFOA and PFOS have been removed from the non-stick formulations.
But these PTFE still have mystery forever chemicals in their PTFE formulations.
And the new PTFE pans will still make you sick if you overheat them.
They still kill birds.
New PFAS are continually under production. There are over 3,000 of them today. And new PFAS have replaced the previous now-exposed PFOS and PFOA.
So new PTFE non-stick cookware is not free from forever chemicals.
The issue persists, and the questions remain unanswered as to how the new PFAS used in their new non-sticks will affect our health long term.
Non-stick pans degrade much faster than the chemicals used to make them.
All PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they are designed to be resistant to degradation.
The elimination half-life of PFOA in humans is roughly estimated to be 3.5 years and for PFOS, approximately 4.8 years.– the National CDC’s Biomonitoring Program
- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA): The elimination half-life of PFOA in humans is estimated to be around 2-4 years.
- Perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS): The elimination half-life of PFOS in humans is estimated to be around 5-7 years.
- Perfluorohexane sulfonic acid (PFHxS): The elimination half-life of PFHxS in humans is estimated to be around 5-9 years.
- Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA): The elimination half-life of PFNA in humans is estimated to be around 2-4 years.
Contaminated food and water are the main ways PFAS has entered our bodies – as fumes and particles or pieces coming off old teflon pans.
Modern Teflon pans still use PFAS. They’re just newer PFAS.
It is similar to how BPA-free plastic baby bottles will have other harmful chemicals (plasticizers) besides BPA.
To replace BPA in these baby bottles, various similar plasticizers are used.
These include, BPS (bisphenol-S), BPF (bisphenol-F), and the list goes on.
And as parents we end up using these with boiling hot water, or with bottle warmers keeping the plastic bottles hot due to a false sense of security created by this BPA-free marketing.
PFAS-free marketing is misleading because these nonstick coatings still use PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) in their coatings. Modern PTFE coatings have simply replaced old PFAS for new PFAS.
Some of the NEW PFAS in modern pans:
- Perfluorinated compounds (PFCs)
- Perfluorobutanesulfonic acid (PFBS)
- Polyfluoroalkyl ether acids (PFEAs)
Additional PFAS have been shown to be inside the new PTFE non-stick pan coatings as well.
A 2018 statement from a group of scientists and environmentalists, titled, The Madrid Statement on Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs), advised against the use PFAS chemicals in cookware and revealed some new PFAS chemicals found in nonstick pans and other cookware.
They showed how PFAS chemicals can still be found on PFOA-free nonstick pans.
More new PFAS found in these PFOA-free marketed nonstick pans, include:
Potential health and environmental impacts from these new PFAS chemicals is unknown.
According to The Environmental Working Group (EWG), once heated to approximately 500°F or above, PFOA-free or not, new PTFE pans still release toxic fumes. The dangerous chemical, Perfluoroisobutene (PFIB), being the most notable of these released in the fumes. (source)
How Hot Is Too Hot?
The common advice for Teflon is to keep temperatures below 500°F (260 °C), the temperature where its coating can start to separate and emit toxic particles and fumes.
But a conventional stove top can surpass 500°F (260 °C) in just 2 to 5 minutes!
In new tests conducted by a university food safety professor, a generic non-stick frying pan preheated on a conventional, electric stovetop burner reached 736°F in three minutes and 20 seconds, with temperatures still rising when the tests were terminated. – The EWG
Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen blog states that small electric stovetops with the small-coil can reach 932°F to 1112°F when set to high. And gas flame stovetop’s medium heat is 350°F (177°C).
But open flames on a gas stovetop can reach temperatures exceeding 3,000°F! (source)
Health Hazards From Non-Stick Pans
Teflon flu, Polymer fume fever or fluoropolymer fever are the different names for the sickness you get from inhaling an overheated PTFE pan’s fumes.
An inhalation fever caused by the fumes released when polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, known under the trade name Teflon reaches temperatures of 300 °C (572 °F) to 450 °C (842 °F).
–– Wikipedia on Polymer Fume Fever
But if these fumes can kill birds at “safe” temperature levels, what are these pans’ fumes doing to us at these “safe” temps?
If you care for and have pet birds, you likely already are aware of the dangers.
You can learn more about how polymer fumes affect birds in this article titled, “Environmental Toxicology: Considerations for Exotic Pets” from the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine.
Metals in Non-Stick Pans
Besides PTFE, metals are another concern for non-stick pans. Metals are used on most non-stick pan alternatives. From metal cores (which can leach out even with their coating fully intact) to parts of the non-stick formulations.
The problem with cheap non-stick pans is they use cheaper metals more apt to leach. Leached metals can bind to body proteins and accumulate on your internal organs.
- Aluminum – Best to always avoid any additional aluminum ingestion beyond what’s being ingested outside of our consent (it’s in the air).
- Cadmium and Lead – Bright ceramic cookwares often have lead or cadmium, two extremely toxic heavy metals more prevalent in cookware than you’d have ever thought.
- Nickel – If you’re allergic to nickel (wristwatch or metal belt buckles eventually give you skin rashes), look into 18-0 stainless steel which does not use nickel.
- Chromium – The body actually requires a tad amount for some processes. The amount released from an intact, undamaged high quality steel cookware is negligible.
The Best & Worst Non-Stick Pan Alternatives
Of all the Teflon non-stick alternatives, most have their own set of issues and are not recommended. Here’s the list, from best to worst, starting with the BEST non-stick pan alternatives.
Cast Iron pans can come unseasoned, pre-seasoned or enameled. Anything outside of these three main types of cast irons will be inferior (just in case there is a cast-iron quasi-ceramic being sold out there). But its the traditional that is the best alternative to non-sticks.
There is evidence of cast iron cookware being used as far back as 6th century ancient China. The more modern enameled cast iron is made through a process called sand casting. This dates back to 18th century Europe.
Cast iron cookware is long-lasting. Your cast irons can be your children’s and their children’s. And if you’re lucky enough, you already have some passed down to you from your parents or theirs.
The only downside is the potential for iron toxicity. If you’ve taken a blood test and know you’re already high in iron, you should make sure the cast iron skillet is very well seasoned.
There’s a seasoning oil that you can spread around and get it so hot on there that it hardens and creates a natural non-stick surface in the cast iron. This would likely result in less iron being leached. Cooking your acidic foods in a stainless steel saucepan could be best.
And if cast iron too heavy for daily cooking?
Carbon Steel is a cast iron alternative that once seasoned, becomes an excellent non-stick pan alternative.
Cast iron and carbon steel each have their own distinct advantages.
Carbon Steel Pans Advantages Over Cast Iron:
- Lighter weight
- Easier to season than an unseasoned cast-iron.
- Faster cook times because they heat up faster
- More responsive to temp changes vs cast iron’s slow temperature adjustment speed
- Easier to clean as its surface is smoother than cast iron’s.
Carbon steel pans can withstand much higher temperatures than non-sticks.
Many people have switched to carbon steel over their cast irons. The majority of cast iron owners probably haven’t. But it might not be a bad idea to have a carbon steel as a backup to your cast iron. Carbon Steel is a great wok material.
Pure Ceramic Cookware
Xtrema is the only brand I had down as potentially non-toxic.
However, Tamara Rubin from LeadSafeMama found metals within the clay substrate and glaze.
I will leave this as a third option in hopes to find one pure ceramic that is a non-stick pan alternative. But as of now, these should be moved down to the no-good list.
A non-stick coating can be put onto different core metals. Below I’ll share both the alternative coatings and the metal cores used with them.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled Cast-Iron pans look like any of those modern ceramic coated pans you see with the white, shimmering cooking surface.
Here are 3 different examples of enameled cookware:
- Broil, braise, bake or roast up to 500 degrees F. Saute, simmer or fry on…
- Cast iron is unparalleled in heat retention and even heating. The smooth…
- Lodge Enamel Casserole Dish is the perfect tool to marinate, refrigerate,…
- CAST IRON COOKWARE SET – Basque’s 7-piece cookware set is made of…
- HARD-COAT ENAMEL – Featuring hard-coat enameled interiors and exteriors,…
- VERSATILE COOKING – Cast iron cookware is renowned for its versatility….
- Stunning Kitchen Artwork – This Enameled Braiser looks great especially…
- Unparalleled Cooking Performance – Cast iron is outstanding in heat…
- Versatile Usage – This cast iron braiser can carry out various types of…
You wouldn’t guess it’s cast iron if you’ve never seen enameled cast iron before.
You also have to treat them a bit like ceramic-coated pans. You shouldn’t use metal utensils or abrasive cleaners on them.
And they can chip if you mishandle or even overheat. Another downside is that they are expensive. Le Creuset is one of the more well known brands who make good quality enameled cookware.
If you’re on a glasstop electric stove and want to avoid scraping it or worse with your traditional cast-iron cookware, enameled cookware has a smoother bottom surface that will not scrape the glass, but this doesn’t come without a cost.
Enameled cast-iron pans if chipped will also present toxicity issues. Lead and cadmium can be in them.
The least toxic by far down here on the bad non-sticks list. It’s only here because steel pans are anything but non-stick.
Can you cook flawless scrambled eggs on a steel pan? Can you tell us your secret?
Regardless, when purchasing a steel saucepan, pot or any cookware type, opt for a Nickel free stainless steel pan. This would be something like 21/0 or 18/0, or a 304 or 316Ti steel.
Below is an example of a Nickel Free stainless steel pan that could be a non-stick replacement:
- MIRROR POLISHED & COPPER BAND – This mirror polished copper band set is noble and elegant; cuts a…
- NICKEL FREE HARM FREE – Nickel-bearing stainless steel, being more corrosion-resistant, is commonly…
- NO COATING NO RISK – General non-stick coating cookware releases toxic fumes when cooking. The…
There are other good stainless steel alloys as well. Avoid all the cheaper steels and you’re in good hands with steel cookware.
Of all the PTFE non-stick pan alternatives out there, Ceramic-coated nonsticks are the most popular. They’re also the worst. These degrade just as easily and even faster than PTFE pans.
They have similar low maximum temperature points. And many of these “ceramic-coated” pans use nanoparticles, lead or cadmium. These can go by names like “quasi-ceramic” or “ceramic-titanium”.
There is even less regulation amongst these newer nonstick coating types by the FDA. So we really don’t know what is in some of these ceramic nonstick coatings.
For example, GreenPan’s Thermolon is a ceramic-coated frypan that is supposed to be 100% safe, yet a lawsuit against them revealed that Thermolon’s “proprietary” ceramic coating was made using toxic ingredients including, aluminum oxide, silane, silicon dioxide, titanium dioxide and thermal polymers.
In this review of a study done where scientists measured the release of titanium dioxide particles from non-stick surfaces of quasi-ceramic frying pans, you learn these ceramic-coated nonsticks don’t even have to be overheated in order to release a “considerable migration of both ions and particles, partially in nanoform”
…mechanical degradation studies showed that the surface wear due to scratches and other types of damage occurring during normal use may lead to significant release of titanium-containing particles, a large proportion of them nanosized.Food Packaging Forum
Non-Stick Ceramic Pan Brands (Ceramic-Coated):
All of these are not recommended. Each has a metallic core with a non-stick ceramic coating.
- GreenPan Thermolon
GreenPan is a quasi-ceramic cookware. There aren’t any non-toxic quasi-ceramics that I’ve seen, including this one.
- GreenPan’s Thermolon healthy ceramic nonstick coating is free of PFAS, PFOA, lead, and cadmium, so…
- Metal utensil safe, this collection’s diamond-reinforced coating is incredibly durable
- Tough Hard Anodized Body is scratch-resistant and designed to stand up to daily demands
- Swiss Diamond – Diamond or titanium-infused ceramic coating.
- Tefal Thermospot – PTFE and ceramic-coatings.
- ScanPan – Titanium-infused ceramic-coatings.
Is aluminum cookware safe? No, but there’s a hard anodization process that can be used on aluminum to strengthen it and make it a much safer cookware material.
This process changes the molecular structure of aluminum’s surface. So in a way it’s a coating. But it’s not a coating that’s layered on top of a metallic core like any other non-stick coating. When treated with acid and electricity, its molecules change at the pans surface. The result being a better quality, more scratch-resistant and less toxic aluminum for cookware.
Anodized aluminum is safer than non-anodized, and HARD anodized aluminum is better than anodized. However they can all leach aluminum into your food.
If you were to use aluminum, it would be best if it were the hard anodized aluminum. These are more durable and can fend off scratches more successfully compared to regular anodized aluminum pans.
However, they coat the hard anodized aluminum with PTFE or ceramic non-stick coatings, and none of these would be recommended.
Even hard anodized aluminum can leach, so this one is not on any non-toxic cookware lists. But it could be featured in a least toxic cookware list.
Granite & Stoneware
Granite non-stick pans are not made from granite. And the same goes for stone non-stick pans.
Most of them have PTFE coatings (along with PFOA-free marketing). Others may be a ceramic-coated metal.
There’s nothing granite or stone about these other than their separate appearances.
Each is made with a metallic core, and then has particles infused with the non-stick coating to give it the signature “speckled granite” look for example. Stone pans have that same speckled look, but are lighter in tone to resemble real stones.
When used as a pan’s core or as cookware itself, you can find camping gear made with 100% titanium, but any non-stick pan with a titanium core will be coated with a non-stick coating. Considering none of these are safe, anything with titanium will not be good non-stick alternative.
A Condensed Alternative Non-Stick Pans List
- Cast Iron – Once seasoned. You can also buy pre-seasoned.
- Carbon Steel – once seasoned
- Pure Ceramic – Xtrema cookware used to be featured here.
- Enameled Cast Iron – The best of the worst alternatives
- Stainless Steel – 304, 18/0 (if you have a nickel allergy), or 316Ti are great cookware material for everything (if uncoated), but just not very non-stick.
- Aluminum pans (coated or uncoated) – Anodized & Hard Anodized
- Non-stick copper pans – As great as copper is, any copper nonstick pan will be lined with a dubious nonstick coating or liner. Cooking with a 100% unlined copper pan would leach dangerous levels of copper.
- Titanium – Pans come coated + used as a coating ingredient
- Ceramic non-stick coatings are popular, but not non-toxic.
- Granite coatings
- Stoneware coatings
- Silicone-based coatings – Silicone is usually used with a ceramic or PTFE coating. It can potentially release trace amounts of aluminum, chromium, copper, iron, nickel and zinc.
- Earthenware – As natural as it sounds, clay and other uncoated cookware can be just as dangerous, depending on the chemical makeup of the earth used to make it.
- Soapstone cookware can contain asbestos
Have You Switched Away From Traditional Non-Stick Pans?
If you decide to make the switch to non toxic cookware, this in itself immediately transforms your home with improved air, food quality, and people!
Finding non stick pan alternatives was a prerogative for our household once we learned about the dangers of non-stick pans. There’s a quote about ignorance being a choice in this age of information. I think that’s unfortunately true. Being willfully ignorant is not a valid excuse when you’re suffering a consequence. And many consequences have been tied to PFAS, aluminum and heavy metal ingestion.
Am I missing any non-stick pan alternatives?
Do you know any non-toxic, pure ceramic non-stick pan out there?
The above list I hope shares all best non-stick pan alternatives available.
After you’ve guarded your family from toxic cookware, your home’s air will now be cleaner.
But there ARE still potentially some other unknown toxins from everyday household items lingering in the air.
From indoor air fresheners to shampoo, there are many other toxins to learn about and eliminate from our lives.
Next up: View our next article on this subject of air quality… air purifying plants.
Last update on 2023-06-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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