Clean Cookware Part 2: Safe Non-Toxic Bakeware
This is part two of my clean cookware series. Also visit Clean Cookware Part 1: Safe Pots and Pans. If you’ve already read part one, part two introduces some new information but also some overlap.
A less obvious part of cleaning up your diet involves careful selection of all of the surfaces that come in contact with your food. If your goal is overall health, this is a step to reduce toxins. Cleaning out your kitchen is a one time job that can have a long term impact. Today’s topic:
Safe Non-Toxic Bakeware
Now that you have a handy pinnable guide as to what to cook with, let’s talk about why.
Like most of my “Clean Eating Notes,” the following information about safe bakeware is common knowledge obtainable with a basic Google search, so therefore I don’t provide sources. Links to more in-depth articles containing citations may be provided for your convenience.
Glass – Personally, glass is my favorite option. There is an inexpensive glass bake dish for everything. It’s versatile, it’s dishwasher safe, it’s non-toxic with no leaching, and it’s relatively hard to scratch in comparison to metal. The biggest concern with glass is the very rare occurrence of shattering. A small percent of people have experienced issues with glass cookware/bakeware exploding during use. The most common cause of this is switching from a very hot to a very cold environment, or vise versa, although some people have reported the breakage during use for not apparent reason. I use glass bake dishes very often have never experienced this, and to me this small risk is not a big enough threat to stop using glass.
High Quality Ceramic – This category includes CorningWare. High quality ceramic pans are perfectly safe as long as they are not chipped and not marked “For Decoration Only” or “Not For Food” (meaning the piece is probably glazed with lead and/or cadmium). Once ceramic is chipped or the glaze is warn down or heavily scratched, you should discontinue use. Using ceramic under these circumstances may allow lead or other substances to leach through and get into your get into your food. The best case is to use ceramic with non-metal utensils. I love ceramic and use it often. A casserole just isn’t the same without a ceramic casserole dish.
High Quality Cast Iron Enameled – High quality cast iron enameled pans are also perfectly safe. The enamel on the cast iron makes it non-reactive, which can be preferable for acidic foods, like tomatoes. Some people also find it easier to clean than traditional cast iron. The downfall is mostly the price. A new Le Creuset piece can run anywhere from $75-$350 for one piece! If you decide to purchase cheaper piece or a less well-known brand, be sure the glaze is marketed as “Lead-Free.”
Traditional Cast Iron – Cast iron lasts forever, goes from stove top to oven with ease, heats evenly, and won’t hurt your food. Iron is one of the few things most people can benefit from as it transfers into food. Unless you have an excess of iron in your blood (the average person does not), have no fear of cooking with these heirloom pans. Some people find cast iron pans easier to clean, as they just need a quick rinse, wipe, and season (no washing!). These pans are also unique in that they get better with age and use – a used pan will most likely have a smoother surface, preventing foods from sticking. The smoother the surface, the less oil that is needed for cooking, yet another benefit of cast iron.
Stoneware – Stone. How much more natural could you possibly get? Actually, stoneware is a type of pottery, made of clay, that has been fired at very high temperatures to produce a chip-resistant and non-porous material. Stoneware is great because it heats evenly, cleans nicely, and doesn’t leave heavy metals in your food. So, what have we learned about buying pans/dishes that are coated? If you purchase cheaper piece or a less well-known brand, be sure the glaze is marketed as “Lead-Free” and the piece should not be marked “for decoration only.” Caring for stoneware can vary greatly – some pieces like pizza stones must be pre-heated for up to 45 minutes before use, while others claim to go from freezer to oven. Some stoneware can also be very fragile and require extra caution to prevent cracking. The biggest downfall with stoneware is that it can be very pricey.
Next Best Choices:
Silicone – The research on silicone is very limited since it hasn’t been around that long. As a matter of fact, my research turned up a lot of information and opinions but very few studies or citations to support the claims. Personally, I have few reservations about using high quality food-grade silicone on occasion. However, silicone bakeware that is not high quality may contain fillers and should be avoided. A good indicator of quality is the heat resistance. Good quality silicone will be labeled as heat resistant to at 450 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Buying from trusted brands such as Kitchen Aid, Wilton, Oneida, and Le Cruset also seems far less risky than getting the bargain silicone you can find at the dollar store. If you’re using silicone for baking and you notice an odor or smoke, it’s obviously a good indicator that you should stop using it, at least for the function which caused the odor/smoke. So then what makes silicone great? As far as we know, it’s non-reactive. Cook whatever you want in it, with no leaching! It’s also somewhat non-stick in the sense that you can peel it off since it’s so flexible. That means you can cook with less butter and oil. Silicone transfers from cold to hot (and vise versa) with ease. And finally, we don’t have any data to say it’s not safe (compared to many known health risks of plastic and nylon).
Aluminum Lined with Unbleached Parchment Paper – For many years aluminum cookware was associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, many recent studies have found that aluminum and Alzheimer’s have no link. Just because it may not cause Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean cooking with aluminum is 100% safe though. Aluminum is highly reactive with acidic foods and other substances such as baking soda, which causes the metal to leach into food. This is why it’s important to use unbleached parchment paper or silicone baking mats or cupcake liners to prevent the transference into food.
High Quality Stainless Steel – High quality stainless steel is relatively safe. Stainless steel is an alloy of different metals, so the higher the grade of stainless steel you buy, the better the quality of metals. That said, small amounts of metals will leach into food, especially acidic food, but the better quality of stainless steel you use the fewer highly-undesirable metals will be leached (namely nickel). Tri-ply 18/10 is the best stainless steel you can buy; it is used in many professional kitchens. Stainless steel moves down on the list if it gets beat up from frequently using metal utensils, abrasive cleaners, or steel wool for cleaning. When stainless steel gets scratched, it may expose the copper or aluminum core in which case you would want to cover it with unbleached parchment paper. Stainless isn’t always ideal for baking as it doesn’t heat uniformly and it can extend the cooking time.
Teflon – Teflon has been associated with a plethora of health risks. The chemical PFOA has been blamed for most of the problems, including cancer, flu-like symptoms, small birth weight & size in babies, immune system issues, and thyroid issues just to name a few. The toxins emitted by the pans at high temperatures easily reachable on a stove top are enough to kill a bird. If you use pans with a non-stick coating, try to buy PFOA free. Dupont, the makers of Teflon, claims that PFOA is destroyed in the process of making the PTFE non-stick coating, but some studies show PFOA may still be present in small amounts. Do not use metal utensils on a Teflon pan. Throw out any scratched or chipped Teflon pans. Do not use abrasive cleaners on Teflon pans. Do not put Teflon pans in the dishwasher. Finally, don’t leave Teflon pans on the hot stove unattended. You can find out more about the link between PFOA and cancer here and also here.
Aluminum – See above. It’s best to avoid baking with aluminum unless you have the option to line with unbleached parchment paper or silicone.
Still wondering what cookware to choose? Here are some of my suggestions and favorites.
Glass – Glass is my number one choice for bakeware. I love Pyrex because it’s inexpensive, dependable, freezable, dishwasher-safe, the lids are BPA free, and it’s easy to clean.
- Suggested set: Pyrex19-Piece Glass Bakeware Set $55.76 on Amazon
Ceramic – Ceramic is perfect for casseroles. CorningWare is always a great choice!
Cast Iron Enameled – An enameled cast iron Braiser will probably be my next investment. If you currently use cast iron enameled, let me know how you like it!
- Suggested affordable pieces: Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven $64.00 on Amazon or Lodge Color Enameled Cast Iron Covered Casserole $53.99 on Amazon
- Suggested high-end piece: Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Round Braiser, 3-1/2-Quart $249.95 on Amazon
- Suggested high-end set : Le Creuset Signature Enameled Cast-Iron 6-Piece Cookware Set $599.95 on Amazon
Traditional Cast Iron – I have a mixture of Lodge brand and old pieces I’ve picked up at thrift stores and rummage sales. To get you started, I would suggest a basic 12″ skillet or set. These are very versatile, you can bake anything from cornbread to steaks in cast iron.
- Suggested piece: Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Red Silicone Hot Handle Holder, 12-Inch $23.99 on
- Suggested set: Lodge 5-Piece Cast Iron Cookware Set, Black $65.00 on Amazon
Stoneware – I have yet to purchase stoneware. I’m looking to get some cookie sheets soon though. If you currently use stoneware, leave a comment with your thoughts about it.
- Suggested piece: Stoneware Cookie Sheet $65.00 on Amazon
Silicone – Silicone bread pans and cupcake liners really come in handy.
Aluminum Lined with Unbleached Parchment Paper – Aluminum is the choice pan for many bakers. Lined with unbleached parchment paper, you can avoid metal leaching, cookies come right off, and cleanup is a breeze.
- Suggested pieces: Nordic Ware Aluminum Baker’s Half Sheet $10.97 on Amazon and If You Care FSC Certified Parchment Baking Paper, 70 sq ft $5.29 on Amazon
Stainless Steel – If you’re a pro at baking with stainless steel cookie sheets, leave your tips in the comments below!
- Suggested piece: Norpro Stainless Steel Cookie Sheet $16.74 on Amazon