Pots & Pans:
This is a big one! If you have non-stick toss those toxic suckers out! I am very particular about what I cook with and specific within each company so please read carefully about what I recommend below. I avoid cookware from China, too many potential toxins, too much risk for the kitchen. Lead in cookware, even if it is leech tested, is a no-go in my book. Lead is a neurotoxin that causes permanent brain damage. Cookware should be one of the cleanest places in your home.
I really feel that there isn’t a clear answer on the best cookware. I’ve decided, just like food, rotation is key. Below are some of the cookware pieces I’ve researched and my recommendations if I would use them or not.
Visions Glass Cookware: Recommended
I tested a brand new Visions Glass Cookware set for lead, cadmium and other metals with and XRF a few days ago. The old Visions had heavy metals and I would never use it (and I recommend you stop using it if you have an older Visions cookware set you are using). The old version is about 10 years old. To see the exact set tested click here.
The new Visions cookware is free of lead, cadmium and any other metals. It is made of glass & ceramic material. It can be used to cook on the stove but you would want to avoid sudden temperature changes for chance of breaking. Cooking with glass does make me a tad nervous and there are reports of it shattering when cooking. Most of the reports seem to be on the older version of the cookware.
The cookware in made in France. The lids are made in China.
Pros: Probably the cleanest cookware from a toxns standpoint
Cons: Potential risk of shattering but many do use it successfully
Update: I tested another two pieces. The pots & pans were free of heavy metals. One lid had trace cadmium.
Cast Iron – Finex: ON HOLD (but I am still using to cook currently).
We recently bought a Finex cast iron and LOVE it! It’s made in the USA and seasoned with an organic flax oil. This was the tipping point for me. Lodge, for example, is also made in the USA but they use a soybean oil to season it which is NOT non-gmo. I never bought a Lodge for that reason alone, I can’t cook my organic food in a GMO cast iron.
We are a vegetarian family so cooking in a cast iron is a great way for us to get more iron. We use ours daily but not for every meal.
Finex has a much higher price point than other cast irons but the organic oil is worth it for me. It’s also quite beautiful to look at and has a stainless steel handle that does not get hot. The tip of the handle has a lead free brass knob.
Finex 12 inch cast iron this is the one we use the most often. We also have the 10 inch but the versatility of the 12 inch is worth the extra cost if you are going to only buy one.
***** I recently tested my Finex when I was testing other items I own for lead using an XRF. The pan was negative, the stainless steel handle was negative, but the “lead free brass knob” was in fact not lead free. It had very high levels of lead at 33,900 parts per million. I’ve been in touch with Finex and they are now aware of the issue. I’ve asked for a replacement using lead free materials. They have told me they are investigating it and will get back to me. As I share this with all of you I ask you to please not contact them on this. They are aware, they are figuring it out. Taking time out of their day to respond to many people will not help fix the issue. I will update this as SOON as I get a resolution from them. ******
Pros: This really is an amazing pan. We love cooking on it and it’s a great non-stick replacement
Cons: The lead in the brass handle. It’s probably not leeching but no lead in cookware is safe in my opinion
Finex Cast Iron (brass knob at end discussed above)
Enameled Cast Iron – Le Creuset: ON HOLD UNTIL FURTHER TESTING
Not all Le Creuset is created equal. I’m saying this again in caps – NOT ALL LE CREUSET IS CREATED EQUAL. NOT ALL IS SAFE. I just want to make sure this is really clear. Le Creuset makes two types of cookware. Cast iron and ceramic stoneware. The cast iron is made in France. The stoneware is made in China. The stoneware tests high for lead and cadmium on a regular basis on both the inside and the outside. DO NOT BUY THE STONEWARE. Not all the cast iron is created equal either. There are certain colors to avoid for lead and cadmium. I do not buy red, orange or yellow. The cast iron has tested positive on the outside but not the inside.
How do you tell where it is made? Flip it over and look to see if it is made in France or China. You can not tell by the inside color. All are cream with the exception of the skillets which are a black enamel.
The skillets that have the black internal are not cast iron on the inside, the black is an enamel.
That being said, I have the blue Marseilles color. All of mine have tested negative for lead and cadmium expect one that has 20ppm of lead on the exterior which is newer.
Le Creuset says that their Dune (which is being phased out) and Palm colors are lead and cadmium free.
So what do you buy? Dune or Palm cast iron. Dune is being phased out and is hard to fine. Palm is bright and not my favorite color but I would buy this over any other color.
Update: I also tested 4 new Le Creuset cast iron post. You can see my lead testing post here. The new Le Creuset tested different than my old ones. I’m awaiting further test results before posting more. Le Crueset claims no leeching and that cadmium is only on the exterior however at least two tested positive with small amounts of cadmium on the inside. I have a lot of questions and concerns about their new cookware. I don’t have everything answered at the time of this post and I will update when I do.
Pros: Great to cook with
Cons: New ones testing with cadmium on the inside, you have to take care of these and not use metal spoons of they will scratch which would then cause leeching. I am currently looking into the possibility of aluminum being on the interior enamel and leaching into food.
Stainless Steel: Not for everyday cooking
I use to use stainless steel. I am no longer comfortable cooking with it. When it scratches it can leach nickel and chromium. Look at your stainless steel, is it scratched? Yep, thought so. It is so hard not to scratch it. I’m pretty sure mine scratches just when I touch it. I’m not comfortable knowing that nickel is leaching into my food and into the small bodies of my children and my family. Is nickel leeching that big of a deal? Yes it is and you can read more here.
De Buyer Mineral Element B pan: Not Recommended
I saw this at my local co-op and it looked interesting to me. It’s made in France. I didn’t research it much but decided to buy one to test when I was going my lead testing. The INTERIOR had 131 parts per million of LEAD (+/- 76ppm). The handle had no lead but had 20ppm of cadmium +/- 6. This was both shocking and baffling to me. There is a coating that is suppose to be beeswax on the interior of the pan that you wash away. That could be the part that has lead or could the material of the pan be different than the handle. Even if it did wash away I would want to test again to make sure it actually removed all the lead. Lead on the interior is a HUGE concern.
Pros: None because the con is so big it wipes out everything positive.
Cons: Lead on the interior
Update: I tested a second De Buyer pan and it also had lead on the interior. Similar values as the first one.
Instant Pot: I would not be comfortable with using this in my kitchen
I’m only mentioning this because everyone is Instapot crazy right now. First, it’s made in China. I don’t buy cookware from China. Too many quality control issues. Second, it has a stainless interior and pressure cooking has to potential to leach nickel at a greater rate than shorter stove top cooking. Third, while lead free in the interior, it does contain 1,400 parts per million of LEAD on or near the heating element. Having lead near a heat source is less than ideal. I would never use this in my kitchen.
Pros: people love it for how easy and fast it is to cook their food
Cons: Lead in heating element, nickel leeching
Xtrema: I would not be comfortable with using this in my kitchen
I researched this because I see it mentioned often. First, this is made in China so it’s an immediate strike out for me. However, they are very transparent in their testing results which is very nice. There is LEAD on the INTERIOR of the pan according to them. I didn’t test the pan but wish I did. I was sent third party test results by the company. It doesn’t show an exact amount but a less than amount. They also do leach testing and they pass the very stringent CA Prop 65 warning tests for leaching meaning that it’s not leaching into your food. When I asked for the test results showing the lead levels they responded well it’s going to have lead. Lead is naturally occurring in the soil (eek, doesn’t mean it’s safe) and we passed the CA prop 65 testing. In theory the lead amount could be zero but the less than amount is higher than the less than amount of the leach testing. I’m going to try and have to test one of these sometime soon.
Cons: lead in the cookware – interior and exterior
Clay: Be wary
I haven’t researched clay enough to have an official stance on it; however, you have to be very aware of what you are buying. Clay and ceramic often times have lead. You will want to see lead and other heavy metal testing reports. There is lead free Clay cookware out there. Even if heavy metal free clay does still leach into your food. What you are ingesting is questionable to me. If I ever research this more I will update here. Often times I’ve seen it’s needed mineral but there is no data that supports that claim and when I hear that it is generally from the companies that make such posts.
So what I am using?
After all my testing I’m even more confused than before I started! As I mentioned above I think rotation is key. I am going to incorporate Visions glass cookware after testing one more time. I am going to keep using my Le Crueset that I’ve tested to be free from lead and cadmium on the inside. I’m going to hope that Finex fixes their brass knob and then continue to use cast iron as a staple in our house. Do you have a favorite non-toxic cookware that I missed? If so, please let me know!
Update 1/25/17: I decided to test a few more things. I’ll test another set of Visions to make sure I get the same readings. I’m going to re-test LC in Dune and also get a Palm to test. I will be testing Staab as well as the De Buyer again (a new one). This will probably be in the next week or two – once I get everything in hand.
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