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Nonstick Cookware Controversy: Our Family’s Journey to Natural Cookware

Cookware Controversy and Cancer Our Family’s Journey With Nonstick 1 F

I’ve been reading foodie blogs for close to seven years now. I’ve seen the medium change, grow, entertain certain fads, and inspire.

These blogs have really helped me to analyze what our family eats and learn valuable skills, like making yogurt, making bread, using a whole chicken, and menu planning. I’ve also learned more about the food industry than I ever cared to know.

But as I sat down to write this post, there is one feeling I can’t help shake.

I feel tired.
  • Tired of having my emotional chain jerked by news of something wrong in our food system that is going to kill me.
  • Tired of people guilting me into eating fad diets (because it’s the best/only way!) – especially when they don’t share the drawbacks or consequences to that particular diet.
  • Tired by the constant fear-mongering and uncertainty.
  • Tired by all the conflicting information there is – showing that few issues are really black and white.

About two years ago I hit burn-out with foodie blogs. I unplugged from following all but two blogs, only keeping tabs on Kitchen Stewardship® and one other blog because I appreciated the balanced, practical, and non-judgmental flavors these blogs had. Basically, I had to let myself emotionally heal and return to a place where I could simply enjoy food again.

So why share all this?

I want you to know that this was a hard post for me to write.

I want to share and inform, but not contribute to fear or manipulation. I am coming from a position of wanting to be a blessing and to share my story. Above all, I want to whisper to the overwhelmed reader this one truth:

It’s going to be okay. Perfectionism is impossible. Do the best you can. You’re not a failure of a home keeper.

So with this in mind, shall we dive in?

Non-stick Will Kill You! And Other Facts That Are (Maybe?) True

Ahem, I hope you read that heading with a hint of humor. 😉

Back in 2012, Kitchen Stewardship® ran a Monday Mission on being mindful of your cookware, particularly any nonstick pots and pans. It’s a very interesting article. In a follow-up post, Katie talked about cooking with a nonstick pan while running a high-quality air purifier in her home. It turned fiery red, showing high air contamination. Crazy.

I read about the supposed chemicals that were leached from using damaged nonstick cookware and their cancer-causing connections. I was immediately filled with fear and went on a nonstick witch-hunt in our house.

Background: At the time our family was in a season where we were really struggling with our health – we were battling asthma, severe food allergies, gluten-intolerance, digestive difficulties, and horrid bacterial infections. It was a very dark and hard time. For every ounce that our physical lives were spiraling out of control, I felt compelled to try to “fix” it by being better and more perfect in our living. Sigh.

Although I regret the spirit of fear that I made these changes in, the changes themselves really were beneficial – both to our health and our wallet.

As I prepared to write this post, I revisited the topic of nonstick — spending 12+ hours researching nonstick and what we know about it. For every article that affirms nonstick is toxic and dangerous, there is another article saying it’s perfectly fine. GAAAAHHHH! Why is nothing simple in this world?!

nonstick skillet scratches 2

The Hard, Cold, Universal Facts About Nonstick

I don’t have it in me to list all the health concerns (and arguments) for/against nonstick. I’d much rather stick to the facts that both sides agree on.

There is 100%, universal consensus on these three facts regarding nonstick:

  1. Nonstick pans should never get above 500°F.

This is actually trickier than it sounds. It’s a lot more complicated than never pre-heating a nonstick pan while empty. Good Housekeeping found that a cheap nonstick pan “zoomed to more than 500 degrees in two and a half minutes” – and it even had oil in it.

You also should never, ever cook above medium-high heat (no matter what type of pan you use).

What happens at >500°F isn’t exactly clear (cancerous fumes? toxic chemicals? something else?)… but even the manufacturers themselves agree it’s not good. Whether its emitting cancer-causing fumes is not for me to say; it’s enough for me to know that using nonstick requires intentional monitoring of pan heat. I just don’t have time for that in my life.

Katie here…

I learned when I researched teflon back in 2012 that a chemical that’s in the Teflon, C-8, is super toxic to birds at temps as low as 464ºF and causes death in seconds. Many sources will say that home cooks never heat their pans that high, but anyone who’s ever accidentally preheated a dry pan too long will tell you differently.

The EWG states that a non-stick pan can hit temps as high as 700ºF in as short as 3-5 minutes. There are 15 chemicals released, including two carcinogenic ones, way back at 500ºF. What happens at 600º-700ºF??? (source) 

The fumes that kill birds can cause flu-like symptoms in humans… but no long-term effects are known, say the companies that make Teflon. Aren’t you reassured? *eye roll*

  1. Nonstick pans are NOT meant to last a long time.

This one was actually very hard for me to swallow. I am a big fan of curbing waste, both in the trash can and in the wallet. When I buy something, I expect to use it for years.

Back in 2010, I read a quote by the President of a Cookware Association (who knew those exist?) who was giving his thoughts on nonstick. I wish I could find the original article, but the gist of his quote stuck with me: “Nonstick cookware is not made to last. You’re lucky if you can get it to last 1-3 years with light use. In a kitchen with serious cooking, cookware may need to be replaced as much as every 6 months.” I cringe when I think of how many nonstick pans I have “donated” to local landfills.

Now you may believe in the (true?) conspiracies that Big Companies are out to get your money, so they are intentionally making cheap items that break so you constantly have to rebuy them. Well, okay. Maybe. But I find it extremely hard to put my faith in a cookware product that I will have to replace every few months, especially because…

  1. Nonstick should NEVER be used once it has a scratch.

Well, phooey.

Here’s my story: I used an extremely high-quality 13” nonstick skillet for almost 100% of our daily cooking – everything from sautéing to cooking pancakes to braising meats… it was my kitchen workhorse.

  • I lovingly hand washed it with a cotton cloth — didn’t even use a sponge!
  • I only used wooden, non-scratching utensils.
  • I never stacked pans on top of it (biiiiiiiiiiig no-no with nonstick).

And yet after 3 months – 3 months! – of use, the pan began showing scratches. Plural. So I took it back to Bed Bath and Beyond and they replaced it for free (bless them) because they agreed that 3 months was far too soon for a nonstick pan to bite the dust.

Which was great! Until it happened again… 3 months later.

Which is honestly unacceptable for a top-of-the-line, $$$ pan. Especially since I was following all the “rules” in how I cared for it.

Nonstick Pans Are a Pain - Why You Should Use Cast Iron

Why I Don’t Like Plain Ol’ Cast Iron

At that point, I knew we needed to make a change. Between the scratching, the niggling concern about nonstick safety, and the constant turnover in pan usage, I knew something had to give.

I still wanted something with a stick-resistant factor, so while a stainless steel skillet was an option, it wasn’t a perfect solution.

I’m also not a huge fan of cast iron pans. I know, some of you just gasped in horror. Hear me out on my reasoning:

  • At the time, learning how to season a pan seemed too daunting for me. Keep in mind that cutting apart a whole chicken also seemed too daunting, but I also learned to conquer that fear. KS partner GNOWFLIGNS has awesome tutorials on seasoning cast iron to get you started.
  • As a mom of little ones, I needed the flexibility of letting a dirty pan sit for awhile on the counter. Gross, but true. I didn’t feel comfortable letting food debris sit encrusted on a cast iron pan for days hours.
  • I really like to be able to wash a pan with soap. I know, it sounds silly. But it’s still hard for my mind to wrap around the reality of simply wiping down a pan with a paper towel and calling it “clean.” I probably need to educate myself better and just put on my big girl britches. 😉 But it was enough to keep me from not automatically reaching for a plain cast iron skillet.

So, what do we use? I’m so glad you asked. 🙂

nonstick le creuset large

My Nonstick Solution

America’s Test Kitchen is a wonderful resource that does exactly what their name states: they run hardy tests on kitchen pieces and give amazing recommendations so you get the best bang for your buck.

It’s thanks to them that I discovered Le Creuset – a very high quality line that specializes in cast iron cookware with an enamel covering. Le Creuset (pronounced “Lay Cruise-SAY”) is a reputable French company that has been making cookware for almost 100 years – and they are known for their durability and quality. In fact, Le Creuset pans are known for being passed down as inheritances from one generation to another!

Additionally, the enamel covering allows for (1) fun pan colors, (2) a stick-resistant surface, and (3) the ability to submerge the pan in water and use soap.

Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!

But there’s something you need to know first. Le Creuset is also extremely expensive (found on Amazon). The first time I saw the price of their cookware, I sucked in my breath so hard, my teeth almost fell out.

RELATED: Recipes in a Cast Iron Skillet

2021 Update: My favorite healthy non-stick pan review!

You Expect Me To Pay How Much??

So before you lose your teeth due to sticker shock, consider these options:

  1. I was spending $65+ every three months replacing my “high quality” nonstick pan. Within 2-3 nonstick pan life cycles, I could afford to get a Le Creuset skillet. This gave room for good discussion in our house: my husband and I both share the same philosophy about buying fewer things, but that are of better quality. Especially given that we would break even so quickly this was worth the trade up.
  2. Le Creuset has outlet stores located in 33 states (and growing) across the US. These stores sell the excellent high-quality line at a significant discount. Although this cookware is considered to be “seconds” (meaning, the glaze color is slightly off or there’s a slight imperfection), this in NO WAY impairs the function of the cookware – and it still carries a lifetime guarantee.

Additionally, the outlet store we visited frequently ran 20-30% off coupons. Bottom line? I got a beautiful $350 Dutch Oven for $160 and a $270 braiser/skillet for $135.

Believe me, it was a massive budget pinch to splurge on these items … but we took the long view and saw how this was to our benefit. I have used my Le Creuset braiser almost every day for 5 years – and it hasn’t shown an ounce of wear. There is NO WAY a nonstick pan would have lasted that long.

  1. I could always swallow my silly preferences and just use regular cast iron. A good 12” skillet costs the same as a nonstick pan. The only difference is the lack of enamel coating (which changes how you care for your pan). But it still cooks very well.
  2. America’s Test Kitchen also recommends the Tramontina brand of enameled-cast-iron cookware. It performed marvelously in their tests. While Le Creuset gets first pick, Tramontina wins their award for “Best Value.” And at 1/3 the cost, it’s certainly worth a consideration. You can find Tramontina on sale around Thanksgiving/Christmas or pick it up year round on Amazon.

So Now What?

Phew. I feel like this was a whole lot of information to digest.

If you find yourself standing in a completely nonstick kitchen, please take a deep breath. It might be easy for you to feel like you have failed your family – both health-wise and financially for using nonstick. That is not true. Please don’t feel that way.

The heart beat of Kitchen Stewardship® is to help provide baby steps – small, tangible steps that (hopefully) don’t throw your life into a tailspin to put into practice.

So here are some practical steps you can do:

  1. Inspect your cookware.

How do your pots and pans look? Do you see any scratches? Make a list so you know what is in good condition and what you may need to replace. Remember: once a nonstick pan has just one scratch, you should stop using it (sniff sniff).

  1. Make a list of the pots and pans you reach for the most.

I’m a firm believer in having a minimalist kitchen: keep only what you use; use only what you keep.

In an upcoming post, I will show you what pots and pans have earned the right to stay in my kitchen – but that may look different for you and your family, based on your cooking habits. Stay tuned!

  1. Consider replacing one cookware item.

Refer to the list you made in babystep #2. In my mind, it makes sense to invest the most money on the items used most frequently. So if you make eggs every day on a 9” skillet, consider investing in a good small skillet. If you never use a 9” skillet, consider investing your money on something else. Speaking of eggs, since many are asking…the “part two” to this post is about figuring out eggs in enameled cast iron!

  1. Reframe your thinking.

Try to view your spending as investing – especially if you are getting something that will last a long time. I have a hard time investing my money in something with a short lifespan.

Cookware Controversy and Cancer Our Family’s Journey With Nonstick 1 P

Quick note from Katie: Le Creuset is a great brand of enameled cast iron, but there are others as well where the price tag may differ. Just be sure to check the warranty guarantee so you really can buy cookware to last a lifetime. Personally, I use an Xtrema skillet (ceramic) and like having a skillet that people can use without having to know special care rules like my beloved cast iron. 🙂

What piece of cookware is the workhorse in your kitchen? Do you find it hard to let go of nonstick? Thinking of taking one of the baby steps above? If so, which one? Tell us in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon from which KS will earn a commission if you make a purchase. Your price doesn’t change.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

94 thoughts on “Nonstick Cookware Controversy: Our Family’s Journey to Natural Cookware”

  1. Thank you so much for all of this information. I have been looking for a good cookware set, have been burned (pun intended) but pans not making it through a year. I don’t cook that hard i think. I will definitely be reading more from you.

  2. My mom always says that “only rich people can afford cheap things”. Your research certainly confirmed this! She has quite the assortment of Le Creuset cookware at home and it’s still in excellent condition even after being used regularly for 25+ years. This year for Christmas, my parents bought be the brainer as well as a cast iron skillet and I use both all the time!

  3. Thank you for your research. I have three non stick pans Analon. They are scratched and I worry about that. The Enameled cast iron sounds good but I have arthritis in my hands and can not lift anything very heavy. Is there any other pan that would work in my situation and on a glass top stove. Thanks for any help you can give.

  4. Bed, Bath and Beyond has good prices on Le Creuset, also. Don’t forget to use your coupon! Remember, they will take your 20% off coupon (that came in the mail; or from a magazine) even though it’s expired.
    Staub is another line of enameled cookware like Le Creuset. Many people think they are even better, but I leave that up to the consumer!
    I love cooking in cast iron – it’s all I use. It does get frustrating some times though, even when I follow all the ‘rules’ for how to make and keep a ‘non-stick’ coating on your plain ol’ cast iron. Hasn’t worked for me. Still, I won’t cook on anything else. Nothing TASTES as good as it does when cooked on cast iron.

  5. Oh I am so with you! I agree that nonstick just isn’t worth the fuss or factors and that cast iron is not my cup of tea. I haven’t ventured to enameled cast iron pots and pans but plan to start with a dutch oven soon!

    I had to share that stainless steel pans CAN become nonstick! I heat mine on medium with a good amount of coconut oil – enough to create a thin coating and let that heat up and smoke for about 3 or so minutes. Then I let it cool, discard that oil, and cook per usual. Eggs slide out of the pan like nothing! You’ve got to try that nonstick hack too, if you perhaps need something more lightweight as cast iron pans get heavy! 🙂

  6. I have a perfectly seasoned 6″ cast iron pan that is my egg pan! I can scramble or fry in it, and never worry about sticking (though I love cooking in bacon grease or butter for the flavor).
    I have several other cast iron pans, two that get near daily use, and then my stainless steel pots. I love the colors of the enameled cookware, and might indulge in a piece or two some day.
    Oh, and I do leave food drying and crusting away in my pans quite often. My reasoning? It’s usually been cooked in oil, so I don’t have to worry about seasoning it, and when I need to use it next it’s super easy to use a scraper to get the food bits out, and then a quick rinse before putting it back on the burner keeps me from needing to re-oil the pan every time I use it. Yes, it might sound gross, but it is usually easier to get the dried food out then the fresh stuff, and I don’t leave the old stuff in there for the next meal!

  7. The links you have don’t bring me to a fully enameled pan, like the one you have pictured (enameled on the inside as well). Where can I find one like that?! Searching….. 🙂

    1. You can find Le Creuset anywhere. QVC sometimes has the payment plans; Amazon carries it, but I like Bed Bath and Beyond because their prices were less than anyone else’s AND, you can use your 20% off coupon – so they win for me!

  8. Bethany, I really appreciate this article that was cross-posted from your ditching organic movement article. Your opening comments here really resonated with me. My lifestyle started to transform 8 years ago with my firstborn in a similar way as you described with Michael Pollan’s books, the movies, etc. I have learned so much valuable information that sticks with me today, but I’m burned out too.

    I hit a tipping point about a year and a half ago. I was following Nourishing Traditions-like ways pretty well. Then I felt the pressure to join the Paleo movement. I felt terrible on Paleo, but thought it was because I was doing it wrong or I was just so screwed up that I had to wait it out, though I was not suffering from any health condition. A very bad habit started where I was undereating because I felt defeated by my failure to eat the “right” way. Undereating turned into lack of appetite. Lack of appetite turned into no desire to cook for myself, my family. I gained over 40 pounds in a short amount of time.

    Thankfully, I’m out of that mode thanks to a conscious effort of eating small, frequent meals at first (retraining my body to expect food!!). And most of all, I had to STOP labeling food as good or bad, and start thinking about what sounded good and just eating it!

    Maybe my comment isn’t relative to the article, per se, but your opening paragraph really resonated with me. I, too, decided to unsubscribe from all but a few bloggers (I also kept KS!). Going down rabbit holes on a consistent basis sucked away my energy, my time, and made me lose a lot of common sense, especially when it comes to food. Thanks for putting into words what’s been on my mind for some time.

  9. I have a le creuset crepe maker that I use for pancakes (was the only safe non-stick that I could find). But I still get bits of the blueberry sticking. Any tips for cleaning it off? Since I got my le creuset I won’t buy anything else. I looked at Lodge enameled cast iron but unlike the regular cast iron by Lodge (made in USA) it’s made in China, and I just don’t trust cookware/bakeware made in China.

    1. That is actually not an accurate statement. If you go on Lodge, or any other website, as well as any Cast Iron Cooking blog – they have this discussion all-the-time.
      ALL enameling of pans, etc. in the US must be sent to China for enameling. The Lodge is made right here in the US, and per regulations, just like anyone elses’, it must be sent to China for enameling and then sent back here.
      I think it’s a hideous ‘law’, or regulation, or whatever, but that’s why.

  10. I found this post as a result of doing a google search for info on OrGreenIc Kitchenware. Great article. Insightful comments and feedback that followed. But the comment on OrGreenIc had no follow up response. Any insight into whether or not it really is safe, i.e. a non-toxic, non-stick option? Thanks!

    1. Amy,
      Bethany might be able to ring in – but I do remember that the one time I looked deeply into what OrGreenic was made of, I wasn’t happy with the results. I can’t remember what it was, and perhaps it was only my reticence to believe that something “new” can be safe b/c it hasn’t been tested long enough, but I didn’t pursue asking for a sample for my own safe cookware series. That’s not a very complete response, but it’s something!
      🙂 Katie

  11. One thing to note (which I don’t see in your already-thorough and most excellent write-up) is that Tramontina pans are made from aluminum instead of cast iron. People who are trying to get away from the “bad stuff” in their cookware will want to steer clear of aluminum.

    Thanks for the great info! I use cast iron right now and would love the ease of use of Le Creuset. Maybe for Christmas… 🙂

    1. Huh? A glance at Tramontina’s website will show you that they make several different kinds of pans, including enameled cast iron. They do make aluminum pans, but those are not the only pans they make.

  12. I may have missed this, but where does hard anodized cookware fall on the safety spectrum? I have a set my grandma bought me probably about 10 years ago now. I haven’t used it much since I’ve switched to cast-iron but I still use the sauce pans and big pot frequently. Thanks!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Melissa —

      I’ll just be perfectly honest and upfront and say: I don’t know. I’m leery of any “new” developments in cooking technology, so I wanted to stay away from anodized aluminum. That’s one reason I went with enameled cast iron and stainless steel.

      Is it still in good condition?

  13. For people having problems with eggs and other foods sticking to their cookware: When you cook meats in the same pan you go to with eggs right away, the proteins in meat are left behind and bind with the protein of the eggs and cause them to stick. Use a separate clean pan with whatever oil works and at low temp and eggs generally don’t stick. You can scrape and still have enough protein left to make eggs stick. (I like my eggs over-easy but runny, which requires deft spatula skills.) You can wash and start over which can be effective and you can leave the pan as hot as you dare when washing to minimize heat-loss. Scrambled isn’t a problem since the yolks are broken anyway. Right after cooking a little water, enough to not dry up, will loosen stuck-on egg. I still wan’t to try cast iron, no enamel, in a number of styles of cooking. As far as cooking anything above 500 F, aside from any danger to the pan itself is that nitrates and similar compounds that can occur naturally as well added in foods convert to cancer-causing compounds at higher temps. Do the research, but my college biology department advertised that fact 40 years ago and I have been hearing it for years. Low and slow in a crock, stove-top or pressure cooker or even baked on a dutch oven in the oven work well, especially large volumes. Old but still learning, Rick Simon

  14. May I ask how long you’ve used the enamelware? Because I’ve found they don’t stay non-stop for very long…not even a month, usually. But I’ve not bought super expensive stuff, either.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Kristina – GREAT question. I’ve use the cast iron enamel cookware for ~6 years. It is still as stick-resistant as it was when I purchased it — and quality may play a role here.

      You can learn more about how to cook with your enamelware in this follow up post. (http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2015/04/08/enameled-cast-iron-faq/)

  15. All the links look like skillets without enamel coating inside. Help!

    Is there any info on what the iron from a cast iron pan does chemically to your food? I read somewhere that it is not the kind of iron we should eat, but other places say it’s good for you… Thanks!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Debbie — Not sure which links are giving you hassle. But if you go to the follow up post (http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2015/04/08/enameled-cast-iron-faq/) you can learn a little more. I have a third and final post coming out at the end of the month with specific information about which pots, pans, skillets, etc I use.

      I personally fall into the camp that a cast iron pan is not a detriment to health. 🙂

  16. Omelets! I read your reply to the question about eggs, but omelets are so delicate, and I am a bit of a clod – so not sure if xtra butter and medium heat would do it. Just wondered if anyone makes them on a regular basis without nonstick, and would you share any tricks if you do?

    1. I make them in a tramontina pan or in my cast iron. I use butter, and make sure the sides of the pan are buttered too. I make crepes the same way.

      1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

        Lori – Look for a post next Wednesday with some helpful tips! I have done omelets and crepes in my enameled cast iron.

        Buttering the sides of the pan is key, like Sally said. 🙂

    2. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Lori – Just want to make sure you saw the answer to your question: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2015/04/08/enameled-cast-iron-faq/

    3. Can anyone say ALL CLAD? I have had an All Clad Copper Core skillet for 10 years now and love it. The key to making things in it without sticking is to have it super clean and shiny. I use Bar Keeper’s Friend on it a little before I wash it. You can use another product if you don’t like BKF. If your cook surface is very clean and shiny, use butter or spray, and use a medium heat you should not have a problem with eggs sticking. I think it might be the high quality of All Clad also. It is expensive but I seriously expect to hand this pan down to my daughter. Seriously. I don’t think it will ever wear out.

  17. Hello, I am an “old guy,” both chronologically and “fashioned.” I sometimes see articles like yours and see the benefit of change for the good and sometimes I am the “stick-in-the-mud,” which I think means “don’t try to change me or else I revolt or become broken in spirit.” Anyway I DO have a couple old cast iron skillets and am considering replacing some cooking stuff with thin-walled cast iron or anodized aluminum or stainless steel. I have found I CAN cook an egg in any pan without sticking IF I use oil and temperature properly. Also, keep the egg moving in the pan. There are various theories on cooking and cleaning with cast iron and you can do anything to it and it will forgive you better than most people. Side note: our church labels it senior citizens as “seasoned citizens.” I am a hobby chef and love to experiment. I apologize for not offering more useful info from my experiences, but as with life, marriage and family, everything is a learning experience and should be done with care, respect and love. P>S> I am Beth Knauer’s dad.

  18. Just wondering how you handle the weight of the Le Cruset pans. I love them (especially love the colors) but they are so heavy I only have a couple of stockpots. Would love to get some skillet pans as well, maybe I will ask for some as a housewarming gift when I move in a few weeks.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Caroline – Good question. Look for an upcoming post to address that question. 🙂

    2. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Caroline – just wanted to make sure you got an answer to your question: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2015/04/08/enameled-cast-iron-faq/

  19. Has anyone found a way to clean eggs off of a stainless steal pan? I have tried so many ways and nothing but elbow grease works. One day Le Crueset would be great, but for now, I’d love some ideas to work with my stainless steal omelet pans!

  20. I appreciate the commonsense perspective. Back in colonial days, people ate & drank with pewter, made with lead. There will probably always be something; we just do the best we can. (I also cringed when I saw the price on a beautiful Le Creuset Dutch oven.) 🙂

  21. I’ve always heard that the enameled cast iron pans aren’t nonstick at all, because the surface is covered with glass-like material (enamel) and it doesn’t have nonstick properties. Is it more nonstick than stainless steel?

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Ju — I guess it’s how we define “nonstick.” If you’re looking for something where you can cook an egg without any butter or fat, then only Teflon can meet that answer.

      If you’re looking for the ability to cook an egg, make a crepe, stir fry, etc without the ingredients sticking to the pan, then cast iron or enameled cast iron (with butter or fat) is your answer.

      It’s much much much more forgiving than stainless steel. Especially with eggs.

  22. I have started using the “As seen on TV” Orgreenic cookware and love it. Like the LeCruset, it has an enamel coating but without the heaviness of cast iron. I started with the frying pan they advertise and then got a 9X13 pan, that did it. Decided I would by the whole set on Amazon. I tried buying some imitations but they are not as well made. I still need to buy a covered chicken frying pan but haven’t got around to it. I do have a Lecruset dutch oven that I love but for quick cooking and clean up, you can’t beat the Orgreenic.

  23. I have been using stainless steel for everyday cooking. But don’t have any non-stick cookware. I wanted to know what enamel covering on these cookware is? Has the manufacture tested it to be free of any toxic material / metals such as lead?

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Laila — The enamel is a glass-based material. I can’t speak for other brands, but Le Creuset has stood the test of time.

      You can do more digging here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Creuset

  24. Hi Bethany,

    Thank you for a thought-provoking post. We’ve been in love with enamaled cast iron for awhile, and have both Tramontina and Le Crueset pieces… they’re both fabulous. I was wondering if you could comment further/elaborate on one thing you said in your article? I’m curious what you meant when you said: “You also should never, ever cook above medium-high heat (no matter what type of pan you use).” Thanks!!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Jennifer — great clarification question.

      Cast iron pans retain their heat long after the burner is turned off (which an be a blessing and a curse – lol). Because it is hard to cool down the pan once the temperature is hot, you want to let the pan warm slowly — which, given your collection and experience with cast iron, you probably already know.

      HOWEVER few people realize that nonstick teflon pans AND stainless steel pans really shouldn’t ever be cooked with more than medium-high heat. It won’t damage the stainless steel pans, but it isn’t good cooking form (especially because stuff can burn/stick). If you read the instructions in a teflon pan, it will also recommend not cooking above the medium-high heat setting.

      Did that answer your question?

      1. High heat will damage stainless steel that has a bonded (multi-layered) bottom. Most have aluminum or silicone oil between the layers which will melt at higher temps, damaging the pan, the stove, and can possibly injure you. These pans are great for cooking as like cast iron, they retain heat much longer, even after turning off the burner. They take a little longer to come to boil but I’ve had pots keep boiling after turning off the stove and moving off the heat!

  25. Serene in Singapore

    You wrote, “For every ounce that our physical lives were spiraling out of control, I felt compelled to try to “fix” it by being better and more perfect in our living. Sigh.”

    That was so me! The only reason I am not doing it now is that like you, I suffered a burnout. PLUS whatever results I thought I had with what ***I*** was doing wasn’t working anymore! How’s that for discouragement?!?!

    Anyway, my issue with cast iron is not just the maintenance but the heaviness of the pans/pots! They are just so heavy! How do you manage??? We have been using ScanPan which uses the diamond ceramic coating. But despite costing an arm and a leg here in Singapore, they wear out in a year! So I have been looking for a viable non-stick pan, wok, preferably since we do stir fries daily.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Serene — I hope you are finding joy in your journey now!

      I like the enameled cast iron because of the lower maintenance. But you’re right. They aren’t light! It’s just something I’ve gotten used to.

      I was at a store selling Le Creuset two days ago and they have enameled cast iron woks. 😉

      That is the downside to some of these ceramic-coated aluminum pans. They just don’t seem to last. The enameled cast iron has a MUCH better track record.

      You’ll have to let us know if you try out the wok. 😀

      1. Serene in Singapore

        Bethany, I went to scout out the Le Creuset wok and I nearly fainted. It cost more than US$800!!! So I’ll pass 😛

        1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

          Serene — my GOODNESS. That’s absolutely crazy. No wonder you nearly fainted! I would, too!

          Have you checked out the price on Amazon? A 14″ Le Creuset wok is ~$250 there. Also, a plain cast iron wok (from Lodge) is $50.

          1. Serene in Singapore

            Wow! I should have checked Amazon first! But I needed a new wok desperately and so succumbed to the Scanpan again as I had coupons.

    2. Try using a carbon steel wok. They are light weight and will develop a non stick surface the more you use them. They are inexpensive and last a long time. This is what professional chefs use. You have to lightly season it the first time you use it, you can wash in warm soapy water and even soak a little bit if needed but don’t leave wet too long or it will rust. Completely dry before putting away. I love mine and use it alot!

  26. HI! Have you read at all on the Hard Anodized Nonstick pans? My mom bought me two skillets, but I’m still wondering if they are truly safe or not. Any thoughts? Thank you for your article!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Jesse — good question. The answer depends on who you ask. The rules of no cooking over 500*F and discontinuing use after scratches still apply… which is enough to send me looking for other alternatives.

  27. Oh! I forgot to say, thanks for the great article! I agree that it’s easy to get over-concerned about all the bad news about risks in our lives. This is a nice balanced presentation of the facts.

  28. We have two sizes of plain cast iron skillet, four sizes of stainless steel saucepans, and a Tramontina stainless steel soup/pasta pot. The Tramontina pot is great quality and has some nice features (pasta strainer that attaches to the top; steamer basket that can be used to cook veggies with the steam from boiling other food) and was well worth the price. We no longer miss non-stick now that we’re used to these pots.

    To remove stuck-on food from cast iron, use coffee grounds! They are wonderfully abrasive, don’t un-season the pan, and don’t leave lingering flavor if you rinse well. Dry with a dark-colored towel. This method works even if you leave the crusty pan sitting for days, even if you dump wet coffee grounds into it and let them sit.

    To remove rust from cast iron, if coffee grounds aren’t enough, use steel wool. Then you’ll need to re-season the pan.

    To remove stuck-on food from stainless steel, if soaking in soapy water doesn’t loosen it enough, use baking soda. For really horrible burned food, cover with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for at least 15 minutes, then scrub with a really wet cloth.

    The only non-stick pan we still have is a mini-muffin tin, which has held up well but is beginning to look scratched. What material is good for muffin tins?? We have silicone ones for big muffins, but we don’t like the floppiness, and the muffins often burn on the bottom.

    1. ‘Becca,
      I got a stainless steel muffin tin a year or so ago to replace my nonstick, and I’ve been very happy with it. I have to try coffee grounds on my second cast iron – I’ve needed to steel woo/reseason for 3 years and never get around to it!! But maybe if I can get the rust off with coffee I won’t have to reseason. That would rock my world! 🙂 Katie

      1. I use aluminum. Bakes great. only problem is you have to be really careful not to scratch it but if you use wood or silicone spatulas you’re fine. also, if you line with non-bleached muffin liners or parchment paper.

  29. We’ve swapped our “non-stick” with a mixture of stainless steel and cast iron. It is a lot of work though, keeping the cast iron seasoned – and keeping food from sticking on the stainless cookware.

    Great food for thought! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  30. Hi Bethany! What a great post….I learned so much! This past Christmas, my mother-in-law bought me a Crofton braiser (I think it’s from Aldi?) but I haven’t used it much. I want to use it more so I’ll be watching for future posts for inspiration. Sometimes I feel like that *old dog* who can’t learn new tricks….I want to learn them but change is hard.

    As for the old Pyrex, come visit me. I have quite the collection! 😉

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Holly — Ooooo. I love old pyrex!

      I use my braiser as a 13 inch skillet. Shhhh – don’t tell the cooking professionals. 😉

    2. Is the Crofton brand of enameled braiser or dutch oven okay, then? It’s going on sale again. Thanks!

  31. I don’t want to be THAT commenter, but…I’m fairly sure the name is pronounced ‘luh crew-SAY’. ‘Lay’ is how you say ‘les’ in French (like Les Mis!). ‘Luh’ is a sound that I don’t think we have in English really. It doesn’t rhyme exactly with ‘duh’. I remember my French teacher making us practice it over and over until we had the sound right!

    Anyway, we’ve had Le Creuset for many years and also love it. I used to work at a very high end kitchen store and began to love it then. We have had some issues with staining on ours, but it doesn’t change the performance or anything. There are more and more enameled cast irons on the market, so it’ll be interesting to see how they compare.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Emily – No worries! I studied linguistics in college and I am humble enough to admit that I’m not proficient in French! 🙂 My part of Ohio tends to blur the vowel distinction between “luh” and “lay” (dropping the tongue), so I’m going to bet the fault is on my end for pronouncing it as an Ohioan, not as French. 🙂

      Regarding the staining — you can use bar keepers friend (or greener, friendlier alternatives) to remove the staining. Though I prefer to look at the slight discoloration as a cooking history reminding me that I’m cooking for my family. Like smelling an old book, if you will…

      1. Bethany, I hope you don’t mind me asking… When Le Creuset pot gets stained this way, sometimes the enamel becomes rough as well. At least that is what I read on some reviews. My question is, does that affect performance, or quality of food cooked in a pot like that? I am interested in buying a Le Creuset Dutch oven for myself, but want to make sure they really last.

    2. Angela Vincent

      Hehe, loving the discussion on the pronunciation of Le Creuset! It’s “luh” (but keep it short) “CRUH” (longer….)zay” . No “crew” sound in there!
      With love and thanks for nudging me closer to getting rid of my non-stick.

  32. Great post! Loved the breakdown of your reasoning.
    I am already aware of Le Creuset but I hadn’t thought of getting a braiser / skillet like the one in your picture (I always thought the black ones would be more useful).
    Thanks for the wishlist inspiration 🙂

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Joke – Glad to provide some inspiration! I have really been impressed by the versatility of the braiser.

  33. I received a Lodge enameled dutch oven for a present. I hadn’t had it long when I majorly dinged it with a knife (trying to break apart frozen squash-not a good idea). I haven’t used it since because I have read that it isn’t safe. Also, I didn’t always wash it immediately and it was showing signs of rust. And I didn’t know how to clean the stuck on food without damaging the finish. Am I a hopeless cause or should I buy some more enameled cast iron? 🙂 More specifically, do you know how to address those problems? Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Kristie – Where was your pot rusting? On the rim? Where the enamel was? I would definitely contact Lodge and ask them about it. I went perusing online and found this from Le Creuset. It was addressing the question about a chip in the cookware: “If the chip is on the outside of the pot, it is still safe to use. Coat the chipped spot with oil to keep moisture out. However, if the chip is on the inside, we recommend sending the piece to be evaluated. If we determine the chip to result from a workmanship error, we will replace the piece free of cost; if it is the result of misuse, we will offer you a new piece at a discounted price.” Don’t know if that applies to you or not.

      To remove tough food that is stuck on, I let the spot sit with warm water for a few minutes. Then I use a sponge to work on the spot. Usually it comes right off with a warm soak, though.

      I’m wondering if you just got a bad piece? Interesting.

  34. Really nice breakdown on these pans. Thank you! I’ve had a couple of the “green” versions of non-stick pans and they’ve been ok for cooking but I still sort of wonder what I’m going to be told about them one day. I would just use my cast iron which I love (and use soap and water on every single time like my mama taught me and it’s absolutely fine after 25+ years! Wash, dry, place on a warm burner to dry completely and rub with a teeny drop of oil, put away – it will wait overnight for you to wash but don’t soak it or it will rust) but it makes my husband crazy to wash – he likes to soak things. I’ll definitely try the enameled cast iron after my latest skillet dies. Sounds like a good compromise!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Marcella – thank you for your kind words. 🙂 I hear you about some of these newfangled pots and pans. And I giggled a little … I think your husband and I share the same philosophy for cleaning pots. 😀

  35. Breath of fresh air, Bethany! (Katie is, too. 🙂 My grandmother had a lovely set of Le Creuset saucepans, and when they downsized I had no idea how wonderful that set was or I would have asked for it! (She was onto something way back when.) I wonder now who did get them? We have pretty much all stainless in the kitchen, which must be sort of a safer mid-ground but not the absolute best due to the nickel, etc. used in it. I will now keep my eye out for Le Creuset or Tramontina at estate sales and the like. Have also wondered about the new generation of aluminum ceramic-coated pans such as GreenGourmet and Themolon. America’s Test Kitchen found that the “non stick” property diminished over time…but has anyone here tried these or know much abut them?

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Marguerite — thank you SO much for that kind compliment. It really means a lot. 🙂

      That’s so neat to hear about your grandmother’s Le Creuset set! I have to ask… do you remember what color it was? I always love finding old Pyrex and Le Creuset pieces. 🙂

      I have some stainless steel pieces that I enjoy using. There will always be things that make our cookware imperfect; I guess the trick is finding something that agrees with our philosophy… and our wallet! I’ve not used the new GreenGourmet and Themolon pans. I read some America’s Test Kitchen reviews and wasn’t terribly impressed with them. Plus, I had friends who said they chipped easily. But they might be the perfect option for some!

    2. I inheirited a set of Orgreenic – the super hard, super durable ceramic coated cookware fry pans. I believe that they were 2 for the price of one. I never saw the type of stick resistance shown on the YouTube commercials. After 6 months of occasional careful non metal utensil use, there were enough scratches to prompt me to buy more pans. I abandoned cooking on aluminium years ago.
      I purchased a Curtis Stone nostick, metal utensil safe 14 inch frypan. Two months later I made the best filette mingnon steak ever on high heat with no burns, no scratches. I use a JennAire downdraft grill range which is a stove so hot that I set it on fire the first 3 times that I used it. So far everything wipes clean cold or hot. dried on food peels off with ease. testing for scratches with metal forks etc showed no scratches. I’ll probably invest in a set at some point.

  36. Debra Schramm

    Thank you so so much for this information and inspiration to finally replace my nonstick kitchen. I have a very expensive set of Pampered Chef nonstick cookware that I’ve used for too many years. Because of the cost I keep talking myself out of replacing it. I’m making a list of my pan sizes today and am going to start replacing them one at a time. I have 3 pieces of regular cast iron that were my mother-in-laws but because of the care factor I never use them. Right now they are sitting in my cabinet with rust on them. I do have one piece on enameled cookware that I got several years ago because it was available for fabulous price. I love cooking in it but notices that the enamel has chipped off along the top edge. The brand is not either of the two you listed. Have you had this issue with your enameled cookware?

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Debra – I tend to think in linear thoughts, so don’t be overwhelmed by my bullet list. Just want to make sure I answer everything!

      1. Try contacting a Pampered Chef representative to see if your pans are covered under warranty. A friend of mine said that she was able to get hers replaced for free. Not sure if this will apply to you, but it’s worth a try! They are certainly nice pans. We were given one as a wedding gift and it was the only non-stick pan to last longer than a year in our house!

      2. You might want to google how to restore your rusted cast iron pans. They may still have value to them?

      3. I have not had issue with my enamel chipping off along the top edge. Some of the more inexpensive enamels may chip more easily. But good news: under that enamel is just plain ol’ cast iron. You ought to be okay to continue using it — especially if it is on a lip where food doesn’t necessarily come in contact (my thought being, in case other things chip off).

      1. You can scrub the rest off a cast iron pan and re-season it, it just depends on how badly it is rusted and if the rust has eaten through the pan. Pretty sure the LODGE website has instructions on how to do this.

  37. Can you use metal utensils on enamel, or are you stuck with using the same plastics necessary for nonstick? I’ve been fascinated with Le Crueset for a while, but I hate having to specialize usage of utensils, and I already use a metal spatula with cast iron (but I can’t seem to fry eggs very well on cast iron).

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Rose – EXCELLENT question. Look for a post coming (soon) that answers this question. Short answer: you *can* use metal on your enamel pots, but it will cause silvery scratches in your cast iron. According to the folks at the Le Crueset store, this is not a problem. Mostly cosmetic (but I cringe at doing something like that to such expensive pots!).

      I compromise by using a flexible silicone spatula — I prefer those GREATLY over the nylon utensils. And then we use wood or bamboo for everything else. I’ve come to really enjoy my wood utensils quite a bit. I use either a wood spatula or a silicone spatula.

      1. I use the LeCruset silicone spatulas. They seem to last a lot a longer than ‘normal’ wood or metal ones. You can pop the silicone part off to wash in the dishwasher if you want and then hand wash the wood handle but I just hand wash the whole thing. Every once in a while I take the silicone part off and let it soak if it’s got something like dried egg on it.

  38. Hey Bethany, I can definitely relate. After so many years of reading real food blogs I am just confused. I don’t know what’s what, but all I can do is buy what I hope is quality food and cook mostly from scratch. I tried to follow Sally Fallon’s cookbook but it got to be too much & I burned out so I had to take a step back. I went thru the same thing with cookware except mine were aluminum. I still have some but always use parchment paper on them 1st. Couldn’t throw everything out & start over. I do have a Le Creuset dutch oven but everything else is stainless steel. If you do another post on what’s wrong with stainless steel I don’t think I can read it.(lol)

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Oh, Linda. I wish we could share a cup of tea — and swap stories. I think we would have much to share about (and much in common).

      We still have non-stick cookie sheets that I line with parchment paper because it’s not something we use all that often. It’s a compromise I’m okay with. I have some stainless steel pots that I use as well. Good news! There’s not (too) much wrong with stainless steel. (That was meant to make you laugh. Did it work?)

      I spent many years trying to find make sure I was doing the “best” of everything to protect my life and health (i.e. – if there was anything wrong with something, then don’t use it! AH!). I’m learning the hard beauty of not achieving perfection and not doing the “best.” Sometimes “better” is absolutely fine. And sometimes “good enough” is good enough. Ah, the rocky road of balance…

  39. I use not stick and in fact just received a couple new high quality ones for Christmas this year. This has been on my mind, I just wasn’t sure of my alternatives. I’ve also tried cast iron and I wasn’t fond of it. I can see using the enamel pan for some of my cooking (browning/cooking meat) but what do you do for eggs? I seem to be frying or scrambling eggs every morning for one family member or another. I can’t imagine anything other than my non stick pans!

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Christy – First, congrats on the Christmas gift! What a blessing! There is definitely a longevity difference in higher quality nonstick pans, so hopefully they will last longer for you.

      GREAT question about the eggs. Look for an upcoming post (soon!) with information on how to cook/scramble eggs in enamel cast iron. We fry and scramble eggs every day in an enameled cast iron pan. The secret is a generous dose of butter or oil and medium heat. It took a little getting used to, but now I can scramble eggs without any residue in the pan.

      Hope that helps. 😉

    2. That was my biggest concern switching to just plain cast iron pan. Eggs! I said I would never use cast iron if I can’t cook eggs without sticking. After a year+ of using cast iron pans and seasoning it often, I can now cook eggs on it as easy as I did on nonstick pans. And I don’t have to use too much butter either! There’s hope. 🙂

  40. Thanks for posting this. The comment about perfectionism brought tears to my eyes. With all the food info available the quest to “do well” can be endless and overwhelming. Sometimes I just have to stop and acknowledge God’s awesome ability to guide and guard.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Sally – I’m humbled that my post meant that much to you. I clearly remember the day when I recognized that I was holding onto life so tightly because I thought my perfectionism could save me. I’m thankful for God’s grace.

      1. Annette Robertson

        Me too, Sally and Bethany. I have become so weary of all the conflicting and ‘new’ information. I, too, had to realize that I needed to stop fretting, stop being blown about by every new finding, use my head to do the best I can, and ultimately trust God. Our times are in His hands anyway so I think I’ll make a bigger effort to lean on Him and live whatever time I have more freely and fully.

    1. Bethany Wright (Contributing Writer)

      Lannie – I am referring to the teflon-type coated nonstick. The new ceramic-on-aluminum type are their own animal. 🙂

      1. Paula Bilderback

        So what does that mean, “their own animal”? I’ve read the ceramic “Greenpan” was safe. It states “Thermolon™
        Our ceramic non-stick coating is 100% free from PFAS, PFOA, cadmium and lead.

        Please tell me how Kitchen Stewardship rates this one.

        Thank you!
        Paula B

        1. Nancy Morkert

          I have a set of smoky glass/pyrex cookware, received as a gift nearly 30 years ago. What are your thoughts about that?

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