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With increased reporting on the potential health risks of using Teflon, many are looking to other alternative non-stick coatings. The common consensus is that Teflon is linked to various complications such as cancer or unwanted liver tissue damage.
Maybe you’re wondering about the authenticity of these claims, and not sure of how dangerous Teflon really is. In this article, we aim to debunk every myth on the dangers of Teflon, and bring to you the unbiased truth of the risks associated.
Lastly, we’ll present you with a list of best non-stick pans without Teflon, along with tips on how to pick the right one for yourself.
If you’re looking for the absolute best non-stick pan without Teflon, we recommend the Copper Chef 10” pan as the all-around number one. It even comes with a lid!
For a more value-friendly option though, look no further than the GreenLife, as it offers fantastic value for its price. Do note that it is not induction-compatible, and is only oven-safe to a maximum of 350°F. If either of these matter to you, consider looking into the Blue Diamond instead.
For a US-assembled option, the Tramontina Gourmet Ceramica Deluxe is the only quality one that we have found. Even then, it seems to suffer from some quality issues. Common ones include low performance of the non-stick coating and scratch-prone interior. Unless you’re strong about this one, we recommend picking the others.
Table of Contents
Is Teflon Actually Unsafe?
The short answer is, not really. As long as you’re using it in regular home kitchen conditions and not employing high-heat cooking techniques like searing, it is generally safe. To explain it all though, we would have to look into what actually makes Teflon unsafe.
Teflon is actually the name given to the brand of non-stick coating made from polytetrafluoroethylene, or commonly known as PTFE. This compound itself is safe, as it is inert. This means it does not react with other chemicals, such as the food you’re cooking it on. So what makes it dangerous?
The initial concerns were with another component – perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. This component was suspected to be carcinogenic – cancer-inducing – and was actually used in the manufacturing of Teflon up until 2013. Nowadays, Teflon is PFOA-free and any risks associated with PFOA do not exist in Teflon non-stick coating anymore.
But after the PFOA fiasco, it turns out PTFE isn’t completely harmless by itself as well. The concerns come with exposing PTFE to high heat. When this happens, the coating starts to degrades from 500°F, and breaks down at around 650°F. That is actually surprisingly low, considering many high-heat cooking methods go beyond that.
When that happens, fumes may be released into the air. Overexposure to these fumes may lead to polymer fume fever, or what is commonly referred to as Teflon flu. Common symptoms include chills, headache, and body aches. However, the condition usually resolves by itself within 12-48 hours. The dangers of overheating is actually where the risk of using Teflon lies. It has nothing to do with PFOA, at least not in today’s world.
So after that explanation, the conclusion is this: Teflon is generally safe if you never cook on high heat. If you do though, it is considered unsafe for your use cases and you should probably look elsewhere for a safer solution.
The Best Non-Stick Pan Materials
So if you do high-heat cooking, does that mean you’re doomed to not being able to use non-stick coating on your pans? Luckily for you, alternatives to Teflon do exist out there.
If you’re looking for the next best thing to Teflon, most will agree that ceramic coating comes very close. Some popular brands of ceramic coating include Thermolon and Greblon. All of these offer a non-stick experience free of PTFE and PFOA. Now is the appropriate time to bring up that, ceramic-coated cookware is different from ceramic cookware! This is a common misconception that many get mixed up on. Ceramic-coated cookware is usually made of another material like aluminum, then has layers of ceramic applied on top of the interior surface.
Now back to the topic. To these ceramic coating brands, the mission they set out is not only to replace Teflon as a safer alternative, but to outright beat them in performance as well. Those who have had experience with these ceramic coating solutions will usually either love, or hate them. In our experience, it generally performs at least as well as Teflon, and cuts out the worry of overheating altogether.
Unfortunately though, as far as coatings go, ceramic is the only commercial solution right now. To look beyond, we would have to consider different cookware materials that possess some sort of natural non-stick properties in them.
What other options?
The material usually given this title is stainless steel. Having finer pores compared to other metals such as carbon steel or iron, stainless steel is able to provide non-stick cooking with just a little oil. Pans made of the material will not be as impressive as Teflon-coated ones, but a good alternative nonetheless.
Another option would be enameled cast iron. Even though its bare counterpart needs seasoning to be non-stick, enameled versions of it do not. Having a coating of enamel, cookware pieces also don’t rust. One thing to note if you’re coming from Teflon-coated aluminum pans, is that cast iron pieces tend to get heavy. If you’re interested, check out the list of the best enameled cast iron pans.
Even though there are other materials out there that will provide you with non-stick properties, like carbon steel or bare cast iron, these require specialized care and maintenance to bring out the non-stick in them, i.e. seasoning. You may opt for those if you’ve had experience, but most people are simply looking to replace their Teflon-coated pieces with quick and easy solutions that do not require any change in their care habits. We understand that, and recommend going for ceramic-coated or stainless steel cookware instead, in those cases.
How Much Safer Is Ceramic Than Teflon?
You might have seen some reporting of ceramic having health risks too (really, what is safe anymore?), but they’re actually perfectly safe to use in the kitchen. Let’s see why.
For starters, the one reason that Teflon is dangerous for – its potential to release toxic fumes when overheated – is entirely non-existent here. Ceramic is a highly stable material, and only melts, or breaks down at over 3000°F. Try reaching that temperature with your home stove!
So then, it doesn’t have any concerns associated with heat or temperature, what’s the risk that some media are reporting about?
The main issue with ceramic, according to most reports on its risks, is lead poisoning. While it is true that ceramicware poses some risks of lead poisoning, it is not a concern for a cook shopping for a ceramic-coated pan. Let us explain why.
In the United States at least, the Food and Drug Administration requires all ceramic surfaces used for cookware to only contain a maximum of 3ppm of leachable lead. This means that if you’re getting your ceramic-coated pan from a reputable manufacturer from the United States, or even one that is licensed to sell in the country, you can rest assured that there would not be lead poisoning coming from these cookware pieces.
One downside is, as ceramic-coated cookware has only been around in the market for a relatively short amount of time, they have not really stood the test of time. This means that they have not been thoroughly studied as to what effects they might have over the long term. That being said, as far as the world knows, it remains one of the best healthy non-toxic non-stick materials on the market right now.
The Best Non-Stick Pans – No Teflon
Read through the list to find out our recommendations for some of the best non-stick cookware without Teflon. Many of these are also straight up the best ceramic non-stick pans you can find:
If you’re looking for the best all-around pan, this one has our recommendation. This also makes it the best non-stick pan without Teflon, dishwasher-safe, if that’s important to you.
Made of aluminum and coated with ceramic, the construction is durable and would withstand daily use. The CeramiTech coating is also five layers thick on top of the aluminum surface, so the performance and longevity are both excellent.
The pan is fitted with an induction plate on the bottom, and is suitable for use on induction cooktops. It also comes with a lid that itself is oven-safe for up to 500°F, so it provides more versatility in the cooking styles it is able to perform, e.g. steaming.
- 5-layer ceramic coating is durable
- Induction plate built-in for fast heating and even heat distribution
- Includes a tempered glass lid that is oven-safe for up to 500°F
- Oven-safe for up to 850°F
- Works on induction stove tops
- Not as thick on the bottom, making it vulnerable to warping issues
GreenPan is often touted as one of the best non-stick cookware brands without Teflon, putting out the best non toxic cookware. This one is no exception, and easily earns the spot for our runner-up. The only reason it did not top our list is because of the lack of a few features e.g. induction compatibility and not being dishwasher-safe.
Other than that though, it really is a great, all-around pan.
Made of hard-anodized aluminum, the interior of the pan is scratch-resistant and able to stand some abuse. The stainless steel handle is riveted onto the pan, and has an ergonomic shape that makes holding it very comfortable.
What can I say, it looks good and modern too!
- Extra durable and scratch-resistant due to hard-anodized aluminum construction
- Tough and thick base prevents warping
- Oven-safe for up to 600°F
- Does not work with induction stoves
- Not dishwasher-safe
Another fairly well-known brand in the ceramic-coated cookware space, GreenLife. What you may not know is, GreenPan actually has a role in creating it. GreenLife is a merger company formed between GreenPan and Anotech International, their manufacturing partner.
The company has made it very clear that they are very environmentally-conscious about the pan, all the way from the manufacturing process to the piece itself. The cookware is made with recycled aluminum, which is in no way inferior to ‘fresh’ aluminum. Their curing phase for the coating also emits 60% less carbon dioxide compared to that of traditional non-stick coatings. So if you love to support environmental efforts, this might be a pan of good cause for you.
Moving on from that, how does this pan actually fare in real-world usage? The coating is pretty pleasant to use and works well, but there are bad news too. While the diamond-reinforced coating makes the interior quite durable out of the box, some have reported the pan to have a rather short lifespan of a few months before it starts to wear off. Although not entirely reasonable, it is quite expected given its extremely affordable price.
The handle is also worth a mention, because the soft grip makes it quite comfortable to hold, and it stays cooler than most handles when cooking. However, due to it being made of plastic, it is only able to withstand a maximum of 350°F in the oven.
- Diamond-reinforced coating which makes it durable
- Soft grip handle stays relatively cool over heat
- Not compatible with induction cooktops
- Only oven-safe for up to 350°F
- Reported to have a rather short lifespan, giving up after several months of use
If you take a look at the product page, this is an example of very well done marketing. 5 times harder coating, 10 times longer lasting? We don’t find any of that even remotely true. But don’t get me wrong, at the price point this pan is offered at, it’s still a great value, just not as ultimate as the company claims.
Being diamond-infused as with the previous GreenLife one, the interior surface is durable, but not at indestructible levels. Advertising claims metal utensils can be used alongside the pan, but our experience has proved that it is quite scratchable, so avoid using metal utensils with it.
The pan is quite well-built overall, though. The base is sufficiently thick that it doesn’t warp very easily, and the pan overall is lightweight and easily manageable. It is also oven-safe up to a whopping 850°F, but is not induction-compatible.
Our opinion is, unless you need the high temperature tolerance of this pan for your oven use, we found the GreenLife one to be a generally better value pick.
- Diamond-infused coating increases durability
- Oven-safe for up to 850°F
- Not compatible with induction cooktops
- Claims to be scratch-resistant and safe to use with metal utensils, but experience and public thoughts seem to confirm otherwise
- Handle gets hot when cooking, pot holder necessary
This pan is unique in the world of ceramic-coated pan, but however much it wants to convince you it is stoneware, it is in fact, not. Even though it looks just like stone (even the name implies), it is actually made out of aluminum, with imitation texture that makes it look like stone. What about the wooden handle? Yeah well, that one is faux too.
Despite all the imitation in materials, it actually holds up pretty well as a pan on its own. The handle is ergonomic and comfortable to hold, the build is durable, and it even comes fitted with a magnetized base, for all you induction users out there.
Caannasweis does offer a few size variants with this pan, but as of the time of writing, their 11” model is going for even cheaper than the 10” one, weird. If this is still the case for you, no doubt go for the 11” one! More versatility without adding too much bulk, it definitely is the better choice for a lower price.
- Unique looks with fully faux wood handle
- Magnetized base allows for use on induction stoves
- Dishwasher-safe but hand wash recommended
- Not oven-safe at all, due to the handle material
- Complaints of the handle falling off due to loose screws
If you’re looking for the best non-stick pan without Teflon, made in the USA, this is about as close as you can get. The components are actually made in Italy, which is then assembled and packaged in the United States. This is, from our research, one of the only quality ceramic-coated pans that in somewhere of their manufacturing process involves the US, if you’re into supporting that.
Made of heavy-gauge aluminum, there is no doubts about the durability of the exterior. The coating though, not so much. There have been several complaints online that the interior of the pan is rather easy to get scratched. The non-stick properties are also supposedly not as effective as in the competitors’.
However, it’s not all bad. The handle is one of the best things about this pan. It is soft grip, comfortable to hold in hand, and stays cool even when the pan gets hot.
If you’re from the United States and looking to support the local manufacturing economy, by all means go ahead and snag this one. If not though, our opinion is to consider the other ones on this list, as there are many other options which are priced around the same, but offering better quality.
- Handle is soft grip and stays cool
- Oven-safe for only up to 350°F
- Not compatible with induction cooktops
- Some complain that non-stick properties not as effective as in competitors’
- Reports of the pan being quite easily-scratchable
How to Pick?
Now, our list of top picks can admittedly get quite long, due to mixing in the flurry of opinions and experiences we’ve seen people had, including ourselves. If you’re having trouble picking the right one for yourself, here’s some guidance.
For induction stove users, your only options are the Copper Chef and Caannasweis. If you’re looking for an all-around piece, we recommend going for the Copper Chef. But if you don’t want to spend too much on a pan and would settle for the Caannasweis, you have to be fine with it being non-oven-safe, and of a comparatively lower durability.
If you’re using anything other than induction though, the options are aplenty. Now the question becomes, how much are you willing to spend for a pan?
If you’re not limited by budget and is willing to go higher for quality, we recommend the Copper Chef or GreenPan. To choose between these two, ask yourself, do you need your pan to be dishwasher-safe, and do you require it to go up to 850°F in the oven instead of maxing out at 600°F? If either of these was a ‘yes’, then the Copper Chef is a better fit. Otherwise, go for the GreenPan if you prefer the aesthetics (we do), and anyway in our opinion for longevity, pans should be hand-washed anyway!
If you’re trying to budget for a new pan though, consider the GreenLife or the Blue Diamond. Generally, we would recommend GreenLife for almost everyone out there, except if you do a lot of oven-cooking. In which case, the oven temperature that Blue Diamond is able to withstand – an impressive 850°F – suits your cooking style better, compared to the maximum of 350°F of GreenLife.
Caannasweis isn’t generally in our preferred list of picks, but if you’re all for that stoneware aesthetic, and don’t mind the piece not being oven-safe at all, feel free to go for it, as it is also a quality pan in of itself. And if you’re conscious about buying US-made products, then the Tramontina is perfect for you. Do note though, that our experience with the Tramontina hasn’t been the best, and if possible, we recommend looking at the other ones instead.
Best Practices Of Using A Ceramic-Coated Pan
Now that you have an idea of the best ceramic non-stick pans out there, maybe you’ve even gotten yourself one, how do you properly care for, and use a ceramic-coated pan?
A misconception is that when getting a ceramic-coated cookware piece, to use and treat it the exact same way as with a Teflon-coated piece. This is not only false, but will lead you to lose faith in ceramic coating for the wrong reasons.
Cooking with oil
For pans with ceramic coating, small amounts of oil and fats are actually needed. Because it is not a synthetic coating, and is actually made from natural materials, it couldn’t have been crafted to be as perfect as possible. While Teflon can provide highly slick surfaces, while ceramic itself is quite non-stick, do not expect it to have the same performance as Teflon without some help from oil.
While we’re on the topic of oil, try to avoid spray oils as much as possible. It might seem puzzling, after all, isn’t oil all the same? In actual fact, most spray oils contain more than just oil. The additional components like emulsifiers and anti-foaming agents are what make the spray prone to building up on the surface of the pan, and when that happens, there is very little you can do to completely save your pan.
Next, although ceramic coating is generally deemed to be more durable than the typical entry-level Teflon, if you really want your pan to last, consider using utensils with softer materials. These include wood, nylon and silicone, and avoid metal utensils at all cost to give your pans a longer life.
Lastly, we have been seeing warping issues with pans here and there. This one’s a tip for cookware in general, rather than specifically ceramic-coated pans. After cooking, let your cookware cool before washing them in cold water, or better yet, only wash them in warm water!
While Teflon is not completely harmful and shouldn’t be seen as a kind of ‘avoid at all costs’ thing, it poses an undeniable health risk when overheated. If you’re one that does a lot of high-heat cooking, then looking elsewhere than Teflon might be a good choice.
The popular alternative to Teflon is ceramic coating. While they do not offer the exact same performance as the synthetic material, it comes very close.
To recap, our top recommendation for a ceramic-coated pan is the one by Copper Chef. It offers everything you would ever expect a home kitchen pan to do, and more.
If you’re budgeting a little, the GreenLife is a fantastic value-friendly option. Made by one of the most reputable brands in the space of safe ceramic non-stick cookware, the only obvious compromises here are the low oven temperature tolerance at 350°F, and the lack of induction-compatibility. If you’re not looking for these things in the first place, it’s a great entry into the world of ceramic-coated pans. If you are though, it’s worth considering the Blue Diamond instead.
Lastly, if you have a niche interest in stoneware, the Caannasweis might be of interest to you, although it only aesthetically mimics stoneware and is not actually made of stone. And if you’re looking for a US-assembled product, the Tramontina pan might be for you. Although our final verdict is this: unless you absolutely fell in love with either of these two pans, we would recommend that you pick the Copper Chef or the GreenPan instead.
If you’re buying a pan for a more specific use case, you might be interested in checking out the best pans for steak, maybe the best ones for cooking fish, or maybe even the top pans for omelets or pancakes for all your breakfast needs.
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