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Nonstick Ceramic Cookware: Is the Coating Safe?

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I have always used stainless steel pots and pans. It has been the safest cookware that I’ve found where I don’t have to worry about chemical exposures coming from non-stick pots and pans. But recently, I started looking into nonstick ceramic cookware and wondering is the coating safe?

turquoise teal blue pot with glass lid on a flower towel

Why would I wonder if cooking with a pan was harmful to my health?

Because non stick pans have previously gotten a bad rap for health and safety reasons. Yet many home cooks love the ease and convenience of nonstick cookware.

Which is why I suddenly found myself falling in love with a turquoise set of nonstick ceramic cookware and wondering whether or not it was safe.

The Problem With Nonstick Cookware

Traditional non-stick cookware often uses Dupont’s Teflon™ coating. This is the nonstick cookware that you are used to seeing in the kitchen aisles of every major store. When you look for non stick cookware, this is probably what you are going to find first.

What is wrong with nonstick cookware?

Teflon is made with a synthetic chemical called PFOA, which stands for perfluorooctanoic acid. Let’s just call it PFOA, okay?

PFOA is then used to make polytetrafluoroethylene, also known as PTFE. Both of these chemicals are part of a group known as Perfluorinated Substances (PFASs). These are the two chemicals that are causing so much concern and questions when using nonstick cookware and wondering if non stick cookware is safe.

There are have been reports of birds dying when exposed to fumes coming from using Teflon-coated pans in the home.

The American Cancer Society also warns of possible flu-like symptoms when using non-stick cookware at high heat.

And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has linked PFASs to health problems such as cancer, hormone problems, kidney damage, liver problems, thyroid problems, increased cholesterol and more.

Indeed, you might have noticed yourself that when you use a non-stick pot or pan, there is an odor. It’s usually more common with brand new pots and pans, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen with older nonstick pots and pans.

Those fumes are chemicals off gassing from the non-stick coating. And no one should be breathing in a synthetic chemical concoction.

PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances) accumulates in your body and can stay around for a while. Which means your levels can keep rising even if you are not exposed to a lot of PFAS at one time. Simply because you keep adding PFAS with every exposure and your body is not flushing them out.

PFOA in Nonstick Cookware

While nonstick cookware continues to get a bad rap because of the chemical PFOA, it actually isn’t even a problem in today’s world anymore.

PFOA was mandated by the government to be removed from use by 2015. The entire chemical industry was told to stop producing and using it. DuPont actually removed use of PFOA much earlier, completing elimination by the year 2013.

So worrying about PFOA in new nonstick cookware isn’t even an issue anymore.

The problems for PFOA exposure would be in older non stick cookware sets made before 2013 or 2015, depending on the manufacturer of the non-stick coating.

Is Non-Stick Cookware Safe to Use?

So, if there is no more PFOA in nonstick cookware anymore, then does that mean that all non-stick cookware is safe?

It’s the million dollar question. And it’s one that, quite honestly, scientists and researchers still haven’t determined definitively.

If you are looking for research that proves once and for all that traditional non-stick cookware is harmful to your health, then you’ll be disappointed. Because it’s almost impossible to test how any one of the many chemicals that are in non-stick coatings can impact your health during normal daily use. Especially in combination with all of the other chemical exposures you have every single day.

Here is the common sense, though. Non-stick coatings have to be made from something. They are not natural on their own in nature.

And PFOA and PTFE are just two of many chemicals that can be used to make non-stick coatings.

thermolon sticker with green apple on nonstick ceramic cookware pan against colorful flower towel

And if the chemicals used to make the non-stick coating are being released into the air or into your food in any way, that’s likely not a good thing.

Just because PFOA is not being used anymore doesn’t mean that another type of chemical that might be causing health problems isn’t being used. Because PFOA is banned, but not PTFE.

So PTFE can still be used, it’s just that another chemical is being used to make it, not PFOA.

After all, many companies started promoting that BPA wasn’t used in their plastics anymore. The substitute was BPS, which it turns out might be more toxic than BPA.

So just because one type of chemical that has been talked about in the news isn’t used doesn’t mean that other nasty chemicals aren’t being used. It’s just that no one is aware of their possible health problems.  Yet.

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Is Nonstick Ceramic Cookware Safe?

This was my question when I found this super cute turquoise nonstick ceramic cookware set.

I’ve heard so much about ceramic nonstick cookware being a more healthy alternative to traditional non-stick cookware.

I started doing research, seeing what I could find about the health and safety of non stick ceramic cookware.

And to check out any greenwashing claims. Especially from the companies that I was considering: GreenPan and GreenLife.

turquoise nonstick pans with white ceramic interior coatings

My research hasn’t found any problems with nonstick ceramic cookware yet.

But I do take that with a grain of salt. Because the non-stick ceramic coating has to be made with something and adhered with something.

That’s not to say that they aren’t healthy. I haven’t found any problematic health claims yet. But I’m always skeptical about everything.

Greenpan and Green Life Ceramic Cookware

The pots and pans that I started looking at were from GreenPan and GreenLife.

After putting all of my stuff in storage to RV across America, I didn’t have access to my normal pots and pans. Since I knew that I’d be getting the pots and pans that I have tested and love back eventually, I thought it was a great time to try out healthy ceramic non-stick pans that I had been hearing about.

Honestly, I was not looking for heirloom quality pots and pans to last for decades. I wanted a nontoxic ceramic cookware set that was good to use for a few years. I generally don’t shop that way. Usually I want something that will last for years on end. But this set in bright, colorful colors made me happy. I wanted to add it to my kitchen for a pop of cheerful color and to test it out.

greenpan and greenlife nonstick ceramic cookware sets in teal color

If I was looking for a major investment, I believe that Xtrema ceramic pots and pans might be the best option overall for serious chefs based on reviews. But they are pricey!

Originally, I bought the two pack of GreenPan turquoise nonstick ceramic pans. Then I discovered that the cost of two GreenPan fry pans was almost half the price of a 16-piece set of GreenLife pots and fry pans.

So I returned my GreenPan purchase and ordered the 16 piece set from GreenLife.

turquoise pan handles

Both GreenPan and GreenLife seemed to be made from the same business, The Cookware Company, when I researched them a couple years ago. They both are located at the same address, using the same ceramic non-stick cookware technology. However, it appears that GreenPan was created by the GreenPan company. The GreenPan company then merged with Anotech International to become The Cookware Company, which in turn created GreenLife pans. 

Complicated, I know. So while they are separate, they share some common background.

GreenLife seems to be a little less expensive than the Original GreenPan products. For my turquoise set, the colors are almost exactly the same with both companies.

Both the GreenPan and GreenLife nonstick ceramic cookware pots and pans say:

  • Use Thermolon™, which is the very first ceramic coating ever invented.
  • Thermolon uses a sand derivative (Silicon – not to be confused with silicone) to create the non-stick coating.
  • The coating is sprayed on and then cured in the oven.
  • No PFOA, PFAS, Lead or Cadmium is used.
  • Both companies state there is “no chance of emitting toxic fumes, even if you accidentally overheat your” pan (either GreenPan or GreenLife)

GreenLife Non-stick Ceramic Cookware Set Review

I bought the 16 piece GreenLife non stick ceramic cookware set and used it for a year.

Before I happily got rid of it. Here’s why.

Let me say, I have NEVER used a nonstick pot or pan before. So the ceramic coated pans were completely new to me! I was amazed at how food just slips off of the pots and pans! No wonder why people love non-stick cookware! LOL!

I cook with electric heat. So I’ve never used these pots and pans on a gas range. I do know that my previous stainless steel pots and pans were fine on an electric range for over a decade. When I brought a couple pieces of pots and pans in the RV to use on our gas range, they got really damaged from the high heat exposure on the sides and handles.

So using nonstick ceramic cookware on a gas range will be different than using nonstick cookware on an electric range.

Would I Buy Ceramic Coated Cookware Again?

We didn’t notice any smell off gassing from using the GreenLife pans for the first time. In fact, we were pretty darn happy with them.

But after a couple months, we started noticing something really strange. 

Every time we cooked in our GreenLife pans, our air purifier would go crazy. I have an AIRDOCTOR Air Purifier. It has a VOC sensor that automatically adjust the air purification depending on what’s going on in the house. 

When the air was relatively low in VOCs, the air purifier would be green and run silently. But as VOC levels increase in the air, the AIRDOCTOR changes color and speeds up the fan, which becomes very loud. 

We had an open concept kitchen and living room. And EVERY TIME we used our GreenLife pans, the air purifier would go into what we called “death con” mode. The lights would become red and the fan would be so loud that it was hard to hear the TV over it. And the air purifier would remain that way for up to an hour after cooking.

While I realize that it could be a variety of things increasing the VOC levels while cooking, we did try all kinds of cooking, from pan frying to just heating up liquids in the ceramic coated cookware. And every time the air purifier went crazy.

Can I say for sure it was the GreenLife pans? Nope.

But what I can say for sure is that the GreenLife pans definitely had a chipped coating not too long after we started using them. While I tried to use the plastic utensils (which I HATE but are necessary with non-stick cookware) included in my GreenLife cookware set as much as possible (even though they were shredding and melting after a while), my husband would sometimes use metal cooking utensils. So that’s a problem, for sure.

And we put our cookware in the dishwasher, too. Because I don’t have time to pamper pots and pans.

We also soon found that food stuck onto the ceramic coated pans very easily. Frying onions would leave a black residue that was extremely hard to get off. And over time I realized that baked-on food was just not coming off very well.

For all of these reasons, plus the fact that these pans simply won’t stand the test of time as an investment, I wouldn’t buy ceramic coated cookware again.

What Pots Am I Using?

After going back to stainless steel pots and pans for a while, I found Smithey Ironware recently.

This hand forged ironware is made in America. And I love the heirloom quality.

cast iron dutch oven pot

I got a Dutch Oven Roaster from Smithey Ironware and have to say I was surprised at how well I can cook in it without having to scrub away baked on food. Their polished interior is naturally non stick and beautiful. The pots and pans are gorgeous. And it makes me happy that this piece will last for generations.

 

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3 Best RV Cookware Sets For Camping (2021) | RV Lifestyle

Tuesday 6th of July 2021

[…] the cookware set. Most sets will either be made from stainless steel or a different metal featuring ceramic coating or Teflon coating. Both are a type of nonstick […]

Patricia Horelick

Friday 2nd of April 2021

I’ve used All Clad stainless steel cookware for decades but am looking forward a indoor smokeless electric grill WITHOUT a non-stickcoating but haven’t had any luck. Do you know of one?

Joan Bonnell

Tuesday 19th of January 2021

Excellent article, very helpful.

Alyssa

Saturday 9th of January 2021

This was a really well written and helpful article. Thank you! You answered every question I had as I am looking for nonstick pots and pans right now.

Golden Cheese

Friday 8th of January 2021

I have used ceramic-coated pots&pans for about a year now, with no problems at all. For sure I'm going to replace them the moment the ceramic coating stops being non-stick, because it is sign of the coating chipping away, but I think it's good enough that I can use them for 1-2 years, or as long as the coating stays. I think once you have ceramic-coating pots or pans, you must always avoid using metal sticks utensils on it. The first time someone use metal utensil, you must always throw it out no matter how "good" the oan/pot still look. You can never risk it, and any metal utensil means there's likely some slices done on the coating even if you can't see the slash. I also have replaced the plastic utensils once or twice, tbh, because I'm strict with the utensils as well. Once I spot some changes on the utensils' surface, usually due to high heat, it's time for that utensil to go, and I love buying and using new utensil for my pot. I'm sure this kind of style is not for everyone, many people seem to want pots&pans&cooking utensils that can last for long time, while ceramic-coating pots&pans plus the plastic utensils mean you must replace everything every 1 year above, but personally I like doing so- haha, so I think I can use the "coating is chipped" As reason to but new sets of cookwares&utensils :D!