Recommendations for Safe, Healthy, Non-Toxic Kitchen Equipment, Cookware, etc

This page lists many of my recommendations for the kitchen from cookware to dish cloths, but to learn more about why I chose the cookware below, read this post about stainless steel, cast iron, carbon steel, and more.  I share details, pros and cons of the safest and least toxic cookware materials available – namely ceramic or glazed enamel, cast iron or carbon steel ironware, glass, and unglazed clay*.

To sum it up — ceramic cookware such as the Xtrema/Ceramcor and Le Creuset brands use glazes that contain aluminum, but other than the fact that I wish we could stop using aluminum, I don’t think it poses a health risk.  Cast iron and carbon steel do pose a risk in that iron does leach into your food.  Glass is a very safe material except it is more fragile and prone to break when under temperature changes.  Stainless steel is considered safe by many, but I’d rather have iron leach into my food than the nickel and other metals used in the stainless steel alloys.  But, if you’re at higher risk for excess iron, you might feel differently.  *I’m still not sure what to think of unglazed clay cookware.  Some seem to think its the worst, and some think it’s the best.  As I have really no way to test or determine if it’s safe or not, I’m not including it in my lists.  If you have ceramic dishes – plates, bowls, or mugs and you want to have them tested for lead, visit Tamara Rubin’s page to find out how to send them to her for testing with an XRF lead-testing instrument, which is built to test ceramic, whereas lead swab kits commonly available, were developed to test lead in paint, not in ceramics.

 

Cookware, for 1 person

Each pan type/size I recommend has multiple options listed — in ceramic, enameled cast iron, carbon steel, glass, etc.  I would use all of these pans, but only you can decide what cooking surface you’re comfortable using.  If you really want stainless steel,  www.CenturyLife.org might be helpful in choosing a brand.  Before buying Le Creuset items, read online to see what colors contain the least lead.  If you’re thinking about a cast iron or carbon steel skillet or sauté pan, find out what what each brand weighs, so you can make the best choice – click here and scroll to the bottom of the post to find a chart comparing brands and weights.

  • Skillet or Saute Pan: 2 sizes
    • carbon steel 10″ fry pan, and 13″ fry pan. With carbon steel, you might get what you pay for.  Cheap cast iron pans will not buckle over time (they are so thick!), but cheap carbon steel pans may.   Though I’ve read this on other websites, I don’t know it is true from experience, thus, I use the words “might” and “may” 😉   Cheaper brand pans like De Buyer or Matfer Bourgeat could last generations…I don’t know.  De Buyer’s USA representative told me that they have used the same pan for generations.  De Buyer does have a lifetime warranty. on frying pans..Matfer Bourgeat does not.  Here are all the brands you could explore with pan weights so you can get a feel for the diversity in weight.
      • Blu Skillet Ironware 10″ frypan 3.5 lbs.  I recommend them above all other carbon steel and cast iron if you can afford it because this is the only company I know making carbon steel pans without aluminum (sandblasting).
      • Other brands who do use aluminum:
    • ceramicXtrema brand 9.5″, and 11″
    • cast iron
      • Butter Pat 10″ 4.8 lbs, or 12″ 6.9 lbs, best cooking surface, the bottom of the handle might get uncomfortable, has pour spout.
      • Field Company 10.25″ pan 4.5 lbs., or 11.5″ pan 6 lbs., good cooking surface as well and comfortable handle.  doesn’t have pour spout and may not pour well.
      • Stargazer 10.5″ 5.2 lbs., smooth surface, but handle might be uncomfortable for smaller hands.  pour well from any angle.
      • Smithey is solid quality as well, but weight the most with their 10″ pan at 6 lbs – their pans have a heat ring on the bottom.  has pour spout.
      • Marquette Castings 10” 3.7 lbs, 8” 2.5 lbs,  10.5” 5.2, 13” 7.6 lbs.  If you are looking for light and thin the 8” and 10” are great. If you prefer American made and a smoother surface, the 10.5” and 13” are for you. The surface finish is a little smoother than the 8” and 10”.
      • SolidTeknics – update 2/13/18: the company has said that they have retired their cast iron production due to manufacturing challenges in Australia.  Find out more about cast iron brands here.
  • Universal lid – 12″ or 13″
  • Sauce pot: ~ 1.5 quart and 2 quart (1.25 quart is the minimum size for a single serving of rice for one person in my opinion, but if you want leftovers, maybe a bigger pan is best).
    • enameled cast iron: Le Creuset brand 2.25 quart 7.5 lbs, or 3 quart 8.5 lbs.  I don’t recommend Xtrema for this size, because I don’t like how deep it is…I like a more shallow pan for this size, and I also like having a handle.
  • Stockpot, 7 quart
    • enameled steel: Le Creuset brand: 6 quart 6.5 lbs, or 8 quart 7.5 lbs, with a 7.75″ diameter.   The 6 quart Le Creuset stock pot weights 6.5 lbs.  These seem to be the best option (safe, lighter weight), but I think the proportions are awkward.  My ideal 7 quart stock pot would have no less than a  9.5″ diameter.
  • Dutch oven, 7 quart
    • enameled cast iron:
    • cast iron:
    • carbon steel: SolidTeknics brand is planning to release a 7 quart low carbon steel pot sometime in 2018, which will have a 13.8″ diameter opening. and hold approx. 7.4 quarts.
      • Both cast iron and carbon steel pots will leach iron into your food, particularly acidic foods or stews which require long cooking times, whereas an enameled cast iron stockpot would not.  Unfortunately Xtrema doesn’t offer a pot in this size.  Their closest size is 5.5 quarts.
Cookware, for 2 people – add the following
  • Sauce pot ~  3 – 5.5 quart (choose the size that works best for you)
  • Another Stockpot or dutch oven, 7 quart, see above
Cookware, for 3 – 4 people – add the following

 

  • Stockpot – large: 8-12 quart.  For larger families, or if you want leftovers, you may need larger.
    • ceramic – Xtrema brand 10 quart, 12″ diameter opening, 6″ tall, 10.5 lbs.
    • enameled steel – Le Creuset brand 8 or 10 quart, I don’t know how much these weigh
    • stainless steel – Fissler Pro Original brand 10.9 quart.  I wouldn’t recommend stainless steel, but if you really can’t lift the ones above…what else is there?
    • I don’t recommend a cast iron or enameled cat iron pot in this size because wielding a cast iron or cast iron enamel pot heavier than 15 pounds is unrealistic for me.
Bakeware

 

 

 

 

  • Bread Pan
Other
Dinnerware
  • Corelle plates & bowls (tested lead-free by Tamara Rubin).  Tamara said to stay away from their mugs though.
  • HCL Dinnerware 
  • HF Coors plates & bowls, and mugs (tested lead-free by Tamara Rubin)
  • Williams Sonoma – all of their white dinnerware appears to pass Calfornia’s lead proposition 65, which means the lead must be below 90 parts per million, but I haven’t tested these and I don’t think Tamara has either.
  • Handmade wooden bowls might be fun to try — not sure how they will weather over time.   You could try to a local wood turner by contacting a local wood turning association.  Or, find your local Rockler or Woodcraft store and see if there are any wood turners there who are interested.  If nothing else, try Holland Bowl Mill or Don of Dead Tree Woodworks from Freeland, Michigan. As for sizing, I love my wood bowl, which just barely holds 5 cups.  It is the one in the picture below.  It is 8.25″ form outside to outside, and it is 2 7/8′ high.  It is absolutely wonderful.  It never gets hot to hold, and it’s beautiful.  Make sure you get it finished in something non toxic.  I like to finish mine with animal fat and beeswax, but some people say that using that fat is bad and acquires a weird smell over time.  Some use RAW linseed oil (the boiled kind has heavy metals added to speed up drying time), but I don’t like the taste of that and feel that it might get rancid.   Note that wooden pieces like this can crack over time – you just don’t know what can happen with wood, as it can expand and contract.  The ones below are made from alder.

 

 

  • Handmade wooden plates – I highly recommend Jarrod Dahl of Wood Spirit Handcraft from Marais, MN.   If he is not available, try to find a wood turning association in your area and find someone.  Or, find your local Rockler or Woodcraft store and see if there are any wood turners there who are interested.  I like plates at least 10″ in diameter, like these:

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 3.21.18 PM

Knives – Carbon Steel

As I’m still learning about knives, how to sharpen them, and what I like to use, I searched for cheaper carbon steel brands.  Later after you learn what you use the most and what you like, you could find someone to make custom knives with very very hard steel.

If you break down animals such as chicken or beef or pork, you might find these boning knives to make the work faster and easier.  You might find some vintage carbon steel knives similar to these on ebay for a cheaper price.

  • Scissors
    • Shun kitchen scissors (DM7240), or  Tanegashima Hamono-18cm (I don’t recommend Tanegashima for boning chicken, since they are an heirloom type of item).  The Shun scissors are made of “High-carbon, molybdenum-vanadium stainless steel,” so the steel used in these scissors is at least 10.5% chromium by mass, which makes them resistant to rust.  Molybdenum boosts the rust-free properties of the steel and added vanadium strengthens it.  Thus, they will not stay as sharp or be as sharp as the Tanegashima Hamono scissors, which uses shirogami #1 steel, described as “carbon steel with minimum impurities.”
    • Tanegashima Hamono – Ikenobo or Koryu for cutting flower stems

If you need butchering materials…

Utensils

To keep all of your cookware and bakeware in its safe condition, use only wooden utensils.  Wether you are using ceramic, enameled cast iron, seasoned cast iron or carbon steel, stainless steel or non-stick pots and pans (I never recommend non-stick, no matter the safety claims), wood utensils will not damage the protective surface nearly as much as metal utensils will.  Once you damage the protective layer of any cookware, you are exposing yourself to whatever lies within or underneath.  Wooden utensils provide us with an easy way to protect ourselves, and increase the longevity of cookware or seasoning on our cookware.  These handmade wooden utensils may seem expensive, but they will last a very long time if you don’t put them in the dishwasher.  They are also beautiful to behold, and make the kitchen more peaceful.  I also like supporting crafters who are keeping skills alive for the next generation.

Organization
Washing Helpers & Supplies
  • Scraper – metal.  Useful for scraping pans and baking sheets.
  • Scraper – wood.  THIS IS MY FAVORITE tool when washing dishes!!!  They are AMAZING!!!
  • Bottle brushKlean Kanteen brush set
  • Spray bottle (for disinfecting counters, with lemon infused vodka, or vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or whatever you use).
  • Baking soda – used for washing any stubborn bits of food on dishes, stovetop, table, floor, or anywhere!  Plus, doubles as a baking powder substitute, when mixed with cream of tartar and corn starch to prevent caking.  Ground garlic mustard seed or any mustard also works great and is just as abrasive.  Keep a bowl of this next to your sink.  Mix 50% baking soda in the bowl, and 50% washing soda.
  • Washing soda – see above.
  • Vodka – for use in spray bottle for disinfecting. Vinegar too. 
  • Bar Soap – for when you need to wash dishes or surfaces after raw meat and want to lift germs off, and then disinfect after.  I don’t think one needs any more than these five things to keep everything clean.  Seriously.
  • Dishcloths.  Use cotton or natural fiber cloths only.  We have enough micro plastic pollution in all of our water (we are literally eating and drinking our fleece jackets and all other synthetic textiles).  You many not notice, but when you use cloths or sponges of any material, synthetic of natural, tiny fibers come off and go down the drain, so use natural fibers only if you don’t want micro plastic fibers in our lakes, rivers, soil, and you insides!  Use a fresh cloth every day, putting the used one to dry until laundry day.  Why a new cloth every day?  — Drying out a dish cloth overnight helps kill many–but not all–pathogens.  It could take three days of drying a typical cotton cloth to kill all microbes, so if you continue to re-use your dishcloth every day, you will be re-populating the surfaces of your kitchen with various bacteria with every wipe.  I prefer my textiles to be undyed and drab color, so as to hide dirt and stains and still look alright.  In my experience, bast fiber towels dry much faster than cotton towels.  I recommend naturally brown dish cloths and dish drying towels from www.GoodLinens.com.  Their smallest size is a bit larger than what I would prefer for a dish cloth (10″x10″ – I would prefer 8″x8″), but it works, and they could shrink in the wash or dryer, however, this  100% hemp fabric – 10oz from http://www.OrganicCottonPlus.com works well for making dish cloths.  Get a sample swatch first to make sure it’s what you want!  It is just thick enough in my opinion, and the weave is not too tight nor too loose, and the fibers are rough enough to make scrubbing stubborn food off of dishes easier, without the need for a green scrub pad.  Green SOS scrub pads shed micro plastic fibers as well and pollute our water.
If you want to make your own dish soap you might keep it in a mason jar with a pump top, or you could try keeping it in one of the following dispensers.  Having something with a wide top so you can get into it is important, as you may need to add water and mix it in the case the consistency becomes too thick.

Here’s a sink dispenser option, but you wouldn’t be able to fit an immersion blender through the top of the bottle to mix it: https://amzn.to/2Ias81v, so this is for when you get your recipe dialed in and no mixing is needed.

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