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.
As Tamara Rubin says, there is no safe level of lead in dishes or cookware. Unfortunately, all of the Le Creuset pieces she has tested have been positive for very high levels of lead or cadmium on the outside, and all but one tested positive for lead on the inside. Due to this, Le Creuset is definitely not recommended.
Cast iron and carbon steel do leach iron 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. For me, the problem with carbon steel is the rust. I do find that it rusts more quickly than cast iron.
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 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 surfaces whereas the commonly available lead swab kits were developed to test lead in paint, not in ceramics.
There is a ceramic cookware line, called Ceramcor, or also known as Xtrema (as marketed by Dr. Mercola), that is advertised is being lead-free, but upon testing with an XRF instrument, this is definitely not true. The following results were taken from Tamara Rubin’s blog post (I’ve paired them down a bit – for full results, visit Tamara’s post. The pan which she tested was purchased from the company in November 2016.
- Lead (Pb): 74 +/- 15 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 597 +/- 55 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 9,376 +/- 391 ppm
Center of Bottom of Pan (Permanently affixed label in center of bottom). This is the surface that is against a flame or heating element when the pan is in use.
- Lead (Pb): 7,258 +/- 201 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 567 +/- 28 ppmf
- Barium (Ba): 688 +/- 67 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 3,784 +/- 251
Cross Section of Pan (Substrate: beige/pink ceramic base from broken side of pan)
- Lead (Pb): 25 +/- 12 ppm
Interior (food surface) of lid:
- Lead (Pb): 120 +/- 18 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 453 +/- 55 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 1,069 +/- 144 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 2161 +/- 236 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 9,506 +/- 405 ppm
Baking Sheets – tips
From what I can tell, all brands of carbon steel baking sheets will warp when they reach hot temps in the oven, as low as 350 degrees F. From reading reviews, it seems like many cheaper stainless steel pans also warp at hot temps. De Buyer baking sheets are thinner than Matfer Bourgeat, thus, Matfer baking sheets warp about at least half as much as De Buyer, which is good, but Matfer baking sheets has seriously dangerous sharp edges. I cut my finger BADLY on the edge of one of these pans while washing it. So, go stainless steel, even they warp. You’ll be better off regarding rust, and you won’t cut your fingers sharp edges hopefully!
Stainless Steel – how to wade through all the different brands
There are a ton of stainless steel brands out there, which is overwhelming. Which is better and what is the difference between All-Clad Stainless, Tri-ply, Copper Core, etc? Here are a few tips to help you navigate toward the best brands:
- The best skillets are Demeyere’s Proline’s or Silver7, in terms of cladded (conductive metal thickness – these are aluminum clad), which are rivetless for easy cleaning. The All-Clad d7 skillet costs less, but has rivets (skip the other d7 items).
- For sauce pans the Demeyere Atlantis curved and straight-wall pots have copper and silver that spread heat extremely well and react faster to changes in heat. All-Clad’s MC2 line costs less and performs just as well, but is not induction compatible and has exposed rims (don’t put in dishwasher), and all of All-Clad’s handles are uncomfortable, so are not recommended. But as far as induction goes – stay away! Induction is a huge source of harmful EMFs! The best value for sauce pots under 3.5 quarts is probably the Cuisinart MultiClad Pro as it has flared rims, and performs just as well as most All-Clad. Many All-Clad sauce pots don’t have flared rims – only the D5 and Copper Core lines have flared rims for the sauce pots. The other pots in the All-Clad lines all have flared rims. I don’t know why they took out this feature for the sauce pots.
- All-Clad’s Copper Core line “has about the equivalent of 0.91 mm copper, making it slightly more heat conductive than All-Clad Stainless (1 mm of copper is worth about 2 to 2.4 mm of aluminum in terms of heat-spreading power, depending on the exact alloy grades in question). Copper Core is a slightly better performer than All-Clad Stainless. It also heats up and cools down faster than All-Clad Stainless and spreads heat more evenly.” – http://www.Centurylife.org. They still have palm-digger handles, but on the upside, they have helper handles on the opposite side. All-Clad Stainless Steel and Cuisinart Multiclad Pro perform slightly less well than the Copper Core line.
- Demeyere 5-Plus / aka Zwilling Sensation / aka Industry 5 / All-Clad Stainless / and Cuisinart MultiClad Pro lines are about the same value. They don’t perform as well as those listed above (less thick aluminum layers = less responsive). The Demeyere 5-plus is rivetless, and has comfortable handles, and the All-Clad Stainless has rivets and has less uncomfortable palm-digger handles.
Waterless Cookware – Stainless Steel
Waterless cooking is called waterless because the lid tends to seal — what they call a ‘vapo seal.’ Meaning — the moisture from your food stays in the pot instead of escaping, so no need to add water. It can be tricky to master. There are many different brands that feature this seal. I’ll list them from cheaper to more expensive
- Kitchen Craft
- Royal Queen
The slow cooker bases from these companies have a temp range of 155 to 255 degrees F.
Stainless Steel and the Environment
360 is the only brand I found making any claims that their manufacturing processes are improved, thus they don’t require any permits for polluting. They say that they don’t use any harsh chemicals in their process, and that they use a dry sanding method to polish/shine their products. They say that they are the only company using this method, and that other companies use harsh chemicals to achieve shine.
They also say that they don’t use any ‘coatings.’ They don’t use degreasers to get the oil off of the pan which is require in finishing the pan in the way most manufacturers do. Their dry sanding process is proprietary and uses more than 50 belt types and grits.
I don’t know what the typical manufacturing of stainless steel includes, so I can’t check these claims or provide any further insight.
Just because, I’ll list a few solar ovens:
- Gosun Fusion: the cooking temperatures are: (Solar) 250 F – 425 F (Electrical) 350 F. This can be used strictly as a solar oven, or can be plugged in to cook at night.
- GoSun Grill – doesn’t have the option to be plugged in – solar only.
A List of Basic Cookware for 1 Person
- 9.5 – 10″ skillet
- 12″ skillet
- 1 quart sauce pan
- 2 quart sauce pan
- 4 or 5 quart stock pot or casserole pot
- slow cooker base for 4 quart stock pot
- 8 quart stock pot
- Bonus: 3.2 – 6 quart casserole or shallow sauce pan for cooking greens, etc
- 2 Skillets: 9.5 – 10″ and 11″- 13″ (other options include Blu Skillet Ironware)
- 8″ / 5.5″ cooking surface, rivetless, 3.5 lbs – Demeyere Proline or Silver7 $170
- 9.5″ / 7.1″ cooking surface, rivetless, 4.4 lbs – Demeyere Proline or Silver7 $220
- 10″ / 7.5″ cooking surface stainless steel All-Clad D7 3 lbs $150
- 11″ / 8.7″ cooking surface, rivetless, 3.3 – 3.8 lbs – Demeyere Proline or Silver7 $250
- 11″ 5.2 lbs – Blanc Creatives $345
- 12″ / 9″ cooking surface, 3.7 lbs – All-Clad Copper Core $255
- 12″ / 9.5″ cooking surface stainless steel, 4 lbs – All-Clad D7 $150, has rivets
- 12.6″ / 10.2″ cooking surface stainless steel rivetless, Demeyere Proline or Silver7 5.2 – 5.7 lbs $290
- Universal lid – stainless steel 12″ or 13″, or glass up to 12.5″
- 2 Sauce pots: 1.5 quart & 2.5 quart. Ideal diameter for 1.5qt is ~6.5″, for 3qt, ideal is larger than 7.5″.
Get a cladded saucepan where the sidewalls conduct heat, so your sauce is evenly heated. If you chose a disc-base with thin stainless steel sidewalls, you would have to stir more often.
- Sauce Pot Handles: All-Clad uses handles that look like “U” shapes if you look at a cross-section. This means that the handle digs upward into your palm if you hold it with just your hand. You can tuck the handle under your forearm to help relieve the stress on your palm, and your thumb has a groove to rest on, which also prevents accidental rotation of the pan. Wrapping a towel around the handle also works.
- Sauce Pot Best Value: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro – the cheapest product that still heats as evenly as All-Clad Stainless (~1.7 mm aluminum) and has flared rims for easier pouring, helper handles on the heavier pieces so you can use both hands when washing or moving the pan to/from the oven, but it is made in China. Has rivets to clean around, like All-Clad. “Demeyere’s Atlantis large conic sauteuses (3.5qt+) are 3.3 mm thick overall (much thicker than All-Clad’s 2.6 mm), and then aluminum layer thickness is 2.2 mm (compared to about 1.7 mm for All-Clad Stainless). That’s 30% more aluminum, for better heat distribution. The rest of the Atlantis product line has straight sidewalls and is not built like All-Clad; there is no heat-conductive metal running up the side. Instead, Demeyere bonds 2 mm thick copper discs to the bottom and then welds a three-layer magnetic stainless steel wrapper over the copper, for protection and induction-compatibility. The 2 mm of copper performs similarly to 4 mm of aluminum, but is more responsive when you turn your burner up or down.” – Century Life Blog
The only clad saucepans I know of that have flared rims for easier pouring are the All-Clad D5, All-Clad Copper Core, and the Cuisinart Multiclad Pro lines.
- Saucier / Stockpot: 5.5 – 6 quart. The ideal size for me is about 9.25″ diameter, and 5.5″ tall. Demeyere probably is the best quality and has no rivets. All-Clad Copper core performs slightly better than All-Clad Stainless, and Cuisinart Multiclad Pro is just as good as All-Clad Stainless. If you want something with a ‘vapor seal’, choose 360 Cookware made in Wisconsin.
- If you want a conical saucier or stockpot, here are some options
- Saucier / Stockpot: 8 quart. The ideal 8 quart stock pot would have no less than a 10.5″ diameter, and be 7″ tall. Less than 7″ tall and you won’t be able to comfortably fit a beef knuckle in for making gelatinous broth.
- Dutch Oven: 6 – 7 quart
- cast iron: if buying cast iron, which is heavy, go no larger than 6 – 7 quart. Both cast iron and carbon steel pots will leach iron into your food, particularly acidic foods or stews which require long cooking times.
- stainless steel
- 6 qt 360 Made In Wisconsin stockpot – has tightly fitting lid so no air escapes $250
Cookware for 2 people – add a larger sauce pot
- Sauce pot ~ 3 – 4 quart
Get a cladded saucepan where the sidewalls conduct heat, so your sauce is evenly heated. If you chose a disc-base with thin stainless steel sidewalls, you would have to stir more often.
Handles: All-Clad uses handles that look like “U” shapes if you look at a cross-section. This means that the handle digs upward into your palm if you hold it with just your hand. You can tuck the handle under your forearm to help relieve the stress on your palm, and your thumb has a groove to rest on, which also prevents accidental rotation of the pan. Wrapping a towel around the handle also works.
Best Value for 3 quart: Cuisinart Multiclad Pro – the cheapest product that still heats as evenly as All-Clad Stainless (~1.7 mm aluminum) and has flared rims for easier pouring, helper handles on the heavier pieces so you can use both hands when washing or moving the pan to/from the oven, but it is made in China. Has rivets to clean around, like All-Clad.Best Quality for 3.5 quart+: Demeyere Atlantis conical sauteuse – “Demeyere’s Atlantis large conic sauteuses (3.5qt+) are 3.3 mm thick overall (much thicker than All-Clad’s 2.6 mm), and then aluminum layer thickness is 2.2 mm (compared to about 1.7 mm for All-Clad Stainless). That’s 30% more aluminum, for better heat distribution. The rest of the Atlantis product line has straight sidewalls and is not built like All-Clad; there is no heat-conductive metal running up the side. Instead, Demeyere bonds 2 mm thick copper discs to the bottom and then welds a three-layer magnetic stainless steel wrapper over the copper, for protection and induction-compatibility. The 2 mm of copper performs similarly to 4 mm of aluminum, but is more responsive when you turn your burner up or down.” – Century Life Blog. If you don’t want a CONICAL pot, than you don’t need to buy Demeyere. Demeyere’s straight-walled sauce pots are not better performing according to Century Life.
The only clad saucepans I know of that have flared rims for easier pouring are the following: All-Clad D5, All-Clad Copper Core and Cuisinart Multiclad Pro.
Cookware, for 3 – 4 people – add:
- Sauce pan / Slow Cooker
- 4 quart 360 Made In Wisconsin with Slow Cooker Base $330. Save $50 by buying the slow cooker base on http://www.scratchandsamples.com
- other option is to buy an induction burner.
- Saute pan – shallow: 3.5+ quart – useful for reducing large batches of leafy greens down to size.
- 3 qt Demeyere Silver7 10″ wide $200
- 3.5 qt Cuisinart Multiclad Pro $80
- 4 qt All-Clad Copper Core $310
- 4 qt Demeyere Atlantis 11″ wide $360
- 5 qt All-Clad Stainless $200
- 5 qt All-Clad Copper Core $250
- 5 qt Demeyere Silver7 11″ wide $380
- 5.5 qt Cuisinart Multiclad Pro with different handles $50
- 5.5 qt Cuisinart Multiclad Pro $60
- 6 qt All-Clad Copper Core $415
- 6.5 qt Demeyere 5-Plus $240
- Stockpot – large: 10 – 16 quart, for large families.
Cast Iron Skillets
For those that want cast iron, here is a list of the best modern smooth-surface cast iron, listed in order of ranking best to worst, taking all features into account. If you want to know about all of the modern smooth-surfaced cast iron brands, read this post.
- Field Company 10.25″ pan 4.5 lbs., or 11.5″ pan 6 lbs., good cooking surface as well and comfortable handle. No pour spout and may not pour well.
- Butter Pat 10″ 4.8 lbs, or 12″ 6.9 lbs, best cooking surface (surface finishing), the bottom of the handle might get uncomfortable for your hand. Has pour spout.
- Marquette Castings 10” 3.7 lbs (they also have a smaller 8” pan at 2.5 lbs). These lighter weight pans are made in China. They have slightly larger versions of these that are slightly smoother that are made in the USA, but they are significantly heavier.
- Casserole dish
- Pie or cornbread pans
- Bread Pan
- glass: Anchor Hocking or Pyrex 1.5 quart
- Grate Plate – grate ginger, garlic, and lots of other stuff without cutting your fingers. This is a ceramic plate made by a mother-daughter team in Portland, OR. It has been tested to be lead safe, by Tamra Rubin. Testing results can be found here.
- Cutting Board – it’s nice to have two end-grain cutting boards, which will help keep your knives sharper, longer. I highly recommend ordering from Jay Kang, of Rescued Woodworks on Etsy. He sources his wood locally – no lumber shipped over country lines and fumigated! He is located in Madison, Wisconsin, but will ship to you. I don’t recommend an end grain cutting board thinner than 1 3/8″. You can oil it with animal fat (I oiled mine with lamb fat, or you can make your own mixture of animal fat and beeswax. I tried that too and it gave the board a great finish!
- a smaller one that you can keep out 18.5″ x 13.5″ should be the right size to fit in most sinks.
- a larger one for breaking down chickens, etc: 24″ x 16″
- Mixing Bowls
- Measuring Bowls
- Fermentation Vessel – Anchor Hocking 1 gallon glass jar with glass lid. Because these have straight sides, it’s easier to get disc weights in. You can then weight the discs with another jar full of water, or a rock, whatever you like to use. Here are some examples of glass and ceramic disc weights, but you might find it easy to order the Stone Creek Trading glass Luna weights from Amazon here (I recommend the 6.5″ for the 1 gallon anchor hocking jar linked above, or these Pickle Pebble mason jar glass weights. but I like the idea of using wood as discs to hold down vegetables, and then placing a rock on top! If you want to upgrade your fermentation situation, you might consider a water-seal crock, like:
- ceramic: Xtrema brand 2.5 quart
- Salt bowl – I like to keep my salt handy in a little ceramic dish, so I can grab pinches and larger amounts, but it’s good to have something with a cover, especially if you have forced heat in your house, which kicks up the dust even more. Goodwill can be a good place to find this.
- Immersion Blender – Bamix (tested lead-free by Tamara Rubin)
- Food Processor – for vegetables, try a manual food chopper, like the Saladmaster food chopper. Find one on ebay for a lot cheaper than buying new. If you’re not buying the newest model, the cones that come with it won’t be stainless steel, but you can buy stainless steel replacement cones at https://saladmaster.com/en-us/OurProducts/OrderParts.
- Electric food processor – Another good thing to have is the Bamix Slicesy, which is a food processor attachment that works with the Bamix immersion hand blender. If you want a typical large food processor, consider the 12-cup Magimix food processor. Magimix is made in France. There’s also the Breville food processor.
- Food Processor – for dry ingredients & spices: Bamix dry grinder.
- Pressure Cooker – Fissler 4.8qt Vitaquick
- Juicer – Omega VSJ843 or Greenstar Pro GS-P502-B
- Glass water bottle – Life Factory bottle
- Glass Pitchers – half gallon
- Funnels – Bellemain Small Funnel Set, and Bellemain 5″ Stainless Steel Kitchen Funnel Removable Strainer Liquid, or Zoie + Chloe 3-in-1 Stainless Steel Funnel Set – Wide Mouth with Mesh Basket – Narrow Mouth with Strainer and mason jar canning funnel – Norpro or other.
- Strainers – U.S. Kitchen Supply 3″, 4″, 5.5″ and 8″
Scale – Mira with glass platform glass top – $20, or EatSmart EES1011, stainless steel top – $40
- Toothpick Holder – some things just make life a littler easier….
- 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.
- Mug – Pacifica. Has a handle large enough to fit a few fingers. 14oz. These Provisions mugs are even cheaper, and they also hold 14oz.
- Plate – Provisions or Aaron Probyn
- Bowl – 1 quart: Provisions or Aaron Probyn small serving bowl (for some reason, this bowl from Aaron Probyn collection is super expensive).
- Bowl – 25oz: Pacifica
- Bowl: 16oz: Aaron Probyn or Pacifica
- 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. If one bleaches the raw linseed oil, as shown in the video below, one can separate the fats from the oil (don’t ask me about the chemistry or logic behind this!) and it will speed up the drying time of the raw linseed oil.
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 – you might be able to find some from 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:
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.
- Paring knife – carbon steel – R. Murphy – made in the USA
- Chef knife – I don’t know what to recommend here yet, except finding some at Goodwill.
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.
- Boning knife – flexible/curved – 6″, item 1455 – Dexter Russell
- Boning knife – narrow/stiff – 6″, item 1320 – Dexter Russell
- Boning knife – wide/stiff – 6″, item 3121 – Dexter Russell
- Filet knife – flexible – this one is 8″, which is overkill in my opinion – Dexter Russell
If you need butchering materials…
- Kam-Lok 17.5″ – 25” Hand Saw Frame, from http://store.kascosharptech.com/prod-160-3-414-244/kam-lok-17-5-hand-saw-frame.htm
- Hog scraper
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.
- Egg beater or whisk, but it’s hard to beat a simple fork.
- Mixing spoon
- Frying spatula in wood, or in metal from Dexter Russell
- Scraping spatula – 12″, 10″, 9.25″, or 7.5″
- Saute utensil
- Measuring cup – 1 cup
- Measuring cup – 1/2 cup
- set of measuring spoons, you also might find them here
- Tongs – metal – Open Kitchen William Sonoma (these are the best!)
- Rubber spatula with wood handle – one of the few exceptions to the all-wood rule.
- Heirloom Living brand, from Amazon, or their website. Their silicone is rated safe at much higher temperatures than cheaper brands, which mean it should last longer in the kitchen, sometimes being exposed to heat. Beware the large size is super huge – the silicone par tis 4.5″ x 2.75! The med or small are betters sizes, medium: 3.25″ x 2″, and the small: 2.75″ x 1.25″.
- Fletcher’s Mill: 2 ” x 0.75″ x 12″, 10″, or 8″
- Potato masher – find a stainless steel vintage masher from a local store or eBay or Etsy
- Meat tenderizer – not sure where to find a good one. I wouldn’t want an aluminum tenderizer, which is what is typically offered
- Slotted spoon in wood or metal slotted ladle from Tenta
- Risotto spoon
- Ladles – Rösle Stainless Steel Ladles with Pouring Rim, 2.7, 4.5 or 5.4 AMFCOCUS set of 5 ladles – the smallest ladle in this set can fit into wide-mouth mason jars.
- Beeswax food wraps as an alternative to plastic wrap. The best wraps in the world are made by Queen B of Australia.
- To hold rice or other dry goods…
- Mason jars – quart, half-gallon, and gallon.
- Pickle jars – gallon – these can be found sometimes at restaurants or garage sales and can be repurposed.
- Spice jars – Hayley Cherie 6oz glass jars with stainless steel lids that screw on well (not all do).
- Leftover containers
Washing Helpers & Supplies
Read this post for my favorite tools. The critical items needed to transition to ecologically friendly and non-toxic products will be $38, and you can build from there if you want.