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.

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.

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 ppm
  • 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

 

Carbon Steel Pans & the Environment

Blu Skillet Ironware is the only company I know making carbon steel pans without using aluminum (sandblasting).  Other things to take into consideration:

  1. French brands like Matfer Bourgeat and De Buyer are often the lightest in weight, but their handles are not comfortable at all.  I think most people would find Blu Skillet Ironware’s handles to be much easier to hold onto.
  2. Pay attention to the weights of each brand and each pan.  Some are incredibly heavy.  If you find a good weight combined with a pan that has the right handle and the right balance, it should be comfortable to use.

Carbon Steel Baking Sheets – tips

  1. 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.  The Matfer baking sheets are cheaper than the cladded stainless steel baking sheets, so they are a good option until one has enough funds to go for the stainless steel sheets that remain completely flat.

Stainless Steel – how to wade through all the different brands

All stainless steel pots and pans recommended in this post work with induction.  All of the stockpots listed are cladded, rather than disc-based.  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:

  1. The best skillets are Demeyere’s Proline’s, 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Demeyere 5-Plus/ aka Zwilling Sensation / aka Industry 5 and All-Clad Stainless 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.

Stainless Steel – Comparing Saladmaster brand to 360 brand.

Cookware like the 360 Made In Wisconsin has a “vacuum seal” to their lids, which can make a difference in how much energy or heat is needed to cook the food, and all the vapors are captured.  They are similar to the Saladmaster cookware (also made in Wisconsin) in that regard (Saladmaster also has the “vacuum seal” on their lids, although the Saladmaster has the famous additional feature: the vapor valve, which starts rattling when the inside temp reaches 187 degrees F, which then allows you to turn the heat down, so that the food is never being cooked beyond that temp.  I think the idea is that if you are not cooking beyond that temperature, that more enzymes in your food may survive, making your food healthier.  But I’m not a food scientist or a chemist, so don’t quote me on that!  Unfortunately Saladmaster cookware is incredibly expensive…you will pay $3,100 for 6 pots and pans, and you get a food chopper for “free.”  If we allocate $400 of that to cover the cost of the food chopper, you would still end up paying $450, per pan!  And some of those pans will be the smaller sauce pans (like a 2 or 4 quart) and potentially a fry pan, depending on what you choose.  That is pretty nuts.  I love the vapor valve, but…it seems like Saladmaster is only obtainable for the very rich.

To give an even more detailed comparison between the two brands Saladmaster and 360….

If you purchase the “Classic” set from Saladmaster, you will have 2 qt, 4 qt, and 5qt pots, and an 11″ skillet.  With every set they give you two premium pieces, such as their 12″ electric oil core skillet, 9 qt braised pan, or 5 qt electric oil core skillet, a deep dish skillet, or a baking sheet, etc. They give customers a food chopper with every order.  This totals $3,100.

If you purchase a similar list of items from 360, such as the 2 qt, 4 qt, 6qt pots, an 11.5″ fry pan, a slow cooker base with 2.3qt pan, (base fits onto the 4 qt pot as well), an 8 qt stockpot, and their food chopper (which isn’t as nice as the Saladmaster, due to the base), it would cost you: $1,643 vs. the $3,100 with Saladmaster, and the 360 slow cooker base is separate from the pots, creating more versatility.  Making adjustments for the difference in cost for the food chopper, this averages about $232, per pan.

The 360 slow cooker base heats from 155 degrees to 255 degrees F.

The Saladmaster electric oil core skillets/slow cookers heat from 155 degrees to 450 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.

Solar Cooking

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.

—-

I would use all of the pans listed below, but only you can decide what cooking surface you’re comfortable using.  Also, deciding if you want rivets or a welded rivetless design is something to consider, so I tried to include a rivetless as well as a riveted design for each pan type.  Rivets are mainly a consideration for cleaning.  Each pan type/size I recommend has multiple options listed.

 

Cookware, for 1 person: 6-7 pieces
Cookware, for 2 people – add the following 3+ quart sauce pot if you don’t already have one.
  • Sauce pot ~  3 – 5.5 quart (choose the size that works best for you)
Cookware, for 3 – 4 people – add the following
Cookware, for 5 – 6 people – add the following
  • Saute pan – shallow: 6 quart – useful for reducing large batches of leafy greens down to size.
    • 6 qt Cuisinart 89336-30H, riveted, untreated, glass-lidded, aluminum-base alternative with thinner sidewalls and a lower grade of stainless steel that is stickier, $48

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

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.   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:

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.

  • 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.

  • 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 – don’t boning knives work way better anyway?).  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

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.

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