Now that Teflon has gained a bad reputation, it seems like ceramic cookware is here to take its place.
Manufacturers of ceramic or ceramic coated cookware say they are super safe and include no harmful chemicals or heavy metals.
But are they really?
In this guide, we will discuss all the things you need to know about ceramic cookware safety.
- 1 What is Ceramic Coated Cookware?
- 2 Application Process of Non-Stick Ceramic Cookware
- 3 History of Cookware
- 4 Benefits of Ceramic Cookware
- 5 Cons
- 6 What Exactly are PTFE and PFOA?
- 7 PFOA In Non-Stick Cookware
- 8 Ceramic Cookware and PTFE and PFOA
- 9 Heat Resistance on Ceramic Cookware
- 10 Expert Tips on Ceramic Cookware Safety
- 11 Bottom Line
What is Ceramic Coated Cookware?
Ceramic is made of clay that is baked and hardened by a fire, and basically has the same attributes as sand and stone.
When we talk about ceramic cookware, we either mean 100% ceramic-made cookware or ceramic-coated metal cookware.
Pure ceramic cookware is a very safe choice, but you must be careful when you are handling it as it cannot withstand a lot of impact and can get easily damaged.
This cookware is highly recommended since it does not contain any sort of heavy metals.
Ceramic-coated cookware, on the other hand, is not only made from ceramic or clay.
Instead, the cookware is mostly made of metal and a glaze of slick ceramic is applied to the metallic surface, to make your pan or pot non-stick.
Since the non-stick ceramic coating is made from a mixture of silicon, oxygen, and inorganic material, it does not contain any carbon, which makes it more environmental-friendly and safe.
Additionally, the glaze of ceramic prevents the underlying metal from leaching into the food, making it a safe cookware option.
Application Process of Non-Stick Ceramic Cookware
Typically, most non-stick ceramic coatings are applied by using Sol-gel.
Sol-gel is a process that converts inorganic liquid solution into a gel, which is then applied to a metal cookware, either by dipping the cookware into the gel or by spraying it with the gel in a layer.
The cookware then undergoes a high-temperature curing process that solidifies and ensures that the gel adheres to the metal.
History of Cookware
Before we dive into the world of ceramic cookware, let us take a look at the history of some of the other most commonly used cookware material.
Aluminum is the most popular cookware material in both home kitchens and professional kitchens.
Aluminum has been around for a very long time because it heats evenly, does not corrode, and is quite affordable to buy.
The older generation still prefers aluminum over any other type of cookware material.
In the 1960s, though, health and safety concerns begin to arise in association with aluminum usage after deposits of it was found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.
This gave ground to the suspicion that aluminum causes Alzheimer’s disease and the material was leached into the food while cooking.
However, there has been no confirmed research that aluminum is associated with the neurodegenerative disease.
Still, many people believed the rumors and as such other alternative cookware, which was deemed “safer,” emerged in the market.
This included stainless steel, glass, iron, ceramic and porcelain.
Glass Ceramic Cookware
Glass ceramic cookware is a hybrid of ceramic and glass and is made with a blend of sand, limestone, ash, and a few other substances that are all-natural and safe for use.
The material also contains traces of sulfur, silicon, and sodium.
Today glass ceramic cookware has been designed in a way that all materials are sealed in and there I no danger of them reacting with the heat and leaching into the food, making it safe to eat.
Moreover, the process of making glass ceramic cookware involves crystallization, which makes cookware even more durable and safer.
Enameled Porcelain Cookware
Enamel is a type of glass.
Enameled porcelain cookware contains similar material as glass ceramic cookware, though, it also contain kaolinite, a substance used to make porcelain.
This type of cookware comes in glazed and unglazed form.
The manufacturing process involves melting porcelain into another material like aluminum or stainless steel.
This means porcelain only serves as a coating. Enameled porcelain cookware are very safe to use; however, you need to be careful that you do not crack the porcelain coating, as it can leach into your food.
In 1938, DuPont invented Teflon and registered it in 1944.
The material was designed to be non-stick and was a seemingly perfect solution for people who complained about their food sticking and burning to the base of metal pots and pans.
By 1951, Teflon was being used commercially by the baking industry to make breads and cookies; however, once it was discovered that the overheated substance emitted toxic gasses, DuPont did not market it to the public.
Then in 1954, a French engineer further transformed Teflon and by 1956, Teflon cookware was introduced that was marketed to consumers.
However, the questions still remain: how safe is Teflon?
Benefits of Ceramic Cookware
The big question, then, is whether ceramic or ceramic-coated cookware is better for your health and the environment.
The answer is yes. Moreover, 100% ceramic cookware is even safer than ceramic-coated cookware.
- Eco-friendly: Ceramic cookware contains inorganic compounds and no carbon, making it a green choice. Their chemical composition is basically the same as sand or stone so they are also easy to produce.
- PTFE- and PFOA-free: Ceramic cookware is free from Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) which may be harmful for health.
- Easier application: Ceramic is also easier to apply on metal cookware as compared to Teflon coating which requires at least three application. Ceramic coating typically needs one layer and they also take less time to cure. This reduces over time, consumes less energy, and results in over 50 percent less carbon dioxide than Teflon.
- Withstand higher temperature: Ceramic coating can withstand extremely high temperatures, meaning its composition does not break down and it does not emit harmful fumes that are damaging to the environment.
- Heat-Retaining Properties: Ceramic cookware holds heat very efficiently and even when the cookware is off the stovetop, it retains heat and keeps the food hot.
- Easy to clean: Additionally, ceramic cookware is hydrophobic and olephobic and contains silicone dioxide which is responsible for giving it that non-stick feature. Because of this, you don’t need to add any oil or butter to your pots or pans to prevent food sticking. It also means it can be wiped clean easily with a wet cloth.
- Scratch-resistant: Ceramic cookware also does not scratch, stain, or dent. However, if it falls down, it can break.
- Various styles: Ceramic cookware comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. Additionally, some ceramic cookware also comes with dimpled surfaces to increase the non-stickiness.
Ceramic cookware does not have a lot of drawbacks, but people need to take into account the following things as well.
If we are talking about ceramic-coated cookware, the coating is not designed to last all that long.
In fact, it was found that even the best ceramic coating will last 6 times less than a Teflon coating.
Additionally, the non-stick ability of ceramic coating can reduce over time.
So it all comes down to your personal preferences.
If you have a choice between a ceramic-coated or a Teflon-coated cookware, if you care for durability, Teflon is the best choice.
But if you care about your health and environment, you may have to compromise a bit on durability.
Moreover, if you use a ceramic-coated cookware, be careful about what kind of spoons and utensils you are using with it.
Metal utensils can scrape off the layer of non-stick ceramic, making your food stick to the surface of the pan and scorching it.
To ensure your cookware lasts longer, always use a wooden or plastic spoon with cookware coated with any substance — be it ceramic or Teflon.
Also, avoid putting your ceramic cookware in a dishwasher as it can damage it.
While we are on the subject of limitations of ceramic cookware, one of the most asked customer questions is about the presence of lead and cadmium in the ceramic glazes.
There have been reports of elements like lead and cadmium leaching into food.
However, these elements have been banned for ceramic products in the United States, thanks to the Prop 65. All companies should comply with these regulations.
Unfortunately, though, these substances are still being used in countries where regulations are lax, like Asian and Latin American countries.
And although the amount of dangerous elements leached into the food is very minute, they can accumulate over time in your bloodstream.
Hence, using the same pots and pans day after day would mean exposure to these chemicals 365 times in a year.
This can increase the lead and cadmium in your blood to dangerous levels.
So, the main takeaway is that if you want to buy ceramic or ceramic-coated cookware, you need to make sure they are free of toxic substances, and you can only do that by buying quality products from quality manufacturers.
What Exactly are PTFE and PFOA?
Most of you will be familiar with the word “Teflon” which is a popular synthetic non-stick substance used in traditional cookware.
You will probably find Teflon-coated cookware the most if you are in the market for non-stick pots and pans.
However, Teflon is bad news.
Created by DuPont, Teflon is the brand name for a synthetic substance, polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).
This substance is very stable, even at high temperatures, and because of this it has a wide variety of uses, like serving as a non-stick coating.
Another man-made chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is also used in the making of Teflon.
According to the American Cancer Society, PFOA has potential health concerns since it can stay in the environment and inside the human body for a long time. In fact, it is present worldwide in low levels in virtually everyone’s blood.
PFOA is considered to be a carcinogenic and is linked with birth defects and high levels of cholesterol.
Rats that have been exposed to the chemical have contracted pancreatic, testicular, mammary and liver tumors and it poses an increases risk of cancer in the male reproductive organs system and pancreas.
Additionally, the cancer society warns that using Teflon in high temperature can result in flu-like symptoms called polymer fume fever.
This same fume is responsible for killing pet birds at home.
A lot of you may have noticed a strange odor coming from your brand new pans when you put them on the heat.
This odor is the smell of fumes from the chemical non-stick Teflon coating and you should beware of breathing in these toxic fumes.
PFOA In Non-Stick Cookware
The good news is though that PFOA was banned from use by the United States government in 2015 and the chemical industry was forbidden to use it.
In fact, the manufacturers of PFOA, DuPont, stopped making it even before that, eliminating it in 2013.
These days, you don’t need to worry about new cookware as it does not contain PFOA.
However, if you buy older cookware that was created before 2013 or 2015, depending on the manufacturer of the non-stick coating, the coating may contain PFOA.
So you need to be careful of that.
Even though PFOA is no longer being used, it is a whole different story with PTFE. Unlike PFOA, PTFE was not banned and it is still used.
PTFE was once created with PFOA, but now, another man-made chemical is used to make it.
Just because FOA is banned, doesn’t mean that the new chemical that is used to make PTFE is any less toxic.
It is just that no one is aware of the adverse effects of the chemical. However, when it comes to your health, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Ceramic Cookware and PTFE and PFOA
Since ceramic cookware does not require any synthetic, chemical-based or heavy-metal based non-stick coating, including PFOA or PTFE, it is safe to use it.
The 100% ceramic cookware or ceramic-coated cookware gets its non-stick feature from the mixture of silicon dioxide, which is slick and non-adhering.
It also does not react to the food under conditions of extreme heat.
If you are looking for 100% safe ceramic cookware, make sure you buy one made from a reputable brand and not from some cheap manufacturers.
There is always a danger of harmful substances in low quality products.
Heat Resistance on Ceramic Cookware
Ceramic cookware is extremely durable.
Because of its inorganic composition, ceramic cookware can withstand extremely high temperatures, over 800 degrees Fahrenheit.
According to manufacturers, even if you heat your ceramic cookware beyond 800 degrees, it will not break down or emit toxic fumes.
This is in contrast to man-made substances like Teflon which will start to deteriorate after 500 degrees Fahrenheit and emit toxic fumes.
This is not the case with ceramic.
This means the cookware is safe for humans, birds, animals, and the environment as a whole.
Another big benefit of ceramic cookware is that they can also be used in the oven if the handle is made of stainless steel.
If the handle is silicon, a temperature beyond 350 degree Fahrenheit can melt it, so be careful about that.
Even though ceramic is highly heat-resistant, they cannot handle too rapid cooling, if you stick a hot ceramic pan in very cold water, it will contract too rapidly and shatter.
This can be dangerous as the sharp ceramic particles can get in your food and injure you.
Expert Tips on Ceramic Cookware Safety
According to the above information, we can conclude that ceramic or ceramic-coated cookware is safe for your health.
If you use Teflon, you have to be super careful as toxic chemicals can leach into your food if it is overheated.
The inorganic ceramic layer is infinitely healthier than Teflon.
However, to get the full benefits of ceramic cookware, you need to consider a few things:
- Do not buy cheap-quality ceramic cookware. Ceramic cookware made in countries with lax restrictions may contain hazardous substances. In ceramic-coated cookware, the ceramic layer may be quite thin, which means it may become eroded in a very short span of time.
- Always buy your ceramic cookware from a credible manufacturer and make sure it was created after 2013, so it doesn’t contain any PFOA.
- Always read the product specifications before buying the product. Also, play close attention to the instruction manual before using the cookware.
- Always check your ceramic cookware for cracks. If a cookware is cracked, it can shatter in high heat.
- Do not scrub your ceramic cookware with abrasive scouring pad. Warm water, mild soap, and a sponge or dishcloth is enough to easily clean a ceramic pan or pot. Also wash it by hand even if the manufacturers say they are dishwasher-safe. This will help elongate their life.
- Don’t make your ceramic cookware go from very hot to cold quickly.
For people who want to cook their food without fear of scorching them, a non-stick pan or pot is indispensable.
Ceramic cookware is a godsend, particularly in light of how Teflon is being phased out.
The best part is that ceramic-coated cookware is also less pricey than Teflon coated cookware.