In this article we are going to give you an overview of best quality pans and pots that can make your daily healthy cooking much easier. The characteristics of a pan and its (non)toxicity depend on the material that was used to make it, as well as on the quality of the material.
Even though we will focus on the frying pans, we will also touch upon the utensils that are used for baking and boiling, as almost always the same safety principles apply regardless the method of cooking.
We categorized the pans, keeping the basic principles of healthy cooking, so they have to match the following criteria:
- allow to cook with as little oil as possible
- shouldn’t release any toxic chemicals into the food during food preparation
- the cooking surface should be durable, it shouldn’t be damaged easily
Let’s take a look at the materials that are commonly used for cooking pans, and which of them a the best, non-toxic option for healthy cooking.
The safest cooking pans:
Cast iron pans
If you asked me to name you one, the most durable, and the healthiest cooking pan material, I would say cast iron. In fact, it’s a traditional material that’s been used in many regions in the world for centuries. It’s perfect for cooking on fire and on gas, and besides cooking in it on the stove, you can also put it into the oven (as long as no other materials are used for handles). Cast iron pans are perfect for slow cooking as well.
This is also a material that doesn’t leak any chemicals in your food, even if the surface gets slightly damaged. It can, however, “leak” iron into your food, though the amount is safe for consumption. In fact, some experts recommend cooking in cast iron for people that have iron deficiency, as small amounts of iron are transferred to food.
From the cooking prospective, cast iron pans cook very fast and even, because of its weight and heat distribution.
Some cooking blogs claim that cast iron is a non stick, but it’s not exactly true and will depend a lot on your stove. Cast iron might be not the best choice if you try to cook without oil completely, but it’s great if you want to cook with a minimum amount of fat.
Here are some recommended cast iron pans:
Carbon steel is also considered to be the safest material. and it has similar qualities to cast iron. This type of material is often the choice number one by professional chefs, because it can last literally forever, and when it’s season right, it also has non-stick capabilities. Carbon steel, however, is more expensive than cast iron, and this can be seen as the biggest disadvantage of this material
Here are some recommended carbon steel pans
Stainless steel, along with cast iron, is usually the choice number one for professional kitchens, as they can literally last forever. You will find a bit of controversial information about the safety of stainless steel, yet it will be the material most of the cooking pots are made of, including pressure cookers.
Although the risk is minimal, poorly constructed stainless steel cookware can potentially leach a small amount of nickel into food (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4284091/). So, the most important thing when choosing a stainless steel pot is its quality, as the brand you choose should guarantee that it used a good quality material, but not the scrape metals.
From a cooking point of view, stainless steel of course has a big downside, because without oil the surface mill become very sticky. So, it suits best for the non-frying cooking methods, including cooking with water, even if just with a very small amount. If you want to stir fry, for example, at least a small amount of oil use will be inevitable.
Here are some recommended stainless steel pans:
Generally safe cooking pans, but need special care:
Generally, ceramic surface is very safe for cooking. Here, it’s important to note that most of the pans that are sold as ceramic, or with a ceramic coating are actually made from aluminium base. Basically, a pan is shaped from aluminium, and then it’s dipped into the coating. It means that if the surface gets damaged (for example, scratched or cracked), you risk exposure to aluminium. If you choose a high quality pan with thick ceramic coating, of course, the risk of damage is much smaller. With this type of coating it’s very important to take a good care of the pan. Be careful when using it on an electric stove, that reach very high temperatures very fast (extreme heat can damage the surface). Wash it without a scrubber and only use wooden or silicon spatulas when cooking.
Depending o the quality of the surface, ceramic-coated pans can be used for cooking without oil, as they have non-stick properties.
Here are some recommended ceramic-coated pans:
A great alternative for classic ceramic-coated pans are granite cookware, and this is the type that we use in our kitchen a lot. To be precise, “granite” pans are not actually made of granite. It’s a different type of a ceramic coating, that resembles granite by its look.
When the surface is of a good quality, I personally found the surface much sturdier than a classic ceramic pan. Moreover, in most cases food doesn’t stick to the surface even if you cook without oil.
Here are some recommended granite pans:
Enamel pans are a truly traditional cookware and can be found in many grandmothers’ kitchens. This surface is safe, as long as it’s maintained in a good condition. Some enamel pans are actually made of cast iron, so this can be a good option to minimize the risks. Keep in mind that some lower-priced enamel cookware, which resembles porcelain-enamel, has an enamel finish that can be damaged very easily.
Unfortunately, the enamel pans are not the best option for cooking without oil, the surface is quite sticky. It is, however, a good choice for boiling and baking in the oven.
Here are some recommended enamel pans:
This was an overview of the best cooking pans with the focus on frying, cooking without oil and boiling. If you are looking for the safest materials for baking, than take a look at fully ceramic (clay) cookware and consider baking on stone. We will be covering these materials in further articles.