When we did our review of GraniteStone cookware, we realized that there's a lot of confusing information about stoneware cookware. Most "stoneware cookware" that comes up in a Google or Amazon search is actually aluminum cookware with a nonstick PTFE (Teflon®) coating. These pans are a far cry from the safe, healthy stoneware cookware that's been around for hundreds of years.
If you want the safest, healthiest cookware you can find, this is an important thing to get right.
Here, we define ALL the types of stoneware cookware so you can know exactly what to shop for and what you're getting. Read on to get all the gritty details about stoneware cookware.
What Is Stoneware Cookware? All the Types Explained
Stoneware cookware is a confusing topic because there are several types of it and they are all different.
Also, both stoneware and ceramic have come to be generic terms for several different types of stone-derived cookware or cookware coatings. Ceramic can now also mean a type of nonstick cookware; this cookware is ceramic, but it is made differently than traditional ceramic cookware and bakeware and contains different chemicals that you should know about before buying.
In other words, both "stoneware" and "ceramic" represent a wide range of cookware that's either made from or coated with stone-derived or stone-containing material.
Some stoneware cookware has been around for hundreds of years (such as 100% stoneware), while some of it is new technology that's been in existence since about 2007 (such as nonstick ceramic).
And PTFE nonstick "stoneware" is hydrocarbon-based and not made from any stone at all, though it can contain stone particles--more on that below.
Most stoneware/ceramic cookware is durable and safe, but it can have extremely poor heating properties, being that stone and ceramic are insulators rather than conductors of heat.
The poor heating properties matter most for 100% stoneware (rather than coated cookware), and even then primarily only for stovetop use. That is, 100% stoneware makes terrible skillets, sauce pans and stockpots, but it makes fine bakeware, where the insulating properties can help food bake more evenly and prevent burning.
If people want 100% stoneware for their primary cookware, it's usually for safety reasons, and they're willing to live with its drawbacks. We at TRK understand there are many types of safe, stable cookware with excellent heating properties, including clad stainless, cast iron, copper, and more. But some people disagree, and they are the ones who buy 100% stoneware brands (like Xtrema).
This table lists all the different types of stoneware cookware (we think we got them all). We start with the nonstick types because they are the most popular, but keep in mind that PTFE nonstick isn't a real stoneware product (more on this in a minute).
All the Types of Stoneware Cookware
What It Is
Pros and Cons
Aluminum or stainless base with PTFE nonstick coating; coating may contain rock or granite particles (but doesn't always).
Pros: Mostly inexpensive, base heats evenly.
Cons: Coating won't last, have to use low heat, possible safety issues (PTFE, PFAS).
Aluminum or stainless base with ceramic nonstick coating; invented in 2007 and NOT the same as traditional ceramics (which are not nonstick).
Pros: Mostly inexpensive, durable, base heats evenly.
Cons: Nonstick coating won't last, have to use low heat, possible safety issues (titanium dioxide nanoparticles).
General terms: can mean porcelain, 100% stoneware, nonstick ceramic, or enamel. Can be 100% stone or a coating.
See other categories for pros and cons.
See other categories for examples. Note that "ceramic" has a wide range of meanings and it can be tricky to determine what a "ceramic" pot really is.
Stoneware that uses kaolinite (a high-grade clay). Typically a coating over some type of metal.
Pros: Most durable of all ceramics; nonporous; semi-nonstick.
Cons: Brittle, heavy, heats unevenly.
Fired clay. May be called "ceramic" or "stone."
Pros: Considered safe and healthy, semi-nonstick.
Cons: Slow uneven heating, brittle.
Powdered, melted glass used as a coating over another material.
Pros: Very durable, semi-nonstick.
Cons: Brittle, poor heating (but ok as a coating).
Non-crystalline material made from sand or stone. Used mostly for baking and storage.
Pros: Impermeable, considered very safe (i.e., non-toxic).
Cons: Brittle, with awful heating properties, no good for stovetop.
Pros: Can use for stovetop, oven, and storage.
Cons: Brittle, heavy, terrible heating properties.
*Pyrex, Corningware, and other cookware that contains no metal may also be considered 100% ceramic or 100% stoneware.
Earthenware is another type of stoneware that we didn't include because it's too porous to be used as cookware. It is more commonly seen as dinnerware (plates), and almost always glazed or painted.
There may be some examples of earthenware used for cooking, particularly in other countries, but we aren't aware of any, so we did not include it in our list of stone cookware.
Why Do Search Results Show Nonstick Cookware and Not Real Stoneware (Like Granite Ware, Corningware, or Xtrema)?
When you search for "stoneware cookware" on the Internet (or "stone cookware," "stone pans," etc.) on the Internet or Amazon, most of the results displayed are aluminum pans with a nonstick coating that's either PTFE or nonstick ceramic (go here to learn more about these two types of nonstick coating).
When you search for "ceramic cookware," you will get a mix of nonstick ceramic and PTFE nonstick, and maybe a smattering of other types of ceramic cookware.
This happens because the terms "stoneware cookware" and "ceramic cookware" have become synonymous with nonstick pans that either 1) contain granite or rock particles; 2) have some form of the words "granite," "stone," or "rock" in the brand name of the nonstick coating (such as Granitium, a PTFE coating) or the pan itself (GraniteStone); 3) have a ceramic nonstick coating.
Thus, nonstick cookware has become associated with the terms "stoneware" and "ceramic cookware" even though most of them are aluminum pans with a nonstick coating that's not really anything like traditional stoneware or ceramic cookware.
This is unfortunate, because there are many other stoneware pan options to choose from, and many of them are excellent choices.
So good luck if you're searching for one of them, and not a nonstick pan. They may not come up in your search at all unless you know enough to search for a specific brand (i.e., le Creuset, Xtrema, Granite Ware, etc.)
Why Is Nonstick Cookware Called Stoneware (If That's Not Really What It Is?)
Nonstick cookware isn't really stone cookware. But it's called stoneware, whether it contains any stone or not, for several reasons:
1. "Stoneware" nonstick contains stone, rock, or granite. Millions of people love nonstick cookware, but its biggest weakness is that it doesn't last. The nonstick coatings have an average life span of 1-5 years, which is incredibly short compared to the decades of service you will get from other types of cookware (cast iron, enameled cast iron, clad stainless steel, copper, or even 100% stoneware cookware like Xtrema).
Thus, manufacturers have come up with ways to make nonstick cookware more durable.
One way they do this is to reinforce the nonstick coating with tiny particles of hard substances to make the coatings last longer. One of the most popular of these is granite (or rock, or stone).
(Titanium and diamond dust are also popular--see our article on similarly confusing Titanium Cookware--but that is another topic.)
These reinforcements may help make nonstick cookware more durable, but it is never going to have the same life span as stainless, cast iron, and older types of stoneware pans. At best, you will get another year or two out of reinforced nonstick coatings.
2. "Stoneware" sounds durable. Another thing makers do is give the nonstick coating and/or pan itself a durable-sounding name. This is why there are so many nonstick brands with words like "granite," "rock," and "stone" in the name.
There are also many trade names of PTFE with some form of the words "stone," "granite," or "rock" in the name, even if they don't contain any of these materials.
In other words, a pan called Stoneline or GraniteStone or Stone Earth sounds a lot more durable than a pan simply called nonstick.
3. "Stone" or "granite" distracts people from the PTFE in the nonstick coating. Furthermore, PTFE (the generic name for Teflon®) has gotten a bad rap in recent years, and for some good reasons (see our article What Is PFOA? A Guide to Nonstick Cookware Chemicals). So by adding other materials, makers can call their products "granite-based" or "titanium-based" instead of what it really is: a PTFE coating that has particles of other substances added to it.
Sometimes you have to read the fine print to discover that a pan contains PTFE; and sometimes it's not even in the fine print (hint: if it isn't, it's safe to assume the pan contains PTFE).
4. "Stoneware" sounds old-fashioned and free of toxins. Many brands of "stone" nonstick cookware are even designed to look like the old-fashioned cookware made by a company called Granite Ware that's been around for about 150 years (long before nonstick cookware was invented):
Graniteware was, in turn, named for its resemblance to granite (and also probably because the name sounds durable):
Though Graniteware has changed over the years, it's basically a steel core with a porcelain coating. It is not remotely any type of nonstick cookware.
Note also that nonstick cookware with a rock-containing coating doesn't have to be black with white or gray specks; it can be any color makers wish to make it. The resemblance to Graniteware and granite (the actual rock) is an intentional marketing tactic--again, to give the impression of durability.
To summarize: Nonstick cookware is called "stoneware" because it 1) contains particles of stone in the coating; 2) "stoneware" sounds durable (the biggest issue with nonstick coatings), 3) to distract people from the fact that the coating contains PTFE and other potentially toxic substances, and 4) in the same vein as #3, to sound more old-fashioned and thus free of toxins.
In many cases, it's 5) all of the above.
Why Is It Hard to Find Information About Stone Cookware Other than Nonstick?
We're not sure, but it's probably because nonstick cookware has, in a way, hijacked the stoneware market.
Most aluminum nonstick cookware is inexpensive, especially compared to some of the higher-end brands of stoneware (Le Creuset, Xtrema).
You may not know this, but Internet searches are largely geared toward the most common denominator search factor, and for cookware, that usually means low price. (Check Amazon and you will see that most inexpensive products have way more reviews than their more expensive counterparts. There are exceptions, but in general, it's true.)
There's no real problem with that. It's perfectly okay that inexpensive stone cookware comes up in searches, as long as people know what all their options are.
But in many cases they don't, and therein lies the problem.
If people think that the aluminum nonstick cookware that comes up in a search for stoneware cookware is the only option, they're missing out on a lot of other options.
Worse, they may think that this nonstick stone cookware is as safe as older types of stone cookware, when that may not be the case (in fact, is probably not the case).
We are alarmed at the number of websites that support and spread this misinformation. Many sites tell you that aluminum nonstick "stone" cookware "contains no PTFE," "is made of clay," and is "entirely free of toxins."
These are actual quotes from other website articles about "stoneware cookware."
If a site tells you a nonstick pan that has some form of the words "granite" or "rock" or "stone" in the name contains no PTFE, you should be very skeptical. Because most of them do contain PTFE.
And even if they're free of PFOA, they're most likely made with other chemicals from the PFAS family such as GenX, or similar toxic chemicals. (See our article What Is PFOA? for a guide to nonstick cookware chemicals.)
Some nonstick coatings are ceramic, and these coatings do not contain PTFE. But as we said, nonstick ceramic is a different product than old-fashioned ceramic, and you should understand how before you buy nonstick ceramic cookware (we talk more about this below).
Is Stoneware Cookware Safe?
To answer this question thoroughly, we have to look at every type of stoneware (and ceramic) cookware. And even then, it can be hard to say, because terms like enamel, ceramic, and glass are tossed about interchangeably. These terms can mean the same thing or something very different.
Makers can use different terms for the same thing, and there is no guide or standard to help you understand what they're actually talking about.
Overall, all types of cookware sold in the US are considered safe; in the case of nonstick cookware (both PTFE and ceramic), safe when used correctly.
The biggest concern about non-nonstick stoneware is the dyes and glazes. Before people knew the dangers of substances like lead, cadmium, and arsenic, these were routinely used in making dyes and glazes. But this hasn't been the case for a very long time, and is no longer a concern for cookware sold in the US.
There may be trace amounts of lead, cadmium, arsenic, or other chemicals found in stoneware because these substances occur naturally in the soil. The amounts are generally much too tiny to be of concern, and/or they've been neutralized by the high-heat firing process.
Also, if they are present, they will be present on the outside of the pan and not on the cooking surface.
Other websites--in particular, "healthy" and "safe" product websites--may tell you that toxins are a concern in most types of cookware. But our research has shown otherwise--that pretty much all cookware sold in the US is safe to use.
The one exception we'd make is true nonstick cookware (both PTFE and ceramic), and while it seems to be safe when used correctly, we really need more information to say so with complete certainty.
Anyway, here's the safety information on all the types of stoneware and ceramic cookware listed in the table above.
Nonstick PTFE "Stoneware" Cookware (GraniteStone, Stoneline)
Nonstick stoneware cookware with a PTFE coating has all the same safety issues as other PTFE nonstick cookware. None of these safety issues have anything to do with stone or granite, but here are the ones to be aware of.
PTFE: PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), also known as Teflon® and hundreds of other brand names (Granitium, Eterna, Autograph, etc.). PTFE is a hydrocarbon based, man-made polymer (meaning that it is a type of plastic). PTFE is safe and inert at low temperatures, but it begins to give off fumes around 400F. Makers say these fumes aren't dangerous until temps of about 590F. Around this temp, the PTFE begins to break down, giving off fumes that cause flu-like symptoms in humans and are lethal to birds; you should not own any PTFE cookware if you have a pet bird.
PTFE breaks down into PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are toxic to humans and terrible for the environment.
PFOA: PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) is a carcinogenic toxin that does not break down naturally in the environment. It is a member of the PFAS family and often referred to as a "forever chemical." PFOA is outlawed in the US and is no longer used in cookware manufacturing. Unfortunately, it is often replaced with another type of PFAS such as GenX.
Even if cookware is made without using any PFAS, it's probably made with a similar chemical. Such a chemical is required to get PTFE, the most slippery substance known to man, to adhere to cookware. So "PFAS-free" is better than "PFOA-free," but unless you know what manufacturers have replaced the PFAS with, it's hard to say that a pan is completely safe and free of toxins (and honestly, it's likely that it is not).
Finally, these PFAS or similar chemicals are largely used up in the manufacturing process, with little to no remaining in the cookware. You are more likely to ingest PFAS from your drinking water than you are from your nonstick cookware. But if you're concerned about these chemicals building up in the environment--right now, 99% of water on the planet contains traces of PFAS--then don't buy PTFE cookware (stone or otherwise).
See also our articles What Is PFOA? A Guide to Nonstick Cookware Chemicals and Is Nonstick Cookware Safe? as well as our Cookware Archives, which has several articles about nonstick cookware.
Nonstick Ceramic Cookware (GreenPan)
Nonstick ceramic cookware is a fairly new invention: the first pan went to market in 2007. Ceramic nonstick is similar to, but not the same as, the more traditional types of ceramic cookware coatings.
Like PTFE, there are a number of brands of nonstick ceramic coatings. The most popular ones are Thermolon (used in GreenPan as well as many other cookware brands) and Greblon (used in Healthy Legend and other brands). These coatings are applied to aluminum or stainless pans and are the only stoneware/ceramic truly considered nonstick. (You can read more about Thermolon and Greblon coatings in our article Nonstick Cookware Brands: PTFE or Ceramic?)
But are nonstick ceramic coatings safe? Well, unlike PTFE, nonstick ceramic coatings are literally derived from sand or clay, so they really are a type of stoneware cookware, and they contain no potentially dangerous fluorinated compounds like PTFE nonstick cookware.
But the similarities to traditional ceramic pretty much end there.
Nonstick ceramic coatings are applied to pots and pans using a sol-gel process. This process basically turns the ceramic coating into a liquid so it can be sprayed onto pans, then baked to a hard, smooth finish.
Sol-gel slurries contain substances known as titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which have been associated with some health issues in humans, including malignant tumors. This article discusses the issue as it relates to "quasi-ceramic" cookware (by which they mean nonstick ceramic cookware).
Traditional ceramic cookware coatings are not made with the sol-gel process. So, the titanium nanoparticles are found only in nonstick ceramic coatings, but not in other stoneware cookware.
Thus, nonstick ceramic differs from traditional ceramic cookwares in this significant way. There are still a lot of unknowns about these nanoparticles, and the jury is still out on whether or not they pose a valid health risk to humans. The consensus today is that they probably do not during normal use--though the risk may go up at high temperatures, or if a pan is chipped or cracked.
See our article Ceramic Frying Pans: Better than PTFE? for more information on nonstick ceramic pans.
Porcelain-Coated Cookware (Granite Ware)
Porcelain is a type of stoneware or ceramic made from special clay called kaolinite. It is a traditional material that's been used for pottery, art, and utilitarian objects for thousands of years.
Porcelain is one of the most durable types of stoneware and extremely impermeable (nonporous). However, it's brittle, so while it makes a good coating for cookware, you will rarely find cookware made entirely from porcelain.
Most porcelain cookware is steel coated with porcelain. One of the most popular brands of porcelain-coated cookware is Granite Ware, the old-fashioned black cookware with white speckles all over it. Granite Ware, which has been around for more than 150 years, is made of a thin layer of carbon steel; this means decent, but not spectacular, heating properties. It's good for roasting and also fine for stockpots, canning pots and coffee pots, but wouldn't make a great skillet because food would cook unevenly and the dry heat may cause food to stick (porcelain is not a nonstick surface, though its smooth surface can be fairly easy to clean).
Sometimes, porcelain is applied to just the exterior layer of cookware, primarily for appearance, as it can be made in many different colors. When this is the case, the cooking surface is typically nonstick, usually PTFE, such as this cookware (as well as many other brightly colored nonstick cookware sets).
Noe that the cooking surface determines the type of pan more than anything else. So the Rachel Ray cookware shown here is most correctly called "PTFE nonstick cookware with a porcelain coating on the exterior."
So is porcelain safe? Porcelain is an inert substance made from clay and is considered completely non-toxic. Though it is a type of ceramic, it does not contain any nanoparticles like the ceramics used in nonstick coatings. Even if the porcelain chipped and got into your food, it would not pose any health dangers.
Some people are concerned about the dyes used in some porcelain and enamel cookware coatings. It's true that some colors--primarily red, yellow and orange--can contain trace amounts of lead and cadmium. But the overwhelming majority of cookware sold in the US does not contain any toxins, and especially not on the cooking surface.
If you want to be 100% safe, buy only reputable brands of porcelain- or enamel-coated cookware. But overall, these tend to be extremely safe cookware choices.
Enamel-Coated Cookware (Le Creuset)
Enamel is a type of ceramic stoneware made from powdered, melted glass. It is applied to a base, often cast iron, and baked to a hard, durable finish. Probably the most popular example of enamel-coated cookware is the le Creuset Dutch oven.
Good quality enameled cast iron is some of the most durable cookware made.
All enamel is brittle, and can chip or crack under certain conditions (for example, don't heat your enameled cast iron without food or liquid in it, set it down roughly, or subject it to sudden, extreme temperature changes). But there really is a difference between brands, and the higher-end brands tend to be more resistant to chipping, cracking, and glazing (those tiny surface cracks that form on the enamel) than bargain brands. Though you can use enameled pots with cracks, chips, or glazing (the underlying cast iron is not toxic), higher end brands will take more abuse and resist cracking and chipping more than less expensive brands.
You can read more about this in our Best Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens article.
Is enamel-coated cookware safe? Yes! Since enamel is just melted, hardened glass, it contains no toxic materials. In fact, enamel-coated cookware is one of the safest, most stable types of cookware you can buy.
As we said above about porcelain coatings, some people worry about the dyes, which can contain small amounts of lead and cadmium; this is especially true for reds, oranges, and yellows. But enamel-coated cookware sold in the US shouldn't have any toxic chemicals at all.
Also, the dyes on enameled cast iron are only on the outside of the cookware; the cooking surface is always going to be neutral beige or black (no matter which brand you buy). These are the safest colors for the cooking surface.
Note that an enameled cast iron pot with a black interior (like Staub) is still enamel; it is not nonstick and it is not bare cast iron. It is simply black enamel.
Enamel is considered a very safe, stable type of cookware, but you can avoid the remote possibility of toxins by avoiding red, orange, and yellow tones.
Enamel-coated cookware is becoming more popular, as evidenced by All-Clad's new line of Fusiontec cookware. They call it a "ceramic" coating, but as you now know, ceramic is a generic term that can have many meanings. We believe Fusiontec has a durable enamel coating similar (if not identical) to the enamel used on le Creuset; it is probably not ceramic nonstick, which is nowhere near as durable as traditional ceramic, enamel, and porcelain. However, if it is nonstick ceramic, then nanoparticles are a concern.
100% Stoneware (Xtrema, Stone Bakeware)
Overall, 100% stoneware is considered some of the safest cookware on the market. It has no toxins associated with nonstick cookware or with metals like aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and cast iron (though in reality, there are no toxins associated with these metals, either).
100% stoneware has been around for hundreds--if not thousands--of years and is safer than ever because modern glazes and dyes are free of lead, cadmium, arsenic, and other toxins.
Xtrema's whole marketing program is that it is the safest cookware on the planet: completely free of toxins, stable, and safe to cook with.
Of course, this pretty much has to be their marketing, because 100% stoneware has terrible heating properties. It's fine for baking--stoneware can insulate delicate batters from burning and help them to bake evenly--but for stove top use, 100% stoneware is, in all honesty, an awful choice.
No semi-serious cook would use 100% stoneware cookware unless they had some terrible allergy to stainless steel or were hyper vigilant about the possibility of toxins in other types of cookware. (People like this are Xtrema's entire buyer base.)
Some people will also be concerned with the possibility of toxins in the glazes or dyes used in 100% stoneware. These issues are identical to those with porcelain and enamel discussed above, and our research shows that they are largely nonexistent for cookware sold in the US.
100% Glass/Ceramic Composite (Pyrex, Corningware)
We're grouping glass and glass/ceramic composites together, and in all honesty, these could also go under the heading of 100% stoneware (discussed above). They're all slightly different but they're all technically 100% stoneware cookware.
They contain no chemicals associated with nonstick cookware or metals such as steel, cast iron, or copper.
Glass bakeware--such as Pyrex--is somewhat different because it contains no glazes or dyes, probably making it the absolute safest possible choice, though it's generally made only for bakeware and storage, not the stove top. (Using Pyrex on a hot burner may cause it to shatter.)
Glass/ceramic composite--like Corningware--is also extremely safe. Some people may be concerned about the chemicals in the dye, but our research shows that it is completely safe.
Years ago, Corningware made a product called Visions which is glass composite cookware for the stovetop. It failed in the marketplace (as it probably should, because glass is a terrible choice for stove top cookware), but you can still find it on Amazon. Today, Visions has a cult following, largely because it is perceived as extremely safe, non-toxic cookware.
Is Stoneware Cookware Nonstick?
Remember: there are only two types of true nonstick cookware: PTFE and nonstick ceramic--and nonstick ceramic is not the same as traditional types of ceramics and stoneware.
Thus, other than the new nonstick ceramics and PTFE cookware, stoneware cookware is not nonstick.
However, most stoneware surfaces--whether porcelain, enamel, or glass--are considered semi-nonstick; that is, they are smooth surfaces that clean up easily.
High-end enamel, such as that found on le Creuset, tends to have some of the easiest cleanup among surfaces that aren't officially nonstick (if you're trying to avoid chemicals found in nonstick cookware, this is a good fact to know).
Even better, those stoneware surfaces are tough, so you can use abrasive sponges on them to remove cooked-on gunk. You may want to avoid doing this unless absolutely necessary because it can leave scratches--try soaking instead--but if you have to, you can do it without harming the coating.
Stoneware vs. Ceramic Cookware: What's the Difference?
Both stoneware and ceramic are generic terms that encompass the entire range of stone-derived cookware and cookware coatings.
So when you see either of these terms, you have to dig deeper to find out what they're referring to.
Is it aluminum with a nonstick ceramic coating?
Aluminum with a nonstick PTFE coating (with or without granite particles)?
Aluminum with a ceramic/enamel coating on the exterior and a nonstick coating on the cooking surface?
Enamel coated cast iron? Enamel coated carbon steel? Porcelain coated carbon steel?
100% stoneware with a glaze or ceramic coating?
Or maybe even something else?
The point is that both stoneware and ceramic can have many different meanings, so it is impossible for us to tell you exactly what the differences are.
You'll have to figure it out for yourself from the context and the small print--and it's not always easy.
As we've mentioned, this is particularly true for any cookware with a nonstick coating. Makers often like to downplay the fact that their cookware contains PTFE, so they'll call by the other ingredients it may contain, including enamel, porcelain, stone, granite, titanium, diamond, and more.
Furthermore, "ceramic" has become synonymous with "nonstick ceramic." So many people confuse the terms, assuming that old-fashioned ceramics are the same as nonstick ceramic (which they are not).
Some makers may even intentionally muddy these terms, so buyers think they're getting a nonstick product when they're only getting a semi-nonstick product. Or vice versa: that they're buying a pan with a traditional ceramic coating and not a nonstick one that contains nanoparticles.
If you're confused, we understand. The cookware world can be big, messy, and hard to get right. Makers use many stoneware terms interchangeably to mean different things.
You just have to keep digging until you get the right information. And feel free to shoot us any questions, because we're happy to help.
Ceramic Vs Nonstick Ceramic: What's the Difference?
We've covered this already but here it is again for people who are skipping around and not reading straight through (which, we know, is most of you).
Traditional ceramic encompasses many types of stoneware, including glass, enamel, fired clays, and glass/ceramic composites. These are made much the same way they have been for hundreds or thousands of years--but without toxins--and are considered safe for human use.
Nonstick ceramic was invented in 2007. It is also made from sand or clay, but the manufacturing process is different, and nonstick ceramic contains substances that traditional ceramics do not.
These substances, called titanium dioxide nanoparticles, are common in many manufacturing processes today. There is some evidence that they can have some harmful effects, including an association to malignant tumors.
You can read more about these in this section above.
So while ceramic and nonstick ceramic are similar, the nonstick ceramic contains different substances that may have health implications. More research is needed, but the consensus today is that nonstick ceramic cookware is safe when used correctly; we caution everyone to do their own research and to not use any cookware they're not 100% comfortable with.
We should add that sometimes, it can be hard to tell if a pan is coated with traditional ceramic or nonstick ceramic, and as popularity of nonstick ceramic grows, it's only going to get harder. We have no solution for this, except to say that if it matters to you (and it should), stick to cookware brands that you can verify as a specific type of ceramic.
Is There Lead, Cadmium, or Arsenic in Stoneware Cookware?
We discussed this in the safety section above, but to reiterate: Though it's possible for toxins like lead, cadmium and arsenic to be found in dyes and glazes used on stoneware, they have been pretty much eradicated in cookware sold to the US market. If they are present, they're found only on the exterior and not on the cooking surface, and the amounts are extremely tiny--well below any unsafe exposure levels.
Our recommendation is to buy known, reputable brands of stoneware cookware and not worry about it.
Is Stoneware Safer than Metal Cookware?
Once again, you have to compare specific types or even brands of each, but overall, we can assure you that most cookware materials are perfectly safe, whether metal, stone, or even nonstick (though nonstick is the most questionable category of the three).
Many people believe that stoneware is safer than clad stainless or cast iron cookware, but there is little basis for this belief. All good quality cookware is safe when used properly.
Here are the common metals used in cookware and how they rank on safety:
Stainless steel is stable and safe and will not leach toxins into your food. It may leach small amounts of chromium and nickel, but not in dangerous amounts (and the body needs chromium). If you have nickel allergies, you may want to use nickel-free clad stainless, but even stainless that contains nickel is unlikely to leach it into your food in amounts large enough to cause an allergic reaction. The risk goes up with acidic foods, but it is still extremely small.
Cast iron is also completely safe. Unless you have too much iron in your system (which you would know), the small amounts of iron that may leach into your food through cookware is actually healthy for most people (because we all need iron in our diet). You may also ingest polymers created from seasoning your cast iron, but these are considered safe, stable, inert substances as well.
Carbon steel: See cast iron.
Copper: Copper can leach into food and while it is not toxic, it can affect flavors; and too much of it can be unhealthy. So copper cookware is lined with a more stable metal--either stainless steel or tin, both of which are stable and non-toxic. Unlined copper cookware is made for specific purposes, like candy making, and should not be used as everyday cookware.
Aluminum: The vast majority of aluminum cookware has a coated cooking surface, and the coating is the important factor because that's what touches your food: most of it is nonstick. You can find uncoated aluminum cookware, usually at rock bottom prices in restaurant supply stores, as it is often used in restaurants because it's the cheapest cookware that heats quickly and evenly. Aluminum has been associated with Alzheimer's, though most scientific studies have not found a causal relationship. Even so, we don't recommend bare aluminum cookware. Even if it's safe, it can impart off flavors to your food.
What's the Best Stoneware Cookware?
As you can see by now, this is a big topic. Here are our choices in a few basic stoneware categories.
Best Stoneware Overall, Any Category: Le Creuset Dutch Oven
For us, the choice is an easy one, even among all the different types of stoneware and coated cookware we've discussed here. Our favorite stoneware is the Le Creuset enamel-coated Dutch oven.
This is one of the most durable pieces of cookware you'll ever own, and it's great for stovetop, oven, and even storage (something you should never do with bare cast iron). It's completely safe, and it's beautiful.
The enamel isn't officially nonstick, but it's smooth and cleans up easily.
We like the round, wide, 6.75 quart size: it's great for cooking in, and you can find it for less than the smaller but more popular 5.5 quart size. (See our detailed review.)
If Le Creuset isn't in your budget, there are less expensive brands that still offer great quality pieces. The enamel coating may not be quite as durable, but will still last for a long time--and no worries if it chips or cracks, as the underlying cast iron is completely safe.
We don't necessarily recommend enameled cast iron for everything--bare cast iron makes a better skillet, as does clad stainless--but for braises, soups, stews, stocks, and other low-and-slow foods, enameled cast iron is hard to beat.
Check out our enameled Dutch oven review for more information.
Best 100% Stoneware: Pyrex
We love clad stainless and cast iron cookware and think these are your best options for most cookware, so you're not going to get any recommendations for stove top stoneware here. We aren't going to ever recommend Xtrema or Corningware Visions because of their terrible heating properties--and, equally importantly, clad stainless and cast iron cookware are completely safe, non-toxic choices.
So for 100% stoneware, we're going to stick to bakeware and storage products, and for these, we like Pyrex. It's inexpensive, equally great for baked goods and oven dishes like lasagna, and comes in hundreds of shapes and sizes. Many containers come with lids so they can go straight from baking to storage (though be sure to avoid abrupt temperature changes).
You can spend more on fancier products (Le Creuset ceramic, Emile Henry), but you'll get about the same performance as you get from Pyrex.
Best Value Stoneware Cookware: Granite Ware
We aren't huge fans of Granite Ware; it's thin and doesn't have the best heating properties. But for roasters, stock pots, and canning pots, Granite Ware is a worthwhile product; you certainly don't need to spend a lot on any of these particular products to get good results.
Granite Ware is inexpensive and durable, and if you want something that makes you nostalgic for your childhood, this is the stuff to buy.
And we love that Granite Ware knows their limitations, because they don't make skillets. Instead, they stick to the pieces that really work will with their technology (roasters, stock pots, etc.).
Keep in mind that Granite Ware products are completely different from "granite" types of nonstick cookware, even though they look similar: Granite Ware products are porcelain and contain NO nonstick chemicals.
What About Nonstick Stoneware?
We have done several product reviews of nonstick cookware. Probably our favorite nonstick ceramic is GreenPan--and this is a "real" ceramic product, made from clay.
PTFE nonstick, contrary to brand names, marketing literature, and search results, isn't really stoneware. There are a few brands we like, but we aren't going to make a recommendation. You can check out our nonstick cookware articles if you want to find out more.
Final Thoughts on Stoneware Cookware
Stoneware cookware is a huge topic--much bigger than the nonstick "stone" cookware that comes up in most Internet searches. We hope we've helped you figure out all the different types of stoneware cookware--also called ceramic cookware--and which one is the safest and the best for you.
Thanks for reading!
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