A lot of people are trying to avoid Teflon cookware. But if you want a nonstick pan without Teflon, your choices are limited.
Also, it can be hard to find good recommendations for Teflon-free pans because there's a LOT of confusion and misinformation out there. You can find good non-Teflon pans, but you have to do your research: Teflon can show up where you least expect it, and even some "experts" give bad advice.
Read on to find out why avoiding Teflon pans is probably a good idea, plus our recommendations for pans we GUARANTEE are 100% free of Teflon, PTFE, and all the other nasty chemicals you don't want in your cookware.
Best Nonstick Pans (without Teflon) at a Glance
Here are our favorite nonstick--or close to nonstick--pans without Teflon (PTFE). See more detailed reviews below, plus a few other pans we like that are somewhat nonstick.
12" ~ $68 w/lid
Tempered glass lid
Oven safe to 600F
Not induction comp.
Made in China
2 yr. on ceramic.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
10.25" w/lid ~ $35
10.25" no lid ~ $22
Several sizes avail.
Nonstick improves w/use
Tempered glass lid
Made in USA
Lodge Carbon Steel Skillet
10" ~ $45
12" ~ $49
12 gauge (2.7mm)
Nonstick improves w/use
Made in USA
What Is Teflon? (And Why Is It Bad?)
Teflon® is the Dupont's brand name for polytetrafluoroethylene, better known as PTFE. It is the most slippery substance known to man and is used in hundreds of applications, including nonstick cookware.
Though the brand Teflon has become synonymous with PTFE, there are actually hundreds of brand names for the PTFE molecule, including Eterna, Autograph, Granitium, and many more.
In this article, we are using "Teflon" as a generic term that applies to all PTFE found in nonstick cookware manufacturing.
PTFE is inert at low temperatures and completely safe and non-toxic. It begins to break down and give off fumes at around 392F. These fumes are not considered dangerous at temps below about 490F. Around this temp (it can vary by brand), Teflon gives off fumes that can create flu-like symptoms in humans and be lethal to birds. (You should not own Teflon pans if you have a pet bird.)
When Teflon/PTFE breaks down, it turns into PFAS chemicals, which are the real danger of this cookware.
For more information, see our article Nonstick Cookware Brands: PTFE or Ceramic? A Comprehensive Guide.
PFOA was used in making Teflon pans until about 2009, and has been officially outlawed in the US since 2015. This type of chemical is necessary to help the slippery Teflon adhere to aluminum and stainless steel surfaces.
PFOA stands for perfluorooctanoic acid. It is a member of the PFAS family, which stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. These chemicals have been nicknamed the "forever chemicals" because they don't break down. PFAS are now found on every continent, in almost every water source, and in 99% of Americans' blood streams--thanks largely to the Teflon cookware industry.
PFAS are also found in other common household objects including food packaging, carpeting, clothing, and more. They are terrible for the environment and linked to several health issues, including a few types of cancer. Overall they are nasty chemicals that you should try to avoid.
Today, Teflon cookware makers use GenX in place of PFOA. GenX is also a PFAS. Though it has a slightly different molecular structure, research has shown that it has similar properties of PFOA and is unsafe for humans and the environment.
Whatever PFAS are used in making Teflon cookware, they are used up in the manufacturing process: you are more likely to get PFAS from your drinking water than from your cookware.
Even so, there are two significant issues that might make you want to avoid Teflon pans.
The Cooking Issue
The first issue is that the Teflon itself can break down into these PFAS "forever chemicals." You must be vigilant about never using heat above medium; and even at medium, an empty Teflon pan can reach temps above 400F surprisingly fast. You must also be vigilant about not scratching the pan, because any PFAS left from manufacturing can be released through scratches and get into your food.
Also, Teflon will break down over time even when used within all guidelines; if you've ever seen a dulled, discolored Teflon pan, you know what we're talking about.
We're not sure if Teflon becomes unsafe with time and use. Heat seems to have a cumulative effect, so dulled, discolored, and scratched Teflon pans should probably not be used.
The Manufacturing Issue
The second issue is that PFAS and similar chemicals are required in making Teflon cookware. So even if a maker is no longer using PFOA or even another PFAS (like GenX), we know they're using something--and whatever it is, it's almost certainly not good for the environment.
In fact, makers are contaminating the world's water supplies with these "forever chemicals." This is still happening in the US, so you can imagine the issues in China, where there are no environmental or worker safety regulations. Every time you buy a nonstick pan, you are contributing to this horrible polluting of our water. More than 99% of Americans now have levels of PFAS in their bodies--both PFOA and GenX. These chemicals have been linked to several health issues including some types of cancer.
Summary: Teflon and PTFE are safe when used correctly--this means at low heat. But if you care about clean water and soil, you should avoid buying Teflon-coated pans.
For more information, see our article What Is PFOA? A Guide to Nonstick Cookware Chemicals.
A Short List of Nonstick Pans that Contain Teflon (But Sound Like They Don't)
Note that many makers can truthfully say their product do not contain Teflon. But remember that Teflon is just a brand name for PTFE, and there are hundreds of PTFE brands on the market. So for many makers, "No Teflon" does not equal "No PTFE."
There are dozens--if not hundreds--of pans on the market that contain PTFE/Teflon but sound like they don't. Here are just a few of the most surprising ones.
GraniteStone: The "granite stone mineral coating" contains PTFE. It's not Teflon, it's another brand of PTFE; but they're basically the same thing. See our GraniteRock/GraniteStone review for more info.
Ozeri Stone Earth: Both "stone" and "earth" sound as if the pan has a ceramic coating. But it's Teflon. This one in particular bugs us because so many people assume this is a Teflon-free product; even a lot of reviewers get it wrong. If you want a ceramic nonstick pan from Ozeri, you have to go with their Green Earth.
ScanPan: ScanPan calls their coating "ceramic titanium," but it contains PTFE/Teflon. All ScanPan nonstick pans contain their proprietary brand of Teflon ("Stratanium"). See our ScanPan review for details.
Swiss Diamond: Their "diamond nonstick coating" contains PTFE, aka Teflon.
These examples are just to show you how tricky it can be to determine if a pan contains Teflon. For the most complete list of the brands that use PTFE (Teflon), see our article Nonstick Cookware Brands: PTFE or Ceramic?
Are There Other Nonstick Pan Options?
The only other option for actual nonstick is ceramic nonstick cookware.
That's right: there are only two options for "real" nonstick cookware: Teflon (PTFE) and ceramic nonstick.
We know cookware makers like to sound as if you have dozens of options to choose from, like granite, titanium, stone, diamond dust, and more. But these are all just additions to one of the two nonstick options: Teflon and ceramic nonstick.
About Nonstick Ceramic
Nonstick ceramic was invented in 2007, so it's a fairly new product. Like traditional ceramic, it's made from sand or clay which is melted into a liquid, sprayed onto cookware via a process called the sol-gel process, and baked to a smooth, slippery finish.
With Teflon getting more and more bad press, ceramic nonstick cookware came on the market at a great time. People were thrilled to move away from the potential dangers of Teflon towards something as seemingly safe as ceramic, and still have those nonstick properties.
There are two main brands of nonstick ceramic coatings: Thermolon® and Greblon®. They're similar in composition: both made from clay or sand, both applied to cookware with the sol-gel process. Today there are several different versions of each, with the newest versions reinforced with diamond dust, granite, and titanium (yes: similar to the newer versions of Teflon).
(All versions of Thermolon are ceramic and free of Teflon. Some of the newer versions of Greblon do contain PTFE; this is yet another reason why it can be hard to figure out which type of nonstick coating a pan has, and why you sometimes have to read the fine print to figure it out.)
Nonstick ceramic is quite durable, and it does not contain dangerous chemicals like Teflon pans do. Ceramic nonstick can be heated well past 700F with no repercussions to humans.
Unfortunately, nonstick ceramic isn't always as great as it sounds. The nonstick properties tend to have an even shorter life span than Teflon. And even though it can handle high heat without dangers, the high heat seems to destroy the nonstick cooking surface.
It is also brittle, and can chip or crack with impact.
Thus, for best results, you have to follow all the same rules you do when using Teflon. That is, use non-metal utensils, wash by hand, and above all, use only low heat.
Maybe most important of all, nonstick ceramic, though considered a true nonstick (unlike traditional ceramics), really works best with the use of cooking oil or butter--especially over the long haul. For the first several uses nonstick ceramic can be amazing, but it simply doesn't last. So to preserve its nonstick properties, you should always use cooking oil.
So if you're looking for a fat-free cooking experience, nonstick ceramic is not it. We know this seems ironic, considering that nonstick ceramic is put in the same camp as Teflon. But that's the way it is.
So, Is Ceramic Nonstick Safe?
As we said, people were excited for a nonstick pan that had none of the dangers of Teflon, so much so that they were willing to settle for the shorter life and the not-quite nonstick surface.
And makers of ceramic nonstick will proudly proclaim that their pans contain no lead, cadmium, arsenic, or other toxins sometimes associated with ceramic products. Which is all good.
But there's a little more to know about ceramic nonstick pans.
The sol-gel process uses a technology called nanoparticles. This technology is used today in hundreds of manufacturing processes. Some research has shown a relationship between titanium dioxide nanoparticles in sol-gels and precancerous tumors in humans.
The nanoparticle issue is mostly associated with Thermolon, but Greblon coatings are applied to cookware using a similar process, so we suspect it has the same issues (and they just haven't been publicized yet).
More research is needed, and for now, we don't know the risk level of ceramic nonstick cookware. So far, findings show that the nanoparticles seem to only be released through chips and scratches, and/or only at very high heat (much higher than a kitchen stove can reach)--and maybe not even in those cases, or at least not in amounts dangerous to human health.
So the general consensus is that ceramic nonstick cookware is safe.
Of course, this is also the consensus for Teflon cookware, where potential danger is just one forgotten burner away.
We think ceramic nonstick cookware is probably safe under normal uses, and free of the worries about toxic substances forming at high heat as with Teflon.
However, the nanoparticles are an issue you should know about before you invest in cookware. We think this article should be a jumping off point for more research, and that it's important to find out all you can. There are many issues to take into account.
You can read more about ceramic nonstick cookware and nanoparticles here, here, here and here. While we tend to not take the fear-mongering, "all cookware is dangerous to some degree" bloggers seriously, we do think you should do your own research and draw your own conclusions, especially about nonstick cookware, which potentially poses more serious health issues than other types of cookware.
NOTE: You can read more about ceramic nonstick cookware in our article Ceramic Frying Pans: Better than PTFE?
But Wait, There's More: (Semi) Nonstick Options
If you are now completely turned off by nonstick cookware--and who could blame you if you were?--we have some good news. While nothing else out there is considered "real" nonstick, you have a few options for semi-nonstick cookware that is almost as good as Teflon--and in some ways better.
The best semi-nonstick products on the market are cast iron, carbon steel, and traditional ceramic cookware.
Cast Iron and Carbon Steel
Cast iron and carbon steel are similar in composition with similar performance and similar care and use issues, so we're lumping them together as one option.
We prefer cast iron because it has better heat retention than carbon steel. However, its better heat retention is due largely to its greater mass. This means that cast iron is heavier than its thinner cousin carbon steel.
So, if you have ergonomic or strength issues, you may want to opt for carbon steel over cast iron. It's still heavy, but not as heavy: a 10-inch Lodge cast iron skillet weighs about 5 pounds, a carbon steel skillet of the same size weighs 3.5 pounds. (So, both fairly heavy compared to a 10-inch aluminum skillet, which ranges from 1-3 pounds, depending on build quality.)
Bare cast iron and carbon steel both rust quickly. To prevent this, you have to season them by baking several thin layers of cooking oil onto them at high heat. This essentially seals the metals and prevents rusting.
Even better, the seasoning makes these pans nearly nonstick. The surfaces get smooth and slippery and are almost as good as Teflon; some people even swear a well-seasoned cast iron pan is better than Teflon.
We are huge fans of cast iron and to a lesser degree, carbon steel. These pans are extremely durable--they'll last forever, and need only occasional re-seasoning to keep them smooth, slippery, and rust-free. And, they get better with use (unlike Teflon and nonstick ceramic).
They're also both very affordable. You can get a good cast iron skillet for $30 or less, and a good carbon steel pan for $60 or less. When you consider that these are pans that will last for decades and take any abuse you throw at them--high heat and metal utensils for example--this is an astonishingly good deal.
Cast iron and carbon steel are particularly good for high-heat searing. They heat rather slowly and unevenly, but once hot, they have superb heat retention. This means you can drop a room-temperature or even a cold steak in the pan, and the pan's temp won't crash--so you get a fabulous sear (see the pic below for an example of this).
They're not great for everything: you shouldn't do long braises in them, especially with acidic foods like tomato sauces, because it eats away at the seasoning. The good news is that you can always re-season, and even if a pan gets rusty, you can restore it to like-new condition.
If you're looking for a tough-as-nails frying pan that's great for many tasks and almost as nonstick as Teflon, cast iron and carbon steel are both great options.
There are a few potential safety issues you should be aware of, which we discuss below.
Pros and Cons of Cast Iron and Carbon Steel
The Other Ceramic: Traditional Ceramic
Traditional ceramic is a huge category. It encompasses everything from 100% stoneware (Pyrex, Corningware, and Xtrema) to any cookware with an enamel coating, including cast iron, aluminum and stainless steel.
At TRK, we are not fans of 100% ceramics (like Corningware or Xtrema) for all-purpose cookware. This is because ceramic on its own has awful heating properties: it heats slowly and unevenly, making it bad for searing and just an all-around terrible choice for stovetop cooking. (It's fine for bakeware, as its insulating properties help foods bake evenly without burning. But for the stovetop, please choose something else.)
People who praise 100% ceramic cookware do so because they are terrified of toxins in every other type of cookware. They don't care about performance, and are erring way over the line on the side of safety. But there are many types of safe cookware, and you don't have to settle for awful performance to be safe.
Thus, when we talk about 'traditional ceramic cookware", we're talking about coated cookware: aluminum, cast iron, or carbon steel that's coated with a traditional ceramic coating.
For more information about stoneware, see Stoneware Cookware: The Facts You Need to Know (Before You Buy).
About Enameled Cookware (Especially Dutch Ovens)
Traditional ceramic coatings are, like nonstick ceramic coatings, made from sand or clay. Different types are used for different types of coatings, with enamel being one of the hardest and most durable coatings used in the cookware industry.
Enamel is actually a type of glass that's heated to its melting point and applied to cookware. It is extremely durable and can provide a smooth, slippery cooking surface.
It is not nonstick, but tends to clean up easily. When applied to cast iron, carbon steel, or aluminum, enameled cooking surfaces can be a joy to use.
Our favorite enameled cookware is Le Creuset cast iron. Le Creuset's enamel is tougher than other brands and resists chipping, cracking, and glazing more than other brands. It also comes in dozens of bright, beautiful colors.
We think an enameled cast iron Dutch oven is a must-have item for most cooks (soups, stews, braises, stock, and so much more). Cast iron is the perfect material for soups, stews, braises, and stocks because of its fabulous heat retention, and the heavy lid helps to reduce evaporation. Enamel means no worries about seasoning getting destroyed. For these reasons, enameled cast iron is the best possible material for a Dutch oven.
The only downside is the weight. But for performance, beauty, and sheer joy of use, every cook should own a good quality enameled cast iron Dutch oven.
As for skillets, you can go with enameled cast iron, but we find that you don't really need an enameled coating for frying and sautéing, so save yourself some bucks and only buy the spendy enameled cast iron for your Dutch oven.
We don't recommend cast iron for sauce pans or stock pots, as they are simply too heavy to easily maneuver when they're full of liquids.
Do you need to spend a small fortune on Le Creuset? No; there are good brands of enameled cast iron for less. But you should buy the best brand you can afford. The enamel is less prone to chipping, and we've found that it's smoother and more nonstick than cheaper enamels, especially Le Creuset's Signature line.
If you want to read more about enameled cast iron, see our articles The Best Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovens and The Best Le Creuset Oven Around (Save Big on a New Size).
Differences Between Nonstick and Traditional Ceramic
Traditional ceramic coatings are not the same thing as nonstick ceramics. Remember, nonstick ceramics were invented in 2007; traditional ceramics have been around for thousands of years.
No nanoparticles. The biggest difference is that traditional ceramics--to the best of our knowledge--are not made with the sol-gel process. They've been around for thousands of years and are still made largely the same way today as they have been for centuries. Thus, they have no nanoparticle issues.
Not as nonstick (but semi-nonstick). Traditional ceramics have never been considered nonstick--but they are smooth and slippery, and clean up rather easily.
They're not as slippery as well-seasoned cast iron, but they definitely count as a semi-nonstick surface.
Also, some ceramics are better than others at being nonstick. This makes sense because there are many different types of ceramics made from many different types of sand and clay.
Safety Issues with Cast Iron and Carbon Steel
Overall, cast iron and carbon steel are safe to cook with. But there are two potential issues people should know about before they buy. These are 1) iron, and 2) polymerized oils.
It's possible for small amounts of iron to leach into your food from cast iron and carbon steel pans. This is most likely to happen if the pan isn't properly seasoned or if you use the pan for a long braise with acidic ingredients (like tomato sauce) that eat away the seasoning.
But human bodies need iron, so unless you have a rare medical condition of high iron content, leaching iron is actually a good thing. For the majority of people, it is at worst a neutral issue.
Even if you do have iron issues, leaching from your cast iron or carbon should be low on your list of worries. Both cast iron and carbon steel have to be seasoned before use, so any cast iron worth its salt will have a thick layer of polymerized oil that prevents iron from leaching.
This polymerized oil may be an issue.
If the word "polymer" sounds familiar, it's because Teflon is also a polymer, as are all brands of PTFE used in nonstick cookware.
When you season a cast iron (or carbon steel) pan, you are essentially baking a coating of oil onto the pan; at high heat, cooking oil transforms into polymers that are similar in structure to Teflon.
You may also have heard about "smoke points," above which oils can break down into unsafe, even carcinogenic, compounds called free radicals. This also occurs during seasoning cast iron/carbon steel. In fact, the free radicals are necessary, as they help to form some of the smooth, slippery polymers.
IMPORTANT: You should never heat oils intended for eating above the smoke point, as this creates carcinogenic free radicals. But these same free radicals are required for seasoning. They are used up (or converted into different, non-dangerous chemicals) by the time the seasoning process is complete. Just be sure to use good ventilation when seasoning so you aren't inhaling any free radicals.
There is a science to seasoning cast iron and carbon steel, and a fair amount of misinformation out there about it. You need to follow a slightly finicky process to get it right. The best article we've found on it is Sheryl Canter's Chemistry of Cast Iron Seasoning.
If you follow the right procedure and use the right oil (flaxseed oil is best for reasons explained in the above article), the seasoning on cast iron and carbon steel should be perfectly safe.
Safety Issues with Traditional Ceramic Cookware
Traditional ceramics are some of the safest cookware on the planet.
Before people knew about the dangers of lead, cadmium, and arsenic, these substances could be found in ceramics, enamels, porcelains, and many other types of stoneware. Some of these toxins occur naturally in certain soils, and others were used in dyes and glazes.
Today, cookware must undergo rigorous testing to ensure it doesn't contain toxins. Thus, with traditional ceramics, there are no worries about nanoparticles, and no worries about known toxins that were once found in these materials.
Some sources will tell you that there are still trace amounts of toxins in ceramic cookware and it's not safe to use, but this is simply not the case. Several independent testers have provided assurance that Le Creuset cookware contains no detectable levels of toxins.
If you want to be absolutely safe, stay away from red, orange, and yellow colors, which may have trace amounts of cadmium or lead. But even with these, there is a pretty much zero chance that any toxins can get into your food.
Though there isn't enough research out there to say for sure, we think that any brand of enameled cookware sold in the US is safe. Proposition 65, California's strict standard for toxins in consumer products, has made it nearly impossible for any known toxins to exist in any consumer brands sold here. But if you want to be absolutely safe, buy a reputable brand.
Are There Any Other Options for Nonstick Cookware?
No, not really.
But here's the thing: you don't need nonstick cookware to have easy cleanup.
You just need to use the cookware you have the right way.
Our favorite type of cookware is clad stainless steel. It's durable, it's light weight, it lasts forever, and a good quality brand will provide fast, even heating. It can also take as much abuse as you and your family can hand out: high heat, metal utensils, dropping it, putting it in the dishwasher...and it just keeps coming back for more.
And, it's safe: you may get very tiny amounts of chromium or nickel leaching into your food, but never at dangerous levels. Even if you have a nickel sensitivity, you aren't likely to get a reaction from your stainless cookware. But if you are particularly sensitive, you can buy nickel-free clad stainless cookware.
For versatile all-around cookware, it's hard to beat clad stainless steel. It's not good at everything, which is why you need a cast iron skillet for high-heat searing, an enameled cast iron Dutch oven for braising, and maybe a nonstick skillet for eggs (if you can't quite get the stainless to work how you want it to). But for the vast majority of cooking tasks, clad stainless is the best choice.
And if you use it the right way, you don't even have to worry about food sticking.
Here are the steps for stick-free clad stainless cooking:
- Turn on heat to medium or medium-high and let dry skillet heat for a few minutes.
- Add cooking oil.
- When cooking oil starts to shimmer, add food.
- Let food sit without disturbing for a few minutes. It will form a natural crust and pull away from the cooking surface. When you flip it or stir it, voila: no sticky spots.
This isn't foolproof, and you are going to get some residue in the pan--but this is a good thing. Those leftover bits--called fond--are full of flavor, and you can use them to make a pan gravy. Deglaze with a little water or stock--or better yet, wine--and not only do you have a fabulous sauce, but you've just made cleanup another step easier.
And if all of this fails and you do get a stuck-on mess? Just let it soak in hot water for awhile. Add a little Barkeeper's Friend or baking soda if you need to, and just rinse it all away after a good soak.
At TRK, we really don't understand the fascination people have with nonstick cookware. It's fragile, it doesn't last, and you can't make much of a pan sauce with it. While a Teflon pan can be good for eggs (if you haven't get your stainless technique down), it's really not great for anything else.
So we encourage you to ditch the nonstick and go with cast iron, enameled cast iron, and clad stainless steel for your main cookware. Use nonstick if you must for eggs, but for everything else, there are better options.
For more information, see our article: Stainless Steel Cookware Sets: A Detailed Buying Guide.
How to Make Sure a Pan is Teflon-Free
Making sure a pan is free of all Teflon, as well as all other brands of PTFE, can be a daunting task for a few reasons:
- Manufacturers may not disclose if their products contain Teflon (or another brand of PTFE). You have to do a good amount of digging to find out the truth.
- Manufacturers use terms that make it sound like a pan is free of Teflon and all PTFE, when they actually do contain it. Examples of these terms are "ceramic," "healthy," and "PFOA-free." Yes-some "ceramic" pans contain both PTFE and ceramic (ScanPan is a great example).
- Some manufacturers actually lie about their pans being PTFE-free. This is probably not intentional and can likely be attributed to a language barrier, but "PTFE-free" isn't always a guarantee--you may have to do more research to be sure.
- To further compound the confusion, there are a number of websites that recommend brands that contain Teflon or PTFE in reviews of "Teflon free" or "ceramic nonstick" pans. Please be very careful if you take recommendations from other sites--a surprising number of them are just WRONG.
If you've read about the pan and still aren't sure, then there's a good chance it has Teflon in it.
Our list of brands is the best source we've seen on PTFE (Teflon) or ceramic. It's not complete, and we add to it as we find new brands, but there are a lot of brands listed. You can check out that article here.
Best Ceramic Nonstick: GreenPan Lima or Valencia
GreenPan is one of our favorite nonstick ceramic pans. They're heavy enough to provide even heating, they have great stainless handles and usable design, and they're affordable. Their Thermolon coatings are some of the original nonstick ceramic, and you can be assured that any GreenPan cookware you buy is Teflon- and PTFE-free. (GreenPan does not make any Teflon products.)
We like the GreenPan Lima for non-induction and the Valencia Pro for induction. These are hard-anodized aluminum pans with stainless handles. If you get the 12-inch Lima with a lid (or buy a GreenPan lid separately), you'll get tempered glass; we prefer stainless lids, but at this price point--and for nonstick pans in general--that's not a common feature.
Like all nonstick ceramic we are familiar with, the GreenPan coatings probably aren't going to last all that long. But the great thing about these coatings is that they're not toxic; they don't break down into dangerous chemicals from any amount of misuse. Instead, you can continue to use the pans as you normally would, adding a little bit more cooking oil or butter; probably about the same amounts you'd use if you replaced them with clad stainless pans. And remember that a good scrubbing with a baking soda paste or Barkeeper's Friend will help keep the cooking surface nonstick for as long as possible.
The one danger of ceramic nonstick cookware is the nanoparticle issue, which doesn't seem to be a concern unless the pans are scratched or chipped, in which case you should probably stop using the pan (but even then, the potential risks are low compared to the PFAS that Teflon can turn into when overheated). If you don't want to take this risk, then your best option is cast iron or carbon steel.
- Anodized aluminum
- Stainless handle
- Tempered glass lid (included or sold separately depending on model)
- Oven safe to 600F
- Made in China
- Lifetime warranty w/2 year warranty on ceramic.
Pros and Cons
If you're looking for an affordable nonstick ceramic skillet, GreenPan is a good choice. It has all the standard drawbacks of nonstick ceramic--use low heat, non-metal utensils, hand wash, the nanoparticle issue, etc.--and for best results you need to use cooking oil or butter and scrub the buildup off the pan when food starts to stick. But these are good quality pans at an affordable price, with absolutely no worries about Teflon or PTFE.
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Best Cast Iron: Lodge
Cast iron isn't officially nonstick in the same way Teflon or even nonstick ceramic is. Nevertheless, it's an excellent choice if you're trying to avoid nasty chemicals in your cookware.
You can spend more on cast iron--a lot more in some cases--but the truth is that all cast iron has the same rather slow, uneven heating and superb heat retention no matter how much you pay.
For this reason, we pick Lodge: their cast iron skillets are made in the US, the pans will last forever, and the prices are pretty much impossible to beat.
What do you get if you spend more? Smoother cast iron, mainly: boutique brands are slippery smooth right out of the box, whereas with Lodge, you have to use the pan several times before it even approaches that kind of smoothness. You may also have to re-season it once or twice (a bit of a pain). But once it gets where you want it, the differences between Lodge and boutique brands are largely undetectable.
If you want to pay up to 10 times more for boutique cast iron, there are a number of brands to choose from, all made in the USA. We like Field for its lightness (without any loss of heat retention) and Stargazer for its supreme smoothness. But we strongly recommend saving your money and going with Lodge.
- Nonstick improves w/use
- Induction compatible
- Tempered glass lid
- Several sizes and many buying options
- Extremely good price
- Made in USA
- Lodge Promise ensures a quality product.
Pros and Cons
Unless you can't handle a heavy pan, your kitchen needs a cast iron skillet. There's nothing better for high-heat searing, and these pans can take all manner of abuse and literally last forever. With Lodge being such an affordable option, it's a no brainer. The pre-seasoning is great, but for best nonstick results, you need to re-season or use several times (or both) to build up the nonstick surface. It's not as slippery as Teflon, but with proper use and care, it comes very, very close.
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Best Carbon Steel: Lodge
Carbon steel is cast iron's lightweight cousin. The two metals have the same density and nearly identical heating properties. But carbon steel is thinner, so it's not as heavy. This also means that carbon steel heats slowly and unevenly, just like cast iron, but doesn't have quite the excellent heat retention (mass is a huge factor in heat retention: less mass = worse heat retention).
But like cast iron, carbon steel, when seasoned, has a smooth, nonstick surface that continues to get better with use and time. No, it's not officially nonstick--but it comes pretty close.
Many people swear by carbon steel--after all, it's what most pro chefs use, right?--and it's gained popularity in recent years, possibly because some popular direct-to-consumer cookware brands have started including a carbon steel pan in with their clad stainless sets.
However, we think cast iron is the better option: chefs use carbon steel because it's cheap, durable, and easier to handle than cast iron--not necessarily because it has superior heating properties.
Still, carbon steel's heat retention is pretty good, so if you're looking for a safe, high-heat pan with nonstick properties that isn't as heavy as cast iron, then carbon steel is the way to go.
You can find several brands of carbon steel on Amazon, all fairly reasonably priced. Many are made in France, like this De Buyer pan and this Mauviel M'Steel pan. The quality is excellent on all European brands, but we like Lodge because it's made here in the US and is also top quality. Since the prices are good even for American and European brands, we suggest avoiding no-name Chinese brands (like this one).
- Nonstick improves w/use
- 12 gauge carbon steel (2.7mm thick)
- Induction compatible
- Several sizes and other buying options available
- Extremely good price
- Made in USA
- Lodge Promise ensures a quality product.
Pros and Cons
Every kitchen needs a pan for high heat searing. If you can't handle the weight of cast iron, carbon steel is the next best choice. Its smooth surface is just as nonstick as cast iron and becomes smoother and more nonstick with use. And it's almost as affordable as cast iron. It may not be a one-to-one replacement for your Teflon, but what it lacks in non-stickiness it more than makes up for with its durability and longevity.
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BUY lodge carbon steel SKILLETs at home depot:
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Dutch oven: Not technically nonstick, but smooth and slippery and wonderful for so many things. This round, wide option 6.74 quart size costs less than the more popular 5.5 quart size.
All-Clad D3 12 inch skillet: This 12-inch skillet comes with a lid (rare for frying pans) and costs less than the same pan without a lid. It's long been one of the most popular items on TRK.
Demeyere Proline skillet: If you want a clad stainless pan heavy enough to sear steak in and versatile enough for other tasks, the Proline is it. The best clad stainless skillet on the market bar none.
Final Thoughts on Nonstick Pans without Teflon
For a pure nonstick experience, it's hard to beat Teflon. That slippery surface works like nothing else and cleans up easier than anything else. But there are some real risks associated with using Teflon that many people would rather avoid.
Ceramic nonstick cookware is the obvious other choice, but the nanoparticles found in sol-gel ceramic coatings may also be hazardous to your health (more research is needed). Plus, you have to make sure the "ceramic" has no Teflon or PTFE in it, and this can be hard to do because makers--and even well-meaning reviewers--can give downright false information.
Overall, we think the best nonstick pans without Teflon are cast iron and carbon steel--both good options with few health concerns, plus they're affordable and extremely durable--no worries about metal utensils, high heat, or cracking and chipping!
Enameled cast iron (le Creuset) or steel (All-Clad Fusiontec) are also options for certain pieces like a Dutch oven. The traditional enamel coatings do not contain nanoparticles or any other toxins. But they're heavy, so we don't recommend entire sets of either.
Our best recommendation? Ditch the nonstick cookware altogether and go with clad stainless for your daily use cookware. It's tough, versatile, lightweight, and almost nonstick when used correctly. With a cast iron pan for high heat searing and nonstick needs, plus a Dutch oven for braising, you've got all your bases covered.
Thanks for reading!
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