Ceramic coated cookware is heavily promoted as a replacement for Teflon non-stick pans. Solid ceramic cookware pans are another option for cooks who can tolerate a bit more weight and are willing to make a larger investment in their kitchen.
While ceramic coatings are generally free of PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene, or Teflon), it should be noted that these coatings may introduce health hazards of their own.
Before you buy your next ceramic cookware set, let’s look some of the potential dangers and other points of safety to consider.
Structure of Ceramic Coated Cookware
Magnetic materials such as steel are built into the base to make it usable on an induction cooktop. Copper may also be included in the base but is not magnetic.
Then the cooking surface of the pan is coated in a mix of ceramic materials with stabilizers to provide a non-stick surface.
See our best cookware material for pots and pans guide to compare other types of coatings and bases.
Is Ceramic Cookware Lead-Free?
Is ceramic cookware safe? If you’re buying a new set of ceramic cookware, the chances are pretty slim that it contains lead in the United States of America. Our ceramic cookware reviews contain great buying options that don't contain lead.
The big scare of lead in cookware was due to older ceramic glazes which contained lead as a stabilizer. While the risk of leaching may have been minimal when new, with exposure to heat, acidic foods, and utensils, a breach might have you at risk of lead.
That’s not to say that you can’t find older ceramic pieces that may have been made with lead. If you’re using an old glazed ceramic pot passed down to you, it might be best to replace it.
To err on the side of caution when buying new cookware, study the label carefully to confirm that the product is lead-free.
If you’re not convinced of the label and are worried about a particular ceramicware item, check out the FDA’s import alert list of products that have problems with lead. So far we haven’t come across any products on that list worth mentioning. Whew!
It’s also worth mentioning that the government is serious about toxic chemicals and its effects on people. You may have seen warnings on some products that start with “In the state of California…”
You can learn more about Proposition 65 which requires the state of California to publish a list of chemicals known to cause harm to people. It’s interesting to see and as time goes by, we may see these types of lists and warnings spread to other states.
Is It PFOA PTFE and Cadmium Free?
PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) is a chemical used as a protective agent in fabrics, carpets, and cookware. Any surface that needs to shed dirt may have been treated with PFOA.
As a general rule, it burns off in the manufacturing but is found in low levels in water and household dust.
Cadmium is commonly used to stabilize dyes in cookware. Because it's a heavy metal, manufacturers must put any cadmium content on the label.
You can easily avoid cadmium in your new cookware by carefully reviewing the label.
If your ceramic pans are chipping or showing signs of wear, then replace them!
100% Ceramic vs. Ceramic Coated
Pure ceramic cookware contains no metal and is forged from a mixture of sand, minerals, and clay. Once it's shaped, it's fired at more than 1900 degrees Fahrenheit / 1038 Celsius. Typically these pieces are cooking pots, but the Xtrema 100% ceramic skillet is a unique example.
This product is microwave safe and oven tolerant, and you can use your metal utensils on the surface with no concerns about scratches.
Ceramic coated pans are built on an aluminum base with a ceramic spray coating. This spray coating may also contain pigment and can be expected to up to five years.
SEE ALSO: Is aluminum cookware safe?
Users will find ceramic coated cookware is much lighter than pure ceramic cookware.
While pure ceramic can be cleaned up in the dishwasher, ceramic coated cookware should be washed by hand.
It should be noted that a ceramic non-stick pan is not necessarily PTFE free. PTFE, or Teflon, is found in some ceramic non-stick cookware and will outgas over time and at high heat.
Per the American Cancer Society, neither PTFE nor PFOA are known carcinogens. However, if you use your PTFE cookware at high heat, this outgassing may be a hazard to smaller creatures in your house, from pets to children.
This cookware is constructed of an extremely stable hard-anodized aluminum with an energy saving induction base so that you can use it on any cooktop.
Thermolon safety concerns are low.
Thermolon tolerates higher temperatures and offers products with oven-safe metal handles on lids and pans.
Greblon c3+ (Weilburger Greblon)
If PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene, or Teflon) fumes are a concern, then the Greblon c3+ professional cookware line is probably not for you.
That being said, this cookware line is built on a very durable base of hard-anodized aluminum and is highly heat tolerant.
Aeternum's Nonstick Coating
Aeternum coating is used on Bialetti Italian cookware. Per the manufacturer, this cookware is not to be used in the oven, though they do offer a line of bakeware.
This cookware features silicone grips on their lids and handle covers, reducing the heat tolerance.
The instructions for washing are very specific; it should not go in the dishwasher.
Pfluon or Ceramical is certified to be PFOA free per their website and to have the blessing of the USDA. This coating is sometimes referred to as a marble coating.
The primary polymer in this cookware is Polyetheretherketone, or PEEK.
It has an extremely high heat tolerance and is a more stable base for the bright ceramic colors on the market today.
The popular copper colored non-stick ceramic pans are generally constructed of Cerami-Tech.
It should be noted that while the coating is referred to as "copper-infused," the copper doesn't actually come in contact with your food.
However, this is a durable non-stick surface with excellent heat conduction.
SEE ALSO: Red Copper Pan Reviews
The Hydro-Ceramic coating is used on the Ecolution product line. These pans are PFOA, PTFE and lead-free.
It should be noted that many of these pans have a silicon coated handle, which reduces your risk of burns but limits the ability of the pan to go from cooktop to oven.
Duralon 2 used in Nuwave ceramic cookware is consistently usable on an induction cooktop, which can't be said of many non-stick products. However, one of the challenges found in using ceramic non-stick is its low heat tolerance.
Reviews of Duralon 2 are quite inconsistent because "medium heat" on one cooktop may not match that setting on another stove. But if you need induction cookware, consider experimenting with this product.
Ti-Cerama is sold under the brand name of Gotham Steel. Gotham Steel cookware is copper colored but is neither made of copper nor with steel.
These pans are made of aluminum, titanium, and a ceramic coating. They are PTFE and PFOA free.
In our Gotham steel pan reviews we found that this line tends to be quite serviceable and very lightweight.
SEE ALSO: Gotham Steel vs Copper Chef
Initiatives Nonstick Ceramic
This cookware is offered by T-Fal, a major supplier of Teflon pans. Take care when making your purchase, as Initiatives comes both in ceramic non-stick and in Teflon.
The Teflon products are the typical dark gray, while the ceramic products in this line tend to have a white cooking surface. Initiatives offer non-stick cookware that is PFOA, PTFE and cadmium free.
It may take some homework, but you could find an ideal non-stick well-suited to nearly all your cooking needs with the right Initiatives set.
Calphalon cookware has been around for quite a while and was an early manufacturer of Teflon coated products.
Their website and use instructions give users of all non-stick products terrific guidance on how to use these products safely and keep them usable over the long term.
Don't get them too hot, avoid metal utensils, and warm them up slowly.
Burnt food will stick to pretty much anything. If your goal is to go extremely low-fat, you can do it with Calphalon ceramic cookware, but you'll need to heat things up slowly and experiment with your existing recipes.
The Nano-Ceramic line is fairly new to the cookware product line. However, it boasts a durable finish with plenty of wear.
Again, this is not cookware that will take a lot of heat or move easily from cooktop to oven.
If you review your cookware options and choose to work with a nano-ceramic finish, treat it gently and this product will last for years.
When to Worry
Teflon was supposed to be the best and safest non-stick product on the market until it wasn't anymore. Concerns about chemical pollutants in our food and our homes have led many to reject Teflon in all forms.
Two points to consider:
- Aluminum-based cookware with a ceramic coating has to be affixed to the pan with something.
- The brightly colored cookware sets with the clean white finish contain dye that also has to be stabilized by something.
If low-fat cooking on non-stick pans is important to you, ceramic is generally more effective than Teflon non-stick. However, learn from the dangers of Teflon and treat your ceramic coated pans gently.
Avoid intense heat, don't move them from cooktop to oven, and wash them gently.
Most ceramic lined cookware is built on an aluminum base, and aluminum has a high heat tolerance and is an effective transmitter of heat. However, like all metals, it can flex or buckle under stress.
A very hot aluminum pan plunged into a sink of warm, soapy water will flex. This flexing can cause the non-stick coating to flex, making it more likely to bubble the next time you get it hot.
The bubbled non-stick coating can easily be hit with a spoon or wooden utensil, leaving the aluminum shell bare. Through the breach, aluminum can leach into your food.
When possible, buy hard-anodized aluminum. This metal is more durable and less likely to flex.
- Treat your non-stick ceramic lined cookware gently.
- Don't leave it unattended, so that things boil dry or scorch.
- Let it cool before you wash it.
- Avoid using metal utensils on the non-stick surface.
- Finally, if you notice a breach in the non-stick lining, toss the pan or put in for a warranty replacement.
Ceramic Cookware & High Heat Cooking
Pure ceramic cookware is extremely heat tolerant and can go easily from cooktop to oven. Ceramic coated cookware is less heat tolerant and can be stained or damaged by prolonged exposure to extreme heat.
Food should never be allowed to boil dry in a ceramic coated pan.
Another challenge found when using ceramic coated cookware is its ability to cook with very little fat. If you're moving from stainless or cast iron to ceramic coated cookware, you'll need to experiment to determine how much oil or butter you'll need in your new pan.
The combination of lower heat and less fat may take both a palate and a recipe adjustment.
Does Ceramic Hold Up In The Dishwasher?
Dishwashers can be dangerous places for any non-stick cookware. The risk of pans getting banged around or scratched inside the dishwasher is quite high, and one small scratch can destroy the non-stick coating over time.
Rapid changes in temperature can cause the aluminum base of ceramic coated cookware to flex and may cause the coating to fracture or loosen and be at greater risk of flaking off over time.
To clean ceramic cookware and best preserve the nonstick coating, let the pan cool completely. Hand wash it in warm, soapy water.
Use a nylon scrubbing pad to clean up any discoloration or burned on food, and take care not to "nest" or stack your clean pans so the metal from a smaller pan sits against the non-stick coating of the next larger pan.
Final Thoughts - Are Ceramic Pans Safe?
The search for healthy nonstick cookware continues. It was once thought that Teflon coating was perfectly safe, but over time and with use, health concerns have arisen, particularly in households that use Teflon at high heat.
Will the non-stick coatings of ceramic cookware ultimately prove dangerous? Only time can confirm the safety or danger of these products.
You can best protect your family members by using these pans at low heat and by discarding any pans that show signs of wear in the ceramic surface coating.