Is Ceramic Cookware Safe? The Facts About Coated Pots & Pans

TheRoundup is reader supported. We may earn a small commission when you make a purchase via links on this site, at no cost to you.
James Miller
By 
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.
James Miller
Updated: March 16, 2024

As an eco-friendly consumer, you know the importance of making conscious purchase decisions.

But, with all of the concerns swirling around chemicals and toxins in modern kitchenware, it can feel impossible to make sense of what's safe and what isn't.

Ceramic nonstick coatings have recently gained popularity as a safer alternative to the dreaded Teflon cookware or traditional non-stick pans.

But is ceramic cookware safe to use?

In this article, I explore the truth about ceramic cookware and discuss its benefits, drawbacks, and alternatives.

Understanding Ceramic Cookware

ceramic cookware brands

What is Ceramic Cookware?

Ceramic cookware is a favorite among many home cooks.

It's not just about the beautiful, earthy aesthetic these pots and pans bring to your kitchen. Ceramic cookware is also known for its heat-retaining properties and even cooking performance.

But what exactly makes a pan ceramic?

Pure Ceramic vs Ceramic Coated

  • Pure: Pure ceramic cookware is made entirely from clay, quartz sand, and other natural materials, then kiln-baked at high temperatures. This kind of cookware is highly durable and can withstand high temperatures, making it oven-safe. Ceramic clay and stoneware is also a popular material for sustainable dishes and plates.
  • Coated: On the other hand, ceramic-coated cookware is essentially metal pans (usually aluminum) covered with a ceramic layer. The coating gives the pan non-stick properties, while the metal base ensures quick and even heat distribution.

Why Teflon Cookware Could Be Unsafe

Non-stick cookware, while convenient, has been linked to numerous health concerns.

Overheating Teflon-coated pans can release toxic fumes, which can cause flu-like symptoms.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) and Perfluorinated Alkylated Substances (PFAS)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is one of a group of related chemicals known as perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAS).

This group of chemicals is commonly used in non-stick and stain-resistant consumer products, such as cookware.

PFOA has been linked to cancer, immune system damage, thyroid hormone disruption, and other health effects.

For this reason, you must ensure you're using non-stick cookware correctly and avoiding any activities that could heat it beyond its capacity. This includes not leaving pans unattended on the stove or preheating them for too long.

Although US manufacturers have phased out the use of PFOA, there is still a chance that old or imported non-stick cookware might contain traces of it.

Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)

PTFE, a synthetic fluoropolymer of tetrafluoroethylene, is an impressively versatile material.

It's hydrophobic and non-wetting and can withstand high temperatures. These qualities make PTFE highly sought-after for its excellent non-stick properties.

However, it's concerning to note that some reports have found that PTFE-coated cookware releases toxic chemicals and gases (at normal cooking temperatures),

Examining the Safety of Ceramic Coated Cookware

Is Ceramic Safer than Teflon?

Ceramic is considered a safer alternative to traditional non-stick.

It's free from PFOA and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), the harmful compounds found in some Teflon products.

Potential Risks of Ceramic Coated Cookware

While ceramic-coated cookware is generally safe, it's not entirely without risks.

One concern is that the ceramic coating can chip or crack over time, especially if misused.

The underlying metal (often aluminum) can leach into your food if the ceramic is compromised.

Nanoparticles

Nanoparticles are tiny particles. They have unique properties that make them useful in various industries, including cookware manufacturing.

Some ceramic cookware uses a nanoparticle-infused coating, This nano-coating is typically made of silicon dioxide (SiO2), a compound found in natural elements like sand and quartz.

The addition of nanoparticles to the ceramic coating creates a smooth and virtually impermeable surface, enhancing its non-stick capabilities and improving its heat distribution and durability.

Nanoparticle use in ceramic cookware is considered safe. However, there are some conflicting reports, and more human studies must be conducted to discover more.

Pros & Cons of Ceramic Cookware

Advantages of Using Ceramic Cookware

Ceramic cookware offers several benefits:

  • It's made from natural materials and doesn't emit toxic fumes
  • Ceramic cookware provides excellent heat retention, ensuring even cooking
  • It's easy to clean due to its non-stick properties

Disadvantages and Limitations of Ceramic Cookware

Despite its advantages, ceramic cookware does have some drawbacks:

  • It's typically more expensive than other types of cookware
  • Ceramic-coated pans have a shorter lifespan than their pure ceramic counterparts (and some non-stick options) because the coating can wear off over time
  • Ceramic cookware requires careful handling to prevent chipping or cracking

How to Properly Maintain Ceramic Non-Stick Pans

To extend the life of your ceramic cookware, avoid using metal utensils, which can scratch the surface. Instead, opt for wooden or silicone tools.

Also, let the pan cool before washing to prevent thermal shock, and avoid using abrasive cleaners or harsh scouring pads, which can damage the ceramic surface.

I recommend handwashing all ceramic cookware (even if it's advertised as dishwasher safe). Hot water, eco-friendly dish soap, a natural sponge, and some elbow grease will clean away even the toughest mess.

Take Care with High Heat Cooking

I love cooking (and eating) Chinese food and often experiment with new recipes. The quick, high-heat nature of Chinese recipes appeals to me.

However, ceramic can struggle with high heat (especially with coated ceramic cookware).

If you use coated cookware, avoiding temperatures over 500F (260C) is best. Otherwise, you risk damaging the ceramic and compromising its non-stick qualities.

Therefore, if you want to fry up some Chinese dishes (or other foods requiring high heat), opt for pure ceramic instead of ceramic-coated.

Or, consider adding a high-quality carbon steel wok to your kitchen for all high-heat cooking. Just remember to take the time to properly season and care for your wok to ensure years of faithful service.

My Favorite Safe Ceramic Cookware

Our Place is one of my favorite cookware brands.

I love my Perfect Pot and Always Pan. At least one of them sees action pretty much every day...and they never let me down!

I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that both pieces of cookware are shipped with a complimentary wooden utensil and a natural sponge for easy cleanups.

Our Place Perfect Pot

Our Place perfect pot unboxed

 

The versatility of this 8-in-1 family-sized pot is staggering, making it perfect for seamless stovetop-to-oven cooking.

This non-stick pot was a true game-changer for my kitchen duties.

From boiling to baking, steaming to braising, the possibilities are endless with this one-of-a-kind kitchen essential.

Click here to read more.

Our Place Always Pan

Our Place always pan unboxed

With its patented multifunctional design, this innovative pan saves you money and cabinet space while delivering unparalleled performance.

Our Place cares about the planet, which is why this pan is crafted with 100% post-consumer recycled aluminum and is free from potentially harmful toxins.

The non-stick ceramic coating is free from PFAS (including PTFEs and PFOAs), lead, and cadmium. Plus, with the exclusive Thermakind™ technology, enjoy 50% longer-lasting ceramic non-stick coating for effortless cooking and cleaning.

From morning pancakes to evening fajitas (and a whole lot in between), this pan sees serious action in the Miller house. All with little to no added oil. Healthy for us and the planet. Win-Win!

Click here to read more.

Other Non-Toxic Cookware Alternatives

Besides ceramic, other safe cookware options include enameled cast iron, and glass (I love my Pyrex roasters).

These materials are durable, non-reactive, and free from harmful chemicals.

Ceramic Cookware to Avoid

High-quality ceramic cookware made in the US by a reputable company is an excellent addition to your kitchen.

However, there are some types of ceramicware you should avoid, such as:

  • Artisanal creations with a rustic or unique design
  • Antique glazed ceramic pieces (potentially made with toxic glazes)
  • Damaged or excessively worn cookware
  • Items bought from flea markets, street vendors, or imported from countries with poor standards and regulations
  • Cookware brightly decorated in orange, red, or yellow (lead is often used to boost the intensity of those colors)

Frequently Asked Questions

Are ceramic pots and nonstick pots the same thing?

Ceramic-coated cookware falls under the category of non-stick cookware. However, not all non-stick cookware is ceramic-coated. Traditional non-stick cookware is usually coated with Teflon or similar materials, while ceramic-coated cookware uses a ceramic non-stick coating.

How does ceramic compare to stainless steel?

Stainless steel cookware is known for its durability and resistance to scratching. While ceramic cookware can also be scratch-resistant, it may not be as durable as stainless steel. However, ceramic cookware offers the benefit of non-stick cooking without additional fats or oils.

Can ceramic scratch or peel off?

Ceramic coatings are generally scratch-resistant, but they can still be prone to scratching if used with metal utensils. Wood or silicone utensils are recommended to avoid damaging the ceramic surface. Peeling off of the ceramic coating can occur if the cookware is not properly cared for or is repeatedly exposed to high heat.

Is it safe to use scratched ceramic cookware?

While minor scratches on ceramic cookware may not pose a significant risk, replacing ceramic cookware with deep scratches is generally recommended. The chips or cracks in the coating can provide a breeding ground for bacteria and may allow some of the base metal to leach into your cooking.

Which metals are not safe for cooking?

It's advisable to avoid cooking in brass cookware. Its chemical reaction with salt and acidic foods at high temperatures can leach into food.

Why does everything stick to my ceramic frying pan?

Over time, pesky residual food particles tend to accumulate and can get in the way of the non-stick magic of your ceramic pans. A good soak in warm water and baking soda will clean your cookware back to its best.

Are ceramic pans safe for birds?

Ceramic pans are considered safe for birds. However, it's essential to ensure that all ceramic pieces are free of chips and cracks before bringing them into contact with your pet bird.

Is ceramic safe to cook on a glass-top stove?

Ceramic cookware with a rough exterior can scratch a glass-top stove (especially when dragged across the smooth surface while full of food).

Is ceramic safe for gas stoves?

Most ceramic cookware is safe for gas stoves. If in doubt, ask the manufacturer. My favorite brand of ceramic cookware (OurPlace) is compatible with all cooktops (including induction).

Is ceramic cookware lead and cadmium free?

Non-stick ceramic coated cookware produced in the US (and in accordance with all applicable standards) will be free from lead and cadmium.

The Final Word

Ceramic cookware is an excellent choice for your kitchen due to its safe, non-stick properties.

Made from natural materials and free from harmful chemicals, it provides a healthy cooking experience for you and your loved ones.

While it requires special care (such as handwashing and avoiding extreme temperature changes), the benefits far outweigh these minor inconveniences.

The non-stick surface of ceramic cookware promotes easy food release and requires less oil and butter, contributing to healthier meals.

Its excellent heat retention and distribution ensure even cooking throughout your culinary creations.

There are some questions about nanoparticles that need to be answered. However, weighing up all the facts, I'm happy to continue using my ceramic cookware over traditional non-stick.

Get In Touch

Do you use ceramic pots and pans? Or are you happy with traditional non-stick cookware materials? Are you planning a switch to ceramic when you next buy new cookware to avoid the potential health issues of Teflon? Drop me a line and let me know.

You May Also Like

James Miller
James Miller
James is an environmentalist, sustainability expert and senior editor at TheRoundup, specializing in testing non-toxic, organic and eco-friendly products. James, his wife and two daughters believe in chemical-free and zero-waste living. They aim to leave the planet in a better state than we found it, for future generations to enjoy.
TheRoundup.org - As Seen On
As Seen On Logos

TheRoundup

Your guide to a green and eco-friendly lifestyle. We offer simple, practical advice that anyone can follow. Together we can make a difference today & save tomorrow.
SUBSCRIBE FOR UPDATES

All Content ©2024 TheRoundup - All Rights Reserved.

108 E Main St Suite 3 Fredericksburg, TX 78624 | +1-830-904-0838 | [email protected]