Is Ceramic Cookware Safe? What You Need to Know

Is Ceramic Cookware Safe? What You Need to Know

The short answer is yes.

Author: Patty Lee | April 8, 2024 | Time to read: 5 min

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Cooking is both a practical necessity and a joyful experience. The meals we make can simply nourish our bodies or help nurture our relationships. Whether we’re cooking for ourselves or our loved ones, we’re trying to do it as safely as possible. We’ll rinse the spinach until the water is clear of sand and probe the pork chops to make sure they’ve hit the proper temperature. But even before all that, the most important step we can take is ensuring that the tools we use — the knives, the cutting boards, and, of course, the pans — are made with the best materials.

Which brings us to one of the most commonly asked cookware questions: “Is insert-material-here safe?” It's been asked about the metals used in cookware (like stainless steel, aluminum, cast iron), but more urgently about coating-based nonstick cookware that has garnered a reputation for containing toxins.

The short answer is: Yes, ceramic-coated cookware is safe. The ceramic nonstick coating on Always Pan is made without forever chemicals (PFAS), lead, or cadmium so you can cook worry free.

Types of Nonstick Pans

Before diving into all things ceramic cookware, it’s helpful to understand the different types of nonstick pans. While they’re usually lumped into one category, nonstick cookware actually falls under three: There’s traditional nonstick (PFAS-based PTFE), ceramic nonstick (Sol-Gel), and natural nonstick (materials like seasoned cast iron and carbon steel).

Traditional Nonstick
This cookware is coated with a chemical commonly known as PFAS. The core of these pots and pans contain metal (usually aluminum or stainless steel) and require a coating to make them nonstick. The coating used to contain PFOA, but since that was phased out in the United States in 2002, it’s now typically manufactured with PTFE.

Ceramic Nonstick
Its complete name, sol-gel ceramic nonstick, alludes to how this version of nonstick cookware is made. A coating (the gel) made from silica (the solution) is applied to a metal body, then dried to create a hard, glossy film. The process of going from silica to gel is known scientifically as a hydrolysis and condensation polymerization. While that may sound complicated, the takeaway is simple: No potentially harmful chemicals are used.

Natural Nonstick
We all have that friend who swears by their seasoned cast iron or carbon steel skillet. Applying oil to these metals over high heat helps build a natural nonstick patina. This technique, known as seasoning, needs to be done regularly to maintain the slick surface.

PFAS, PTFE, PFOA: What Do They All Mean?

When we learn to cook, we’re not only getting a hang of new skills, but a whole new vocabulary. We discover the difference between mincing and dicing, soft peaks and stiff peaks, brining and marinating. The same goes for our tools. Traditional nonstick cookware in particular is often associated with the following chemical acronyms:

  • PFAS: Short for per- and polyfluorinated substances, PFAS are a group of chemicals that have been used in consumer products since the 1940s. They’re found in many everyday items aside from nonstick cookware, like stain-resistant furniture, waterproof clothing, and cosmetics.
  • PFOA: Perfluorooctanoic acid (the original Teflon™) was banned from American cookware after studies showed that it can cause birth defects, cancer, and hormonal disruptions. If a pan’s label says it’s PFOA-free, that’s because it has to be.
  • PTFE: Aka the new Teflon, or polytetrafluoroethylene. Like PFOA, it’s also part of the PFAS family, but it’s still in use today. Many traditional nonstick pans contain PTFE, which if overheated, releases toxic fumes and causes a condition known as Teflon flu.

Are Ceramic Pans Safe?

Ceramic nonstick pans that are made without PFAS chemicals are safe to use. They don’t release harmful chemicals when overheated and generally have a higher heat tolerance than traditional nonstick coating. That’s why you can use the Always Pan for searing and sauteing as well as roasting and baking in the oven up to 450°F.

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Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Maintenance Tips

Upkeeping ceramic cookware isn’t complicated. It doesn’t require seasoning or special cleaning. Just mild soap and water will do most of the time. This ease is what makes ceramic nonstick cookware ideal for home cooks who are building up their confidence in the kitchen. You can slide a piece of gochujang-glazed salmon right off the pan and not spend the next 10 minutes scrubbing the remnants. Here are some things you can do to keep your ceramic nonstick cookware nonstick for longer.

Avoid High Temperatures
While ceramic nonstick cookware can withstand higher temperatures than traditional PTFE nonstick cookware, it’s still best to use low- to medium-heat temperatures. The coating naturally wears over time and the higher the heat, the faster it’ll fade.v

Use Non-Abrasive Utensils
Wooden and silicone utensils are always recommended to keep the coating intact. But we also know that things can get hectic in the kitchen. What happens if you grab your metal fish spatula by mistake? Are scratched ceramic pans safe? As long as they’re made without potential toxins, then yes. A scratched surface will just make your ceramic nonstick pan less, well, nonstick.

Hand Wash Only
To preserve the ceramic coating, hand wash your cookware with warm, soapy water and a soft sponge. Skip the abrasive cleaners and harsh detergents — yes, even when food is really stuck on. You can loosen it by boiling baking soda and water or create a paste from baking soda and white vinegar and let it sit and work its magic.

Store Carefully
Never stack heavy items on top of your ceramic-coated cookware. If you do need to place pots and pans on top of each other, slide something soft in between them to act as a protective barrier.

Patty Lee

Patty Lee is a writer and editor based in New York City. Her writing has appeared in The Kitchn, Martha Stewart Living, Food Network, and many other food and lifestyle publications. A native New Yorker who grew up in Brooklyn's Chinatown, her perfect weekend breakfast is a combination of bagels and dim sum.