Ceramic cookware: Is it all it’s cracked up to be? I’ll share a story on my initial experience with it from ages ago in just a moment, but you’re likely here because you’re wondering is ceramic cookware safe? In a nutshell, yes, but there are a lot of things you need to know before you snag a set of it just because “it’s pretty.”
OK, so it IS pretty. But there’s much more about ceramic cookware to learn besides which features make it safe, so keep reading! And now, for my tale of woe.
I was about 11 or 12 years old, and we’d gone to visit my grandma on my mom’s side. She lived on a ranch out in Montana, which was completely different from my beachside upbringing. I didn’t mind because she had stables with horses and I got to go horseback riding. I was SUCH a typical tween!
Anyway, Grandma was big on being rustic and cooking these long, drawn-out meals. I remember her fussing at my mother that she should teach me more about how to move my way around a kitchen. I knew how to make spaghetti and grilled cheese, so watching Grandma make her from-scratch casseroles and pies was mesmerizing.
So when she asked if I’d like to help her make the big Sunday family dinner, of course, I jumped at the chance. Grandma has cast iron pans I couldn’t even lift. But she also had this ceramic cookware set that looked like it came from another era.
It was so pretty! One of the ceramic pans had a beautiful design in the center. And she was letting ME cook with it. I followed her every command and was genuinely enjoying this bonding moment of cooking when CRASH!
I had gone to remove one of the pans from the stove, and it slipped from my fingers. It smacked the tile in just the wrong way, and suddenly, pieces of ceramic cookware were everywhere. Grandma was very upset, and the short version of the story is that I wasn’t allowed in her kitchen again.
Fast forward to modern times, and I now have a set of ceramic cookware. I’m no longer afraid of dropping it. And I’m not worried about if ceramic pans and pots are safe. The fact is, any cookware can be unsafe if you don’t buy quality. Keep reading, and you’ll find out how to choose the best and safest ceramic cookware!
100% Ceramic vs. Ceramic Coated
So, if you think ceramic cookware is like clay pots and pans baked in a kiln and glazed, you’re right. But some are coated with enamel. And that’s where the differences begin!
Pure ceramic cookware doesn’t have any metal. It’s made from clay, sand, and minerals. After it’s formed into a shape, it’s fired up at more than 1900F. It is safe to use in your microwave and oven too. It’s also safe to use with metal utensils.
Then there’s the stuff that is made from an aluminum base with a ceramic spray coating. It usually lasts around five years. This type of ceramic cookware is much lighter, though unlike pure ceramic cookware, it can’t handle the dishwasher.
What is ceramic cookware made of?
If you’re like me, still reliving the trauma from breaking Grandma’s ceramic cookware, you might think it’s fragile. Today’s ceramic cookware is a lot more durable than the kind Grandma kept around. Despite this, most people generalize ceramic cookware into one big group. But when it’s 100% ceramic, it’s hardened clay. When it’s ceramic coated, it is more durable because of the aluminum or steel base coated with ceramic. And it breaks down even further from there!
Ceramic coated nonstick cookware
If you read the word ‘nonstick’ and cringed, I’m right there with you. Though don’t turn your tail and run just yet!
The coatings used for ceramic coated nonstick cookware are under strict regulations from the US government. That means most manufacturers are designing ceramic cookware sets that are safe. They keep them free of dangerous chemicals like PFOA, PTFE, cadmium, and lead.
Most of the ceramic coated nonstick cookware you’ll find available today is coated with silicon, oxygen, or an inorganic mineral. So there’s no carbon. And cooking healthy food is easy. It’s not the same as Teflon or PTFE, thankfully. That ceramic coating is composed of a small layer that makes for speedy cooking. It also reduces over time, and that saves you on your energy bill too. Not to mention it keeps you from heating your kitchen on hot days. Bonus!
100% Ceramic cookware
So when ceramic cookware is pure, it’s just clay hardened by fire. For anyone looking to have an environmentally-friendly option, ceramic cookware that is 100% pure is safe and healthy. The downside? As I discovered at Grandma’s house, if you have butterfingers, you can break it easily. The coated ceramic cookware will last much longer, but the drawback is you have to know what the coating is made from. This way you’ll know whether it’s safe or not.
What’s the Ceramic Coated Pans and Pots Structure
Ceramic coated pans and pots are made much like Teflon pans. It uses a base, usually of aluminum, to create a stable core and for transferring heat. When you use magnetic materials like steel inside it, you can use it with an induction stove. You may see ceramic coated cookware with copper core too. But copper isn’t magnetic.
Manufacturers cover the ceramic coated pans and pots cooking surface with ceramic materials and stabilizers that make the surface nonstick. But is it safe? Unlike 100% pure ceramic cookware, ceramic coated cookware could be dangerous. Keep reading, and you’ll know what you should seek out and what to avoid.
What Are the Ceramic Cookware Dangers?
Is the ceramic cookware safe? Yes, when you make sure you buy quality. Ceramic cookware is widely considered non-toxic in the world of cookware. They can be among the most harmless types on the market.
Most of the ceramic cookware you’ll find, even with coating, are safe because they are free of PFOA and PTFE. All ceramic cookware that is sold in America has to meet the strict requirements of the government. It must have a warning label if there are toxic substances that exceed the limits. For lead, it’s 0.1 ppm, and for cadmium, it’s 0.049 ppm.
Yikes…lead? Yup! And this is WHY you need to keep reading to find out why quality counts when buying ceramic cookware.
Is Ceramic Cookware Lead-Free?
In the US, it’s infrequent that you would buy a lead-contaminated set of ceramic cookware. There was a huge scare a while back in older ceramic cookware though because the ceramic glazes used to have led stabilizer.
When new, the ceramic cookware danger of leaching would have been small. But with continued cooking and all that heat, scraping utensils, and acidic foods, that’s a bit different.
So, if you’re looking at ceramic cookware at a garage sale or thrift store, perhaps you’ll want to stay away and choose a new ceramic cookware set. Because with the new ones, you can be sure there is no lead, well, in most cases.
See, the thing is, if it comes from another country, it could have lead in it. Read the labels carefully before you buy it. If you have any doubts, you should skip it and find another brand where you can be confident it is lead-free.
Products that come from Asia or Latin America don’t have the same standards as the US. Keep that in mind when you’re shopping for ceramic cookware and read the labels to be sure!
Is Ceramic Cookware PFOA, Cadmium, and PTFE Free?
First of all, for those of you lost back when I first mentioned PFOA and PTFE, here’s what they are. PFOA is perfluorooctanoic acid, and PTFE is polytetrafluoroethylene. PFOA is used to protect different things from fabrics to carpets to cookware. Lots of things are treated with it. It usually burns off during manufacturing they say. The brand name better knows the PTFE of Teflon. As you probably know, it’s on lots of things too.
And then, there’s cadmium that is used to keep the dyes used in cookware stable. If the cadmium is in your ceramic cookware, it must be listed on a pan sticker. Cadmium and these other chemicals are easy to avoid. Just look at the cookware contents label, and you’ll know if they’re in there or not.
When your ceramic cookware starts chipping or looks worn, you need to replace them. That goes for the pure kind because a chipped 100% pure ceramic pot or pan can break during cooking. That’s a big mess you want to avoid. For ceramic coated cookware, any chip or wear on the coating can expose you to the core inside which then can leach. Cadmium is commonly used to stabilize dyes in cookware. Because it’s a heavy metal, manufacturers must put any cadmium content on the label.
Ceramic Cookware vs. Nonstick: Which One is Healthier?
When it comes to choosing which type of cookware to buy, ceramic is a better and healthier choice. This is very true when comparing it to nonstick cookware. Nonstick cookware is covered with chemicals like the ones I mentioned above. Do you want to serve up a side of toxins to your family? Exactly!
The 100% pure ceramic cookware is one of the few types of cookware that is healthy and safe. When you use ceramic coated cookware, it’s still a better option over nonstick cookware.
But there are also nonstick ceramic cookware options that don’t have nasty chemicals coating them. And these might be an excellent option for you when it comes to durability and health combined. The downside is that even with proper care, you’ll have to replace them in about 3 to 5 years. That all depends on how often you use them and what you cook in them.
Read full review of ceramic cookware pros & cons here.
Tips to Extend the Life of Ceramic Cookware and Using it Safely
Like any cookware type, ceramic cookware needs proper care. If you want it to last, you should take a few precautions. And if it’s 100% pure, don’t be a klutz and drop it. There, I said it.
Use the right utensils on ceramic coated cookware
With 100% pure ceramic cookware, you can use any utensils. But if you buy ceramic coated pans, you must make sure you always baby it with the right utensils.
That means NEVER use metal like ever. Silicone or bamboo is the best. You can use plastic or nylon too, but if you’re concerned about chemicals in your food, don’t do that.
If you use metal, you’ll scrape, scratch, and chip the surface which will render the nonstick useless. When investing in an excellent ceramic cookware set, destroying it is the last thing you want to do.
Don’t use cooking oil sprays
Can I tell you a secret? I hate those cooking oil sprays. I gag when I see them in the store. Really, I do. I can’t understand why anyone uses them. These sprays in aerosol cans are quite popular, but not with me. They have chemicals in there with them, which is why I’ve always stayed away. Yes, even the coconut oil and olive oil versions! DON’T use them, EVER! And NEVER use them with your ceramic cookware. You’ll wind up getting a sticky buildup on the surface. And even worse, you’ll be adding chemicals into your food. But that buildup sticks and stays and is very difficult to remove without scrubbing. All that scrubbing can ruin the finish. If you genuinely love the way those sprays evenly coat your cookware, get a misting tool and fill it with pure cooking oils instead.
Watch the heat
Ceramic cookware, even ceramic coated cookware, is not built for high heat. You’ll want to keep temps on medium to low. Using anything higher than a medium can discolor it or damage it. With ceramic coated cookware, the nonstick finish can become ruined with high heat.
With ceramic coated pots and pans, don’t forget the core is aluminum. This conducts heat exceptionally well and distributes it evenly too. Yes, you can boil water even at medium because of how well it distributes heat!
When using butter or oil, pre-heat the pan on low and let the oil or butter heat up before adding your food.
Don’t undergo drastic temperature changes
This isn’t a good idea for any pan material, but for ceramic cookware, this can do thermal damage to the nonstick coating. You should never stick a hot pan into water, and this goes for ceramic too. After cooking, put it on a cool burner or a neutral trivet and let it cool down to room temperature before washing it.
Don’t use the dishwasher
While 100% pure ceramic can survive the dishwasher, I always think it’s best to hand-wash it. Even if the manufacturer’s instructions say it’s OK to put in your dishwasher, it’s better by hand.
Most dishwashing detergents have harsh chemicals in them. This can ruin the surface of your ceramic cookware. Also, the pressure of the hot water your dishwasher inflicts can destroy it. And if you overload your dishwasher, you run the danger of chipping your ceramic cookware against other dishes.
Store it properly
I probably shouldn’t have to tell you this, but I will anyway. Don’t stack your ceramic cookware on top of each other. Don’t put them inside each other either. Save the packaging it came in to use as a buffer between them. If you throw it away, you can use sheets of paper towels between it or old clean washcloths.
If you have one of those fancy kitchens with the island and the hanging rack above it, you can display your ceramic cookware for all to see. Most cookware today has holes in the handles for just this purpose! Show it off!
Let me finish up with a few FAQs about ceramic cookware for you!
Q. Is ceramic nonstick “healthier” than regular nonstick cookware?
A. Yes, it is! Ceramic nonstick cookware is a healthier choice over regular nonstick cookware. That’s because it isn’t coated with the same type of chemicals as standard nonstick cookware. Unless you buy used pieces from a garage sale or secondhand store, or you buy it outside the US, it will always be a better choice.
Q. Can you cook on high heat with a ceramic nonstick coated pan?
A. With pure ceramic cookware, it’s very heat tolerant. You can stick it on the stove and then move it to the oven. But ceramic coated cookware is a bit less tolerant of heat. You can ruin it if you expose it to high heat or use it for prolonged periods.
In a ceramic coated pan, you should never let anything boil dry. It should always be kept with liquid in it. Stay near the stove when cooking and keep an eye on things.
Q. Do ceramic pans stick?
A. Ceramic pans don’t tend to stick, particularly the ceramic coated styles. Any pan can stick though if you don’t properly take care of it (see tips above). It can also stick if you let the contents run dry. Always be present when you’re cooking with ceramic pans to keep stuck-on stuff from happening.
Q. Is Ceramic Cookware Dishwasher Safe or Should You Handwash?
A. As I mentioned earlier, pure ceramic cookware can be washed in the dishwasher. I’d recommend hand-washing it though. And ceramic nonstick cookware needs to be hand washed. All nonstick cookware should be hand-washed because of the risk for banging, but with ceramic, it can chip. Plus, the nonstick coating can wear down faster.
There’s also the rapid changes in temperature that take place in your dishwasher. This can make the base inside ceramic coated cookware warp. And that could make the coating crack or flake off.
Your best method for cleaning ceramic cookware is to allow it to cool to room temperature. Then you can wash it in warm, soapy water by hand. If you have any stuck-on bits of food, you can use a nylon scrubbing pad.
Q. Can they be used in the oven?
A. Yes, but only if it’s pure ceramic. If it’s ceramic coated cookware, it can’t handle extreme heat. You’ll ruin it fast if you put ceramic coated cookware in your oven. If you want the flexibility of moving your cookware from stovetop to oven, choose pure ceramic cookware.
Q. Is it worth paying more for a well-known brand?
A. Absolutely! Remember what I said about not getting old ceramic cookware set from a garage sale? Or from a country with less rigorous standards? It’s worth it to splurge on a brand that is known for quality. This way, you can be sure your ceramic cookware is safe. There are many quality and safe ceramic cookware options in a range of prices. You can find one that suits your budget.
Q. Can metal utensils be used with ceramic cookware?
A. When it comes to pure ceramic cookware, anything goes! But when it’s ceramic coated cookware, you can’t use metal utensils. You’re best bet is silicone or wooden utensils which will prevent damage to the coating. It will also prevent the leaching of nasty chemicals every time you stir.
Q. Is ceramic cookware safe?
A. Yes, ceramic cookware is safe! But again, it depends on where it comes from. Always read the labels to find out where it was made. When it comes to the coated variety, always look for what the coating is made from. Ceramic cookware looks beautiful too so you’ll love displaying it in your kitchen even when it’s not in use. If you want a pleasant cooking experience, get ceramic cookware in your kitchen right away!