Is Ceramic Cookware Better than Nonstick?

Oct 02, 2019 11:17 AM EDT | By Staff Reporter

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Is ceramic cookware better than nonstick?

(Photo : Photo by Dane Deaner)

When it comes to choosing cookware, there are so many different options to choose from. Stainless steel, aluminum, copper, glass, and ceramic are some of the different materials that you'll come across. 

You'll also come across some cookware sets that advertise themselves as being nonstick. These pots and pans have a special coating on them that prevents food from sticking to the bottom of the pan, which can make washing the dishes easier. 

Nonstick sounds like the way to go, right? After all, nobody wants to spend their evenings scrubbing crispy food from their cookware set. Well, as it turns out, nonstick pans might not be as great as the marketing materials make them. In fact, many cooks are starting to turn away from nonstick pans and are moving towards ceramic cookware

What is ceramic cookware?

Pure ceramic cookware is clay pots and pans that have been carefully manufactured so that you can cook with them. Often, they are kiln-baked and then glazed. Ceramic coated cookware is metal pots and pans that have been coated with a special ceramic glaze. 

Ceramic pots and pans are popular because they transfer heat easily, they're lightweight, and they're non-reactive with food. And with a little bit of butter or oil, you can prevent your food from sticking to the bottom of your set. 

Why ceramic over nonstick?

There are some concerns that nonstick pans may not be entirely safe. This is because the nonstick coating contains polytetrafluoroethylene (more commonly known as Teflon). 

Up until 2013, another chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) was used in the production of Teflon. PFOA has been linked to several health issues, including liver disease, infertility, and several types of cancer. It is thought that heating up nonstick pans could potentially cause toxic fumes to enter your kitchen. While PFOA is no longer used in Teflon, older nonstick pans may still contain this chemical. 

But even without PFOA, some still have concerns about Teflon. Teflon coatings do break down over time, especially when they're exposed to high temperatures. Once a coating begins to break down, there is still a chance that toxic fumes will be released. These fumes can cause flu-like symptoms. Plus, bits of the coating may end up in your food.

How do you take care of ceramic cookware?

Ceramic cookware is more delicate than other types of cookware, so you do need to treat it more carefully. Metal utensils may scratch ceramic cookware and high heat may damage it. For these reasons, it is also recommended that you hand wash ceramic sets so that they don't bump against other dishes or get exposed to high temperatures while in the dishwasher. 

What are some other alternatives?

Despite ceramic cookware being completely safe, some dislike it because it is more fragile than other cookware. If you'd prefer to stay away from ceramic, consider investing in stainless steel, cast-iron or stoneware instead. All three of these types of cookware do not contain Teflon and are extremely durable materials. 

Most homeowners prefer a mix of several types of cookware. For example, they may primarily use ceramic cookware, but they may also keep a cast iron pan handy for whenever they need to cook chicken.

What if I want to keep my nonstick dishes?

If you already have a high-quality set of nonstick dishes and don't want to replace them, there are ways to minimize the risk of getting exposed to toxic fumes. 

When cooking, make sure to only heat up the pan when there is already food or liquid in it. Keep the temperature at low or medium heat. Nonstick pans heat up quickly and the higher the temperature, the more likely fumes will be released into the air. Most nonstick cookware sets will come with a recommended cooking temperature that you shouldn't surpass. 

If you're still concerned about fumes, consider opening the windows in your kitchen or using an exhaust fan. This should help draw any fumes out of your kitchen so that you're not directly exposed to them for too long. 

And, finally, you'll want to maintain your cookware properly. Avoid purposefully scratching the coating with metal silverware or with rough sponges. If you notice the coating starting to flake and chip, you will need to replace the dishes. 

Final thoughts

Based on safety alone, ceramic cookware is better than nonstick cookware because it is completely free from Teflon. However, a potential downside of ceramic cookware is that it is more fragile. If you already have durable nonstick cookware, there are ways to safely use your cookware without getting exposed to the dangers of Teflon. 

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