Top 5 Safe Bakeware Options

Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

As we head full steam into holiday baking season, you may be pulling out cookie sheets and other pots and pans that haven’t seen much action in a while. Will you know if you’re making a safe, non-toxic kitchen choice?

Here’s a quick primer to help you out as you navigate your back cupboards, or perhaps the cooking landscape at a relative’s house while visiting.

Five Safe Materials for Cooking and Baking

I can’t promise that all of these are 100% perfectly safe, but they’re the safest options available.

1. Glass

Glass baking dishes and even pots are non-reactive, which means they won’t leach chemicals into your food. Score one for glass. They’re also great for storage if you can find some with lids, which saves dishes. Score two.

However, there have been some reports of glass bakeware exploding when heated, especially if a dish goes from the freezer to the oven.

Strike one for glass.

But generally, under normal use, properly made glass dishes have no safety problems. If you’re worried about the exploding glass issue, you may want to Google the Pyrex incident to see if your dishes were made in the safe zone (by year).

2. Stoneware

Picture above: soaked granola from my eBook, Healthy Snacks to Go, on my Pampered Chef baking stone.

Pampered Chef isn’t the only brand selling stoneware, but they seem to be the most well-known. Stoneware is also non-reactive and won’t leach chemicals into your food, and I have to give it a personal shout out for preserving many a cookie and biscuit in my house from burnt bottom syndrome.

Possible disadvantages to stoneware include:

  • Can’t use soap – that turns some people off. For me, it’s just an excuse not to wash the baking stones when I don’t get them very messy!
  • Pricey – but don’t go cheap, as thin stones often break quickly.

3. Ceramic or enameled cast iron


Photo by Grannie’s Kitchen

Regular cast iron is often well-loved for the stovetop. It does leach iron into your food, but that only helps most people’s iron levels. Enameled cast iron (top photo) is a way to harness the conductivity of cast iron and yet be able to use some soap (although sparingly) and avoid the problem of acidic foods reacting with the cast iron.

Ceramic bakeware has a similar coating to enameled cast iron, and in both, you need to make sure it’s lead-free. Don’t use older enameled baking dishes as they may contain cadmium or lead, which can easily get into your food. When buying new, check with the manufacturer to ensure lead-free materials.

4. Stainless steel

There are some questions about stainless steel possibly leaching nickel, but it’s generally regarded as non-reactive, especially if you’re not storing acidic food in it. (So don’t put your tomato-based chili in the refrigerator still in the pot.) Many eco-friendly shops sell stainless steel cookie sheets, pizza pans and loaf pans specifically to cater to the “safe materials” crowd.

5. Silicone baking mats

Photo by scubadive67

A rather new player in the field, silicone’s major transgression – and it’s a big one – is that there haven’t been enough tests run on it for safety and leaching issues. Generally silicone is regarded as inert and non-reactive. Many folks dislike the baking quality of silicone bakeware like brownie pans, muffin tins, and loaf pans, but the baking mat might still have its place in my kitchen.

See my article on silicone bakeware safety for the research I could come up with for your holiday baking season pleasure.

What Not to Use

In case you aren’t sure about what to look out for when you’re in Grandma’s kitchen deciding what pot to heat the turkey gravy in or how to bake the crescent wheels, you want to avoid:

1. Aluminum – linked to Alzheimer’s and other not-so-fun things, aluminum is unfortunately ubiquitous in older pots, muffin tins and cookie sheets. You really mustn’t allow acidic foods (like tomato sauce) to hand out in aluminum as it will leach chemicals even faster.

Aluminum is not magnetic, so if you’re unsure after seeing a light-colored, lightweight metal, try to stick a fridge magnet to the pot to help identify the material.

The baseball mitt cake pan pictured above, which both my husband and son had for their second birthday, is probably made of aluminum. But like that white flour cake, I’m not going to stress too much about a once a year indulgence.

2. Nonstick surfaces – PFOA, a nasty chemical in Teflon and other black non-stick surfaces, offgasses at high temperatures. It’s one of those things that kills birds. Why bother? (Except maybe for scrambled eggs…)

It is impossible to be perfectly safe from all chemicals all the time, but it’s still nice to shoot for the “most likely safer” rather than the “kills birds” category.

What is your favorite piece of bakeware?

Sources: 1, 2, 3

About Katie Kimball

An at-home mom who is passionate about food, her two kids, the good green Earth and her faith, Katie Kimball blogs about all that and more at Kitchen Stewardship.

Comments

  1. I loooooove my Le Creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven. My mom gave it to me for Christmas a couple of years ago–they’re so expensive that I wasn’t sure I wanted anyone spending that much money on cookware–even if it was a gift!

    But I have loved cooking with it. I use it 5 times a week for at least half the year, it cooks and cleans up so well, and it looks so pretty sitting on my stovetop. And, it’s SAFE to cook with!

    Thanks for this post. I’m very conscious about not using plastic, but aluminum had fallen off my radar, and we use cookie sheets a lot this time of year. (Will they be safe to use with a parchment paper lining?
    Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy´s latest post: The Modern Accomplished Woman…Gets Her Work Done

    • Anne,
      Yes! (I think)

      I can’t believe I didn’t mention that in the post. Parchment (or silicone, if you trust it) is a great way to use what you have even when it’s aluminum.
      :) Katie
      Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship´s latest post: Monday Mission: Grab Those Bones!

    • Anne – what do you use your dutch oven so often for? i have a couple of their pieces, but almost never use them. i’m excited to hear about the great reasons i should have for keeping my lovely cookware out!

      • Angela,

        I don’t use it much in the summer, but I use it 5x/week in the winter! It’s excellent for browning anything, and the nice high sides keep the grease from splattering everywhere. I use it for braises (pot roast, chicken, etc) and soups and stews. I use it to make stock. And before we went gluten-free I used it to make that amazing 5 minute artisanal bread. (highly recommended!)

        Hope you find some new ways to use yours!

  2. I absolutely love my cast iron skillets. I have two, a mid-size, and a large that I use daily. They are older skillets I picked up used and it took a while for me to get them seasoned, but now they are non-stick. And clean up is so easy. I ususally just wipe out with damp cloth. Since both my children have low iron, they also get a little bonus iron with meals as well. I also have a huge cast iron skillet I use when frying lots of fish (so large it doesn’t fit in the sink). Perfect for our fish fry. If proper care is given to these pans, they will last a lifetime.

  3. Thanks Katie. Great resource and I will be sharing with my readers.

    I love my PC Stonewear. I ordered their pizza stone and can’t wait to try it (once I am done with my elimination diet).

    I use stainless steel pans (calphalon) and adore my perfectly seasoned cast iron skillet! I do have silicone as a strainer (much easier to clean pasta off versus the stainless steel version, I keep that for washing grapes!). I use it for blanching my veggies before freezing (stick in pot of boiling water and remove to bowl of ice water all in the silicone strainer). I was curious if it was leaching….this (and your other silicone post) are helping me make an informed decision!
    Nikki @ Christian Mommy Blogger´s latest post: Comment on I am starting an elimination diet! by Rachel

  4. My favorite piece(s) of bakeware is my cast iron skillets. I own three. The smallest is an 8″, passed down to me from my grandmother who married in 1942. I assume it was new when she received it, but don’t know. Over the years it has developed a crust from use on the outside. The inside still needs periodic seasoning as some members of the family (ahem) don’t use enough oil and foods get stuck, and therefore, must be scrubbed off. We use it primarily to fry eggs and melt butter now, so it has a permanent home on the stovetop. My second favorite is a 12″ cast iron that I purchased a few years ago to accommodate our growing family. I use it nearly every day for any meal from breakfast to dinner, and even to bake coffee cake. I hope to pass both of these pans down to a granddaughter many years from now.

  5. I have been slowly switching all my cooking ware over to safer choices, Cast iron is my go to choice because I can use it in or on the stove. We have finally gotten them nice and seasoned so that eggs don’t stick. Now I just need to find something for cooking pastas and rice on the stove top.
    Lisa´s latest post: White Sage for Cold Relief

  6. So, this is probably a silly question….aluminum is okay when it is encased in something else like stainless steel, right?

  7. I have not really researched this well, so I am glad that you have laid it out here for us. I would really love to have a Creuset as I have begun cooking more. I would think it could double as a paella pan. Recently had some paella at a spanish restaurant and would love to make some of my own!
    Bernice
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Plan, but not too much

  8. When you mention the older ceramic that might contain lead, are you talking about the type in photo #4? The blue and white ceramic dish? Or are you talking about older ceramic-enameled cast iron? I have a bunch of Pyrex baking pans from the 1970s (thanks grandma) that are the classic white ceramic with a blue floral design. (These are very common – I see them at thrift stores all the time.) Just wondering if this is the kind that I need to test for lead or if that was the other type of bakeware? Thanks!

  9. I’m slowly making the change as well. Will definitely be referencing this post as I continue.

  10. I finally got rid of my aluminum this summer. I wish I had more money for baking stone….I LOVE them! Sometimes I luck up on them at yard sales. :-) Thanks for the great informative post.
    I’m hanging on to my silicone mats…….but, I did get rid of my silicone muffin tins because I hated washing the little boogers.
    Stacy Makes Cents´s latest post: Cinnamon PB Granola

  11. Anyone know a good site or two that sells stainless baking sheets? Thanks!

  12. Nano-ceramic is a new coating that is actually very safe, but it can be pricey/hard to find. I still haven’t really found nano-ceramic bakeware – just cookware. I LOVE my GreenPan skillet, it’s incredible! I think they make bakeware too, not sure.
    Anastasia @ Eco-Babyz´s latest post: Natural Flu Prevention

  13. For Thanksgiving safety, do not use those horrible aluminum turkey pans in the grocery stores, don’t even try to double them. If you must use one, put it on a cookie pan and then put the turkey in it and take it to and from the oven. The aluminum throw-away pans can buckle on you, burning you and dumping everything on the floor.

    About eight years ago we had two Pyrex glass cooking dishes explode in our oven, at different times, with different types of foods etc. The dishes were a plumish-brown color. I have one Pyrex dish with clear glass of the same shape I have had for years and have had no problems, and the Pyrex glass pie dish hasn’t had a problem. For us, the colored Pyrex baking dishes were the problem.

    I don’t trust silicone cooking ware because of the chemicals. I have no Teflon pans left, I have two “greenware” pans and I usually use them rarely with breakfast. One main thing is to never cook on high with most types of pans and pots. Even Cuisinart has told me not to cook on high with their stainless steel pots and pans. With our smooth-top range I can only use the cast iron pots with our oven or grill outside.

    Also, a microwave should only be used rarely if ever. Sorry, but according to my GI doctor and several registered nutritionists I know, microwave ovens change food chemically from what you want to eat.
    Lynda Thompson´s latest post: Preparing for Thanksgiving?

  14. @Rebecca: Your pans are CorningWare, and they are safe. Katie was talking about ceramic glazes used on cast iron, and on many ceramic dishes. CorningWare is a different process, though–and those old blue flowered pots are starting to fetch a nice price on ebay, so, if you like ‘em, snatch up the thrift store ones!

  15. I just saw some USA bakeware with the silicone coating. Here is the description:

    • Thickness of the metal allows for even heat distribution up to 400°F
    • Steel wires built into the pans provide additional strength and prevent warping
    • Constructed of aluminized steel; clear nonstick silicone coating is PTFE and PFOA free
    • Perfect for baking all kinds of treats for home baking

    Do you know if they are a safe option?

  16. How about those aluminum foil we use to layer on baking sheets? Is that dangerous too? Also those one time container with silver color used for parties?

  17. Katie,
    Was it you that had the post about a website that sold safer cooking stuff? Like glass baking dishes with plastic lids? And lots of stainless stuff? I can’t find that post. . .
    Thanks.
    Theresa

  18. Great tips! I have long since been coveting these pans from mercola.com
    http://cookware.mercola.com/ceramic-bakeware.aspx

  19. Thank you for this information. It’s wonderful! I like your remark about not worrying about white cake in an aluminum pan a couple items a year. :)

    Congratulations on your Smart Sweets release!

  20. I tossed our teflon years ago and never looked back. I mainly use stainless steel, but have been starting to use my cast iron pans. I have one stainless steel cake pan and other 9×13 glass pans. I have a pizza baking stone I use all the time. I have a few aluminum(?) cake pans, but they are used just a couple times a year. I’d love to replace them someday. I do have some silicone bakeware, but don’t care for how they bake, but I do love to use them to freeze stuff in (like broth). Frozen stuff just plops right out. Cupcakes hold about 1/4 cup. Oh so handy and makes it easy to thaw out!

  21. http://www.surlatable.com has a Le Creuset sale going on on a few pieces for a few more days (I think it’s still 11/21). Free shipping. I got a Scanpan non-stick skillet from them that I use all of the time. PFOA-free and eco-friendly. Expensive unfortunately, but Sur la Table has a sale on time items too. Wish they had bakeware.

    How do care for Pampered Chef bakeware if you don’t use soap?

    • @Gopika, Pampered Chef bakeware comes with a scraper. They recommend cleaning with hot water, scraping the interior surfaces until clean. I’ve heard that the stoneware absorbs soap, which would affect the quality of foods baked in/on them after cleaning with soap. It does take some time to “season” the stone so it makes a non-stick like surface, though. I personally have the pampered chef jelly roll stone, the rectangular baking stone, and the mini loaf stoneware pan. The mini loaf pan is the most difficult to clean, but I find lining them with parchment makes it easy to lift out my quick breads (my fave is banana bread!) and then just give it a quick scrape. Word of warning though, don’t use them under a broiler, there is a danger of the pan cracking. I’ve used my rectangular stone for pizza up to 500* F with no problems whatsoever.

  22. Thanks Katie!

    I’m going to share this one. I dumped my sister pot full of almost boiling water out of a non-stick pan and swapped it for a stainless steel one just yesterday- she wasn’t impressed.. :)

  23. This post helped me a lot in every aspect related to cooking and baking, and it’s very nice that I got all the stuff under a one single post.
    Kripalu ji Maharaj´s latest post: Adelaide Lecture Series – April, 2010

  24. Oh no. I never though about it. With the exception of my Pyrex glass dishes, all of my bake ware is non-stick. After college, I’ve specifically bought stainless and cast iron cookware to avoid Teflon, and then didn’t think about cookie sheets, etc. Darn. Well, to answer your question, my favorite, and most used, bakeware items is my Pyrex square 8×8 baking dish.

  25. I know its not fancy, but i really enjoy the new set of farberware pots and frying pans my husband bought me. I also use my pyrex dishes all the time. Love them!
    marissa paxton´s latest post: Hello world!

  26. Your blog post is really informative and I learned a lot from it especially that my grandmother really loves to bake. Learning this things, I will share it to my aunts and grandma to make them aware and avoid future use of harmful bake ware materials. Thanks!
    Angel Collins´s latest post: Feel Good Friday: Green Gifts Book List

  27. How about an Oneida baking stone? How would I find out if it is safe? Also, it mentions using soap on it. I wonder what the difference is since PC says no soap.

  28. Thanks for bring out the facts about the different cookware. I will think twice about cooking in aluminum and Teflon.
    Jeff from Menuflavors Cookware´s latest post: Enameled and Seasoned Cast Iron Cookware Reviews

  29. I found nano ceramic bakeware! Yeay! It’s called Danny Seo and they actually sell at TJ Maxx, HomeGoods, and Marshalls :)
    Anastasia @ eco-babyz´s latest post: VINCI Tablet Review [and how you can win one!]

  30. Molly Malone says:

    This is a helpful article but I have 2 comments. 1 – It seems that anodized aluminum may be another good option since the anodizing is hard and difficult to scratch. It keeps the aluminum from reacting with food and is a little easier to remove food from than plain metal. It’s not non-stick, but it helps.

    2 – Silicone is actually not safe at all. I’m an erstwhile analytic chemist so even though I am not a polymer chemist I still have some small knowledge of how this area of science more or less operates.

    Sidestepping for the moment the issue of contaminants, in order to make any plastic, solvents are needed, along with heat, time, and a reaction vessel (container). Once heated, mixed, reacted, poured and molded, some solvent always, always, ALWAYS remains. It is embedded in the plastic – yes, silicone is a type of plastic – and this solvent will immediately absorb into food from the surface, and over time those solvents will leach out from the inside of the plastic and continue to absorb into your food. For a very long time, like for the life of the bakeware you are using. Some of these solvents are what keep the plastic flexible, so when they’re mostly gone, so is your bakeware. Do your own research on hexane and methylene chloride (aka: dichloromethane) which I once used in massive quantities in labs. You will not like what you read on the MSDS and yes, I’ve read them. And I don’t like it either.

    Silicone chemistry is not trivial, and it is big, huge, enormous business. These compounds permeate our lives in this post-industrial, age of chemistry era in which we live. Are these chemicals safe? More importantly, are they safe for life, especially human life? Well, as for silicones, they are entirely man-made; nowhere in nature have any ever been found. There is an entire, very large book written on the analysis of silicones: The Analytical Chemistry of Silicones (Chemical Analysis: A Series of Monographs on Analytical Chemistry and Its Applications). A. Lee Smith (Editor).

    Do keep in mind that even in the face of overwhelming evidence, manufacturers of a product or a group of products will go to their grave insisting that the evidence is flawed, that it’s anecdotal at best, that it’s skewed, and that it’s just plain wrong or fabricated. They will sell out the health and the life of anyone who gets in their production way. Always. The only time a company ever does the right thing is when the government finally gives in to the truth and forces them to change. Change costs money and time (money again) and no business willingly changes just because it’s the right thing to do. Ever.

    It all really comes down to this question: Who do You Trust?

    Do you choose to trust the makers of products who want your money at all costs? If you really believe that businesses exist not to make money, then maybe. Or do you trust your own skepticism? I’ll tell you what, I trust YOUR skepticism more than I trust any manufacturer on this planet. I trust mine even more than yours. You should trust yours as much as I trust mine, you don’t need a degree in chemistry (or anything else for that matter) just to question.

    Live Well!

    There’s a decent bit of info here on silicone bakeware:
    http://www.care2.com/greenliving/is-silicone-bakeware-safe-ask-annie.html#

    • Molly,
      Thank you so much for this information! It seems that what I can find is always changing, but the more I notice “that smell” when my silicone mats get anywhere over 350F the more nervous I get.

      I should just pitch them, but all my cookie sheets are nasty, too. Time for new!

      :) Katie

      • I also appreciate Molly’s information. I came over to read it after seeing your comment on Facebook. I have read that Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree Oil soap (plus elbow grease) will clean the nasty cookie sheets. I haven’t tried this tip yet.

  31. Hi there, I use cast iron frying pans and stainless steel too. I do however, when necessary use soap, (Dawn) on my little toaster oven PC stone. I use it all the time and sometimes it just needs a good ole cleaning with soap. Doesn’t seem to hurt it. I usually let it soak a bit and use the scraper too. :)
    Thanks for the post. No blog yet, but I hope to get one started soon. Gotta figure out how to talk about home, faith, food and our jewelry business all in the same blog! A bit challenging!
    Linda :)

  32. I *just* invested in the SaladMaster healthy cooking system (made from non-porous medical grade titanium) after years of thinking I had the safest stuff. They just won the about.com Best Cookware Award: http://cookingequipment.about.com/od/ReadersChoice2012/ss/2012-Readers-Choice-Award-Winners-For-Cooking-Equipment_3.htm
    They are a direct-sales company, so unfortunately they are not widely known even among health-minded people.

    They don’t leach metal into the cooking (unlike stainless steel which allows even the aluminum core to leach through), you can cook at much lower temperatures to retain nutrients, color and bulk, and the food doesn’t stick at the low heat. You can also cook with less oil, but since we are butter/coconut oil fans – why would you want to do that?! =)

    And when they come to your house to do a demonstration, they boil baking soda (as a reacting agent to any metal) in the current pans your using (cast-iron and stainless steel for us) and have you taste the water. I couldn’t *believe* how bitter it was from my beloved pots and pans! There was no taste other than baking soda from the SaladMaster ones.

    They cost a pretty penny but have a lifetime warranty and many other benefits. Get a SaladMaster rep to your house to do a demo pronto, and maybe you can swing a deal by reviewing them on your blog. http://www.saladmaster.com/display/router.aspx

    Hope that helps!

  33. Stephanie says:

    I got tired of replacing my aluminum cookie sheets every year or so (when they got yucky) and broke down and bought a baking stone from Pampered Chef. It is the best think ever! I had to buy another for lasagna! Now, the only thing I don’t make on these is oven grilled cheese because the bottom isn’t flat, still trying to work that one out.

    Then, I got tired of replacing cookware every two years when the non stick started to wear off, I also found out about the dangers of non stick, and bought a Le Creuset skilliet. Now, I’m trying to find enough money to replace it all (except one stainless steel skillet) with Le Creuset!

  34. Sherri Cleek says:

    I know this is an older thread, but I did not see my question covered anywhere. What about aluminum pans using parchment paper ? That is how we usuall do our cookies and bars. Inquiring minds want to know others opinions.
    Thanks!

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  1. [...] plate in there b/c it's not tempered or designd for high heat. What do you think? Answer below!Question by Lynerd: What dishes (i.e. pyrex, baking pans,ceramic dishes )is it safe to use in a toas… can put it in a toaster oven. You don't want to put a regular glass dinner plate in there b/c it's [...]

  2. [...] Top 5 Safe Bakeware OptionsNov 14, 2011 … Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship. As we head full steam into holiday baking season, you may be pulling out cookie … [...]

  3. […] not decades of use. To make sure that your baking mat makes it this long, you must be sure that you treat your material with care. Wash it with warm, soapy water after you use it. Stand it up or lay it down to let it air dry. You […]

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