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The Essential Guide to Non-Toxic, Gluten-Free Cookware: Safeguarding Your Health in the Kitchen

Cooking at home helps to give you full visibility into the ingredients in your meals, and ensure that they are 100% gluten free. Making your own food can provide a sense of certainty and comfort. However, just as it is important to choose high quality gluten free ingredients for your meals, it is also important to choose high quality and safe cookware to prepare your meals.

While it would be wonderful to trust that all cookware is free from toxic chemicals and gluten, the reality is that many types of cookware are not. In an effort to make cookware nonstick (thanks in part to an unfounded fear of fat) and also able to handle modern day conveniences like dishwashers, many different types of cookware materials have flooded the market, and many of them are simply not good for our health.

Unfortunately, many of these materials contain substances that are toxic for our health. We’ll dig in more as to why later in this article, as well as share options for safe, non-toxic cookware to make your kitchen complete. 

As with all of our content, please know that we are not sharing this information to invoke fear or guilt. Instead we are sharing this to inform you and guide you in making safe cookware choices.

Understanding Cookware Toxins

There are several potentially toxic materials that can be found in cookware that we will discuss below:

  • Teflon
    Teflon® is a brand name given to the plastic, chemical coating applied to many types of non-stick cookware. Until 2015, Teflon was made with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). PFOA is an endocrine disruptor which means that it disrupts the important messages that are sent by hormones in the body. In short, endocrine disruptors mimic hormones so that your body’s actual hormones cannot properly deliver their messages. PFOAs can affect all hormones, including sex hormones, thyroid hormones, and stress hormones. This means that they have the ability to affect fertility, metabolism, and more. PFOAs are also a possible carcinogen that has been linked to testicular cancer, kidney cancer, thyroid disorders, and fertility concerns.

    Due to growing health concerns around PFOAs, the makers of Teflon® were required to change the material used, and they settled on a different fluorinated polymer known as polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Unfortunately, there are growing concerns about the safety of PTFE. PTFE is typically made using several hazardous PFAS (also known as “forever chemicals”). Incredibly, one report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) shared that PFAS were found in the blood of 97% of Americans.

    In addition to concerns with food cooked in Teflon®, when you heat it above 500°F, the nonstick coating starts to break down and can release toxic chemicals into the air.

    The bottom line is that PFOAs, PTFEs, and PFAS are all harmful to health and should be avoided in cookware and other products you use. 


  • BPA
    Some cookware is coated with BPA-based epoxy. BPA stands for bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor that either mimics or blocks hormones so that messages cannot be sent in the body which disrupts the body’s normal functioning.

    Research has linked BPA to developmental and health problems in children, including Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression, early puberty in girls, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease. In adults, BPA may contribute to health concerns including infertility, obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.


  • Lead
    Lead can cause serious injury to the brain and central nervous system. There is no safe level of exposure to lead’. 

The Gluten-Free Aspect of Cookware

Just as it is important to stick to a gluten free diet, it is important to prepare your foods using only gluten free cookware (as well as appliances and utensils that are free from gluten. Most cookware is naturally gluten free, and research has shown that gluten is effectively eliminated from cookware when it is cleaned thoroughly with soap and water. 

One exception to this is cast iron. Since cast iron is more porous, it has the potential to retain gluten and cause cross contamination of gluten, even after cleaning. It is best to have a dedicated gluten free cast iron pan when preparing food, or if someone else is preparing food for you. 

As with any gluten free food preparation or purchase, it is important to be mindful of cross contact or cross contamination, and to educate others in your household about how to properly maintain a kitchen that is safe for everyone. Cross contamination can happen easily when sharing cookware or utensils if they are not properly cleaned. For example, a cutting board that was used for bread should be washed thoroughly before using it to cut vegetables for a gluten free meal. A measuring cup that is used to scoop into a bag of gluten containing flour should be immediately set aside to wash, not used to dip into a bag of shared sugar. 

Note that cross contamination can also happen with appliances and condiments or other ingredients when cooking. For example, if someone uses a knife to butter bread and “double dips” onto the bread and back into the butter, that butter is contaminated. If a gluten free eater dipped into the butter to add to a skillet with eggs, they could be exposed to gluten. Small appliances like toasters and waffle irons that are difficult to clean should be dedicated gluten free. 

Dedicating only one area of your kitchen as the “gluten counter” or “gluten space” can help contain gluten and prevent cross contamination. If other household members or guests have gluten at the same meal as you (for example, bread or rolls at dinner), keep them off the table, only in the gluten area of the kitchen. If serving family style, have other members fill their plates first with gluten-free food and then visit the gluten area to get gluten-containing food. When getting second helpings, it’s wise to get a new plate. Get everyone in the habit of washing hands both before and after meals. 

Exploring Safe, Non-Toxic Cookware Materials

The good news is that there are several options for non-toxic cookware. Each has its strengths and considerations, and we will discuss them all below so that you feel informed and empowered when considering which cookware makes sense for your kitchen.

Ceramic Cookware

Despite the name, ceramic cookware doesn’t actually contain ceramic. Instead, ceramic cookware is made from a metal base and coated with a water- and oil-resistant coating that is made from silicon oxide (also known as silica). The name “ceramic” comes from the coating’s glossy, enamel-like appearance.

Ceramic cookware is often marketed as a safer, more sustainable alternative to regular, coated nonstick cookware, and the pros of ceramic cookware are similar to those of regular nonstick cookware. The smooth nonstick finish requires less oil or cooking fat to keep food from sticking, and it also allows for easier cleanup. And unlike traditional nonstick cookware, it does not contain the toxic coating that can leach into your food.

However, as nice as ceramic cookware sounds, it doesn’t come without some cons. For example, it tends to be more delicate and not as durable as other types of cookware. Many ceramic pans are made with a non-anodized aluminum base, which can warp and scratch more easily. The coating is delicate, too. Even high quality ceramic cookware is only likely to last a couple of years. This is because the silicon oxide coating naturally releases every time you heat up your pan, and once that coating has worn out, the pan will no longer be nonstick.

Ceramic cookware is trendy right now, so you will likely see several options on shelves (and in your internet ads). Be sure that yours is free from PTFE, PFAS, and PFOA, as well as lead and cadmium. If the website or packaging materials don’t tell you what you need to know, don’t hesitate to reach out to the company and ask.

Cast Iron

Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries, which is probably an indication of its quality. Cast iron is incredibly durable and safe, but it does require some attention and care to keep it in good shape. You will need to use plenty of a high quality heat stable oil (like coconut, avocado, or tallow) to prevent sticking and keep it seasoned. When cleaning, be sure to wash gently and then put over low heat to dry so that it does not retain moisture that causes it to rust. 

Cast iron is made of iron, so it can actually increase the iron content of your food. As low iron is common in those with celiac disease due to malabsorption, additional iron is especially beneficial for those who are still restoring their nutrient levels following a celiac disease diagnosis. 

Cast iron cookware typically comes “pre seasoned” meaning it has been treated with oil to help protect its properties. It is important to check your cast iron before purchasing to be sure that it was not seasoned with any ingredients that contain gluten. 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is an alloy, or mixture, of several metals. Stainless steel cookware is made from iron, prized for its strength and longevity, and is mixed with small amounts of other metals, mainly chromium and trace amounts of carbon, manganese, copper, and nickel. 

All stainless steel cookware is required to have a minimum of 16% chromium to ensure the highest corrosion resistance for safety reasons. Within food-grade stainless steel, The NSF requires manufacturers to adhere to the guidelines of either 200, 300, or 400 series (200 and 300 make up the vast majority of stainless cookware). 200 series stainless steel is the lowest grade and is usually found in cheaper, lower-quality cookware. The 300 and 400 grades are higher quality.

Stainless steel cookware is loved by chefs for its durability and excellent heat distribution. It is resistant to warping, denting, and scratching. It is safe to use on stovetops and in the oven, and it is non reactive, so it is safe to use with acidic ingredients like lemon juice. Stainless steel cookware truly is an investment as it will last for several years with proper care. Because it is not treated with any chemicals or seasonings, it is also nontoxic and gluten free.

However, stainless steel cookware is not foolproof. Since it is not nonstick, it requires the use of enough fat (oil, butter, tallow, etc.) in order to prevent sticking. or steaming, of course). Because of this, and because of how hot it can get, there can be a bit of a learning curve when adjusting to using stainless steel cookware in your kitchen.

Glass Cookware

There are three types of glass used in the kitchen. All are produced a bit differently for different applications, and all are non-toxic.

  1. Soda-lime glass: Made primarily from silica, soda ash, and lime, soda-lime glass is found in glassware like cups and jars. It is more susceptible to breaking from extreme temperature changes, and therefore is not a good option for the heat tolerance required of bakeware.
  2. Tempered glass: Tempered glass is just heat-treated soda-lime glass. The heat treatment makes it more durable, but it is still not as resilient to temperature shifts (for example, moving a casserole dish from the fridge to the oven) as borosilicate glass.
  3. Borosilicate glass: Made with boron trioxide, which has a low thermal expansion, borosilicate glass can withstand significant temperature shifts. This is the best option for cookware.

Of course, all glass is more fragile than many other types of cookware, so it is important to understand where you can use it and how to handle it safely. Glass cookware cannot be used on the stovetop. It is best used for baking in the oven. Glass is also great for things like liquid measuring cups and mixing bowls. Unlike other types of cookware, glass can be cleaned in the dishwasher.

How to Choose and Maintain Non-Toxic, Gluten-Free Cookware

Choosing and maintaining non-toxic cookware might feel overwhelming, so here are some tips:

  • Be sure that your cookware is free from PTFE, PFAS, and PFOA, as well as lead and cadmium. 
  • If your cookware was seasoned prior to purchase, find out what it was seasoned with and ensure it is gluten free.
  • Learn about proper care and maintenance before purchasing so that you know what to expect and minimize any stress in the kitchen after you purchase. You don’t want to get home and realize that you can’t heat your ceramic cookware up past medium heat when you have a steak you were planning to sear. 
  • If your cookware will cook food that contains gluten, be sure that all users understand how to properly clean it. Get two cast iron skillets and designate one as gluten free. A good way to do so is to get a silicone handle cover for each cast iron pan in two different colors so that you always know which one is gluten free.

Remember, if the website or packaging materials don’t tell you what you need to know, don’t hesitate to reach out to the company and ask.

The Environmental Impact of Non-Toxic Cookware

In addition to the health considerations of cookware, it is worth considering the environmental impact of your cookware. We list the implications for each type of cookware below:

  • Metal cookware
    Stainless steel and cast iron cookware is non-toxic and can be recycled. You probably cannot just leave your stainless steel and cast iron in your weekly recycling bin, as these materials may need to be recycled with a metal scrap yard or on a specialty recycling day. Check with your local municipality to be sure. Of course, these types of cookware tend to last far longer than ceramic cookware (or the toxic non-stick options), so while recycling is less of a concern, it is nice to know that when you are done, you will have a smaller environmental impact.
  • Glass cookware
    While it might seem that you can just put your old or broken glass cookware into your recycling bin with other jars and glass, borosilicate glass should not be included in your regular recycling. Borosilicate glass will not melt at the same temperature as glass bottles and jars, and including it in your regular recycling pick up can contaminate the entire batch of recycling. Unfortunately, options are limited for recycling borosilicate glass. Check your local area, but in most cases, broken borosilicate glass should be thrown in the garbage. The good news is that borosilicate glass is sturdy and resists holding onto odors or stains, so the only time you would really need to dispose of it is if it breaks.
  • Ceramic cookware
    Ceramic cookware is the type of non-toxic cookware that tends to last the shortest amount of time but is also unable to be recycled. This makes ceramic cookware the least environmentally friendly type of non-toxic cookware.

Top Recommended Brands and Products

There are so many different brands that manufacture and sell cookware and it can feel overwhelming to sort through the best options. We are taking some of the guesswork out of the process by sharing some of our favorite brands and products:

Cast Iron

If your budget and kitchen space allows, having a variety of types of cookware can be helpful. Not only can you match the type of pan to the type of dish you are cooking, you can also cook multiple dishes at a time without having to wash the cookware between uses. For example, you might be making a stir fry with chicken and vegetables in one skillet and cauliflower rice in another skillet. A large stainless steel skillet would be perfect to pan fry the stir fry, and a smaller cast iron or ceramic skillet would work well for cauliflower rice. 

Bottom Line

Cooking at home is a wonderful way to support your health, especially when you have specific needs, like a strict gluten free diet. However, just as it is important to choose high quality healthy ingredients for your meals, it is also important to choose high quality and safe cookware to prepare your meals. We hope you feel empowered to make informed decisions for a healthy kitchen to support your healthy life!  Now check out our phenomenal chef inspired gluten free recipe library and cook away.

2 Responses

  1. great day, thank you very much for taking all of the guesswork out for me. It was truly hard to know what is best to used, I am truly grateful for your care in educating us in this massive world off greed hungry uncaring persons. Thanks

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