4 Must-Ask Questions When Shopping For New “Green” Cookware

January 23, 2023


By Gigi Chang

So you’ve read about the hazards of non-stick cookware. And now you want a new pan. You arrive at the store (or maybe you’re shopping online) and are instantly overwhelmed. There’s so much to choose from! And then, out of the corner of your eye, you see a label full of exactly the sort of promises you’re hoping for: “green” and “eco-friendly.”

Hang on.

Before you buy, consider what these claims actually mean. Ask yourself these four questions.

  1. Who is backing up the claim(s)?

Does the pan have legitimate third party certification? If not, these claims are meaningless. There is no government office of “green” cookware regulation. Usually there is nothing backing up the claim. Similarly, claims to be PFOA- or PFTE-free (perfluorochemicals formerly or currently used in non-stick cookware) are also unregulated. This means the consumer (that’s you!) is going to have to do some research and label reading before purchasing.

  1. What is the pan made of?

Such a simple question, and yet so remarkably difficult to answer. Some “green” pans have a base that is disclosed, plus a coating that is proprietary. Manufacturers may claim this coating is “eco-friendly,” but cooking on a proprietary material is never a good idea. Is there nanotechnology used? If it’s ceramic-based, does the company demonstrate that it is lead-free? If there isn’t full transparency on the material, don’t buy it.

  1. Is the pan non-stick?

There are a number of supposedly “green” chemicals being used to replace what has been traditionally used in the manufacture of non-stick coatings. Unfortunately some of the replacement chemicals are just as unhealthy as the original chemicals, or not enough is known about them.

  1. Is it durable?

Anecdotal reports aren’t hard science, but the going take on new “green” pans—on message boards and among colleagues—is that they don’t hold up very well. They warp. They scratch. They wind up in a landfill.

If you are comfortable with a pan’s non-proprietary material and you want to give it a try, go for it. If not, sometimes it’s best to cook on what we know works as we wait and see how these new materials and new technology function. There is a reason cast iron cookware has been around forever. Some say it dates back to the Han Dynasty (that’s 206 BC to 220 AD!). That’s tried and true. It’s also inexpensive and adds (beneficial) iron to your diet. If you’re lucky, you’re cooking on hand-me-downs from your grandmother. If not, you can easily find some from someone else’s grandmother at a thrift or antique store. Stainless steel and enamel-coated cast iron are also safe, durable, tried and true materials.

Happy cooking!