Plastic-Free Cookware and Bakeware

Not so long ago, several of my favorite pieces of cookware had a nonstick coating.  But most nonstick coatings contain Teflon, and Teflon is associated with "smaller birth weight and size in newborn babies, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid hormone levels, liver inflammation, and weaker immune defense against disease," according to the Environmental Working Group.  Some folks think as long as you don't heat an empty or damaged Teflon pan, you are doing all right.  

I personally have a general avoidance policy regarding plastic and food, but I try especially hard to avoid heating food in plastic. Although I decided early in my journey to green that I didn't want to cook or bake with plastic, it took me years to phase out all my nonstick stuff.  It's been hard to say goodbye to Mr. Teflon.  Today I am proud to say that I no longer use any nonstick cookware or bakeware.  

Some changes were easy to make.  For example, even though many recipes recommend browning ground meat in a nonstick skillet, I have never had any problem doing this in a stainless steel skillet.  Also, I found it very easy to stop using nonstick bakeware: you just have to grease your bakeware instead!  The most difficult thing to replace was my 10" nonstick skillet, which I used nearly everyday for scrambled eggs, fried eggs, French toast, pancakes and frying tofu.  These things could not be done in a stainless steel skillet without a lot of sticking and an arduous cleanup.

Today, I present to you my recommendations for plastic-free cooking and baking.  As a thorough researcher, I, of course, consulted sources such as Cook's Illustrated and Consumer Reports before making any of these purchases.  After years of use, I can attest to their performance and durability.  

10 Essentials for Plastic-Free Baking and Cooking

Pyrex Grip-Rite 8-Inch Square Baking Dish, Clear

Tempered-Glass Loaf Pans and Baking Pans
I have Pyrex loaf pans and square and rectangular baking pans.  I use the loaf pans for baking bread (pictured above), quick breads like banana bread, as well as the occasional lemon yogurt cake.  I usually butter and flour them.  I once had an Anolon metal loaf pan and did not like it nearly as much.  I also regularly use the baking pans for brownies, cakes, enchiladas, chicken and more.    I grease the baking pans with my Misto.  I think at least one of my baking pans is actually Anchor Hawking, which is another US-made brand of tempered glass.  You can also put Pyrex storage containers (without the plastic lid) in the oven, if you so desire.  The best thing about glass bakeware:  you can clean it in your dishwasher!  Love that.

Lincoln Wear-Ever® Standard Duty Half-Size Sheet Pan 18 GUAGE

Lincoln Wear-Ever Half-sheet Pans (aluminum)
I use these Lincoln Wear-Ever baking sheets all the time for baking cookies.  Also great for tostadas, roasting vegetables, and baking free-form artisan breads.  You can also use these for pizza.  I grease with butter or my Misto.

Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 14-Inch Pizza Crisper

Chicago Metallic Commercial Traditional Uncoated Pizza Pans (aluminum)
These are large 14" diameter pizza pans. I grease with my Misto.  One of my favorite things about pizza pans without a nonstick coating: you can slice the pizza right on the pan.  

Chicago Metallic Commercial II Traditional Uncoated 12-Cup Muffin Pan

Chicago Metallic Commercial Traditional Uncoated Muffin Tin (aluminum)
I haven't had any trouble using this plastic-free muffin tin.  I've used it for corn muffins, blueberry muffins, and mini meatloaf muffins.  Definitely a bit harder to clean up than a nonstick muffin tin though.  I grease using my Misto usually.
CorningWare French White 7-Piece Bake and Serve Set
CorningWare Casserole Dishes
Ceramic dishes with glass lids.  CorningWare is actually the same company as Pyrex. I use these for meatballs and casseroles.  These are perfect for taking food to a party and for storing straight in the fridge.  Dishwasher safe.

Cuisinart 77-10 Chef's Classic Stainless-Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Stainless Steel Skillets and Pots
This is an affordable set of high-quality stainless steel cookware.  I have this 17-piece set.  I use all of these pots and pans all the time.  I also have the 5-1/2-Quart Multi-Purpose Pot with Glass Cover (it came free with my set), which I love for making soups, pasta sauce, and braised meat.  Make sure you buy stainless steel skillets that can go straight in the oven too (no plastic handles).

Fagor Splendid 6-Quart Pressure Cooker

Fagor Pressure Cooker
We use our 6-quart Fagor Pressure Cooker weekly for cooking beans from scratch.  It also works well for meats and vegetables.  You can find entire cookbooks devoted to pressure cooking.  Pressure cooking saves you time and conserves energy.  I bought the Fagor based on the Cook's Illustrated review.  

Lodge Logic L5SK3 Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron 8-Inch Skillet

Lodge Logic Preseasoned Cast Iron
Lodge Logic Preseasoned Cast Iron is an extremely affordable cookware option.  I bought a Lodge Logic skillet to replace my 10" skillet.  For me, Lodge Logic pre-seasoned cast iron did not work for egg-based dishes (scrambed eggs, french toast) or frying tofu.  But I still use my Lodge Logic griddle every week for pancakes and quesadillas.
Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 11-3/4-Inch Skillet with Iron Handle, Red
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron
Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron is not cheap.  But it will help you forget all about Teflon and will probably last forever.  I use my 12" skillet for scrambled eggs, fried eggs, French toast, pancakes, stir-fries (frying tofu), turkey burgers, black bean burgers, fish and anything else.  Fabulous heat retention.  Great for searing meats.  These pans, like all cast iron, are heavy and take a while to heat up, but they are a breeze to clean up.  You can read more about my love affair with Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron HERE.
Tramontina 80131/003 Gourmet 6-1/2-Quart Cast-Iron Covered Casserole, Vibrant Red
Tramontina Dutch Oven
The Tramontina Dutch Oven was a Cook's Illustrated Best Buy (the top-rated Le Creuset dutch oven is much more expensive).  I picked this up at my local Walmart for about $40 (one of two times I've been there).  If you replace the plastic knob, it works great in the oven too.  I use it mainly for stews.  It works really well for browning meat.  The Lodge Logic enameled dutch oven is another affordable option.

Additional Resources
Green Cookware List from GreenerPenny
EWG's Guide to PFCs by Environmental Working Group
Help! How Can I Cook Without Teflon? by Healthy Child Healthy World

What's your favorite plastic-free cookware and bakeware?

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  1. We are making the switch away from plastic at my house too. We have daughters, and I have read that with girls it is essential to ditch the plastic cookware so I no longer reheat things in tupperware. Do you?

    I love, love, love my le creuset! I was very curious about the tramontina after reading the Cooks' review. Are they truly comparable?

  2. I do not reheat food in plastic ever. I only reheat food in the microwave/toaster oven in my glass Pyrex storage containers. Also, you can put glass through the dishwasher without worrying about degrading it (I try to mostly hand wash plastic, which is a pain). I ditched all my plastic food containers a few years back and replaced it with pyrex:

    I do store food in plastic for on-the-go, but mostly dry and cold stuff (like cereal), but I'm trying to use more stainless steel.

    My tramontina dutch oven works well. It was a "Best Buy." It was not rated as highly as Le Creuset (as far as heating evenly, etc.), but just as highly as more expensive enameled cast iron. It's worked well for me. I've had it for at least 3 years and use it almost weekly.

  3. Hi Betsy — I applaud the idea of creating a safer home, and because there’s so much misinformation out there about Teflon, I’m not surprised that you are concerned. I’m a representative of DuPont though, and hope you’ll let me share some information with you and your readers so that everyone can make truly informed decisions.

    Regulatory agencies, consumer groups and health associations all have taken a close look at Teflon. This article highlights what they found — the bottom line is that you can use Teflon without worry.

    I’d truly be glad to share additional information about it if you are interested, and appreciate your consideration of this comment. Cheers, Sara.

  4. Hi, Sara, I welcome your opinion. I actually have a link to that exact article where it says "Some folks think as long as you don't heat an empty or damaged Teflon pan, you are doing all right" (end of 1st paragraph). I do trust Consumer Reports generally, but there are also other organizations that are not as confident in the safety of Teflon (like EWG), and I actually think my Le Creuset is a better investment, as I was having to replace my nonstick pans every few years b/c they were then scratched and chipped, and I didn't want the stuff in my food.

    PFOA is being voluntarily phased out by 2015 due to health/environmental concerns. In general, US Regulation is not strong enough for my taste, and generally moves extremely slowly and in only with industry's consent (as demonstrated by the example above -- industry is VOLUNTEERing to phase out a questionable chemicals by **2015**).

  5. Really interesting post. I'm moving away from plastics also but I clearly have some research to do about Teflon now too...

  6. I LOVE my Pyrex and Le Creuset and cast iron pans! Great post.

  7. I have a baking stone that replaces most of my cookie sheets. I use it for everything!

  8. I like to use Pyrex dishes and just recently replaced an older set of pots and pans with the Chef's Classic set. I LOVE THEM. Although I still have problems with eggs in that set and the cast iron pan. I'll have to check out that Le Crueset pan for the future!

  9. Cast iron and glass are my favorite non-plastic items. I had a fit at tmy MIL's house this past weekeknd b/c she was storing stuff in old margarine containers...I tried to tell her, but got a blank stare ugghhh!

  10. I love baking on my Pampered Chef stoneware and will probably purchase muffin pans and bread pans from them, although my Pyrex bread pans are awesome so why change? Le Creuset is pretty but Lodge is a great, cheaper option (not to mention time-tested and Made in the U.S.A.) so I got my Dutch overn from that company for only $27. I don't use aluminum because of health concerns. I'm glad there are many options along with all of this information!

  11. Love this list! I'm a big fan of pyrex! and I'll have to check out all this cookware! :)

  12. I don't use aluminum either. I do cook my eggs in my stainless steel pans all the time. The trick is that you have to let the pan come to temperature. If you try to cook in it too soon the eggs will stick everytime and leave you a huge mess. I'm not talking searing hot just hot enough. Add a lil' butter or olive oil move pan around to coat then add eggs. easy peasy. We have cast iron too which I use plenty but rarely for eggs.. oddly I always use it for chorizo but maybe that's because my mother always did.

  13. Yeah, I haven't made up my mind about aluminum. I definitely tried making eggs in stainless steel (you can read my Le Creuset post for the whole sordid tale). Definitely got it hot first (temp I cook the eggs at), and def. used a whole lot of oil and butter. Still had tons of sticking. I'm loving making eggs and other things in my Le Creuset!

  14. Hi Betsy! I just found your blog and am a big fan...thank you for all of your reviews and info! I was wondering if you have an opinion about USA pans ( are aluminized steel with a silicon coating (no teflon)...I have the muffin tins and love the results and clean-up, but am trying to be more eco friendly and sensitive to toxins in cookware. But muffin tins can be such a pain to clean and I use mine all the time...curious if these are an ok option!

    1. Alissa, some folks steer clear of aluminum all together. I believe the aluminum leaches very little into the food. I'm still using some aluminized steel items myself, but as they die I'll be replacing them with stainless steel. Mighty Nest (store) feels fine about silicone, but Beth of My Plastic-free Life says silicone has the same issues as other plastics -- undisclosed additives. I have a Silpat I use occasionally (made of silicone). I think it's probably the safest of the plastics. As far as muffin tins -- I have an aluminized steel one (no nonstick coating), and as long as I grease well, I have very little sticking. I make cornbread muffins and meatloaf muffins in it fairly regularly. I'll get a stainless steel one eventually...

    2. Betsy, thanks for the feedback! I had noticed Mighty Nest had positive info on silicone, so I think for now I'm going to hold onto my muffin tins, silpat, and parchment paper that make my life so easy :) But maybe I'll experiment with stainless steel as I need to replace stuff...


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