Ethical cookware

Green Lifestyle magazine

We strive to source truly clean food for our plates, but when it comes to cooking that produce in our cookware, is it a case of out of the frypan and into the fire? Welcome to our guide to healthy and sustainable cookware.


Clockwise from top left: Stylist’s own cast iron pan secondhand from eBay, www.ebay.com.au; Wooden measuring spoons from Oxfamshop, $16.95, www.oxfamshop.org.au; Pie tin enamelware set from Koskela, $85, www.koskela.com.au; Blue ink linen tea towel from Koskela, $35, www.koskela.com.au; Pyrex glass loaf pan from House, $12.95, www.house.com.au; Stylist’s own black napkin; Naked Pan cast iron frypan from Chef’s Armory, $178.95, www.chefsarmory.com; GreenPan 18cm Thermolon saucepan, $149, www.green-pan.com.au; Stylist’s own enamel cast iron pot from Chasseur, similar is $389, www.house.com.au; Stylist’s own wooden spoon.

Credit: Photos by Louise Lister. Styling by Emma Bowen.


Clockwise from top left: Salt and pepper earthenware dish from Oxfamshop, $8.95, www.oxfamshop.org.au; Stylist’s own secondhand cast iron pan; Earthenware paella pan from Oxfamshop, $39.95, www.oxfamshop.org.au; Bamboo steamer from House, $24.95, www.house.com.au; Wooden ladle from Koskela, $55, www.koskela.com.au; Oigen cast iron and timber pan set from Chef’s Armory, $85.50, www.chefsarmory.com; Blue ink linen tea towel from Koskela, $35, www.koskela.com.au

Credit: Photos by Louise Lister. Styling by Emma Bowen.


Clockwise from top left: Oigen cast iron casserole dish from Chefs Armory, $169.95, www.chefsarmory.com; Black linen tea towel from Koskela, $35, www.koskela.com.au; Oval earthenware dish from Oxfamshop, $17.95, www.oxfamshop.org.au; Oigen cast iron pot with stainless steel lid (lid not shown), $139.95, www.chefsarmory.com; Wooden spoons from Oxfamshop, $4.95 each, www.oxfamshop.org.au.

Credit: Photos by Louise Lister. Styling by Emma Bowen.

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You’d have to have been living under a rock to not know that Teflon surfaces are all kinds of bad for our health to cook on. Non-stick pans such as Teflon can offgas toxic fumes and chemicals into food.

Watch out for PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) and PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), which have been proven carcinogenic. To help you stock your kitchen, whether with new or secondhand items, here’s a guide to the safety of the variety of cookware materials available.


Looking lovely on the table isn’t the only benefit of earthenware. Made from completely natural clay materials, there’s nothing nasty that can leach into your food. Choose glazed to avoid bacteria thriving in the big pores.

Other ceramics

The all-natural, non-reactive smooth surface of ceramics is almost as hard as diamonds. Good for lengthy roasting or baking, just remember that ceramics can break easily.


Durable and non-reactive, heat-retaining enamel-coated pots (such as Le Creuset) are worth the price for their performance and lifespan – enamel coated cast iron is particularly durable. Beware of cheaper brands that chip easily. When using thinner enamelware (such as the pie tins pictured) avoid acidic liquids which can shorten their life.

Cast iron

Cast iron can last a lifetime but needs to be cared for and seasoned regularly to avoid rusting. The jury is out on if the iron-enriched food from cooking in iron pots is a bonus for your health; in any case, it is not believed to be harmful. However acidic foods can leach excessive amounts of harsh-tasting iron into the food, so avoid these in cast iron.

Carbon steel

Many woks are made from carbon steel, which is pretty similar to cast iron, but lighter and better for searing at high temperatures. It can react with acidic foods and needs to be dried immediately after washing otherwise it will rust.

Bamboo & paper

Bamboo baskets are perfect for steaming vegies or dumplings as they are naturally antibacterial. Utensils made from bamboo are better than plastic and even wood, which is often treated with harmful chemicals. Baking paper and muffin cups should be unbleached, or not used at all.


Glass dishes are affordable and inert. Some older low-quality glassware may contain lead, so opt for high grade, food-quality glass, which is perfectly safe for cooking.


Silicone is a synthetic rubber and it’s said to be the only completely non-reactive, non-stick material that doesn’t offgas. The bendy bakeware muffin cups are a good reusable alternative to paper. But the manufacturing is under proprietary, so little is known about the impact of production or the possibility of chemical leaching.

Stainless steel

As the least reactive metal, stainless steel is an acceptable option for a set of pans. Once damaged it can release very low levels of heavy metals into food, including molybdenum, titanium, nickel and aluminium. Scratches cause the toxins to release, so wash with a soft cloth, not a scourer.


This PFOA- and PTFE-free non-stick ceramic coating is used by brands such as GreenPan and Neoflam, and contains silicone, aluminium and titanium, which is only released at very high temperatures that you’re unlikely to get up to in the home kitchen. To lengthen their less-than-ideal lifespan use oils that have a high smoke point, such as coconut oil.


Copper has natural antibacterial qualities to rival most cookware, however when used with high-acid foods (such as tomatoes) or vinegar, toxic heavy metals are released. As with most metal pots, don’t scour.


This metal is moderately-reactive so it can get into your food and has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Many pots are titanium-coated aluminium, and while titanium is OK on its own, when scratched or dented, the aluminium in these pots is still reactive and so they’re not great overall.