Glass food containers, metal drinking straws, and silicone storage bags are eco-friendly options that have made their way into the kitchens of those who strive for a greener lifestyle. But if you have been using the same pans for years, your cookware might be next on the list of things to upgrade.
The term "eco-friendly" is fairly broad, but here we are focusing on quality pieces that are made with materials that can withstand lots of use, keeping them out of landfills longer. In addition, the cookware below features non-PTFE/PFOA alternatives to traditional nonstick options (like ceramic coating), upcycled materials, and pieces that let you use less energy when cooking—all great features geared toward being ecologically conscious.
If it's time to give your old cookware the old heave-ho, we've got a list of the best eco-friendly cookware brands for you to peruse.
Caraway Non-Toxic Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set
Wonderfully even heating
Durable nonstick coating
Stylish modern design
Stainless steel handles get hot
There are plenty of eco-friendly cookware options out there, but none as attractive as this set from direct-to-consumer brand Caraway Home. Its trendy color palette and clean lines are perfect for a modern minimalist kitchen. The brand offers a complete cookware set constructed of ceramic-coated aluminum with stainless steel handles. The pans are oven-safe up to 550 degrees Fahrenheit and will work on every cooktop, including induction. Once you're finished cooking, you can opt to place the pans in the dishwasher, or go with gentle hand-washing (recommended).
In our testing lab, we noted its even heating and lack of hot spots, providing just the right surface for a nice sear on chicken and beautifully-cooked fried eggs. Our home tester struggled to find anything they didn't like about this set, the only thing they noted was that the handles tend to get hot when used on the stove for a long time. Remedy this issue by having a thick dishtowel or potholder on standby when you're ready to move your pans.
The complete set is a great deal considering how many pieces are included: a 10.5-inch frying pan, 3-quart saucepan, 4.5-quart saucepan, and a 6.5-quart Dutch oven, plus a handy lid storage organizer. But, if you only need select pieces, Caraway recently started offering their cookware a la carte too—perfect for trying out a pan or two before committing to the entire set.
Price at time of publish: $545
Material: Aluminum with ceramic coating | Oven Safe: Up to 550 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but hand-washing is recommended
"Even when cooking on low to medium heat, the pots and pans got really hot and our eggs and bacon cooked evenly and quickly."
T-fal Initiatives Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set
Great assortment of pieces
Includes pan-safe utensils
If you're in need of a cookware refresh but want to keep costs low, turn to the Initiatives line by T-Fal, a long-trusted European cookware brand. This 14-piece set is made from heavy-gauge aluminum with a PTFE, PFOA, and cadmium-free ceramic coated interior that withstands high temperatures and delivers fast and uniform heat distribution. Heat-resistant handles are riveted to the sides of the pans, and the included glass lids let you keep an eye on your food while cooking. Our tester noted that these pans are fairly light and ideal for anyone who doesn't want to move heavier cookware around.
This set includes three sizes of fry pans (8.5-inch, 10.5-inch, and 11-inch), two saucepans, and a 5-quart Dutch oven, as well as four nylon cooking utensils. The pans are also oven-safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and can be used on most cooktops, except for induction.
Price at time of publish: $90
Material: Heavy gauge aluminum with ceramic coating | Oven Safe: Up to 350 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but handwashing is recommended
"We were pleasantly surprised to find that the pots and pans in this set are a good mix of small and large pieces, so it’s not just for singles."
Best for Beginners
Ozeri 10-Inch Green Earth Frying Pan
Heavy, cast aluminum construction
Works with induction cooktops
Double coated ceramic is extra durable
Lids sold separately
Doesn't come in a full set
Making scrambled eggs or frying up bacon is a breeze in the Ozeri Green Earth frying pan—these eco-friendly pieces are coated with nonstick German-made Greblon ceramic, which is free of PTFE and PFOA. The scratch-resistant surface is textured and designed to withstand high temperatures. It also features a sturdy die-cast aluminum build with a magnetized bottom that makes it compatible with induction stoves.
Our reviewer noted that these pans are best at low or medium heat, in order to preserve the nonstick layers. Other special steps are required to maintain the pan, like continuing to season the surface, and watching out for mineral buildup if you have hard water.
Ozeri's Green Earth collection includes a 12-inch wok and 3 sizes of frying pans—8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch—with accompanying lids sold separately.
Price at time of publish: $27
Material: Die-cast aluminum with Greblon ceramic coating | Oven Safe: Up to 320 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"If you do a lot of large-batch cooking or use your frying pan for single-skillet meals, you’ll probably find the Ozeri Pan to be too small."
Best Stainless Steel
All-Clad D5 Stainless Brushed 5-Ply Bonded Cookware Set
Super high-quality construction
Oven-safe to 600 degrees
Excellent heat conduction means less energy usage
This classic 5-ply set by All-Clad is a professional-grade cookware collection made with an aluminum core and a brushed stainless steel exterior. Due to its excellent heat conductivity along the bottom and sidewalls, it requires less energy than other types of cookware. The pots and pans are oven-safe to 600 degrees, and can be used on any type of cooktop.
During our three rounds of testing this set, it has repeatedly given a beautiful, even crust when searing, produced picture-perfect simmering sauces, and anything that happens to get stuck on, easily releases when hand-washed. We also stand behind the durability of these pans—they stood up to "hot pan into cold water" test without any damage.
Included in this set are: an 8-inch frying pan, 10-inch frying pan, 1.5-quart sauce pan with lid, 3-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart sauté pan with lid, and 8-quart stock pot with lid. All-Clad offers a limited lifetime warranty on this collection because these are meant to last, aligning with the idea of "buying less but buying better quality" that supports eco-friendly shopping habits.
Price at time of publish: $1,430
Material: 5-ply stainless steel with aluminum core | Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No
Scanpan Classic 2-Piece Fry Pan Set
Artisan-made in Denmark
Oven-safe to 500 degrees
Dishwasher- and metal utensil-safe
Classic series is not induction-compatible
Scanpan's cookware features a GreenTek non-stick surface and ceramic-titanium coating that's free of PFOA. Its Professional line includes dutch ovens, fry pans, saucepans, sauté pans, grill pans, sauce pots, woks, and steel lids.
Scanpan recommends avoiding the use of extremely high heat when cooking with this cookware. The pans are oven-proof and dishwasher-safe and can be used on electric, gas, induction, and halogen stoves. In addition to its professional line, Scanpan makes two other cookware lines that feature the Green-Tek coating.
Price at time of publish: $100
Material: Squeeze-cast aluminum with ceramic-titanium coating | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
GreenPan Venice Pro Nonstick Skillet
Ceramic coating withstands higher heat
Good nonstick performance
Works with all cooktops
Hand wash only
Not metal utensil-safe; prone to scratches
GreenPan's cookware features Thermolon non-stick technology that can withstand high temperatures without blistering, or peeling. Thermolon's excellent thermal conduction also allows you to cook mostly at low to medium temperatures, reducing energy use. The products are also free of cadmium and lead, feature upcycled stainless steel for the handles and upcycled aluminum for the cookware bodies, and the curing phase of Thermolon's production emits 60 percent less carbon dioxide than traditional non-stick coatings.
These particular skillets from the Venice Pro line are compatible with all cooktops and are oven and broiler-safe up to 600 degrees. To keep the pans functioning well, GreenPan recommends avoiding the use of metal utensils when cooking, hand-washing the pans, and separating them when storing.
Price at time of publish: $60
Material: Tri-ply stainless steel with Thermolon ceramic coating | Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best Enameled Cast Iron
Le Creuset 5-Piece Signature Set
Heavy-duty construction is built to last a lifetime
Retains heat well
Can be used on any cooktop, including induction
Sizes might be too small for larger families
Le Creuset is best known for its iconic round ovens, but the brand also makes a variety of silhouettes in its signature colorful enameled cast iron. This set includes three essential pans: a 4.5-qt Dutch oven with lid, a 1.75-qt saucepan with lid, and a 10-inch skillet. Each of these pieces is made from thick cast iron coated with a glass-like enamel that is food-safe and requires no additional seasoning to maintain its slip. In fact, the enamel will develop its own patina over time, allowing the surface to become even more nonstick.
These pans are also ovenproof to 480 degrees Fahrenheit with the lids (higher without the lids), allowing you to start cooking on the stove and finish in the oven or under the broiler. To clean, you can easily scrub these with a non-abrasive nylon scrubbing pad or opt to wash them in the dishwasher. The pans are quite substantial, which might be an issue if lifting heavy pans is a problem, but their heavy-duty construction makes them durable enough to last for generations. Their longevity means they're less likely to end up in a landfill, which makes them a smart green choice.
Price at time of publish: $575
Material: Cast iron with enameled coating | Oven Safe: Up to 480 degrees with lid, 500 degrees without | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, but handwashing is recommended
Our top pick is the set from Caraway Cookware, offering outstanding performance paired with a stylish aesthetic that will brighter up any kitchen. If you want a budget-friendly option that delivers solid performance, the T-fal Initiatives Aluminum/Ceramic Nonstick Cookware is an excellent choice.
What To Look For When Buying Eco-Friendly Cookware
By Bernadette Machard de Gramont
The material of your cookware will determine its heating capacity. Generally speaking, ceramic-coated cookware should be treated like traditional nonstick—it works best at low and medium temperatures; extremely high heat tends to cause “crazing” (micro-cracks that can eventually chip). Stainless steel and hard-anodized aluminum typically have higher heat thresholds and can often withstand the oven. Always be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions to confirm the maximum heat-safe temperatures of your cookware.
When selecting a cookware set, you’ll want to consider which pieces you want. A skillet is great to have for cooking eggs, sautéing mushrooms, and making pancakes. A saucepan is wonderful for boiling a few eggs and simmering sauces, and a stockpot is a must for boiling pasta or cooking soups and stews. Beyond those essential pieces, the remainder depends on how many people you regularly cook for and if you have enough storage space for the set you want. Don’t forget that the piece count of a cookware set includes lids!
Ceramic coatings do wear down over time, so it is to be expected that the warranty for this type of cookware is limited—most manufacturers will only guarantee the coating for one to two years. Hard-anodized and stainless steel cookware will tend to have longer warranty periods, sometimes carrying up to a full lifetime warranty to cover defects in workmanship and materials. Be sure to always check the manufacturer’s warranty to see if it fits your needs before purchasing.
Types of Eco-Friendly Cookware
Pans made with a ceramic coating are often crafted from a base material, typically aluminum, that is lightweight and conducts heat very well. These pans are then sprayed or dip-coated with a special coating made from silica, a component that is derived from sand. The resulting glass-like finish is nonstick and won’t release dangerous fumes when the pan is overheated. It is an overall excellent alternative to traditional PTFE (Teflon) coatings, but since it is more brittle than PTFE, it is more susceptible to cracking. Like other nonstick coatings, it is recommended for use on low to medium heat settings for best results—always double-check the manufacturer’s instructions for specific heat limitations.
This durable material was created by the Calphalon company from a technique adapted from the aerospace industry. It uses an electrochemical reaction to turn soft aluminum into a metal that is 30 percent harder than stainless steel, with an oxidized top layer that is resistant to scratches and will not react with acidic foods. Hard-anodized aluminum is a great heat conductor and not as heavy as multi-clad cookware, making it easy to handle in the kitchen. Some higher-quality hard-anodized pieces are also safe for use in the oven and under the broiler.
Not all stainless steel cookware is created equal. If this is your material of choice, you will want to pick high-quality pieces made from 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0 stainless steel. The first number indicates the percentage of chromium in the steel alloy, and the second number denotes the percentage of nickel. While there is some concern over leaching of chromium and nickel, this typically only happens with lesser-quality pieces while cooking for extended periods of time, using with acidic foods (think tomato-based sauces), and using very high heat.
Enameled Cast Iron
Cast iron is made from an alloy of iron and anywhere from 2 to 4 percent carbon and is one of the most popular materials for heavy-duty cookware. It is a top choice for Dutch ovens and skillets thanks to its ability to retain and distribute heat. Enameled cast iron features a glass-like ceramic coating that helps prevent rust and corrosion. This barrier not only creates a nonstick surface but also makes the pan non-reactive so you can cook with acidic ingredients (like citrus and tomato) without worrying about any off-flavors or discoloration. The durability of cast iron pieces means less likelihood of them ending up in a landfill, which is a major consideration when choosing an eco-friendly product.
Care and Maintenance
Like any other type of cookware, maintenance for these eco-friendly selections depends on the pan’s material. For non-coated pieces, like stainless steel and hard-anodized aluminum, which are naturally resistant to scratches, you’ll be able to be a little rougher with them (though some manufacturers will specify if the pans should be hand-washed only). For ceramic-coated pots and pans, you’ll want to take the same care as you would with traditional nonstick. Avoid using sharp and metal tools on the interior, use a nylon scrubber to gently remove any food residue, and pick mild dishwashing detergents to help preserve the lifespan of the coating. Bear in mind that ceramic coating, like PTFE, erodes with time and should be replaced once the nonstick properties are significantly diminished. Additionally, if there is any cracking or flaking in the ceramic finish, it’s a sign that it’s time to buy a new pan.
What is considered eco-friendly cookware?
This is a broad term that covers a couple of issues. Concerning sustainability, both within the production process and regarding the life cycle of the pans, an "eco-friendly" set of cookware is made with materials that are sourced responsibly, manufactured with minimal environmental impact, and last long enough to keep them from filling up landfills for as long as possible.
What materials are considered eco-friendly?
Ceramic coatings are made from a glass-like compound. Cast iron lasts for years and is made from a simple alloy of carbon and steel—there may be some iron that gets released into your food when you cook, but it is generally not a bad thing. Carbon steel is made from a similar alloy to cast iron and will last a long time (as long as it is cared for properly). And stainless steel is a non-reactive, long-lasting option that can typically be recycled when it has outlived its use.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Jolinda Hackett is the author of multiple vegetarian cookbooks and an advocate for plant-based eating. She is passionate about nutrition and holistic health, is an expert in green living, and has been profiled by the American Vegan and Food & Home magazines.
This piece was edited by Bernadette Machard de Gramont, an LA-based writer who specializes in global food and wine content. After a 2-year stint at Williams-Sonoma Headquarters in San Francisco, she now researches and tests a variety of cookware, bakeware, and wine tools, and interviews field experts for their insight.
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United States Environmental Protection Agency. Technical Fact Sheet - Perfluorooctane Sulfonate (PFOS) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA).
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oven Safety. USDA.gov.