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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.
Best Overall: T-fal Initiatives Aluminum/Ceramic Nonstick Cookware
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.
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." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Best Ceramic: Caraway Cookware Set
Aesthetically pleasing design
Retains heat well
Stainless steel handles get hot
There are plenty of ceramic cookware options out there, but none as attractive as this set from newly-launched 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).
Our 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.
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." — Lindsay Boyers, Product Tester
Best for Beginners: Ozeri 10-Inch Green Earth Frying Pan
Heavy, cast aluminum construction
Works with induction cooktops
Lids sold separately
These eco-friendly pans are coated with German-made Greblon ceramic, which is free of PTFE and PFOA. The scratch-resistant surface is textured and designed to withstand high temperatures.
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.
The pans are made from heavy-gauge die-cast aluminum to distribute the heat evenly and have a magnetized bottom that allows heat to transfer rapidly on induction stoves. 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.
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." — Katie Begley, Product Tester
Best Stainless: All-Clad D3 Stainless 10-Piece Cookware Set
Super high-quality construction
Oven-safe to 600 degrees
Excellent heat conduction means less energy usage
This classic triple-ply set by All-Clad is a professional-grade cookware collection made with an aluminum core and a brushed stainless steel exterior. Because of its excellent heat conductivity along the bottom and sidewalls, it requires less energy than other types of cookware. Each piece is oven safe up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit—without lids—and is also safe to put in the dishwasher.
Included in this set are: a 2-quart saucepan with lid, 3-quart soup pot with lid, 3-quart saute pan with lid, 8-quart stockpot with lid, and two skillets (8-inch and 10-inch). 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.
Material: Tri-ply stainless steel with aluminum core | Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Professional: 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.
Material: Squeeze-cast aluminum with ceramic-titanium coating | Oven Safe: Up to 500 degrees | Induction Ready: No | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Splurge: 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 Fahrenheit. 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.
Material: Tri-ply stainless steel with Thermolon ceramic coating | Oven Safe: Up to 600 degrees | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best Made In USA: Proclamation Duo
High quality construction
Easy to store
Set includes only three pieces
This three-piece collection from Proclamation was designed guided by the company's ethos: "Cook More, With Less." A 12-inch skillet and a 7-quart hybrid pot make up the minimalist Duo Anti-Set, but what makes it unique is that the skillet hinges together with the stockpot to make a Dutch oven. You can sear, saute, braise, stir-fry, boil, bake, and more with this durable set of cookware (and it's induction compatible). The skillet is available in a carbon steel or stainless steel option, while the hybrid pot is constructed of multi-ply stainless steel. The set also includes a 12-inch stainless steel lid designed to fit both pans, and nests between them for storage.
Designed in San Francisco and manufactured in Wisconsin, the Duo Anti-Set is a little on the pricier end but so far has proven to be a hit with incredible feedback. Proclamation also backs their cookware with a lifetime warranty, and a 30-day trial so you can buy with confidence.
Material: Available in stainless or carbon steel | Oven Safe: 500 degrees (stainless steel)/700 degrees (carbon steel) | Induction Ready: Yes | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
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.
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 budget-friendly T-fal Initiatives Aluminum/Ceramic Nonstick Cookware: it can withstand high temperatures and has fast and even heat conductivity, as well as a comprehensive assortment. If you have the budget to splurge on a professional-grade set, we also recommend the All-Clad D3 Stainless Steel 10-Piece Cookware Set (found at Williams-Sonoma) because of its versatility and exceptional durability.
What To Look For When Buying Eco-Friendly Cookware
Many manufacturers make eco-friendly options which include ceramic-coated, hard-anodized aluminum, cast iron, and stainless steel, all of which we'll discuss in-depth below.
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, sauteing 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!
Eco-friendly cookware does not have to be expensive—ceramic-coated cookware tends to be quite affordable, though new, trendier ceramic brands will be on the more expensive end of the spectrum. Hard-anodized aluminum and stainless steel tend to be a little more costly than ceramic, but tend to last long enough to justify their price.
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.
Created by two friends in Belgium, GreenPan was born from a need to find an alternative to traditional nonstick coatings made from PTFE (Teflon). It then developed a ceramic coating called Thermolon that paved the way for the brand to be a worldwide leader in green cookware. GreenPan’s portfolio ranges from lightweight aluminum to heavier stainless and hard-anodized aluminum cookware, all featuring its signature ceramic coating.
This popular kitchenware manufacturer is known best for popularizing food processors in 1973, but today Cuisinart also carries a full line of small kitchen appliances, cooks' tools, and cookware. Its GreenGourmet series is available in two versions: the first is made from hard-anodized aluminum, and the second is made from tri-ply stainless steel. Its nonstick pieces use a water-based, petroleum-free ceramic coating, known as Ceramica.
This well-known French cookware brand—sometimes marketed as Tefal—takes its name from the combination of the words “Teflon” and “aluminum.” Though many of T-Fal’s beloved products are made with traditional nonstick coatings, its Initiatives lineup features a PTFE-free ceramic coating that handles higher-heat cooking and performs as well as its regular nonstick finishes.
Launched in November 2019, this new cookware manufacturer has built its brand on products that are free of PTFE (Teflon). While its assortment is not as extensive as other brands, it carries a fantastic selection of essential pieces in on-trend colors and aesthetically pleasing designs.
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.