All You Need To Know About Ceramic Cookware

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Trying to decide which cookware is the best for you and your family? Considering the number of options that are readily available in the market, it is no mean task to finalise one single cookware type. Each cookware comes with its benefits and drawbacks. Some are more durable, another conducts heat well, some are non-stick in nature, others enhance the taste of the food – the list is never-ending.

We are all aware of the common cookware present in our kitchen – aluminium, stainless steel, cast iron, etc. There is a new entrant in this department- ceramic cookware. 

Ceramic is an inorganic, non-metallic oxide, nitride, or carbide material which are hard, brittle and resistant to chemical erosion and high temperature. It is essentially hardened clay mixed with other elements and shaped into the desired forms. Once the ceramic has been shaped, it is kept in a high-temperature kiln so that it retains its shape and becomes much harder and more durable than before. 

Ceramic coated cookware started gaining prominence following the infamous lawsuit against DuPont in 2017. Their flagship product TEFLON was linked with various illnesses among the local population including kidney and testicular cancer. Teflon is the material that is used in non-stick cookware across the globe. Although Teflon coating can withstand high temperature, after a point, it starts breaking down producing a toxic chemical known as C8 which is carcinogenic. 

As a result of this scandal, there has been rising concern globally over the usage of Teflon coated utensils and alternatives are being explored. Even now Teflon coated non-stick cookware are abundant in the market. They are PFOA-free. But, if heated to a temperature higher than 260 degrees Celsius, it will emit harmful fumes. 

Related reading: Ceramic vs Granite Cookware Comparison

What Constitutes A Ceramic Cookware?

Cookware made of ceramic are quite expensive (really, really expensive) and high maintenance. As a result, most ceramic cookware (commercially made ones) use metal components to ensure they are durable and cost-effective. 

So, in reality, ceramic coated cookware are merely metal cookware that use a form of silicon oil known as sol-gel that is bonded to the cookware. Sol-gel mimics the property of non-stick Teflon coating. But, it isn’t as durable as Teflon as it degrades with time losing its non-stick property.

Sol-gel is essentially made out of sand and other inorganic chemicals. It is applied to the base of the cookware and put in a high-temperature kiln. This process creates a layer on the cookware which gives it the smooth, non-stick property. 

Although sol-gel coating can tolerate much higher temperatures than Teflon, its lifespan is much shorter. A well-maintained ceramic coated cookware can last up to 1-2 years only.

Related reading: Hard Anodised Aluminum: Pros, Cons, Safety and Comparison With Non-Stick

Usage And Maintenance

bullseye in ceramic cookware
  • First order of the day, irrespective of the cookware type you use, exposing it to extreme heat is never a good practice. It is true that ceramic cookware can withstand up to 420 degrees Celsius without breaking down. But when you heat the cookware to a high temperature rapidly, you increase the chances of warping it.  If you wish to prolong the life of your cookware, heat it gradually to a high temperature.
  • Unlike stainless steel and cast iron, ceramic cookware tends to scratch easily.  So, use only silicone, plastic or wooden ladles for cooking. After the cooking, let the cookware rest and attain room temperature before washing it. Exposing it to cold water right after cooking can erode the sol-gel coating.
  • Wash the utensil with regular water, mild soap and a sponge only. Since the surface of ceramic cookware is smooth and even, it’s usually effortless.
  • When it comes to ceramic cookwares, only hand wash is advised. Although many manufacturers claim it to be dishwasher safe, our advice is to avoid it. Stick to the basics when it comes to ceramic cookwares. Also, try not to stack them one on top of the other as the sol-gel coating can erode when the surfaces come in contact and rub against each other.

Health Concerns

The going concern for any individual or family remains the same – is it safe to cook on ceramic cookware? 

The major concern remains with the leaching of metal or any toxic chemicals into the food. Most manufacturers claim that their ceramic cookware is safe and do not release any toxic chemicals even after the coating is damaged since it doesn’t contain PFOA, PFAS, lead or cadmium. 

These claims could be true. But, there aren’t enough research or data to back this up with. So, we will just have to take the manufacturer’s word for it until we have more information

In the ’60s, the FDA claimed that the ceramic cookwares were believed to be contaminated with lead as a result of inferior glaze and kiln. However, this is no more a concern as the technology has advanced many folds and its coating no more contains lead. Currently, most manufacturers apply a much thicker coating of sol-gel on the utensils which lasts longer and doesn’t chip off while it is being used.  

There is a possibility that you could ingest some amount of sol-gel along with the food cooked in it. There isn’t enough research currently to determine the effects that ceramic coating may have on the body.

However, users can rest assured that ceramic coating doesn’t generate C8, the toxic chemical produced by Teflon coated utensils. Until then, ceramic coated cookware is still a good bet when it comes to healthy cooking. The fact that these utensils can tolerate much higher temperatures in comparison to Teflon coated cookware is a good indicator of this claim.

Related reading: Health Benefits of Cast Iron Cookware: Myths and Facts

Features of Ceramic Cookware

ceramic cookware
  • You can cook anything on ceramic cookware since it’s non-reactive. This includes acidic foods too. 
  • Ceramic is smooth and even in texture. Hence, it comes with non-stick property which makes cooking easier.
  • It can transfer heat evenly as a result of its metal component. This ensures you take lesser time to cook food.
  • It can tolerate temperatures up to 420 Celsius or more which is considerably more than that of Teflon coated cookware. 
  • It requires limited oil due to its non-stick nature.

Points To Consider

  • Use only wooden, plastic and silicon ladles while cooking since metal ladles tend to leave scratches and chips off the coating.
  • Before purchasing, check whether it is certified.
  • Follow the instructions religiously to maintain the utensil.
  • Purchase ceramic cookware from well-known brands if your budget allows. Avoid cheap brands as they may leach lead or cadmium. 
  •  It’s advisable to purchase ceramic cookware with glazing only on the exterior and not on the inner surface. The reason being the glaze may still contain lead. 

What Is The Bottom Line?

Ceramic cookware is a good choice in the current scheme of things since everyone is looking for an alternative to Teflon coated cookware. It doesn’t emit any harmful fumes even if you accidentally overheat it. Though not as easy as Teflon, it is fairly non-stick, making it an apt choice for those who want to reduce oil consumption. But, on the flip side, ceramic coating is not as durable as Teflon. 

In India, ceramic cookware isn’t as popular as non-stick. But, given its impressive features and with more awareness, it could soon become the go-to alternative to nonstick cookware.

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