Are Ceramic and Enamel Cookware Safe and Practical?

Dr. Allen:  Ceramic and enamel cookware is very versatile and heavy duty, and has increased in popularity lately.  Ceramics are coated with a glaze and fired, creating a durable glass-like surface.  Enamelware is made using a very similar glazing process, but it is applied over metal instead of pottery.  The safety concerns with these pans are fewer, but often overlooked.  When cooking with ceramic / enamel pans, take these precautions:


- ONLY cook (or serve) with products that are specifically labeled for use with food.  Some glazes contain toxic metals such as lead or cadmium, which can leach into foods that come in contact with the surface.  While the U.S. no longer allows the use of these glazes for cookware/dishes, some older or imported items may not be safe.


-  Do not subject ceramics or enamelware to rapid changes in temperature.  This can cause the glaze coating to chip.  Unlike Teflon®, these products may pose a health hazard when chipped.  Chipped ceramics and enamelware should not be used for cooking.


-  NEVER use metal utensils in ceramics or enamelware.  While the glazed surface is very durable, it is possible to scratch or chip thinner enamels. 


Dr. Bowser: Enameled steel looks fantastic and cooks well but often chips when accidentally dropped or hit.




Karin E. Allen, Ph.D., Utah State University, Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D.  Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering


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