Granite cookware is popular thanks to its color & texture. Having non-stick property adds up as an advantage.
It feels made of original granite stone, but that’s not true. It’s a common misconception among many. Granite cookware gets its name only because of the color & texture of the outer surface.
Originally, granite cookware comprises a metal base covered with a non-stick coating. The coating resembles the color & texture of granite stones.
The non-stick coating is either Teflon (PTFE) or porcelain enamel. Other coating methods are used sometimes, but these two are the most common.
The main question is whether these coatings are safe enough for our consumption. In other words, is granite cookware safe for health, and if not, what are the consequences?
Let me explain:
Granite cookware is safe for health or not depends on the type of coating used on its outer surface and the metal base. These coatings and the metal under them can chip off with time and enter our bodies.
This can cause health issues depending on the type of chemicals used in the coating material.
But it’s not so simple. There’s more to this than meets the eye. So, we’ll look into this in more detail and understand how safe granite cookware is.
First, let’s understand what granite cookware is and how it’s made. Then, we can move forward and inspect the harmful chemicals used in its making, if any.
What Is Granite Cookware?
In simple terms, graniteware refers to cookware with the look of granite stone on its surface.
Granite cookware uses a non-stick Teflon or porcelain enamel layer coating on a metal base. You’ll also find an induction base at the bottom if it’s a cooking pot or pan.
It gets the name since its outer surface has numerous micro speckles, which resemble the look of granite stone.
The shiny and classy looks of granite cookware can easily fool us into believing it’s made from pure granite. But looks can be deceiving.
Here’s the truth:
Graniteware only shares the color & texture of a granite stone. Except for this, there’s no similarity. It’s only a marketing gimmick to allure innocent homeowners.
The chemical coating is manipulated to provide a false look of the original granite stone.
The metal base can be cast iron, steel or aluminum. The coating is Teflon (PTFE), most of the time. Otherwise, it could be a vitreous enamel coating.
How Safe Is Granite Cookware?
As I said earlier, how safe granite cookware is for health depends on many factors. The role of the outer coating in deciding this is the highest.
Most of the graniteware I found in the market use mainly two types of coating. One is Teflon (PTFE), and the other is porcelain enamel or vitreous enamel. Let’s look at their health effects.
1. Teflon-coated (PTFE) Granite Cookware
Most granite cookware use this coating as it comes cheap & easy. If you make an original granite stone utensil, it will cost a fortune.
Using these chemicals provides the look of granite stone and non-stick properties while keeping costs low.
Teflon is a trademark name for the chemical polytetrafluoroethylene (shortened as PTFE). It was first produced in the 1930s by the DuPont company to create a non-sticking & non-reactive surface.
Presently, the trademark for Teflon is with Chemours, a spin-off business of DuPont. They make different types of Teflon depending on the use case.
Most cookware manufacturers use Teflon for its non-sticking properties. Much of the non-stick utensils you see in the market have Teflon. As a result, granite stone cookware makers also use it.
There are certain health risks associated with using Teflon as a coating material.
Let’s see ways in which PTFE can be harmful to our bodies and cause health issues.
1.1 Teflon (PTFE) Pyrolysis At High Temperatures
When PTFE reaches temperatures above 500oF (260o C), it starts breaking down. The chemicals in it start vaporizing into the air.
In some cases, PTFE pyrolysis can also occur at lower temperatures of 392oF (200oC). This happens due to the use of low-quality ingredients while manufacturing PTFE.
Reaching such temperature levels while cooking is not uncommon. Most cooking methods like frying, sauteing, and searing can easily reach heat levels of 350oF-500oF (175oC-260oC).
Teflon pyrolysis can also occur while preheating the empty pan. Turning on the flame while your pan/pot is empty will heat the surface faster.
In the case of induction stoves, it won’t take much time to get above 400oF (200oC). These modern stoves tend to heat the cookware surface directly.
According to the studies, overheating Teflon generates fumes of Perfluoroisobutene (PFIB). It’s a highly toxic material that can cause pulmonary edema. It’s a lung infection which can cause flu-like symptoms.
These symptoms go away on their own in a few days. But if they don’t, consult a doctor immediately.
There’s no need to worry about this as long as you have proper ventilation in your cooking area.
However, it’s best if you don’t overheat the Teflon graniteware while empty.
1.2 Health Issues Related To Ingestion Of Teflon (PTFE)
Over time, tiny pieces of PTFE will chip off from your graniteware due to various reasons (overheating, using metal spoons etc.). These tiny pieces will mix up with your food.
If you ingest PTFE pieces, it won’t cause any harm. Since PTFE is completely non-reactive, it’ll pass through your digestive tract without causing any issues.
Some studies on the internet also state that Teflon ingestion causes no harm inside the body.
1.3 Metal Leaching From Granite Cookware
As we saw above, granite cookware has a metal base underneath the PTFE coating.
With time, the Teflon coating of your graniteware starts wearing down. As a result, tiny particles of the metal base leach into the food while cooking.
How harmful this can be for you depends on the metal base type and how much it leaches.
Most granite cookware has either stainless steel, carbon steel or aluminum metal core.
While carbon or stainless steel is completely safe for health, aluminum isn’t. Several studies link aluminum consumption to serious health problems, even Alzheimers.
Aluminum is deemed a neurotoxin. It can cause serious damage to nerve tissues if you consume it in large amounts.
Small children and the elderly are more prone to aluminum side effects due to their weak immunity.
However, these effects only occur if you regularly consume aluminum in large amounts. The good news is that amount of aluminum leaching from a granite cookware is not so significant.
In spite of this, you should be careful while using damaged graniteware. Replace it as soon as the Teflon coating starts chipping. Also, don’t cook highly acidic meals in damaged granite cookware if it has an aluminum core.
1.4 Harmful Effects Of Chemicals Used In PTFE Manufacturing Process
As I mentioned, Teflon is completely non-reactive and inert. It won’t react to any chemical easily.
While this is a good thing, it presented as a major challenge for non-stick cookware manufacturers. They needed a way to make the PTFE stick to the cookware for having a non-stick characteristic.
Due to this need, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) was used. These chemicals help the PTFE to stick to the cookware surface. Basically, they make working with Teflon easier and more sustainable.
PFOA is an artificial lab-made chemical. It’s used in products that can resist sticking, heat, water, stains, and grease.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified PFOA as a possible carcinogen to humans. It’s responsible for testicular and kidney cancer.
While it’s claimed that PFOA burns during the creation process of a cookware, some of it does stay back.
Researchers claim that some PFOA is present in almost every human’s blood. This is because several consumer products use PFOA or PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) in one way or another.
PFOA doesn’t break down easily and can survive for years in one medium. It can enter our bodies through the air, water, soil, or food.
Some of the harmful effects of PFOA include:
- Liver damage
- Thyroid disease
- Kidney or testicular cancer
- Damage to the fetus and breastfed babies
- Immune & hormonal system problems in small children.
These are some serious health issues which you can’t overlook.
After several regulations from the US government, companies manufacturing non-stick products stopped using PFOA in 2013.
The interesting thing to note here is that these new chemicals belong to the same chemical group of which PFOA & PFOS were a part.
Manufacturers claimed for a long time that these new chemicals were completely safe for human use. However, researches show otherwise.
New studies prove that the toxicity of the new alternative chemicals is no less than their older counterparts.
Therefore, it’s best to avoid Teflon cookware as much as possible. If you can’t, ensure you use such products with utmost care.
2. Porcelain Enamel or Vitreous Enamel Granite Cookware
Porcelain enamel (also known as vitreous enamel) is a thin layer of glass or ceramic coating applied to a metal core.
Porcelain enamel comes in a variety of colors & textures. So, they are a great choice for coating granite cookware.
You can easily identify them. If a company uses porcelain enamel coating, they’ll advertise it heavily.
Granite cookware with the tag “PFOA & PTFE-free” clearly indicate that it uses enamel coating.
Another thing you can look out for is the temperature limits. Unlike PTFE, vitreous enamel cookware doesn’t have temperature restrictions.
Although this type of granite cookware doesn’t come cheap, they have many advantages, unlike Teflon-coated ones.
2.1 No Toxic Effects
Porcelain enamel coating comprises powdered glass or ceramics mixed with a substrate. The glass and other materials are melted together at a temperature of 1380oF-1560oF (750oC-850oC).
This is not like Teflon, where a lot of chemicals come into play. Here, no harmful chemicals are used during the manufacturing. Due to this, vitreous enamel is free of any toxic effects.
2.2 Safe For High Temperatures
The manufacturing process of enamel uses heat above 1400oF (760oC). This makes it sustain high temperatures during cooking.
Since no cooking method crosses the threshold of 550oF (~300oC), it’s completely safe to use the enamel coating.
It won’t chip off or release any toxic fumes at high temperatures. The cooked food will be safe and hygienic.
2.3 Resistant To Damage
The best thing about porcelain enamel is its strength and longevity. It can bear chemical damage and is also scratch-resistant.
This doesn’t mean you should use a metal spoon in it. You should always care for the cookware to increase its lifespan to the maximum.
Still, porcelain enamel granite cookware has a longer lifespan than Teflon-coated ones.
As you can see, there are many benefits of using porcelain enamel coating over Teflon. It’s not only free from harmful chemicals but also provides more durability & strength to your granite cookware.
The only downside of this type of coating is reduced non-stick properties. Vitreous enamel coating doesn’t have great non-stick ability compared to Teflon.
However, you can overcome this problem by using little extra oil while cooking.
As to the safety of porcelain enamel granite cookware, you can guess the answer as it’s self-explanatory. Still, let me clarify it for you.
2.4 How Safe Is Porcelain Enamel Coated Granite Cookware?
The porcelain enamel coating doesn’t have any harmful chemicals. It only uses powdered glass or ceramic in the manufacturing process.
Apart from this, there are no temperature restrictions while cooking. Even if you leave the empty cookware on high heat, it won’t release any toxic fumes.
Looking at all the aspects & characteristics of vitreous enamel, you can conclude that they are pretty safe for your health. They won’t harm your health and will survive for a long time if maintained properly.
The only problem you can face with this coating is metal leaching. If the surface of the coating gets damaged, the metal underneath it can get into your food.
Always use a wooden spatula or spoon with your enamel-coated granite cookware. If you use a metal spoon aggressively and the coating chips off, metal leaching will happen.
In the next section, I’ll highlight some tips for maintaining & handling your granite cookware.
If you follow them, your granite cookware won’t be harmful to your health. Also, you can increase their lifespan by a significant amount.
How To Ensure Health Safety While Using Granite Cookware?
You have already read about the two main types of coating used with granite cookware worldwide.
Now, if you want to prolong the life of your granite cookware, always take proper care while handling them. This also ensures that the cookware remains safe for your health.
Here are some things you should remember while using granite cookware in your kitchen.
Using A Wooden Spatula Or Spoon
This is something I already mentioned. Still, you should remember to not use a metal spoon with your granite cookware, whether the coating is porcelain enamel or Teflon.
Using metal spoons can often damage the coating, which results in further health problems.
The chipped coating can get inside your body through the food. In the case of PTFE, this can be dangerous for your health.
Apart from this, metal leaching is also a concern. If your granite cookware uses an aluminum metal base, it will get into your food.
As we saw, aluminum can be dangerous to the body and cause certain health problems.
In the case of steel core, it won’t cause any health problems, but the durability of your cookware will go down fast.
So, the best solution is to use a wooden or bamboo spoon while cooking food in granite cookware.
Avoiding High Temperatures
Granite cookware with PTFE coating is more popular among folks. This is because it’s widely available and cheaper than other alternatives.
If you are using the same, be more careful when cooking. The Teflon coating starts breaking down at high temperatures and releases toxic fumes.
These fumes can cause polymer fume fever, and it can be irritating. Furthermore, continued inhalation can cause more harmful effects in your body.
The PTFE coating can also get into your food. Although no studies claim ingesting PTFE is harmful, it’s better to be careful beforehand.
Another problem is metal leaching. It can occur from the exposed parts of the cookware after the coating breaks off.
Due to this, it’s advisable not to use Teflon-coated cookware in the oven. Since an oven can heat it up quickly, exceeding safe temperature limits.
Preheating Teflon granite cookware is also not recommended. This can cause the coating to break off.
On the other hand, porcelain enamel-coated granite cookware is safe to use on high heat. They don’t have any maximum temperature restrictions.
However, it’s best if you always take precautions. If the coating chips off, metal from the core will leach into your food.
Never leave your utensils empty on high heat. Since there won’t be anything to cook, the cookware will heat up pretty fast, resulting in damage.
Stacking up dishes on top of one another is never a good idea, as this can have some bad outcomes. Your dishes can slip, fall away or break due to the heavy weight on top.
If you stack other utensils on top of your granite cookware, they’ll damage its delicate texture. Metal utensils are more dangerous for your graniteware as they can leave hard scratches on the surface.
Therefore, storing all of your cookware in a utensil stand/rack is best. If you don’t have one, or lack space in your kitchen, insert a piece of cotton cloth or paper towel in between the dishes when storing them.
Another thing to remember is to not wash your granite cookware in a dishwasher. A dishwasher can sometimes damage the cookware.
Doing this will keep them safe from further scratches and damage.
Proper Cooking Practices
Everyone wants their kitchen to be perfect. After all, it’s the place from where all the tasty food comes, and innovative recipe ideas emerge.
This is why caring for your cookware is important.
In the case of specialized cookware, like granite cookware, you should always follow proper cooking practices.
It results in a longer lifespan for the cookware, and a healthy lifestyle for you and your family.
When using granite cookware, always try to follow these suggestions:
- Use your cookware on low heat. Only use high heat if really necessary.
- Don’t preheat your granite cookware for a long time.
- Even though granite cookware has non-stick properties, try using small amounts of oil when cooking. This makes them less prone to damage while cooking at high heat.
- Don’t put a Teflon-coated granite cookware in the oven. Cooking methods, like baking, can exceed safe temperature limits for your cookware.
- Once you finish cooking, don’t put your granite cookware under the water immediately. Temperature shock can damage its coating.
- If you want to cook on a glass cook top, ensure your granite cookware has a flat base. Curved bases can retain air underneath and can damage your glass cook top.
So, these are some of the things you should take care of. You can cook any dish with your granite cookware, even if they are too acidic or use too much salt.
Both Teflon & porcelain enamel coatings are inert in nature and don’t react with any type of food item.
Apart from this, always keep your dishes clean and tidy. Leaving uncleaned dishes for a long time can also damage them in the long run.
How To Choose The Best Granite Cookware For Your Kitchen?
With all the above information, you can now choose the best granite cookware according to your requirements. When you are out shopping for it, keep these things in mind.
- Teflon-coated granite cookware is popular and in demand. Due to this, there are a lot of companies selling low-quality or even fake products. Be careful while purchasing and only opt for reputable brands.
- Look for online reviews of the product you’re considering buying. That’ll give you an idea about its quality.
- Porcelain enamel granite cookware beats Teflon ones in case of health safety. If your main priority is a healthier choice, porcelain enamel coating is the one you should go for.
- High-quality porcelain enamel coating is thick and more resistant to damage. This ensures a longer life for them.
- On the flip side, the porcelain enamel coating doesn’t possess great non-stick properties compared to Teflon.
- If you are buying vitreous enamel granite cookware, look for ones that clearly state PTFE, PFOA, cadmium, and lead free.
- Buy granite cookware with steel or iron core. Aluminum cores are not good for health, as we saw earlier. If the coating comes off, the aluminum can leach into your food.
These basic points will help you get a healthy granite cookware when looking to buy one.
Conclusion: Is Granite Cookware Safe For Health?
After all the information I presented in this post, you can now decide whether granite cookware will be safe for your health or not.
Let me explain briefly:
Granite cookware with a Teflon (PTFE) coating can be dangerous to your health if you don’t use it with proper care. Since Teflon contains harmful chemicals like GenX & PFBS, it can damage your body.
On the other hand, porcelain enamel coating is free from any harmful chemical additives. Although these are more costly than their counterparts, they offer more protection for your health. The only downside with them is reduced non-stick property.
You can use any of the two types of coating. It all depends on what you are expecting from the cookware.
Proper maintenance & care ensures that the coating and premium look of your granite cookware remains intact. If the coating chips off, metal leaching can cause further problems to your health.
Using Teflon coating is not so bad if you practice certain guidelines and proper care. But the porcelain enamel coating will always have the upper hand in terms of safety.