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Feeling burned by Swiss Diamond pans. Nontoxic, reliable alternatives?

I (used to) love my Swiss Diamond pans. They are truly nonstick. They are solid and conduct heat evenly. They are easy to care for--dishwasher safe. But, I guess I'm realizing that they really are "Teflon" even though the coating is not Dupont's Teflon branded coating. I own four of these pans and they are expensive. I'm really ticked that I was hoodwinked by the marketing people.

So, I'm back to square one. I'm looking for safe, nontoxic, (no leaching of harmful metals or releasing of toxic gas) cookware. I am feeling information overload from looking at all of the recommendations from eco-friendly sites. None of them talk about carbon steel as an option, for instance. Is it nontoxic? (I thought there was a great carbon steel nonstick thread here on CH but I can't find it anymore.)

I've seen some of the claims for Xtrema cookware. Also for Cuisinart's Greenware or Green Gourmet. But, after having been burned by Swiss Diamond, I'm leery of these too good to be true kinds of claims.Maybe I should just forget about newfangled cookware and go for the tried and true.

I know this question has probably been posed in one form or another zillions of times, so forgive me for asking again. I realize no cookware is perfect, but what's the all-around best cookware out there that is nontoxic? By nontoxic I mean that it doesn't leach harmful chemicals into your food or release toxic fumes into the air.

Nonstick would be great. Easy to care for would be great (I think this is one of the most important requirements: I hate our cast iron skillet because I don't want to bother cleaning it). Lightweight would be great. I am willing to spend whatever it takes within reason, but I do not want another Swiss Diamond debacle where I spend a bunch of money and have to replace everything in 3 years when I realize I've been duped by clever marketing.

Could you point me in the right direction, please?

Thank you

~TDQ

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  1. Seems to me that eco-friendly sites are not aware of carbon steel pans. Most Americans in general are not.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pabboy

      Do you think it's "safe" (doesn't leach or fume?)

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        At what point in time are you concerned about leaching and fumming? Is it only whilst you're cooking, or is it at any time in the entire life cycle of the product? For some reason, many people who think "Green" don't look much to either end of the product spectrum, only at one point in time. If you are only concerned about during the cooking cycle, your Swiss Diamond are fine as long as you don't use them for high temperature cooking. The chemicals in the PTFE coating that are of most concern are leached out in the manufacturing process at temperatures much higher than your cooking temperatures. It's king of like cooking with wine, once the temperature exceeds a certian point, the alchol in the wine is evaporated. Just grasping for an analogy that's easier to grasp for a non-chemist. Once it's seen the higher temperature, no more will come out at temperatures below a certian point.

        If you are worried about the overall environment, there are alot of nasty solvents use in the process of stamping steel. The steel has an oil like coating on it when it's manufactured, this may be removed and replaced with some other lubricant for stamping and that then needs to be removed with some sort of cleaning solvent, all of which must be disposed at some point. So, although once entirely cleaned, at least as well as you can clean it, there isn't anything in the carbon steel that's going to leach or fume at normal cooking temperatures, there are "green" issues as there are with just about any manufactured product.

    2. If you hate the cast-iron because of the cleaning, you're going to equally hate carbon steel because of the cleaning.

      That said, I've been playing with a DeBuyer Mineral and while I'm likely going to have to redo the seasoning (again) it does show some excellent non-stick properties even when I got it wrong.

      11 Replies
      1. re: wattacetti

        wattacetti, I was afraid someone would say that about carbon steel. Honestly, I'm just very lazy. Well, I'm not really lazy. I'm just really, really busy. I own a dishwasher and want to use it! I don't mind seasoning the pan from time to time, but it's the daily special care that goes into washing it that gets to me.

        Is carbon steel safe? No leaching/fuming?

        ~TDQ

        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          dont think that there is much but ceramic and stainless steel that you would want to put through a dishwasher, would bet it will degrade teflon before its time - I always handwash mine - and aluminum, which I like is out.

          1. re: jen kalb

            Ceramic is interesting, but it sounds fragile. Is it? I've never cooked with it.

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Get a cheap carbon steel pan and see if how you like it.

              It is much easier to take care of than cast iron. Here's how you care for it after the initial seasoning -- Wash it out with hot water and a tiny drop of soap. Wipe it dry and then apply a thing coating of cooking oil (to keep it from rusting).

              That's it.

              Its easy, dead simple, and will likely be the last pans you ever have to purchase.

              Here's more detail on seasoning and maintenance from the De Buyer website:

              http://www.debuyer.com/video.php?id=44

          2. re: The Dairy Queen

            I think everyone else has replied to your questions, but no it doesn't leech (a little extra iron in your diet that you can't absorb anyway), and the only time it fumes is if you leave it on high heat too long and watch the coating start to burn away. Then you re-season.

            But seriously, the initial seasoning will take a little effort and the maintenance is as ToothTooth said.

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Carbon steel is just like your cast iron - mostly iron, with some additional carbon that makes the metal more ductile (less brittle). Steel can rolled into sheets which are then formed into pans. Cast iron is - cast. That is, it is melted and poured into molds, and then cleaned up.

              Carbon steel can rust, just like cast iron. But because it is thinner, it is not as heavy - though still not lightweight. It is not maintenance free; it is not dishwasher safe.

              Stainless steel is iron with other metals added (like chromium) which prevents the formation of rust. Technically the other metals form an invisible 'rust' layer which does not flake, and hence does not grow deeper. Aluminum does not 'rust' for the same reason. But stainless steel tends to stick - though proper use of a hot pan and oil can reduce that problem.

              Most of the eco-friendly and 'ceramic' coated pans have a 'glaze' that is melted onto the pan surface. Think of them as a variation on enamel.

              Give you over all requirements, I think your Swiss Diamond is still the best choice.

              I suspect that to you, words like 'leach', 'off gas' and 'toxic' are just scary, without any real meaning. If you are running away from PTFE, it would help if you understood why. Otherwise you'll just be running from one scary thing to another.

              1. re: paulj

                Yep, I'm running from one scary thing to another. I think I'd like to get off the "scary" merry go round and just stick with the classics, if you know what I mean. My immediate response was to run to the Greenware (and yes, I imagine it as a ceramic glaze) but it's not really tried and tested. I don't want to be a guinea pig and I don't want to replace everything in 3 years.

                I don't need the latest technology. I think I'd just like to have the stuff that works and has always worked and learn to use it properly. The right pan for the right job, as opposed to trying have one kind of pan (plus my cast iron skillet for browning) do everything.

                (P.S. I might hang onto my Swiss Diamond skillet for eggs. We'll see. And thank you for the plain English explanation of the different types of pans. That helps!)

                ~TDQ

              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                Do you truly believe the companies that say their pans are safe? According to who, them? I have the best used car for sale too, I promise, my research says so. . .

                That being said, I've tried stainless, I've tried carbon steel, and I've tried cast iron. Don't really care for the stainless, hated the carbon steel, love the cast iron. After about 6 months of moderate use, I can fry an egg with a very small (maybe 1/2 teaspoon) of butter with no sticker. You can't put in the dishwasher though.

                1. re: Rick

                  What didn't you like about the carbon steel?

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I couldn't get it to season properly. I did the whole boil potato skins in water thing as the instructions said, and t was just a mess. I ended up trying it twice and I just had no luck. I had no problem seasoning the cast iron.

                    1. re: Rick

                      DeBuyer has removed the potato skin boiling from the seasoning instructions. I believe that's just to clean the dust leftover from the manufacturing process.

            2. You were looking for this thread which has contributions from lots of happy carbon steel users:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/696019

              3 Replies
              1. re: ToothTooth

                Thank you for that link. For some reason, I thought there was an original thread where the the OP of the thread you linked asked a question, but the thread you linked seems to be the one I was thinking of.

                I'm not a chemist or anything like that [as if that weren't already painfully obvious]. Do you know how I can be confident that carbon steel doesn't leach and doesn't "off gas?" I was a little nervous reading some of the threads about carbon steel because it didn't seem clear what metals (or alloys? I'm not even sure of the right word to use) were actually used in the construction of the pan. Just in the different DeBuyer lines (Mineral vs. Carbone Plus), for instance: one line they seem to use recycled. How can you be confident of what's in your pan and that it's not toxic?

                Sorry for the dumb questions.

                Signed, not a chemist.

                ~TDQ

                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  You can never really be confident of anything and nothing can be conclusively declared 100% safe. However, none of the materials discussed here are "unsafe" it's just that for whatever reason, you've decided to avoid them.

                  1. re: ferret

                    Ok, thank you! I just needed someone to say that. :).

                    ~TDQ

              2. We're about to celebrate our 25th anniversary and I still use the Revere Ware (stainless steel, copper bottom) cookware given to us for our wedding. Color me old school, but stainless is about as inert (safe) as you can get.

                The only drawbacks:
                --can't go from stovetop to oven unless the oven is on low heat (bakelite handles)
                --bottoms aren't super heavy, so blackened fish, etc is out
                --anal cooks will polish the copper incessantly if you want it to gleam

                  1. re: C. Hamster

                    Oh right! Forgot to mention that Revere is stainless, not teflon. If you want the "non-stick experience", then you heat the pan dry, for about a minute on medium heat. Swirl a tiny drop of canola oil around (If it smokes heavily your pan was too hot). Drain the excess oil or rub the surface with a clean paper towel. Return the pan to the flame (i do this on gas burners) and proceed.

                    This works for me, even with fried eggs.