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Picture this: you’re in your kitchen, surrounded by the warm aroma of freshly baked treats. The anticipation builds as you reach for that tantalizing tray of cookies, only to wonder what you might unknowingly be consuming along with your favorite baked goods. Have you ever stopped to think about the materials used in your baking pans and their potential impact on your health?
It may be surprising to learn that nearly all types of bakeware have the potential to leach under certain conditions. Different materials will leach different substances, and some are potentially dangerous, while others generally are not if used in moderation. The key is to focus on the material of the food surface (or the layer immediately beneath the food surface which may have the potential to become exposed to food with wear and tear). In this blog post, you will learn about my opinions on the “worst-bad-better-best” non-toxic baking sheet options available today. You will also pick up some helpful tips to ensure your baking experience is as health conscious as it is delicious.
Non-Toxic Baking Sheets
In my opinion, the following are not the materials for safe baking sheets:
- quasi-ceramic and ceramic coating, and
Conversely, safer baking sheets are made from the following materials, in my opinion:
- true ceramics
- stainless steel
- cast iron, and
- clear glass.
Let us see which of these materials fall in the “worst” and “bad” categories and which ones fall in the “better” and “best” categories.
“Worst” Baking Sheet Materials
The two materials I would not recommend for your baking sheets are Teflon and aluminum, and here is why.
Teflon Coated Baking Sheets
To begin with, non-stick coatings, particularly those made with fluoropolymers, have raised concerns regarding their potential toxicity and impact on the environment. These coatings often contain perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Due to their persistence in the environment and resistance to breaking down naturally, they are known as “forever chemicals” (source).
There have been studies linking these chemicals to various health issues.
Reportedly, human studies suggest that high levels of certain PFAS may lead to the following:
- increased levels of cholesterol
- decreased vaccine response in children
- changes in liver enzymes
- increased risk of high blood pressure in pregnant women
- small decreases in infant birth weights, and
- increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer (source).
Further, in this blog post, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) addresses the issue of dangerous fumes that non-stick pans may release as they overheat. Allegedly, a popular non-stick brand, Teflon has received hundreds of reports of pet birds dying from brief exposures to these fumes. It is possible that surface temperatures of bakeware may also affect the off-gassing levels. The National Toxicology Program has classified one of the chemicals that off-gasses from Teflon pans, namely tetrafluoroethylene (TFE), as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” because it has caused cancer in laboratory animals (source).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also conducted a study that revealed detectable levels of PFAS or PFCs in the blood of nearly all of their 2094 participants ages 12+ years (source). This indicates widespread exposure to these chemicals in the population. Not surprisingly, bakeware that contains these chemicals is likely contributing to these rates.
Nowadays, despite being unsafe, non-stick coatings are extremely prevalent in baking sheets, jelly roll pans, and other bakeware found on the market today.
Some brands, like Caraway, market their non-stick ovenware as “healthier.” However, the coatings on their ovenware are also susceptible to wearing down. And have even reportedly tested positive for heavy metals in testing performed by Lead Safe Mama.
Some examples are:
- Calphalon Premier 6-Piece Countertop-Safe Non-Stick Bakeware Set
- Mainstays Non-Stick Cookie Baking Sheet
- T-fal Professional Cookie Sheet
- Glad Premium Non-Stick Cookie Sheet
Aluminum Baking Trays
Next, in direct contact with food, baking sheets made of uncoated aluminum have the potential to release small quantities of aluminum into food. Continuous consumption of trace amounts of aluminum through the diet can potentially have adverse health effects (source). Aluminum is capable of accumulating in the body over time and is recognized as a possible neurotoxin, suspected of contributing to the risk of developing neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s or contributing to the body’s depletion of phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
To mitigate the potential leaching of aluminum into your food, be mindful of the food contact surfaces in your baking sheets. Opting for bakeware that minimizes the direct contact between aluminum and your food can help reduce the intake of aluminum.
Some aluminum bakeware by these brands:
- Made In Cookware
- Nordic Ware
“Bad” Baking Sheet Materials
The other two materials I would not use for my safe baking sheets are quasi-ceramic and ceramic coating and silicone.
Quasi-Ceramic and Ceramic Coated Bakeware
First, in one study on Slovenian cookware reveals that quasi-ceramic coatings (on both new and used pans) released nanosized particles. Among these nanoparticles, nano titanium dioxide is the most common substance detected in quasi-ceramic coatings, posing a health hazard. This is only one study, however, and is based on products manufactured for a different market. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the US brands that ceramic-coated baking pans and sheets are made of the same material tested in the Slovenian study.
Initially, when I wrote the Safe Cookware Guide blog post that provides an overview of various cookware options, I placed GreenPan in the better category because they emailed their comprehensive tests. Yet, I was still skeptical and never bought and used the cookware. Even though GreenPan explained the coating is made using a Sol-Gel process, where the main ingredient of the coating is silicon dioxide (sand), they never provided a full list of ingredients of the coating. Later they stopped providing their test reports and were sued (not necessarily in this particular order, though). To learn more about the lawsuit, read my GreenPan Review: Are GreenPan and Thermolon Really Safe? blog post.
Further, it was hard to decide whether other companies used Sol-Gel coating, Thermolon, ceramic coating, or quasi-ceramic coating.
The bottom line is that there are too many unknowns.
Another concern is that the coating will wear down in only a few years. This means that not only will the aluminum base become exposed, but also people will likely be consuming trace amounts of the coating. Many of which test positive for heavy metals in independent XRF testing (refer to my Safe Cookware Guide).
In conclusion, I believe ceramic coatings are possibly safer than coatings with “forever chemicals.” But there is a need for further studies as this is quickly becoming a very popular option.
Examples of some ceramic coated bakeware are:
- Vesuvio Ceramic Coated Aluminum Baking Sheet by Da Terra
- The Essential Ceramic Baking Sheet
- Caraway Ceramic Coated Baking Sheet
Silicone And Silicone-Lined Bakeware
For starters, the chemical composition of silicone and silicone coatings presents certain aspects that make it plausible for additives to leach into food or other substances that come into contact with it when heated.
It is crucial to exercise caution and be mindful because not all silicone materials are the same. In 2017, a Norwegian study found that silicone leached siloxanes into food. But what was believed to be at a safe level given the available research at the time (the impact of siloxanes on human health is still being studied).
Further, a more recent study (2022) discovered the transfer of harmful chemicals from silicone baking molds sold in Europe. Specifically, each silicone product went through three tests, following protocols utilized for plastic food contact materials. The study finds the presence of three siloxanes classified as substances of very high concern that were leaching out of the silicone in 23% of the products. Five silicone products were also found to release volatile compounds in high amounts. On the other hand, many of the samples did not raise the same concerns. However, there is no way for a shopper to know the difference based on current labeling.
It’s clear that we would benefit from further research on silicone, especially regarding leaching, as well as the disclosure of different qualities of silicone for the best baking trays and other baking molds or silicone cupcake liners. For this reason, I would approach silicone with caution when using it in heated applications.
Some examples of silicone bakeware are:
- Tupperware Silicone Baking Sheet
- To Encounter Silicone Baking Pans and Cookie Sheet Set
- Macy’s Silicone Baking Sheet by The Cellar
“Better” Baking Sheet Materials
In my opinion, somewhat better materials for your baking sheets are:
- true ceramics
- porcelain, and
Stoneware, True Ceramics, And Porcelain Baking Sheets
These are more durable than coated products. It is important to understand, though, that the various forms of clay bakeware come from various forms of clay being heated at different temperatures.
First, stoneware is a general term for a clay-based product.
Oftentimes, it has a more rustic and textured appearance compared to porcelain and ceramic. Please note that I do not recommend unglazed clay dishes or bakeware. As I point out in my Safe Cookware Guide, clay is porous. Which may increase its likelihood of leaching contaminants into your food.
Second, true ceramics, like Xtrema, is 100% clay-based ceramic from core to glaze and heated at a very high temperature.
It does not have a quasi-ceramic coating (which, by the way, melts at much lower temperatures than necessary to make a true ceramic dish).
Third, porcelain comes from a different form of clay that is also heated at an extreme temperature, forming a glass-like glaze.
While pure porcelain bakeware exists, you may find porcelain enamel products more often (where porcelain is baked onto a metal base for heat distribution).
All forms of clay, however, come from the Earth’s crust. And, as a result, you can commonly find heavy metals in the clay material. Even if these different glazed clay-based baking sheets pass leach testing, there is a possibility that the substrate below the glaze may contain heavy metals that can become exposed when scratched, chipped, or heavily worn.
An example of this is Xtrema’s pure ceramic dishes, as they pass the government leach testing. Yet, in an independent XRF test, an Xtrema pan tested positive for various trace heavy metals. This highlights the importance of avoiding the use of heavily worn clay-based dishes and using brands that will be transparent about their safety. For these reasons, I personally believe there are other safer baking sheet or jelly roll pan options.
Some examples of clay-based baking sheets are:
- Stoneware: Caraway Ovenware Set (minus the reusable mat)
- Pure Ceramic: Xtrema Ceramic Baking Pans
- Pure Porcelain: Made In Porcelain Baking Slab
Generally, enameled bakeware is made of glass particles that are melted down and sprayed onto a surface like cast iron or steel. This process gives the baking sheets a smooth, glazed appearance. Since the top layer of enameled bakeware is made of glass (which is generally considered to be a safe baking sheet material), this becomes a better option. Still, there is something to be aware of.
Namely, decorative colored enamel layers (such as the bright colorful exterior) very often contain high levels of heavy metals (refer to my Safe Cookware Guide). This could become quite dangerous as it chips or scrapes, loosening and exposing the heavy metal particles into the air, countertop, or a person’s hands. The interior enamel of dishes like Le Creuset’s, however, is much less colorful and has tested far lower (safe levels) in trace heavy metals. Apparently, Le Creuset conducts leach testing as well, which leads me to believe that if a quality enameled dish is in good condition and properly maintained, it is likely a safe option for non-toxic baking sheets and jelly roll pans.
Here are some examples of enameled baking sheets:
- Breville 12″ × 12″ Enamel Baking Pan
- Tablecraft Enamelware Cookie Sheet
- Martha Stewart 18 Inch Enamel on Steel Roasting Pan
“Best” Non-toxic Baking Sheet Materials
In my opinion, some of the best baking trays are made of:
- stainless steel
- cast iron, and
- clear glass.
Stainless Steel Baking Trays
Evidently, stainless steel has stood the test of time as one of the safest materials for non-toxic baking sheets and pans, and for a good reason. Here are a few key factors that make stainless steel an excellent choice when it comes to making sure your baking endeavors remain safe.
First, it is relatively non-reactive/resistant to chemical reactions with food. Unlike the materials discussed above, most people do not have to be concerned about it leaching harmful levels of substances into their food. To learn more about the process in which stainless steel leaches, and why even some of the most sensitive individuals are still able to use stainless steel, read my Safe Cookware Guide.
Second, stainless steel is very durable, conducts heat evenly, and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many stainless steel products come with aluminum cores. Which is, in my opinion, safe because the aluminum component is covered and has no direct contact with food. Check out the 360 Cookware review of my favorite stainless steel brand that carries stainless steel baking trays such as jelly roll pans and stainless steel cookie sheets.
- 360 Bakeware Large Cookie Sheet (IREAD25 for 25% off)
- 360 Bakeware Jelly Roll Pan (IREAD25 for 25% off)
- 360 Bakeware Bake and Roast Pan (IREAD25 for 25% off)
Cast Iron Non-Toxic Baking Sheets
As you know, cast iron has been around for a very long time. And is well-documented as a safe material for baking sheets. It is famous for its non-stick-like surface (coating from oil seasoning), versatility, and exceptional heat retention properties. Plus, it can last generations if taken care of properly. (It is not recommended for acidic foods like tomatoes).
Not only is cast iron considered a safe material to use even in higher heat, but also it helps reduce iron deficiencies (source and source). However, if your body already has particularly high levels of iron, please check with your doctor before using iron bakeware. When used in moderation with other safe baking materials, cast iron is a great contribution to a non-toxic kitchen. Find out how I use cast iron pots and pans as non-stick cookware.
- Lodge Seasoned Cast Iron Baking Pan (IRLFY Amazon shop)
- Lodge BOLD 14 Inch Seasoned Cast Iron Pizza Pan (IRLFY Amazon shop)
Clear Glass For Best Baking Sheets
I believe clear uncoated borosilicate glass is a safe material for non-toxic baking sheets. Indeed, glass is an inert material, meaning it doesn’t react with the food or leach harmful substances into your baked goods. It won’t impart any unwanted flavors or odors, ensuring that the natural taste of your treats remains pure and untainted. This non-reactive nature makes glass a safe choice for baking, especially when working with acidic ingredients like tomatoes or citrus fruits.
Of course, general glass handling advice applies. Avoid drastic temperature changes, such as placing a hot glass dish directly on a cold surface or exposing it to extreme temperature differences. Preheating the oven with the glass dish inside can help prevent thermal shock.
I would stay away from colored, or tinted, glass as it has the potential to contain heavy metals. Find out what other kind of glass contains lead in my blog post Lead Free Glassware Brands.
On the plus side, there are many affordable clear glass safe baking trays and dishes available on the market. Check out the IRLFY Amazon shop for numerous options of glass bakeware.
Conclusion About Non-Toxic Baking Sheets
I Believe The Safest Materials For Best Baking Sheets Are Stainless Steel, Cast Iron, And Clear Glass.
To sum up, choosing non-toxic baking sheet materials, such as stainless steel, cast iron, or glass is a way to ensure you are always baking with the safest pans. These materials offer a host of benefits, including non-reactivity, even heat distribution, durability, and ease of cleaning. They will empower you to create delectable treats without the worry of harmful substances leaching into our food.
By opting for non-toxic baking sheets, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the potential dangers of toxic coatings and chemicals present in conventional bakeware. Learn more about safe cookware materials in my blog posts:
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