Article edited for scientific accuracy by Illuminate Labs Blog Editor Taylor Graber MD
HexClad is a cookware company which suggests they have the best products due to superior technology. Specifically, the company states that their products provide the benefits of stainless steel, cast-iron and non-stick pans all in one.
In this article we’ll review the materials used in HexClad to determine whether it’s likely to be safer and more effective than traditional cooking pans.
Are Regular Pans Unsafe?
Most cooking pans you’ll find in big-box retailers are “non-stick”, meaning they contain synthetic chemical coatings on the cooking surface which allow food to cook without sticking to the pan.
This technology is convenient but there’s a lot of medical research coming out suggesting it’s harmful to human health. One recent medical study found that non-stick cookware presented significant toxicity concerns due to the chemicals used, and that newer versions of non-stick materials weren’t necessarily any less toxic than older ones.
Another study reviewed 60 years of medical research into fluorinated compounds (which are used as non-stick chemical agents), and concluded that there’s not nearly enough safety testing to suggest these compounds are safe for consumers. The study called fluorinated compound use an “issue of social and scientific concern.”
We’re not suggesting that regular non-stick pans are necessarily harmful, but they certainly might be and there’s no reason to use them when there are totally non-toxic alternatives.
HexClad Materials Review
HexClad’s base contains two layers of steel covering a layer of aluminum according to their site. These are good materials to use in our opinion.
Stainless steel is one of the most popular cooking materials for good reason: it’s stable at high temperatures and relatively non-toxic. There is some medical research suggesting stainless steel cookware can leach nickel, but the researchers suggest the levels shouldn’t be a problem in regular, non nickel-sensitive patients.
Aluminum may be a health concern when absorbed by the body, as we discussed in our Dr. Squatch review, but since the aluminum in this product is lined with stainless steel it shouldn’t leach into food at all.
HexClad doesn’t state whether the aluminum they use is anodized. This is a process ensuring the metal won’t leach into foods, so it’s always recommended in cookware.
The strange part about the HexClad materials overview on their site is that they claim a nonstick surface is used on the pan but don’t explain what materials are used. Without this information, consumers can’t determine whether the product is safe or not and will have to assume not, since so many nonstick chemicals are potentially toxic as overviewed above.
It appears that the same technology and materials are used for all of the HexClad products: pans, woks and pots. For this reason our general comments apply not only to the pans but to all of their products.
Overall we would not recommend this product due to the materials used, and also because the company doesn't seem to be very transparent about material specifics (like whether they use the safer anodized aluminum, and what constitutes their nonstick surface).
What Do We Recommend Instead
Generally we believe that cast iron pans are the safest choice for cookware. They have been used for thousands of years, and seem to be the most non-toxic cookware material available.
Cast iron pans are made primarily from iron and steel, and are somewhat naturally non-stick because of the effects of fat heated on the cooking surface over time.
We recommend cast iron pans without any added synthetic non-stick coating.
One fascinating fact about cast iron pans is that the minimal levels of iron leaching may have a beneficial effect on human health. Iron is an essential mineral, and many people are deficient in iron (particularly women). Cooking in cast iron pots has been proven in medical trials to improve iron status.
There’s a common misconception being pushed mostly by cooking blogs written by people with no medical credentials that cast iron pans are no healthier than traditional pans. They argue that small additional intake of iron doesn’t lead to health benefits.
What these articles are missing is that cast iron isn’t a healthier alternative because of the added dietary iron, it’s a healthier alternative because of the lack of harmful additive coatings. Because cast iron has a naturally non-stick effect, there’s usually no need for manufacturers to add the non-stick chemicals which may be toxic.
HexClad doesn't have the best cookware products in our opinion. The company uses decent core materials, but fails to publish critical information like type of aluminum and non-stick ingredients on their website.
We recommend standard cast iron pans for health conscious consumers. It’s important to ensure with the manufacturer that no additional non-stick coating has been added to the pans.
We hope to see more research on non-toxic, non-stick cookware chemicals in the future, because the convenience would be great if it could be achieved without a potential health risk.