7 Best Nickel Free Cookware Options

This article is dedicated to all those who suffer from a nickel allergy and are looking for nickel free cookware options.

I knew nickel allergy was a concern for quite a few people but was surprised to find out how common it is. According to recent estimates, experts put that figure at up to 20% for the US population.

What is a nickel allergy?

I’m sure WebMD can do a much better job of explaining so I won’t go into too much detail here. Generally, people with a nickel allergy get an allergic reaction called contact dermatitis or eczema – characterized by itchiness, rashes, inflamed red skin. The range and severity varies and for many women, it’s most commonly associated with wearing fashion jewellery containing nickel. So now I know why my ears always got itchy after wearing certain types of earrings.

What does this have to do with cookware?

Firstly, most food grade stainless steel contains nickel (‘most’ to be qualified a bit later when we talk about nickel free stainless steel cookware).

Nickel makes stainless steel stronger and makes it resistant to oxidation and corrosion, particularly in the presence of acidic materials. It also adds a mirror-like finish that makes stainless steel so attractive.

So when you see stainless steel described as ‘18/10 stainless steel’, that means it contains 18% chromium and 10% nickel.

Secondly, and more to the point:

Stainless steel cookware, while inert and generally considered safe, does leach nickel (and chromium) into food.

Particularly when cooking with acidic foods like tomatoes. The amount that leaches depends on the cooking time, cooking method and of course the presence of acidic food which increases the amount leached.

And here’s where the issue comes in: For most of us, the small amount of nickel that leaches is not a problem. (For a detailed analysis, read my full write up on stainless steel here.)

But it is an issue for those who have a nickel allergy, particularly the more severe form called systemic nickel allergy – meaning an allergy that causes issues inside your body, not just skin irritation. For those with a systemic nickel allergy, ingestion of nickel or nickel rich foods can cause headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

So in answer to the question:

If you have a nickel allergy, should you get nickel free cookware?

The answer is: Absolutely yes!

What are the options for nickel free cookware?

If you are among the 20% who are allergic to nickel and looking for nickel free cookware options, you’ll be happy to know that there is fairly large range of cookware you can choose from.

I’ve shortlisted below 7 options for nickel free cookware. Note: they’re not in any particular order as they are all viable options subject to your own preferences and cooking style.

To make it easier for you, I’ve also answered the key questions for each cookware category: What is it and is it safe?

And of course, I’ve included suggestions within each category of which brand I think would be most suitable.

Happy choosing!

Nickel Free Cookware Option #1 – Aluminum cookware

What is it?

As the name suggests, this is plain or untreated aluminum cookware. If you leave aluminum exposed to the air, it naturally forms a thin layer of aluminum oxide on the surface. While this layer is very thin, it is strong and hard and makes the metal non-reactive i.e. inert. The aluminum in this type of cookware does not go through the electrochemical process to thicken the layer of aluminum oxide (i.e. anodization) described in the next section.

Is it safe?

Yes. For a thorough analysis on the safety of aluminum cookware, read my exhaustive guide here. But here’s a summary:

  • Almost all aluminum cookware sold in the American market is either coated with a Teflon-type coating or a ceramic coating.
  • Aluminum does not leach into food from coated or anodized aluminum cookware.
  • The amount that leaches from untreated aluminum cookware (which is not really available in this market anyway) is not enough to cause a health hazard.

Best options for aluminum cookware

Ceramic based: Caraway Cookware [Cookware Advisor Best Choice] [Read our review]

Caraway Cookware Set - Cream

Note: as one of my readers pointed out, while this cookware is nickel free, it has stainless steel handles which may contain nickel and could be an allergy trigger for nickel allergic people.

PTFE based: Rachael Ray Create Delicious Aluminum Cookware

Rachael Ray Nonstick Cookware Set in Teal

Nickel Free Cookware Option #2: Hard anodized aluminum cookware

What is it?

You might be wondering about the difference between aluminum and hard-anodized aluminum. This is aluminum that has been treated with an electrochemical process called anodization. This process forms a thick layer of non-reactive aluminum oxide creating what is known as anodized or hard anodized aluminum.

Hard anodized aluminum is twice as hard as stainless steel and is scratch resistant, inert (i.e. non-reactive to food) and naturally ‘low stick’ cookware. However you would be hard pressed to find any hard anodized cookware without a non-stick coating, whether Teflon (PTFE based) or ceramic.

Is it safe?

Yes. For more details, you can refer to the above section for details on the safety of aluminum cookware. The same logic applies to hard anodized aluminum cookware.

Best options for hard anodized aluminum cookware:

Ceramic based: Green Pan Valencia Pro

GreenPan Hard Anodized Ceramic Nonstick, Frypan

Note: as one of my readers pointed out, while this cookware is nickel free, it has stainless steel handles which may contain nickel and could be an allergy trigger for nickel allergic people.

PTFE (Teflon) based: Rachel Ray Hard Anodized

Rachael Ray Hard-Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Cookware Set

Nickel Free Cookware Option #3 -Cast Iron nickel free cookware

What is it?

Cast-iron pans are made by pouring molten metal into a mold and are generally cast as a single piece, i.e including the handle. In terms of composition cast iron contains 97-98% iron and 2-3% carbon.

Cast iron pans are considered the original ‘green’ or healthy pan since there are no chemicals or non-stick coatings.

Cast iron comes either bare or enameled. Enameled cast iron has an enamel glaze fused into the cast iron and has the advantage of not needing seasoning as well as preventing rust. However, it doesn’t have the same non-stick feature as bare seasoned cast iron.

Is it safe?

Generally, yes. Cast iron is one of the safest, non-toxic cookware materials available.

It is a known fact that cast iron pans can leach iron into your food, the amount depending on the seasoning of the pan, the length of cooking time and the acidity of the food. But iron is also an essential nutrient, and cooking in cast iron cookware is sometimes recommended to help increase the amount of iron in your diet.

So unless one has a health issue with ingesting extra iron, cast iron is quite safe to use.

Cast iron also has natural non-stick properties meaning it doesn’t need any chemical coatings to make it non-stick.

Best option for Cast Iron cookware

Bare cast iron: Lodge

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Enameled cast iron: Le Creuset

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Skillet

Nickel Free Cookware Option #4 – Carbon steel

What is it?

Carbon-steel is very similar in composition to cast iron with approximately 99 percent iron to 1 percent carbon. Because of this composition, carbon steel can be rolled or formed rather than ‘cast’, which is why it makes for a much lighter and smoother pan.

When carbon steel pans are made, they go through a surface hardening treatment to prevent rust which lends it a blue or black finish rather than a shiny one. For this reason you might see a reference to ‘blue steel’ or ‘black steel’. Just know that they are all variations of carbon steel.

Is it safe?

Yes, and since it’s very similar in composition to cast iron, it shares the same benefits of being a ‘low’ stick cookware that can add iron into your diet.

Best option for carbon steel: Made In Cookware Carbon Steel Pans

Nickel free cookware - Made In Cookware carbon steel skillet

Nickel Free Cookware Option #5 – 100% Ceramic cookware

What is it?

Ceramic cookware is 100% natural cookware made purely with a clay formula. It is non-reactive with food and is free of ANY metals or chemicals. It’s also made without PTFE (Teflon) and PFOA, and does not leach any heavy metals. Since it doesn’t have any coating other than a natural ceramic glaze, there is no risk of anything flaking or peeling off into food.

Is it safe?

100% yes.

Best option for 100% ceramic cookware: Xtrema cookware

Xtrema Versa12pc ceramic cookware set

Every batch of cookware at Xtrema is checked and tested for heavy metals before being released for sale. It’s also FDA-approved and meets California Prop 65 standards, which certifies that it is free of numerous cancer and birth defect causing compounds.

Xtrema cookware does come with a learning curve because it is unlike any metal pot or pan and has to be handled with care as it can shatter rather easily. But if you are someone who is looking for a metal free option, Xtrema is the safest cookware available in the market.

Nickel Free Cookware Option #6 – Glass Cookware

What is it?

As the name suggests, it is cookware made of glass and not really high on my list of recommendations. For obvious reasons – it’s easy to shatter or chip and is also not very widely available.

Is it safe?

Yes – glass cookware is quite safe as it does not react with food and does not leach any material into the food.

Best option for Glass cookware : Corning Visions

Corning Visions Amber Sauce Pan with Lid

We’ve covered all the options that are nickel free and not stainless steel. But for various reasons, you might still want a stainless steel option. If so, let’s talk about:

Nickel Free Cookware Option #7: Nickel free stainless steel cookware

What is it?

Unlike standard food grade 18/10 stainless steel (i.e. 18% Chromium, 10% nickel), this is Japanese standard 21/0 stainless steel, meaning 21% Chromium and no nickel.

The higher amount of chromium in this stainless steel gives it the same corrosion resistance as regular 18/10 stainless steel. So this is a good option for people who are allergic to nickel but still want to opt for stainless steel cookware.

Is nickel free stainless steel cookware safe?

By and large yes. Stainless steel is considered one of the safest cookware materials.

Best option for nickel free stainless steel cookware: Homi Chef

Homi chef nickel free stainless steel cookware has a tri-ply construction with an aluminum core sandwiched within two layers of nickel free stainless steel. The inside layer that touches the food is 21/0 and the outside layer is 18/0 which also makes it induction friendly.