It’s strange that people fixate on eating healthy and organic foods, while ignoring the dangers lurking in the pans and pots used to cook it!
Is Teflon safe? Technically PTFE-lined cookware is safe… until it gets too hot. At temperatures of just 500°F (260°C), the PTFE begins to deteriorate.
The fumes produced cause “Teflon flu” which actually will kill birds. What is that doing to you?
Hitting 500°F may seem high, but it’s not. An empty or semi-empty frying pan, even on medium heat, can exceed that temperature.
Especially with today’s high BTU gas stovetops.
This is why we personally have not owned cookware made with PFOA or PTFE for nearly two decades.
For much the last decade, we used Le Creuset, which is old school ceramic-lined cast iron. The kind that DOES stick.
With the advent of non-stick ceramic cookware, we’ve been slowly transitioning to it in our kitchens.Is ceramic cookware safe? Yep. Its coating is no different than the minerals (e.g. sand) used to coat ceramic plates, bowls, and mugs. The difference is that it’s fired in a kiln at much higher temperatures. It’s created to be ultra-smooth, giving the surface non-stick properties.
For the kitchen in one of our basements, we recently purchased GreenPan’s Levels collection. This is not our first rodeo with the brand, as we already own their Chatham 10-piece set, as well as ceramic non-stick bread pans and cookie sheets.
Benefits of Green Pan Levels Essentials set
In addition to this hard anodized black and grey set, there’s also a GreenPan Levels stainless steel set. Both have the same interior non-stick coating, but the latter was stainless on the outside. It was exclusive to Macy’s and is no longer available.
Fine with us, because stainless steel pots can look awful as they accumulate scratches on the outside.
1. PFOA and PTFE free
Obviously the most important advantage!
2. Space-saving design
We needed a cookware set for a kitchen with limited storage. It’s not that we need a big set down in the basement, but we do need the basics; a small sauce pan, a large pot for boiling water, and a frying pan.
The GreenPan Levels 6-piece non-stick ceramic cookware set includes 2.6 and 6.2 quart pots, a 10” frying pan, and an 11” round grill pan. All of these pieces stack within each other, requiring just 9.75” of vertical space.
GreenPan isn’t lying either, as we measured to confirm!
3. Strainers built into the lids
This is by far our favorite feature of the Levels set. To the best of our knowledge, none of the other GreenPan sets have this. Or at least, none that were launched before 2020.
Now when you make pasta – which is at least once weekly in our households – you don’t have to get out the sink strainer. Just pour the water into your kitchen sink.
In terms of sanitary and food safety, this offers a major benefit. Because yes, even though the in-sink strainers typically boost their bottom a couple inches above the sink’s floor, when you pour that water out, it’s splashing everywhere.
Inevitably, water that splashes on the sides and bottom will ricochet up into your noodles.
With boiling water that may not be the biggest danger, but it’s gross nonetheless to think of that sink grime possibly ending up in your mouth!
4. Natural non-stick fry pan included
The non-stick features of the saucepan and stockpot admittedly are less needed. It’s the frying pan with the ceramic technology that’s a must-have.
You should still use a little oil, but you won’t need much at all. The instructions for care and use of GreenPan warn not to use sprays. This holds true for all of their product lines.
5. Super easy to clean
It’s not safe to use Scotch scrubbers on these and guess what? You don’t have to!
Wait for your pots and pans to cool before cleaning. This is important because putting them under water right away causes a temperature differential in the material. Over time, that can decrease the non-stick’s efficacy.
After the pan has cooled, just rinse it under the sink. We glide a wet paper towel over the surfaces to get off any remaining food debris. GreenPan does label both the 6-piece and 11-piece stackable cookware sets as being dishwasher safe. We find that kind of misleading though because in the fine print, they advise hand-washing to prolong surface life.
6. Silicone handles keep cool
We still use oven mitts on the sauce pan and big pot just to be safe, but those handles are a lot better than some other brands.
We haven’t tested this claim but the box says these “stay-cool” silicone handles are broiler and oven-safe at temps up to 400°F. For the glass lids, it’s up to 350°F.
As far as the frying pan handle, you probably won’t need a mitt.
7. Relatively inexpensive
The Levels hard anodized stackable cookware from GreenPan is not the most expensive in their lineup, but it’s not the cheapest either.
When we bought ours at Cost Plus World Market, the 6-piece set was selling for $179.99. The only reason we got it there was because we had a coupon for the store’s grand opening.
Otherwise, we would have probably bought online.
The prices online can vary quite a bit, of course. We didn’t see the 6-piece set on Amazon at the time of this review but they did have the 11-piece. For a primary kitchen, that’s probably what you want anyway. You can check the current price for that set here.
Drawbacks to consider
1. Only buying a set makes sense
Our other non-stick ceramic set, the GreenPan Chatham, is one of the most popular and it’s not exclusive to any specific retailer. As such, you can buy some of the pots and pans separately.
GreenPan Levels is one of their newest designs. Right now, they only seem to sell it in sets. The exception is the Levels 10” stackable ceramic fry pan, which you can buy as a stand-alone.
When buying the set, it means you may end up with pieces you don’t want. For us, it was the grill pan.
2. Not every retailer sells it
Unlike some of the other designs, Levels is not exclusive to Cost Plus, Target, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, or Bed, Bath & Beyond. Even though it’s sold by multiple stores, not many have it.
Speaking of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, we’re all about milking their 20% off coupons. However, they don’t carry the Levels Essentials set.
3. Black isn’t for everyone
The black or graphite hard anodized shells may not appeal to everyone.
4. They won’t last forever
The biggest complaint about non-stick cookware is that over time, it will lose its non-stick benefit.
The good news is that unlike PTFE non-stick coatings, when ceramic non-stick starts being sticky, there’s zero danger. It’s just that invisible scratches and the heating/cooling over many uses will cause warping or distortions in the microscopically-smooth surface.
This is actually why in our review of non-stick bread pans, our top recommendation was one of the cheaper brands. Because we know they won’t last forever.
Fortunately, GreenPan is an affordable brand. Given the little variation between their least and most expensive sets, we would NOT recommend their most expensive models due to the typical ceramic non-stick lifespan.
We do find, however, that the Levels is priced right – it’s in the middle.
So far our only complaint is that we didn’t buy the Levels 10-piece or 11-piece cookware set. It’s not that we need all of those things, but the drawback of the 6-piece is that it doesn’t contain a sauté pan or rondeau. For stir fry and similar, you need one.
Since you can’t buy those single pieces separate, we’re SOL.
The built-in strainer lids and stackable design make Levels Essentials a top-rated GreenPan set. Not just our opinion, but likewise for the reviews seen elsewhere. However if you buy it, you should buy the 11-piece set. Here’s the link for it on Amazon.