#AskTamara: Do you have any recommendations for a non-toxic slow cooker?

OurPlatesOriginally Posted, June 2014.
Question From Stacy (Via Facebook.)
Updated: July 2018

QUESTIONS:

Dear Tamara,

Hello! I love your work and appreciate all the wonderful things you share with us. I was hoping you could help me with 2 things…I would love to get a slow cooker for our family. Do you have any recommendations for a non-toxic slow cooker?

Also, do you know if Corelle® Livingware™ Winter Frost White bowls and plates are non-toxic? free of heavy metals? Thank you soooo soooo much!

ANSWERS:

Hi Stacy-

We don’t currently have a slow-cooker personally. [In July of 2018 we purchased an Instant Pot, however!]

There have been a few studies testing various crock pots and slow cookers for lead, but they are now a bit out-dated and not relevant to current products you would buy new.

As far as slow cookers go – I have test a LOT of crock pots and slow cookers for friends and clients and many have turned up very low lead and a rare few have turned up completely lead free.

With the newer slow cookers (crock pots, etc.) with ceramic liners that are mass-manufactured for recognized brand names (Kenmore, Crock Pot, Hamilton Beach, etc.) it is very likely that they have been leach tested and that the lead I have found using an XRF instrument is a trace contaminant of the glaze or clay (in the 100 to 200 ppm range) – not an additive to the glaze or clay.

However I am still not comfortable cooking for my family in any ceramic vessels that contain any amount of lead, even a trace amount.

What we used to have (and used pretty much every day until early 2017) is an electric (plug-in) rice cooker with a stainless steel inner bowl [as opposed to the “non-stick”-coating-painted-aluminum bowls that are typically found in most commercially available rice cookers] — so food and steam only touches the stainless steel bowl or glass lid. This automatically switches from “cook” mode to “warm” mode when it is done cooking. However we recently stopped using this as the heating element and electric cord (components which of course do not touch the food) were positive for high levels of lead, too high for my comfort level.

We also historically (before the purchase of our Instant Pot) had used high quality European-made stainless pressure cookers for rice, stews and soups.  Whenever possible, we try to stick with stainless (and recommend others do the same) – since it’s generally one of the least toxic/reactive options available for cooking.

In recent years however we found that even several high quality stainless steel pressure cookers (sold and manufactured in the U.S., Europe and India) brought to us for testing turned out to have valves in the lid that were very high in lead; If any hardware inside a pressure cooker is high in lead it is possible (and likely) that the process of pressure cooking food in the vessel will cause lead to leach into the food!

As of this moment I am no longer confident in recommending any brand as “lead-free”, as I have tested valves on lids from brands I previously found to be lead-free and later found product examples from those same brands where the valves were positive for high levels of lead.

As for the Corelle® dishware,  we have Corelle plates for our family. The ones we have are lead-free. Nearly all of the newer Corelle that we have tested has been completely lead-free, especially the plain white ones. We try not to vouch for any product we have not specifically tested, but with plain white Corelle I don’t think you can go wrong. Our personal (lead-free) Corelle dishes are pictured here.

Click here for more lead-free dishes!

NOTE:  We tested vintage Corelle that was very high in cadmium.  The yellow floral pattern on one set (c. 1970s) was about 18,000 ppm cadmium. As always, exercise caution with vintage dishware.

Len & Tamara

Other Links

  1. http://www.womensvoices.org/2012/02/06/is-there-lead-in-slow-cookers-and-is-it-getting-into-your-food/ 
  2. http://www.stacymakescents.com/the-great-crock-pot-lead-debate
  3. http://www.terminalverbosity.com/2009/11/09/the-skinny-on-lead-in-crock-pots-it-may-surprise-you/
  4. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/819590 

11 Responses to #AskTamara: Do you have any recommendations for a non-toxic slow cooker?

  1. Seema January 7, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Dear Tamara,

    Thank you for the very useful information. Based on the information that you have posted, newer Corelle plates should not have an issue with leaching of lead. Do you know if Corelle mugs are lead free? I believe that they are not made of the same material as the plates.

    Also, I am wondering if I should discard my corelle plates (white with decoration on them) that I bought 17 years ago and buy new Corelle plates. Are there any other brand plates that are lead free based on your testing? I do like Corelle plates for their durability and stacking etc, but just want to check what other options there are. Also, on the Corelle website, they state the following “All Corelle® stoneware products and glazes are made of clay-based materials and glazes used throughout the industry. Decorations, if present, are made from low-lead enamels and fired at temperatures exceeding 1000 degrees F, which binds any heavy metals both physically and chemically so that their release is minimized”.

    So based on this, only if the plates have decorations, there is a possibility of usage of low-lead enamel. Is that accurate? If there is no decoration on the plate, then it should not have lead at all. Any thoughts?

    Thank you very much once again.

  2. juju March 8, 2015 at 10:54 am #

    Hello, Len & Tamara,

    I am currently shopping for crock-pots and indeed found your information to be helpful and informative. Thank you! I was wondering if you could please list the various brands that are known to be free of plastics, cadmium, lead, and other things that could leach into food. Your assistance on this matter would be helpful to many others as well. Thank you in advance!

  3. Radhika June 20, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    Hello Tamara,
    I recently learned that there is an amount of cow bone ash (amount varies) in products that are described as: China, fine china, bone china, china, porcelain, ceramics, stoneware, pottery, etc. Although this information should be disclosed to the consumer before purchasing, it hasn’t ever been disclosed, and therefore this fact is not widely known. Perhaps it has been “grandfathered in” not to disclose this information to the consumer. With the advent of the internet especially, it doesn’t take a lot of research to find out the truth! In the past, it is said that bone ash was derived mainly from cow bones, but human bones were also used! Eeeewwwww….bon apetit! Is it any wonder they kept this fact a secret for years? Oblivion is not bliss.
    Do Corelle and Corning products contain any kind of bone ash?
    References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_china
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porcelain
    (Please repost anywhere and everywhere.)

  4. Kristi September 10, 2015 at 8:53 am #

    Hi Tamara,
    I appreciate your info and the testing you have done. I’m looking into buying vintage Corelle mugs so checking into the safety. The mugs I’m wanting to buy are white with a blue pattern on the outside, so I’m wondering it the testing you did was specifically for the yellow paint in the pattern (I believe yellow is the color high in cadmium) and if you also tested the eating surface that’s plain glass? I’m wanting to know that the almost 30 year old mugs would be safe to drink from. I called Corelle and they say that at that point, the mugs were made by Corning and met all safety standards at the time and they’ve never been recalled or had any complaints. Anyway, just trying to be careful!
    Thank YOU!

  5. Adianez Alfonso January 9, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

    Hi
    Insta pot is a slow cooker pressure cooker rice cooker, etc with a stainless steel insert that’s supposed to be lead free. Got one, but haven’t unpacked it yet. Hope this helps.

    • Tamara January 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

      I haven’t tested those yet, but intend to do so this month!

    • Adianez Alfonso January 14, 2017 at 8:01 pm #

      Cool! Can’t wait to see results!
      Thanks!

  6. pallavi February 1, 2017 at 11:52 am #

    So Aeternum/Bailetti is lead free pressure cooker ? Has it been tested by you Tamara ?
    I would rather trust you than a company claiming that its lead-free.

    • Adianez Alfonso February 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

      We have 2 aeternum pressure cookers my husband brought from Italy. Good to know they may be lead free.

  7. Tara May 25, 2017 at 7:35 am #

    Hi Tamara,

    Have you ever tested Hamilton Beach slow cookers? I’ve read somewhere they’re supposed to be lead free but I’ve been so nervous I just haven’t purchased a slow cooker. I know the preference would be not to use one but I’ve been wanting to cook healthier meals and it is tough with my work schedule.

  8. brit October 16, 2018 at 3:17 pm #

    can Insta Pot be used as a crock pot?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.