Is cast iron safe?
Do cast iron pans ever contain lead?
Short Answer: Cast iron (any type of iron) has a much higher melting point than Lead; accordingly, undecorated, simple cast iron pots and pans – at the time of their manufacture – almost never have any lead (as it is unlikely for the metal substrate of the pan itself to contain lead).
Click here to see the XRF test results for a typical cast iron pan. Continue reading below the image.
There are TWO exceptions to this…
- Exception One: Newer cast iron might be decorated (on the outside) with a decorative high-temperature enamel finish (often very brightly colored – like with many of the Le Creuset products.) This glass-like coating on the exterior surface of the cast iron pot or pan can contain high levels of Lead, Cadmium and other toxicants – used to enhance or create the colors. [Sometimes a “ceramic” coating is used as a non-stick surface on insides of the pans – and those can also contain lead.] For this reason, I avoid any decorated pots or pans for my family and stick with traditional, unadorned cast iron, clear glass or stainless steel as a result. I especially like vintage/antique cast iron that can often be found at yard sales and estate sales (mine is from my grandmother and great aunt), as the quality and durability of those pans seems superior to much of the [less expensive] newer cast iron you find sold today.
Continue reading below the image
- Exception Two: Through my advocacy work I have learned that even unadorned vintage or antique cast iron may have lead residue on the surface too—it is not actually from the original manufacturing of the pot or pan, but because [given that cast iron has the unique quality of having a melting point much higher than that of lead, AND heats up evenly and easily maintains a high temperature well, and makes for a super sturdy and durable vessel] many “lead-enthusiasts” and hobbyists – folks who melt lead to make their own bullets and toy soldiers for example – have historically used their cast iron pots to MELT LEAD, which could leave a lead-residue behind in the rougher, “micro-pitted” surface that characterizes most cast iron [this micro-pitting is one of the reasons why cast iron pots and frying pans need to be “seasoned” before initial use and subsequently re-seasoned as part of proper care.] As a result of learning that these pans may have been used in this manner, I advise that if you do not know the ORIGIN of your cast iron pans that it is a good idea to test them for lead.*****(see below for details)
What about new cast iron pans from Lodge?
I often get asked about Lodge brand pans. Here are some of the concerns:
- While new Lodge brand pans may be okay strictly from a “Lead” perspective (and they also are sold at a very reasonable price point) they aren’t necessarily as solid and high quality as our grandparents’ cast iron – so that’s something you might want to consider when making your purchase.
- Several of my readers have reported to me that their new Lodge cast iron pans arrived broken when ordered and shipped by Amazon.
- Lodge was called out for issues with toxic metals exposure in a study out of China in November of 2021.
- Lodge recently acquired the Portland based company Finex (see below) and they continue to sell them with Leaded accents… so that one point moved Lodge to my #ShitList as far as companies go.
What about Finex (made in Portland, Oregon)?
Unfortunately the brand Finex (out of Portland) adds Leaded brass accents to their new high quality cast iron pans – which is very disappointing. It is my understanding that you can specifically request pans from Finex without the Leaded brass accents – but I am (overall) disappointed with the company in that they continue to use Leaded brass accents and they do not make it clear to their customers (from their website) that a Lead-free version is an option. As a result I would never recommend their products. Here’s link to more information about those cast iron pans.
*****Don’t know the origin of your pan? Read this:
- In a case like this (if the pan was used to melt lead and thus still has any lead residue), a swab test WILL turn pink right away.
- It’s my understanding that if your pan DOES have melted-lead residue, the micro-pitting will likely make it nearly impossible to completely clean all traces of lead out of the pan.
- Attempting to season a pot or pan that is positive for any level of lead [due to past use for melting lead] may also fume the lead into your environment – which can instantly poison your family.
- Any vessel previously used for melting lead should never used for cooking — it should be discarded.
- A swab tests positive at 600 parts per million lead and above, so if your pan turns a LeadCheck swab pink is likely that the surface lead on the inside of the pan is least 600 ppm lead (and levels well below that can be toxic if on a food prep surface).
- Note: if it turns darker brighter orange (vs. the yellowish orange in the solution), that is just the swab picking up more of the iron of the pan – NOT the swab detecting lead—the reagent’s direct contact with Lead always results in the swab turning a pink or red color.
Tamara, what brand of cast iron pan do you use in your home?
- In my home I am lucky enough to have vintage cast iron pans that I got from my grandmother and great aunt – and I love these pans! When we lost our home in a total-loss house fire right after we moved to Portland (in August of 2002), my grandmother’s pans were among the very few things that survived the fire!
- I also like this Made-in-USA brand of cast iron pan (link – image below) – and have one the manufacturer sent to me.
- Solidteknics also makes lovely iron pans in their USA factor, here’s a link to one of those (we have a few of these in our home too!)
As always, please let me know if you have any questions; I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I have a moment. Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
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Your posts are really valuable.
May I ask you which Dutch oven you advise to cook acidic foods. I have been doing my research ; but my head is spinning now because of conflicting data.
I’m sorry. I don’t have a recommendation as I don’t use that type of product. I would imagine a natural clay one (no glaze) might be your best bet… I have seen them in red clay and white clay. The clay base is less likely to have lead than almost all of the glazes used for these things.
Thank you. In fact I know that’s the best option.. but I have electric TOP. I have been using clay pots to cook rice and prepare acidic food ; but on gas TOP. Could you please let me know stainless steel options you would recommend. I heard aluminium will leach to food if it’s not good quality.
Kindly be aware that lead has not been used in enamelware glazes, including cast iron, since at least the 1960s to 1970s. That’s at least fifty years’ worth of enamel that is safe for use, including *all* the enamelware made today.
Actually that is not true. Much of the modern enamelware I have tested has had at least some lead. Primarily things like Le Creuset. It is also often positive for high levels of cadmium.
Rachel Janzen says
I bought my son a set of dishes from Totally today – Made in China -It has a lighthouse glazed in the middle and around the edges…
Do you think this is safe or have you every tested this brand. It is about 10 years old at this point. Also, I have contacted Churchill England Willow to inquire about their dishes.
Thank you Tamara for your post
Do you know which of the Le Creuset enamel cast iron are cadmium and lead free?
Does LC black enamel cast iron contain lead and cadmium? Both on the inside and outside?
I personally avoid Le Creuset altogether, as different batches/years/colors have had varying test results. If you are talking about brand new product the sand colors (beige) seem to test negative the most frequently – although I have only tested a few of them. I do not recall testing any black ones from Le Creuset, sorry. I may have, but I don’t photograph and archive everything I test.
Hi Tamara. I suffer from lead poisoning but I am also allergic to nickel. I was thinking about using cast iron cooking ware instead of stainless steel. Do you think it is safe to buy any new cast iron stove pot without enamel coating as far as you know? I want to be sure of that before ordering as they are pretty expensive here in Europe. I really appreciate your efforts and dedication for raising awareness on lead poisoning. Thank you.
I think they are a good choice. Ikea stainless if often low-nickel or no-nickel, so that’s another option to explore. Where a normal stainless steel pan has 82,000 ppm nickel and Ikea pan might have zero to 2,000 ppm Nickel (in my experience based on the testing I have done.) I use primarily clear glass, cast iron (uncoated) and stainless in my home. I haven’t done enough testing of the pre-seasoned stainless steel pots and I do have some concern (just speculative concern) about what is in the “factory pre-seasoning” on some of the cast iron sold these days – so I think I would buy high quality unseasoned if I were to buy new cast iron, and handle the seasoning part myself. Thank you for reading, Chris! Hopefully I will make it to England soon to do some outreach events. I just need to find a sponsoring agency or business to cover my costs to get over there! – Tamara
Ashutosh Kumawat says
I was surprised on this article. I am from India and want to know that is there any way to know before buying the cast iron vessels whether they have lead or not by the description only? Or you need to do a test for getting sure about that? In India they(big names here are Indus valley, Bhagya, Rock etc) dont mention information like this and the brand you mentioned Lodge is very costly.
Hi Ashutosh! Thanks for commenting. I don’t generally have concerns for brand new cast iron (plain, undecorated, without enamel.) Here’s my overview post on pots and pans with guidelines for purchasing (regardless of the specific brand):
Lodge is not a great brand – it’s just an inexpensive lead-free brand (for non-enameled pieces), so I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it if it is expensive where you are.
I would love to come to India sometime and test products there. I wonder if the Department of Health could be convinced to sponsor a trip to have me come? Or perhaps a local university or hospital. [If you have any ideas on that please let me know!]
Natasha Boyd says
Hi Tamara, recently I post a picture of my cast iron pots by Lodge, someone have said there are traces of lead in them can you verify this for me…I bought mine from Amazon. Thank-you
Hi Natasha – there is no Lead in brand new undecorated (plain / uncoated) lodge cast iron pots and pans that I have tested to date. They are Lead-free unless they have enamel or other decorative elements.
Thank you for commenting.
I have not purchased Lodge cast iron pans because they were seasoned with soy oil, and my son is allergic to soy.
isnt it enough to just wash it out with a vaery hot water and seasone with the oil you prefer_
Kim Percle says
Do the vintage Griswold waffle iron contain lead?
Is it plain cast iron? Or coated in some way? Plain cast iron is going to be negative, coated is going to be positive.
The Field Company cast iron pans are seasoned with grapeseed oil if you are looking for no soy.
You are my source for lead free cookware, etc and i bought Le Creuset pots in the color Palm because somewhere i read that it was a safe color in comparison to the reds, etc.
I see you say that some colors are safe like the sandy or neutrals and no mention of the Palm.
I bought a whole colection of the Palm color based on that first blog, did i just waste my money? Thank you!
Thank you for commenting. I have personally never recommended Le Creuset, except recommending that we should stage a formal boycott of the company for their lack of responsible manufacturing and materials sourcing over the years. There are some other bloggers who have used my findings and recommended certain colors. I don’t know enough about which colors are called what to make that recommendation.
As long as that company still manufactures new product with Cadmium as a colorant (regardless of whether or not it presents toxicant exposure hazards to the end user) I will not recommend them or any of their products.
That said “Palm” sounds familiar – like it is one of their natural colors that likely would have tested negative or low for lead, but I have not done a full work up of it here on my blog.
4 years later, do you still recommend Lodge Cast Iron pots?
I have gone down the rabbit hole of trying to find toxin-free (or the closest to it) cookware. Xtrema and Lodge were my next bet until I saw that exchange on this website. Now I’m thinking of only purchasing Lodge cast ironware.
Have your thoughts and experiences/test results changed at all regarding these products since 2015?
Would greatly appreciate your input,
Hi again M!
I recommend any brand of plain undecorated cast iron. More expensive brands might be less prone to breakage than cheaper brands. Lodge still has great options for their price points. I am lucky – I have my grandmother’s cast iron pans that she gave me 20 years ago. If you can get your hands on your grandma’s pans… that’s your best bet – LOL! In the absence of inherited pans, avoid cast iron that has any decorative non-iron elements (enamel, brass ends, etc.)
Thank you for all the work you do to test things for lead. It’s alarming that some well name brands produce things we use everyday in our homes, that have lead. Did you happen to test Amazon Basis enameled Dutch Oven? I recently purchased it in a neutral off white color. Does that improve the chance of it being low lead or no lead?
Hi Yvonne, I haven’t tested that one yet. Here’s my link with information on how to participate in the testing I do:
Thanks for the info Tamara!
Of course! Thanks for being here. Subscribe to the newsletter (it’s free) and if I end up testing any of those Amazon Basics items you will get an e-mail with the details.
becky joy king says
have you tested pioneer woman cast iron pans. i was gifted one,
No I have not. Thanks for commenting.
Here’s how to send an item in for testing: https://tamararubin.com/2019/08/tamara-can-i-send-you-one-of-my-dishes-to-test-for-lead/
Hi, There was a concerning legal disclaimer posted on Amazon for The Lodge Cast Iron Skillet (shows on size 8″ and up):
This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
Do you know what it’s about or what is the unsafe chemical?
I am not sure why it is saying that for an uncoated pan. They could have added the disclaimer for their coated pans and then just decided to use it as boilerplate language.
Is there ever any issue with the type of elements used to make cast iron ( steel, carbon, etc) that cause an unsafe balance in the cast iron? I’m asking because I see different looks like the Stargazer doesn’t even look like cast iron so it’s. all confusing to me
Rima Kittley, MD says
The other thing to consider is that sometimes the iron from the cast iron pots leaches too much iron in the food, which is not good for people with hemochromatosis and high blood counts. I have actually had to tell several patients to stop using cast iron pots because of very high ferritin levels. Something to consider…..
Thank you so much for this post Tamara! If Lodge is seasoned with soybean oil and I am allergic to that, would it be enough to just wash the new pot and seasoning it again with another type of oil so the soy oil would go away? It might be logical, but it is so overwhelming that I am starting to doubt logical things lol. Thank you my dear!
Check out Field Company cast iron which is seasoned with grapeseed oil if avoiding soy. I’m thinking of purchasing their cookware, which is made in USA. It’s a new company, though, and wish it were third party tested.
Dianne Friesen says
I was baking a small whole chicken in my 40+ year old CorningWare casserole (blue cornflower design). After thawing the chicken in the fridge for 3 days, I put it into the casserole dish (although the chicken was still somewhat frozen on the bottom) and proceeded to bake it. Upon completion I processed the chicken and left the CorningWare to soak in the sink. The next morning I noticed blue spots on the bottom of the casserole dish. I scrubbed it, but the spots were imbedded in the dish. The chicken also looked like it had darker spots, not normally seen. Have you heard of this happening to anyone else?
Thanks a lot for helping us choose safe options!
Hello. I have 3 cast iron skillets that I was wondering whether I should test for lead. The only problem is they are already seasoned. I don’t know whether I need to scrub them clean before doing the lead test and reseason them afterwards. One skillet is a Wagner Sidney and I have no reason to believe it has lead but just want to be sure. But I don’t really want to remove the years of seasoning. The other two skillets are newer ones that I sanded down to make smooth and have just started to use and have seasoned already. I thought since they are made in China (one was a MasterChef from Canadian Tire and the other Blue Mountain skillet also likely made in China) that I should test them to be safe. Any advice is greatly appreciated. I just want to be sure I’m not consuming lead. Thank you.
I bought the lead check and tested one of my pans but now I’m concerned about the chemical solution in the pan from the swab. I washed the pan, scrubbed right away, but it’s a highly toxic substance and now I’ve rubbed it into a surface where I cook food. Any advice?
The solution is not toxic. Here’s a post I wrote about that: https://tamararubin.com/2017/04/are-3mleadcheck-swabs-safe/
Hello Tamara, did you test any cast iron pans made from China, such as that of Kichly from Utopia deals?
They are more cheaper here in Europe than Lodge so I don’t know if it is worth it to buy Lodge then
Thank you for your great information.
I have 2 cast irons I bought from Costco few years ago. I really like them for cooking steaks. But it is made in China and the brand name is Tramontina. Have you ever tested Tramontina cast iron pans?
Ashley Sikel says
Can I use cast iron on a glass top stove?
I would like to ask does cast iron pan made from the USA mostly lead free? Am tempted to get the challenger bread pan from https://challengerbreadware.com/product/challenger-bread-pan/
They have stated that the materials of the pan is made of: carbon 2.5-4.2, silicon 1.0-3.0, manganese 0.15-1.0, sulfur 0.02-0.25, phosphorus 0.02-1.0.
Generally – yes, as long as they are not coated in any way. I am not familiar with that brand specifically though.
thank you for your reply! 🙂
Joan L Linney says
My whole neighborhood burned down in the fires last fall. A couple of us pulled cast iron pans out of the debri thinking it would be nice to have something I use daily that survived. But some people are telling me that they’re is no way to make it safe; that cast iron is porous and will have absorbed all the toxins from the burned building. When you restored your cast iron from the fire, did you have it tested for toxins? I am planning on grinding it down to bare metal, but wondered if they’re was any trustworthy information out there on whether that would be sufficient. Thank you so much
Have you tested solidteknics wrought iron for lead or other toxic metals? Also are you comfortable with their seasoning method?
Yes I have – if you put “solidteknics” in the search bar you can see the test results for each of their types of pans, and yes – I am fine with their seasoning. We normally end up re-seasoning pans anyway – so I don’t even worry about that with pans in general.
Did you test skeppshlut? Do you know if this brand can be safe?
Thanks for your amazing research an to share with us on your website!
I have not heard of that brand.
At last, I have a good thing in my house, I have three different sizes of cast iron pans, old ones that I got new some maybe 40 years ago. So, this is something that I will not get rid of. Good!
Hi Tamara! Thank you for sharing all this important information. I am from Chile and the Cuisinart pots and pans set model is not available. Is there another cuisinart model you recommend? or buyer brand? thank you very much Tamara
Please could you recommend a cast iron and/or stainless steel pan that we can buy in the UK? I’ve been searching for so long and need your help! Thank you so much for everything you do
CJ Baars says
Thank you again Tamara! Just a note to everyone out there on Rome Cast iron. We just tested their waffle iron and it came back positive and is now in the recycle bin. Our old Lodge pan was negative, but we will be looking to the other manufacturers you suggested.
Judy Jensen says
Tamara, we have a Griswold OR Chicken Pan Cast Iron Skillet 8 made in Erie PA USA 777. It is a very shiny metal. My husband thinks it may have cadmium. Is it safe to use? Judy Jensen
I’ve been on a non-toxic journey for a few years now. Lead never occurred to me until finding your instagram page. Have you tested caraway pots and pans, USA baking sheets, and teamfar baking sheets? Have you tested Hearth and Hand stoneware (plates, bowls, and mugs)? Do you have a recommendation for eating utensils.
Thank you so much!!
You can find each of these items by putting the brand name or other descriptors in the search bar at the top of any page of the site. I also encourage you to check out the website menu which is linked at the top of every page and also is the link in my Instagram bio.