When DH and I were choosing items for our wedding registry, we didn't give a thought to which things were safer and better for cooking. We picked whatever looked the coolest and nicest. The first time we ever questioned our cookware was when we were given a George Foreman indoor grill. We loved using it and used it often. Then we started hearing about how Teflon products were carcinogenic. We learned that while the nonstick Teflon coating is reportedly safe, if it chips at all it can get into the food and be ingested (and from my own experience I've found that Teflon seems to chip pretty easily). The FDA stated that these ingested chips wouldn't cause harm, but when have I ever fully trusted the FDA anyway, considering that they allow saccharin and aspartame on the market? We felt convinced that we should avoid Teflon just to be safe, so we got rid of our indoor grill (and missed it for a while...but got over it!).
I found several lists on the internet determining the pros and cons for different kinds of cookware and concluded that the best options are hard-anodized aluminum, cast iron, glass (Pyrex), and stoneware. I certainly was relieved to find out that, quite unknowingly, DH and I had chosen hard-anodized aluminum pots and pans by Calphalon for our wedding registry years before. It was nice to know these expensive items wouldn't have to be replaced.
But what about bakeware? I still had nonstick cookie sheets and a cheap, rusted cooling rack. There had to be something better for baking. I discussed this with my cousin and she mentioned that Pampered Chef has a line of stoneware products. A visit to their website confirmed this. I was giddy with excitement as I browsed all the options! My cousin then suggested I have a Pampered Chef party so that I could get discounts on the products I wanted. Genius! I did just that, and before long I was the happy owner of some lovely stoneware pieces, which have proven to be some of our favorite kitchen items.
We use our round mini bakers practically everyday. The round pizza stone gets used at least once a week, if not more. Any time I bake muffins I use the stone muffin pan. The fluted mini bundt pan is an item I especially love. I don't use it incredibly often, but when I do use it I have so much fun! I was a little intimidated at first, thinking stoneware would take a lot of maintenance, but I've found that it is easy to clean and the more you use it, the more it naturally become nonstick.
If you are interested in purchasing stoneware, I suggest making sure you are getting it from a reputable place, where they can state in writing that no lead is used. I know there are sometimes cute and inexpensive pans and dishes at discount stores. Unfortunately, these are more than likely laden with lead (the same goes for tableware, cups and mugs).
I don't own any cast iron items yet, but I plan to get a large cast iron griddle that can cover the length of two burners on my stove. With my family growing as it is, I'm going to need something big for when I cook multiple burgers, pancakes, french toast, grilled sandwiches, quesadillas and more!