What kind of cookware is safe for birds? – Complete guide

Knowing what kind of cookware to use is one of the first things you should do as a bird pet owner. If not done, you might risk your bird’s safety by cooking with cookware that is highly toxic and could cause instant death to your bird.

Generally, ceramic, cast iron, and stainless steel cookware tend to be safe for birds, but there are a few things that you should still watch out for. If your pan is old, damaged, or overheated, it might still harm your bird.

What cooking pans are safe for birds?

Overall, avoid non-stick cookware. They have a non-stick coating (PFASs, Teflon, PFOA, PFOS, and PTFE) that when heated is harmful to birds. 

It’s harmful because birds have a sensitive respiratory system. Any kind of fumes or strong smells, such as an overheated pan, aerosol, nail polish, paint, or cigarette smoke can be harmful to their little lungs.

PTFE fumes are so bad that they affect your bird even three rooms away!  It can cause hemorrhage and fill their lungs with fluid, leading to suffocation.

Not only the fumes are toxic, but the food cooked in these pans is also toxic to parrots.

Above all, when shopping for pans, what you need to determine, with 100% confidence, is whether or not any components of your cookware or appliance contain PTFE &/or PFOA.

If it’s not clearly listed on the labels, be very suspicious. Some companies are including small amounts of PTFE in their non-stick coatings, but are describing their products somewhat deceptively on their labels, or in their advertising.

It is best to contact the company directly by phone or e-mail. It’s not enough to ask other people if they are using the products, as you’ll want to get the safety facts first hand.

For instance, we went to the Rock’s pan manufacturer website, and it says that their non-stick coatings contain PTFE chemicals, which is the one that we want to avoid.

When you’re looking at a cookware manufacturer, you want to ask:

  • Does this product contain any PTFE &/or PFOA?
  • What other chemicals are contained within the coating, or used to adhere the coating to the metal?
  • Is this product FDA approved to be safe to use around infants & pets?
  • And, Is this 100% safe to use around pet birds in the home?

It’s very important to do careful research to find fact-based information, in order to keep our birds well in our homes. For many of this new cookware, there are not enough facts (if any) available yet. So, many of us only use the well-known bird-safe cookware.

Usually, the options below are safe bets:

  • Ceramic
  • Stainless steel (uncoated)
  • Copper-clad stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Corningware, the classic, white oven-to-table ware
  • Glass
  • Aluminum
  • Cast iron (pre seasoned)
  • Hard Anodized

However, for any of this cookware cited above, you should always read the packaging and instructions before using it to check for ‘non-stick’ features. If the packaging doesn’t mention PFASs/PTFEs, or the language used isn’t clear, always contact the manufacturer for advice as mentioned before.

Besides that, avoid high heat, especially when leaving the pan unattended with no oil.

In the next paragraphs, we will discuss each option in detail:

Is Ceramic cookware safe for birds?

Pure ceramic cookware contains no metal and is forged from a mixture of sand, minerals, and clay. Once it’s shaped, it’s fired at more than 1900 degrees Fahrenheit or 1038 Celsius.

It’s ideal to have 100% ceramic cookware, as there are no risks the lining/coating will chip in a short time and expose you to any toxic metals, such as lead or cadmium.

The cons of having ceramic cookware are:

  • Can be expensive
  • Can never be allowed to boil dry (ceramic coated pan).
  • The ceramic coat doesn’t last as long as a Teflon pan, it is reported that they last for only a year (it doesn’t apply for 100% ceramic pans)
  • If the material is cheap, it might break in cooking temperatures
  • They can harm your bird when they are old and the material starts to chip (if not 100% ceramic)

GreenPan and GreenLife (Thermolon) use ceramic coatings inside their non-stick pans. These brands are popular among parrot owners, as they do not use PFASs or heavy metals.

Is stainless steel cookware safe for birds?

Stainless steel is a safe choice for cooking your bird’s food since it doesn’t offer any concerns with chipping or fumes.

Before buying stainless steel, ensure that they are uncoated and made from 100% stainless steel. Pure stainless steel pans should be silver in color, with a shiny, smooth finish inside. Additionally, make sure they don’t contain any nickel or chromium, as these are toxic for humans. They may leak into your food if you let on for several hours of boiling.

If the pan’s interior looks black or has a matte (dull) finish, then the pan probably has a coating, which is bad for your bird’s health.

The only problem with stainless steel is that it does stick…a lot! Mitch Rezman suggested the video below for dealing with this issue. Be sure to open the windows and remove your bird from the room while seasoning the pan.

Is cast iron safe for birds?

Cast iron is a good choice if you’re looking for cookware that lasts longer than ceramic. They provide equal heat and make for a nice saucepan. My husband’s pancakes are tastier when cooked in the cast iron!

The only issue with cast iron is that they are heavy and take a while to get heated. But when heat…oh God, they get hot! You will need to wear gloves to hold the handle.

Before using a cast iron pan, you need to season it to prevent food from sticking. Seasoning a cast iron pan involves applying a light coating of oil. The pan is then heated to at least 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Have your bird three rooms away from the kitchen while you’re doing this.

Lodge pans come already pre-seasoned if you wish to save some time.

Be careful as not all cast iron pans are safe to use around parrots. Some cast-iron pans might contain other materials as well as iron. This usually serves to create a coating inside the pan that removes the need for seasoning.

Is aluminum cookware safe for birds?

Aluminum is one of the most controversial cookware topics. It appears to be safe for birds, but there is an ongoing discussion regarding whether or not it is safe for humans.

There are reports saying that aluminum might leak into your food beyond the daily recommended levels for aluminum intake. This leak apparently can cause damage to our central nervous system, according to this article and many others.

However, this can be a controversial theory. The Alzheimer’s association posted an article saying that there is no link between dementia and cooking on aluminum pots. The same goes for the majority of researches on the field according to the Bright Focus Foundation.

Is hard anodized cookware safe for birds?

Hard anodized cookware is made from treated aluminum. The anodization process treats the metal to prevent it from reacting with certain foods (e.g., acids). In addition, it makes it more durable than untreated aluminum.

On its own, anodized aluminum does have non-stick properties. This makes it a popular choice for cookware. It’s more convenient than using cast iron pans that need to be seasoned frequently. It typically doesn’t contain a Teflon or PTFE coating, making it safe for parrots.

That being said, some hard-anodized aluminum pans may have an additional coating to enhance their non-stick abilities. Before purchasing an anodized pan, ensure that it is uncoated and does not contain harmful chemicals.

Is glass cookware safe for birds?

Glass is a good option for cooking. It is an inert material and there is no risk of deteriorating and releasing toxins to your food or your bird.

Is copper cookware safe for birds?

If the cookware is 100% made of copper, it should be safe for birds.  On the other hand, it might be dangerous for humans!

However, if you use copper cookware, make sure to not cook anything too acidic on these pots, especially if they are not coated/untreated. Copper can be extremely toxic for humans. What manufacturers usually do is add a line of stainless steel to protect users from this danger. Please note if the lining is damaged, you should not use this pan.

Are there any non-stick pans safe for birds?

As mentioned before, any frying pan or saucepan with a non-stick coating is potentially dangerous for parrots.

How to Tell If a Pan Has Teflon

Be aware, the label in the package doesn’t have to say the word Teflon for it to pose a problem for your bird’s health. If the packaging doesn’t mention PFASs, or the language used isn’t clear, contact the manufacturer for advice.

In addition, do not cook in the kitchen when your bird is out, and ideally don’t put your bird’s cage in the kitchen while you’re cooking.

Bird Safe Cookware Brands

Any cookware brand that does not use PFASs (like Teflon, PFOA, or PTFE) is safe for birds. Some examples of bird-safe cookware brands include:

  • Greenlife/Thermolon
  • Hydro-Ceramic
  • Gotham Steel (Ti-Cerama)
  • Corningware
  • Orgreenic
  • Caraway
  • Le Creuset (ceramic-coated cast iron range only)
  • DeBuyer (carbon steel and stainless steel ranges only)
  • All-Clad (stainless steel range only)

Why is non-stick cookware not safe for parrots?

As mentioned above, non-stick pans are dangerous because they have a non-stick coating known as polytetrafluoroethylene (or PTFE – the well-known brand is Teflon) that is toxic when heated. As a result, it releases gas fumes that are not likely to kill a human but could kill a bird. 

Heat as low as 300°/500 F is enough to emit toxic fumes. It releases a colorless, odorless gaseous toxin and can kill birds within 24 hours…if not sooner. The fumes can affect birds even three rooms away.

Any frying pan or saucepan with a non-stick coating is potentially dangerous for parrots. The packaging doesn’t have to mention the word Teflon for it to pose a problem.

In her blog, Heartbroken tells about the dangers of Teflon poisoning

Similarly, besides the gas fumes, Teflon pans also release a flaky powder the more they get used. These flakes are bad for your health (cancerous) and as you can imagine, also bad for your birds.

On a research done by EWG, bird deaths have been documented during or immediately after the following normal cooking scenarios:

  • New Teflon-lined Amana oven was used to bake biscuits at 325°F; all the owner’s baby parrots died [3] [4].
  • Four stovetop burners, underlined with Teflon-coated drip pans, were preheated in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner; 14 birds died within 15 minutes [2] [5].
  • Nonstick cookie sheet was placed under oven broiler to catch the drippings; 107 chicks died [2].
  • Self-cleaning feature on the oven was used; a bird died [5].
  • Set of Teflon pans, including egg poaching pan, were attributed to seven bird deaths over seven years [6].
  • Water burned off a hot pan; more than 55 birds died [7].
  • Electric skillet at 300°F and space heater were used simultaneously; pet bird died [8].
  • Toaster oven with a non-stick coating was used to prepare food at a normal temperature; bird survived but suffered respiratory distress [9].
  • Water being heated for hot cocoa boiled off completely; pet bird died [10].
  • Grill plate on gas stove used to prepare food at normal temperatures; two birds died on two separate occasions [11].

Danger is not restricted to cookware

Other Household items that can have PTFE, PFOA

You need to be alert when purchasing products that contain the words: nonstick, PTFE, PFOA, and polytetrafluoroethylene. And that doesn’t apply only to cookware.

Do not rely on just a manufacturer or brand name. Here is a list of products that may contain it. Please read labels and look for the words nonstick, PTFE, PFOA, and Polytetraflouethylene.

Below there are some products that use Polytetraflouethylene, according to Animal Planet:

  • Popcorn popper air & oil types
  • Heat lamps
  • Portable heaters
  • Sole plates on irons
  • Ironing board covers
  • Burners on stove tops
  • Drip pans for burners
  • Broiler pans
  • Griddles
  • Many cooking utensils
  • Woks
  • Waffle makers
  • Electric skillets
  • Deep fryers, crock pots,
  • Hot air popcorn poppers
  • Coffee makers
  • Bread makers
  • Non-stick rolling pins
  • Lollipop molds
  • Corkscrews
  • Never-Stick-Stainless Steel
  • Stockpots
  • Roasters
  • Non-stick gingerbread molds
  • Pizza pans
  • Tortilla presses
  • Hair Straighteners
  • Microwave popcorn bags
  • Oven liners
  • Silicon bakeware*
  • *New Oven
  • *A stove, heated the first few times, might emit fumes from components treated with chemicals intended to inhibit rust and deterioration. A self-cleaning oven might also give off toxic fumes, perhaps from parts treated with nonstick coatings.

Emissions will often be stronger when appliances and cookware are new. As a preventable measure, it might be good to when moving into a new home, run the stove/oven at a high heat level for several hours in the days prior to moving, before you and the birds are in residence.

Never iron in the same room as your birds. Additionally, when you buy electrical appliances which use heat, check labels very carefully and if still in doubt, contact the manufacturer.

Household cleaners that can harm birds

The fumes don’t always need to be related to PFTE to affect your bird. These other household cleaners can also pose risk for your bird’s respiratory system.

  • Ammonia, bleach, disinfectants, and detergents (household cleaners)
  • Acetone (found in nail polish remover)
  • Alcohol
  • Perfumes, deodorants, body sprays, and fragranced lotions
  • Pesticides, insecticides, and bug repellent
  • Polish, paint, glue, wax, and paint thinner
  • Fuels (e.g. gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid)
  • Essential oils

Above all, avoid having your bird in the room while you’re spraying/using these items.

Symptoms of Teflon poisoning in Birds

The poisoning by PTFE toxicity happens really fast and oftentimes, owners don’t have enough time to bring the birds to a hospital. It causes severe respiratory distress. Some symptoms are:

  • Open-mouthed breathing
  • Tail bobbing
  • Raspy breathing
  • Birds dropping off their perches
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Sitting on the cage floor
  • Puffed feathers

Birds of all sizes and species are affected. Additionally, smaller birds will get affected faster because fewer fumes are needed.

In fact, PFTEs are so toxic that sometimes, birds won’t even have time to exhibit any symptoms, dying suddenly, or up to 24 hours later.

What to do if my bird has been poisoned by cookware

If there is a chance your bird was exposed to PFTE fumes, please take it to a vet as soon as possible. The bird might need oxygen immediately. You might also:

  • Remove the pot from the area
  • Open all windows to increase ventilation
  • Turn on fans

Specific related questions:

Is Calphalon safe for birds?

No, they’re not. Even though they are Teflon-free, they do have PTFE coating, which is bad for the birds.

Is Hydro-Ceramic safe for birds?

Yes, their pans are PFOA, PTFE, and lead-free.

Is Gotham Steel (Ti-Cerama) safe for birds?

Gotham Steel cookware is copper-colored but is neither made of copper nor with steel.

These pans are made of aluminum, titanium, and ceramic coating. They are PTFE and PFOA-free.

Is Greblon c3+ safe for birds?

No, they are not safe, as they release fumes from their PTFE coating.

Is Titanium Cookware Safe for Parrots?

The problem with titanium pans is that it does not have any natural non-stick properties. As a result, titanium pans are often coated with a non-stick substance such as Teflon or PTFE. This makes titanium cookware easier to use, but it also makes it dangerous for birds.

If you’re considering purchasing titanium cookware, check what it’s coated with (if anything). 

Is Silicon bakeware safe for birds?

There are mixed records. For instance, a number of people reported poisoning by non-stick properties of silicon-based bakeware, especially silicon mats. Others say that silicone is considered safe. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, before buying cookware, do your research to check it doesn’t have any potentially hazardous chemicals for you and for your bird.

Always avoid pots and pans that leach and chip easily. If your cookware looks like it has scratches, always get it replaced.