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A comprehensive review of healthy cookware. Comparing the different types of cookware to help reduce toxins and increase health and safety while cooking.

By Greg Seaman Posted Jan 28, 2009

Futuro-5-piece-set There are potential risks in some cookware materials. Aluminum and Teflon-lined pots, pans and bakeware are safest when kept in good condition and used properly. Stainless steel, enameled or well-seasoned cast iron and porcelain cookware are best.

Stainless steel

Mixing steel with chromium and nickel (18/8 stainless steel is 18% chromium and 8% nickel while 18/10 has 10% nickel) produces a corrosion resistant steel that is both hard wearing and easy to clean. Stainless steel cookware is considered one of the best and safest choices in cookware.


Avoid using abrasive materials when cleaning stainless steel cookware – Stainless steel cookware can become a problem if an abrasive material is used frequently to clean it thereby releasing small amounts of chromium and nickel. Nickel is not poisonous in small quantities but it can cause an allergic reaction. People with nickel allergies should avoid cooking with stainless steel cookware.

Fagor America Cookware Where to buy safe, eco-friendly stainless steel cookware:
Few companies go above and beyond to provide highly energy efficient cookware while also championing environmental stewardship. We have found Fagor America to be a very progressive cookware company that offers very high quality healthy cookware. You can browse some of their best products here.


Plain aluminum cookware is low-cost, light-weight, and thermally responsive – but aluminum is reactive. Foods cooked in aluminum can react with the metal to form aluminum salts associated with impaired visual motor coordination and Alzheimer’s disease; however there is no definite link proven. More than half of all cookware sold today is made of aluminum.


  • Keep aluminum cookware on good condition – When cooking with aluminum pots, the more pitted and worn out the pot, the greater amount of aluminum will be absorbed.
  • Minimize food storage time in aluminum – The longer food is cooked or stored in aluminum, the greater the amount that gets into food.
  • Avoid cooking highly acidic foods in aluminum – Aluminum cookware manufacturers warn that storing highly acidic or salty foods such as tomato sauce, rhubarb, or sauerkraut in aluminum pots may cause more aluminum than usual to enter the food.

Anodized aluminum

Anondized aluminum has been treated to develop an aluminum oxide (extremely hard and non-reactive) coating on the surface of the cookware. Commercial Aluminum Company, the manufacturer of Calphalon, a best-selling brand of anodized aluminum cookware, claims that a final stage in the anodization process seals the aluminum, preventing any leaching into food. Anodized aluminum cookware doesn’t react to acidic foods, so these pots and pans are good choices for cooking rhubarb and sauces with tomato, wine, and lemon juice.

Copper with stainless steel lining

Copper exterior requires more care but imparts the utensil with copper’s excellent thermal properties. Stainless steel/copper cookware is considered among the best and safest choices in cookware.


Copper pans are often coated with another metal that prevents the copper from coming into contact with food. Small amounts of the coating can be dissolved by food, especially acidic food, when cooked or stored for long periods.


  • Not for people with nickel allergies – Nickel is one of the metals used in coating, so anyone allergic to nickel should avoid nickel-coated cookware.
  • Avoid abrasive materials when cleaning – Coated copper cookware can lose its protective layer if scoured.
  • Avoid uncoated copperware – Don’t use badly scratched or uncoated copper cookware to cook or store food.

Teflon and Silverstone

Non-stick finishes like Teflon and Silverstone scratch easily and may release little bits of inert plastic into the food when cooked, as well as toxic fumes over high heat. DuPont studies show that Teflon offgases toxic particulates at 446°F. At 680°F Teflon pans release at least six toxic gases, including two carcinogens. DuPont acknowledges that the fumes can sicken people, a condition called “polymer fume fever.”

A study by Environmental Working Group, in collaboration with Commonweal in 2005 found chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of US-born infants including the Teflon chemical PFOA Similarly, researchers at John Hopkins Hospital, who released findings in 2006, found PFOA the Teflon chemical, in umbilical cord blood in 99% of 300 newborns tested. The Canadian government is introducing legislation to ban PFOA. more info on teflon


  • Consider replacing your Teflon cookware
  • Do not overheat Teflon cookware – Nonstick coatings are a risk is if they are over-heated. This can happen if an empty pan is left on a burner. In this case, the fumes released can be irritating or hazardous. If you plan to continue using Teflon, only cook foods at low heat.
  • Keep pet birds away when cooking with Teflon – Households with pet birds should be aware that Teflon fumes pose a hazard to birds.

Cast iron

Plain cast-iron is thick and dense cookware for unparalleled heat capacity. The thickness also results in even heating; however, the thickness also requires more time (and energy) to heat up. Cooking with cast iron also provides a source of an important nutrient.

Some nutritionists suggest that foods cooked in unglazed cast iron contain twice or more the amount of iron they would contain otherwise. Cast-iron utensils, although considered very safe to use, should be handled differently from other utensils.


  • Keep cookware well-coated – To prevent rust damage, the inside of cast iron cookware should be coated frequently with unsalted cooking oil.
  • Use detergents sparingly – It should not be washed with strong detergents or scoured and should be wiped dry immediately after rinsing.

Ceramic, enameled and glass

Cookware made properly of enamel-coated iron and steel is safe to cook with, according to the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Because of the high firing temperatures required, lead which could present a safety concern is not used in the enamel for this cookware. Some older enamel cookware contained the potentially toxic substance cadmium, which was sometimes contained in the red, yellow and orange pigments used to color the interior of enamel cookware. Cadmium was used mostly by foreign manufacturers. But manufacturers have discontinued its use, and consumers today are not in danger of cadmium poisoning from enamelware marketed today.

Some countries do not have strict lead and cadmium limits. If you bring in glazed ceramic cookware from abroad, be aware that it may not meet permitted levels for lead and cadmium.

Crock-pots and terra cotta

Considered safe for cooking. However, lead has been used in some glazes for slow-cooking pots (crock-pots). But, in tests done in 1987, FDA found that the amount of lead that leached into food from these pots did not exceed FDA standards. As a general rule, terra cotta cookware without lead glaze is the best choice.

To ensure safety in using pottery dishes or cookware, ensure that there is a label that reads, “Safe for food use.” It is also best to avoid using pottery items such as pitchers or mugs from Mexico or Latin America due to the potential high levels of lead.


Using plastic containers and wrap for anything other than their original purpose can cause health problems. Don’t use plastic bowls or wrap in the microwave unless they are labelled as microwave safe. If you reuse items for storage, such as dairy product containers, let the food cool before storing, then refrigerate it immediately. Never heat or store food in plastic containers that were not intended for food.


Bamboo steamers and paddles as well as wooden spoons, utensils, chopsticks and crockery are non-reactive and considered to have no harmful effects on food during cooking or meal preparation. Bamboo steamers are also dishwasher safe. For food preparation, bamboo cutting boards are a sustainable alternative to traditional wooden cutting boards. Bamboo is an earth-friendly, renewable resource, and one of the fastest growing resources on earth. It is not a wood but a type of grass that needs no replanting. It grows rapidly without chemical fertilizers, and can be harvested in just 3-5 years.

Cooking and storing tips to reduce toxicity

  • Store your food in glass, not plastic
  • Do not use Styrofoam cups for drinking (especially hot drinks!)
  • When cooking, keep your kitchen well ventilated. Turn on your oven fan or open a window.
  • Plastic cookware handles that get too hot may emit toxic fumes. Choose cookware with handles that stay cool on the stovetop for a reasonable amount of time but are oven-safe (e.g. glass/ceramic or stainless steel tubular).
  • Never use scouring powders, scouring pads, or other abrasives on ‘microwave safe’ cookware.
  • Avoid eating leftover food that has been stored for more than one day.
Posted in Food and Health Tags , , , , ,
  • sara

    Thank you for the info. Questions:
    1) Are there any foods that can interact with iron cookware?

    2) What type of container is best for freezing? Is there a brand that can be recommended? Is plastic containers ok for freezing?

  • Dar Harris

    My church has aluminum pans in the kitchen that people are still using. These pans have to be 30 years or older. They are really pitted inside. I told a couple of people that I don't think these pans should be used. Am I assuming correctly that these pans need to be replaced with stainless steel?

  • Beth

    I'm wanting to buy a crock pot and am deciding between ceramic or stainless steel. I think I"m more comfortable with stainless stell but want it to be 100 percent stainless steel and having a tricky time figuring out how to judge that. Know any brands or how I can judge that? I"m chealting for mercury so want to make sure I don't pick up any more metals.

  • Michelle

    I recently bought a cast iron skillet to replace my old,pitted non-stick one, but now I am concerned that there might be lead or cadmium in the cast iron. It was made in China, which is of particular concern. Is there any way to test skillets for this?

    Is there any place to get cast iron that is free of toxic metals?

  • jas

    krups bought from macys. all stainless inside as well. org 100 got it on sale for 60

  • Stacie

    Do you know if this GreenPan cookware with a nonstick surface is truly safe? I thought all “non stick” pans were bad for you?

    • cjc

      Its made with glass high-fired ceramic, so yes, it i safe.

  • Connie Immordino


    I have found cookware make in Italy by Monetta. It has a ceramic lining which does not release toxins.


  • Cathy

    I have been using gold non-stick cookie sheets from William Sonoma as well as an All Clad Crock Pot/Slow Cooker which has a type of non-stick interior. Both were rather expensive, especially the Slow Cooker. Any thoughts on these products? Also, what is your opinion on electric tea kettles.

  • carl held

    I purchased a Presto Electric Griddle, with a "premium non-stick surface" over a thick cast aluminum base. It is has a slightly mottled surface (the opposite of pitted), is dark, and DOES NOT have shiny particles I tend to see on other non-stick surfaces, which make me paranoid that that I'm seeing aluminum particles. Does anyone know what this non-stick surface is? And if it's fairly safe to fry pancakes (recommended heat 350- 400 degrees).

  • Carol Chiveral

    I am wondering about the steel plated bundt pans, and pizza pans,etc. if they are dangerous to use. I make sure they are steel, with a magnet, but they are coated with something, but they are easy to clean.

  • Lou Arevalo

    Just bought this set today and a friend later told me about your site. Are they okay?

    Bialetti – made in Italy; Aluminum nonstick; Hi-base system; Heavy gauge aluminum; Duratek non-stick interior; resists 100,000 abrasions (with metal spatula); NSF compliant.

    First new set of pots/pans I’ve bought in over 20 years so would like to get something safe. Replacing old set of Revereware stainless steel, copper bottoms.

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    • Armin Rana Ray

      Hi Greg,
      I have a recently bought a non stick cast Aluminium Pan and I'd like to know if non stick Aluminium (not annodised) is the same as Teflon or has teflon in it ?

      Is Cast Aluminium , non stick as dangerous as Teflon ?
      Thank You,
      Armin Ray

  • Nia

    Is Steel Cookware okay? I have a traditional Indian Tawa made of steel that I use often. Also, is enameled steel (steel and enamel combined-not enamel on steel) safe. They usually come in different colors and spoted. I have a few pots like this too. Thank you for your reply if you get around to it- Thank you for this article. Cheers!

  • Armin Rana Ray

    I have a recently bought a non stick cast Aluminium Pan and I'd like to know if non stick Aluminium (not annodised) is the same as Teflon or has teflon in it ?

    Is Cast Aluminium , non stick as dangerous as Teflon ?
    Thank You,
    Armin Ray

  • Florence

    I wish to purchase SAFE non-stick cookware. Can you give me brands and stores where I may be able to purchase it?

  • Kathi

    I recently discovered that I have significantly high levels of aluminum in my body. My doctor more than recommended I purchase stainless steel cookware (without any aluminum!) Can you recommend a brand that would satisfy this need? Thanks.

    • Liisa

      The absolute best cookware is cast iron, of which Le Creuset is the highest quality. The only downsides are it's heavy and expensive, but you can buy a piece at a time.

      Also make sure you do not use antiperspirant, which also contains aluminum.

  • Thanks for the good information about cookware safety. It is worrisome to not know the facts about the safety of aluminum cookware. It would be nice if a definitive study was conducted so that consumers could either feel confident in using it or could decide not to use it. I personally use vintage Guardian Service Ware that is about 60 years old. Since it is easy to find pieces in good, or even mint condition, I don’t use pieces that are pitted or that I am unsure of.


    • lmp

      I have a nickel allergy, so which is best for me? Cast Iron?

  • Peter Morford

    I live in Thailand and am single so tend to eat out a lot as I don't like cooking. I have no control over what the restaurants do with their food and haven't been sick from food for a long long time so maybe some of the bugs have made my stomach stronger!

    • Liisa

      While I don't know how restaurants cook their food in Thailand, here in the US you need to worry less about the "bugs" and more about the fact that many use Teflon cookware and microwave in plastic containers.

  • Christine M

    anybody know where i can get a terra cotta crock pot since there is lead in crock pots???

    • marcia

      no, but I'm looking for one also, so please let me know should you find one.

      • Greg Seaman

        A dutch oven can stand in well for a crock pot. Yo can can use it on the stovetop on hot days when you don't want to heat up the kitchen for stews, potroast, corned beef, as well as in the oven. In the oven you can leave it and walk away for hours, as you might for the crockpot. Dutch Ovens can be also used for casseroles for large groups or pot luck suppers.
        We stock a beautiful enamel on cast iron dutch oven that is a workhorse for any kitchen:

  • Daniel

    I have ALL heavy and light stainless steel cookware brands is Townecraft, Farberware, West Bend, Ekco Flint, All black teflon cookware brands is T-FAL, Calphalon, one Circulon, Farberware, some heavy cast iron cookware brands is Lodge and Le Creuset and few Enameled on steel cookware brands is Moneta (made in italy), All are still good in condition and not bad because I always very good careful cook used/care and never put them in dishwasher machine, I wash them with my hands, I know that old aluminum cookware, I seen the water is little bit turned little grey in pots when boil water for spaghetti and also aluminum went through in tomato sauce in pots at my friend's house, I help them for kind of metal cookware is good or bad.
    I used clay or glass plates, bowls and Pyrex in microwave is better than plastic bowls is bad heat plastic into foods in microwave, Sadly happened to my friend.

  • Daniel

    I have ALL heavy and light stainless steel cookware brands is Townecraft, Farberware, West Bend, Ekco Flint, All black teflon cookware brands is T-FAL, Calphalon, one Circulon, Farberware, some heavy cast iron cookware brands is Lodge and Le Creuset and few Enameled on steel cookware brands is Moneta (made in italy), All are still good in condition and not bad because I always very good careful cook used/care and never put them in dishwasher machine, I wash them with my hands, I know that old aluminum cookware, I seen the water is little bit turned little grey in pots when boil water for spaghetti and also aluminum went through in tomato sauce in pots at my friend's house, I help them for kind of metal cookware is good or bad.

  • Stephanie

    I am looking for a new cookware set and I am interested in going enamel for health reasons.
    What are some high-quality enamel cookware options to choose from. I have heard of Le Creuset and Chantal. The reviews on amazon are not as great for Chantal as Le Creuset. Have you heard good reviews of Lodge or Moneta cookware. Do you know other reputable brands to consider?

    Thank you!

    • Sarah

      Most enamel cookware is prohibitively expensive, but Costco just started carrying a large dutch oven (Kirkland brand) that i've been using for several weeks now. It costs about $50.00 and works as well as anything else I've tried. Plus, you always have Costco's awesome return policy if you aren't satisfied. I have been pretty happy with most of the Kirkland brand items that I've gotten at Costco.

  • Mickeyy Mouuse

    probably not, sounds like mold exposure to me….got water damage

  • Cole D.

    I have found the best way is to use regular SS (no non-stick). When cooking pre-heat pan for a minute or so, add a couple of drops of water, until the water beads on the surface. Your then ready to add the oil and cook. This process creates a non-stick surface. I even make omelets with virtually no sticking. Happy cooking!!!!

  • sara

    I am also interested in your comments related to the safety of aluminized steel used in bakeware.

  • Lisa

    I just looked and Saladmaster is not pure titanium, it's titanium bonded to stainless steel which has 10% nickel! We're looking to avoid nickel as it is a carcinogen!

  • lucretia lowe

    I have club aluminum ware that I have ben using for over 60 years. I,ve been having stomach problems since Sept 2009 and I<M wondering could I have too much aluminum in my system?

    • Greg Seaman

      I suggest you switch to cast iron or stainless. Never too late to try something new…….

  • vanfortich

    Food doesn't stick to non-stick pans while cooking and you can cook foods with less fat than you would need to use with uncoated cookware.For as long as you don't heat the pan to extremely high heat that damages it's coating, it's safe and not bad for you.

  • Suzi

    Just curious if anyone has heard anything about Xtrema by Ceramcor ceramic cookware. The claim is 100% Healthy & 100% Green. Love the idea of that but, of course, way too nervous with all the "claims" out there to take it 100% seriously. Would love any input anyone may have on this cookware as it is on the top of my list at the moment. Would LOVE to go Saladmaster but the funds are just not going to work out that way. This Xtrema brand is more in our ballpark and all I've been able to find on it looks good but there's just not much out there about it yet. Thanks ahead for any input, totally appreciate it.

    • Meg

      I have one small Xtrema saucepan and I LOVE it. It's made like the inside of a crock pot so it heats quickly, retains heat well, and cleans easily. Unless there's something terrible in the glaze I don't think it could be more harmful than regular glass. It's always either in use or in the dishwasher. 🙂

  • Merrie

    We have always used cast iron cookware and have had good results. But as I get older, the cast iron skillets are getting too heavy to handle easily. I think people should take this into consideration when buying cookware. Today I'm looking at the stainless line of cookware, such as the Fagor line I see you selling.
    Good article, thank you!

  • Leah

    Cast iron and surgical steel pots and pans are the best. Have had a Le Creuset pan for years – it is a little heavy and is a little rusty on the lid, but I still use it. I threw out my cast non stick coating pans years ago (they were only a couple of months old – my husband was a little upset because they were a Christmas present ) I love non stick cooking though….am trying to do some research on the water based non stick pans.

  • markuspaul

    I don’t think we can assume that Teflon is the cause of people dying from cancer. Cancer was around before Teflon existed and will be around once Teflon is no longer available. Nothing has ever really been proven either way as yet.I know that I won’t throw out my Teflon just like I won’t stop eating fish since some studies have shown that it can cause cancer and I won’t stop eating eggs because some studies say that it can cause high cholesterol and I won’t stop using antiperspirants with aluminum because some studies have said it can cause alzheimers.

  • bill

    Expectant mothers? A “must read”! Objective advice. Upgrade my camping kitchen (mostly old aluminum) is my motivation for this search. I think bamboo & anodized aluminum (maintain minimum weight). I have some great cast iron (not minimum weight..Ha ha). For utensils, wood is safe & light weight. This is useful information on all cooking & food storing materials & practices.

  • nessa

    it’s easy to ignore all the hidden dangers of non stick, aluminum, glass and cast iron. just because you don’t see any major difference in your health now doesn’t mean you never will. it’s something that happens gradually. no you will not die by using non stick pans but the fume you inhale from the nonstick when it’s heated can make you very ill, it’s symptoms are flu like.headache, fever, dizziness, fatigue ,… of course you never even consider that you feel this way due to the fume you have inhaled but instead you say i got the flu. this fume is so toxic that it can kill a small bird even a parrot from 10 feet away, because they have a very small lung’s also very dangerous for woman who are pregnant. as for glass cookwares that we bake things like lasagna in, it contains led. the glass releases a gas when heated that has led. these days you can’t even find a gas station that sells leaded gas, it’s all unleaded.(think about it) as far as aluminum goes, it’s the cheapest and softest metal you can find. when heated it leaches metal in your food, ever tried making tomatoes in an aluminum pan and tasting it with no salt and pepper? you won’t be able to even swallow it because the metal taste is so’s like biting on a piece of aluminum when you have fillers in your teeth. the best and the only safest type of metal you can use that is not only harmless but also helps keep the nutrients and minerals in your food intact is cookwares made from 316Ti surgical stainless steel with titanium. same kind of metal that is used in hospitals and surgeries that is safe to have contact with human flesh. so think about what you’re cooking your food in, what your putting in your body, how you’re little by little damaging you and your families health specially young children.

  • Aside from trying to avoid scratching the finish off my teflon and nonstick pans, I've never given this sort of thing much thought. It was just a part of daily life that I never much questioned. I'm sure I do much unhealthier things for my body on a daily basis than the chemicals or fumes consumed by what I cook my food in. I guess every little bit matters though.

  • jessica

    what about baking sheets? I was just getting ready to purchase some heavy duty 1/2 sheet pans, but realized1 they are aluminum, then I realized I use Aluminum Foil all the time! Is the foil and issue too?

    • Elaina

      Yes, aluminum foil is absolutely just as harmful and leaches aluminum into the food.

    • Stanley Kumar

      I would stand by pure clay cookware. I got mine from mecware.US. Its un-glazed and made of 100% natural clay sourced and hand crafted in US. Most importantly its metal and chemical free and holds all the nutrients in the food and cooks evenly. I love them.

  • Deb

    I am looking for a healthy way of cooking, I have been going back and forth about Fagor Michelle B. cast iron fryer (heavy) and the Fagor Michelle B. cast iron lite. I have been on your "browse best products" and seen the heavy cast iron pan but not the Lite. Is there a better choice?

    • Greg Seaman

      We chose to offer the Michelle B line of enameled cast iron cookware from Fagor because of the combination of quality and price. As you probably know, cast iron cookware can be very expensive.
      The Lite offers comparable value, and we may carry this soon.

  • Ashley

    Just bought some Green Pans, and wondering how safe they really are. They seem much safer and non toxic than Teflon. They also make cooking a BREEZE!! Hoping they are as people friendly as they seem. Does anyone have any real facts on this brand? Thanks

  • Yavioz

    Can anybody help me, I would like to know whether I can use hard anodize or cast aluminium on ceramic hob? will it damage the hob?


  • Sharon

    I need a non-stick frying pan for eggs. is the enameled porcelain frypan safe for frying with no leaks from pot the materials?

  • bantymom

    I am here because I can’t use iron pans (hemochromatosis) and am looking for alternatives to Silverstone. I was a little dismayed that a warning for people with hemochromatosis wasn’t associated with the iron pans. I know I have it so I know I can’t use iron. I would think the same for people with nickel allergies. So, since you add the warning about nickel, I think you should consider adding the warning about the danger to people with hemochromatosis for the iron pans, instead of just the vague “Some nutritionists suggest that foods cooked in unglazed cast iron contain twice or more the amount of iron they would contain otherwise.” For us, it doesn’t matter if it is twice or just a little bit more. Thanks

  • christine

    I have a questiion. I found a cast iron pan from thailand at a thrift store, it looks like rust under the seasoned part but i can’t get it off. Could this be a fake cast iron pan and is it safe coming from thailand?

  • Jeremy

    In South Africa
    a guy made a braai (BBQ) out of aluminum. Although this article is about pots I
    can but wonder what is happening to the aluminum when it is subjected to the
    heat from food/charcoal. There are different colors you can choose from and
    from what I gather the ones that are colored are anodized. Who can comment if
    this could cause health concerns

    It is called scambi braai.

  • Biene

    I would recommend Stovetop Corningware. Apparently CW stopped manufacturing in the US some years ago, but recently they re-introduced the stovetop brand, which is what your grandma’s old CW pans are made off. Apparently, the stuff is indestructible and as far as I know, safe when cooking. They have limited things,…I have a couple of sauce pans and casserole pans.

  • TJ C

    Hi, is “clay or ceramic cookware” same as terra cotta cookware?

    • Terra-cotta is a clay-based and unglazed.
      Ceramic cookware is glazed.

  • The different topics in this article about the different types of cookware and what best to use is very helpful. And I was able to learn something new about the avoidance of stainless steel cookware if there is a nickel allergy. I will be sure to keep these in mind when I do reviews of my own.

  • Nancee

    I just bought a indoor grill with die cast aluminum and it has a non stick cooking surface, I cannot find out what that non stick surface is made of. I own a bird and I am afraid to use it . Does any one know what the non stick is on aluminum?

  • James Vesterfelt

    Fluoride in the water reacts with the aluminum to infuse your food with massive amounts of aluminum and fluoride and is the cause of the huge and horrible alzheimers epidemic.

  • wellness cook

    I agree with Mechef, I’ve tried many of the conventional cookware, none of them can do what MEC (Miriams earthen cookware) does. It locks the nutrients and does not leach anything into the food. From the most expensive titanium to the lesser ceramic and aluminum all leach metals and chemicals into your food and destroy the nutrients in the food. Only pure-clay cookware–the original pots and pans used for thousands of years can cook your food in the best way.

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