A type of metamorphic rock, made up primarily talc, chlorite, dolomite and magnesite, soapstone is a naturally occurring stone. Its durability, ability to retain heat and attractive appearance mean it is used for countertops, sinks, hearths, wood stoves and cookware. If you use soapstone cookware, be aware it has some dangers.
Because soapstone naturally conducts heat so well, it can retain heat for hours after being removed from the stove. Just like touching any other hot cookware, touching hot soapstone cookware can cause burns. Keep an eye on children, and warn guests about the potential for the soapstone pots and pans to still be hot.
Soapstone cookware can crack if it is exposed to a dramatic temperature change. It is not good for taking food from the freezer to the oven, for example. When cooking with soapstone cookware, preheat the pan gradually and cook using low heat. Do not expose the cookware to a direct flame, such as that from a gas stove, as this can cause cracking and breaking.
Soapstone cookware is significantly heavier than other types of cookware. Use extreme caution when carrying the pieces, as they will break easily if dropped and the pieces can cause cuts.
Some soapstone, primarily that from California, does contain naturally occurring asbestos, which are long, thin, separable fibers that run through the stone. If NOA breaks down and the microscopic fibers become airborne, they can cause health issues. You would have to breathe in a significant amount of these fibers over an extended period of time to experience any adverse effects. Because much of the soapstone for cookware comes from Brazil, it is unlikely to contain any asbestos. If you are concerned about asbestos in your soapstone, find out where it was quarried, and whether the manufacturer took precautions to remove asbestos from the rock.