Stainless Steel Cookware
We really appreciate your concern about the cookware you are going to say ‘welcome home!’ Yes, it’s quite important to know the ins and outs (e.g materials, types, pros, and cons) of a kitchen utensil before buying it.
So, if you are here to know the answer to ‘is stainless steel cookware safe?’ this question, you will leave this page knowing every detailed information concerning the topic. Also, there are some questions (with answers) that you might have in your mind even after reading this article, so yes, we’ve covered all of it!
Let’s get started!
Basic Know-What of Stainless Steel
If you are asked what stainless steel is and you are to answer it out of nowhere, you may think that it is nothing but an element like aluminum, carbon, and oxygen. However, it is something else.
Just think about the name first, stainless steel- the name came from a fact that it doesn’t rust, tarnish, or stain like steel.
Steel is a mixture of carbon and iron whereas there is 1.7% of carbon in the combination. Steel is way stronger than a plain iron, however, steel can corrode and rust. And, for making it rust and corrosion-resistant and convert it into stainless steel, producers mix chromium with many other elements and form stainless steel.
There is 10.5% chromium (by weight) in the alloy of steel. There is iron in the stainless steel that is responsible for the rust stuff. And, chromium combines with oxygen and creates a layer of chromium oxide that works to prevent oxidation. The more the chromium content in your stainless steel, the more corrosion resistant it will be.
Stainless steel should come with a minimum of 16% chromium by weight.
Here is a summary that will make it easier to understand what steel is and what stainless steel is:
Steel = Carbon (small amount) + Iron (mostly)
Stainless Steel = Steel + at least 10.5% of chromium + Nickel, Nitrogen, Molybdenum, Titanium, and other optional elements.
Types of Food Graded Stainless Steel
There are several steel grades that are proved safe for preparing food.
It’s the cheapest type of stainless steel. Producers use nickel instead of manganese so that they can reduce the cost. Therefore, they end up having a noteworthy cheap stainless steel. Although this series is safe considering food grade, the quality of this stainless steel is not as high as the other series.
You are going to know about the two different kinds of 300 series that are safe in case of food preparation.
This one is the most common grade of stainless steel when it’s about cookware. It contains more nickel and chromium content which makes it more shiny. And, it’s a non-magnetic material.
304 series is more corrosion and rust-resistant. But yes, stainless steel of the 304 series may rust when it’s exposed to salt.
You may find 18/10 and 18/8- these types of numberings as food grades. And, yes, 304 SS is often described as those grades. 18/10 refers to the amount of chromium (in percentage) whereas 18/8 indicates the amount of nickel (in percentage).
So, when you have a stainless steel of 18/, there is an 18% chromium and 10% nickel in the alloy. Similarly, in an 18/8 stainless steel, there is an 18% of chromium as well as an 8% of nickel.
And, here you go with the excellent, corrosion-resistant steel- the 316 high-end SS. It’s even known as marine stainless steel because it can resist corrosion even when it’s exposed to salt, and it’s used for marine applications. Also, this 316 stainless steel has a lot of medical uses, for this, another name of this is surgical stainless steel.
If you ask which element makes the 316 series too much durable, well, it’s the additional molybdenum. There is 2% molybdenum, 10-14% nickel, and 16-18% chromium in 316 SS. However, it’s an expensive type of cookware.
It’s a nickel-free as well as a magnetic grade of stainless steel. 18/0 is another term of 430 SS which means there is 18% of chromium and you might guess, yes, 0% nickel in it.
Yes, it’s legal to call 430 SS nickel-free, it’s better to mention that there is still a little amount of nickel (0.75%) that is negligible. And, since there is an absence of nickel, you will find 430 is more corrosion-resistant.
Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?
Yes, it is safe, however, there’s a BUT. Because you should explore some things before you safely purchase and use stainless steel cookware. If you already think that it sounds disappointing, well, get to know more, you won’t regret it!
The most important thing is, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) declared stainless steel is safe for food contact if it contains a minimum of 16% chromium.
However, there are some issues related to stainless steel cookware and you should know them cause they’re a part of the answer to this question- ‘is stainless steel cookware safe?’.
When it’s about consuming chromium, well, the human body needs a small amount of chromium actually. For adults, the recommended daily intake of chromium is 50-200 mcg.
But the problem arises because we already consume chromium from our daily foods such as poultry products, beef, potatoes, broccoli, apples, and dairy product. What it means that if our cookware also leaches chromium into the food, we may get excessive chromium which is not desired.
A study in 2013 shows that stainless steel cookware leaches nickel and chromium while cooking.
Unfortunately, nickel leaching is a more serious problem than chromium leaching. The human body only needs a trace amount of nickel, and we get most of that from grains, chocolate, nuts, and foods like these. Also, coffee machines, crockpots, and some other kitchen appliances also are the sources of nickel.
The research in 2013 (we talked about it earlier) states that there is a significant amount of nickel, iron, and chromium in stainless steel cookware. Although the human body needs 15-35 mcg of nickel per day, from the numerous sources of nickel around us, we consume more than what need.
And, if you get in touch with a noteworthy high level of nickel every day, you may face lung disorders, allergies, eczema, and even cancer.
However, if you can make sure that you consume chromium and nickel in moderation, you are more than safe, no worries.
Why to Use Stainless Steel Cookware
If you think what are the obvious reasons for you to use stainless steel cookware, here you go with a really long list of pros!
- Stainless steel is durable. If you scrub it, scratch it, bang it, you will find it still working. It’s way harder than copper and aluminum as well as comes with a higher melting point. And, these features make stainless steel the most durable one.
- It comes with a good visual appearance. I, personally, love the polished, shiny stainless steel set.
- It’s ideal for searing because it can withstand higher heat.
- Stainless steel is pretty easy to use and maintain because it doesn’t require any special care.
- It’s non-reactive. If you cook acidic foods with pure copper or aluminum cookware, there will be an unpleasant reaction between them which is not supposed to happen when you use stainless steel cookware.
- Stainless steel cookware is versatile. It’s ideal for braising, steaming, frying, stewing, poaching, and boiling your foods, just about anything basically.
- It totally worths the pricing. You will find it affordable and also the features will prove that it worths the pricing.
- You can combine it with a copper or aluminum core. It’s a great way to have the non-reactive advantages and durability of stainless steel, as well as the other materials’ conductivity.
How to Minimize Stainless Steel Reactivity
So, you may start overthinking that “what! Stainless steel will contaminate my food with nickel and chromium!”, listen, it doesn’t mean that you have to stay away from them. If you are not notably sensitive to those metals, you should embrace the most use of stainless steel cookware.
- Are you looking for stainless steel cookware that contains less nickel? If yes, you can go through the magnet test. All what it is about- examine whether a magnet sticks to the inside, bottom, and sides of your stainless steel cookware. If you find the cookware magnetic, then it is free of nickel.
- Stainless steel cookware often comes with aluminum layers that may lead to leach the aluminum. So, you should be very careful so that the surface doesn’t get damaged. In case, it’s damaged, make sure you recycle it.
- Purchase cookware grades like 18/0 or 18/8 to reduce the chances of nickel leaching cause those two grades contain a lower amount of nickel. Generally, you may find it better to use 400 series SS, however, 300 series SS is also okay. But you should not go for 200 series SS.
- You should not cook acidic items or slow-cooking ones with stainless steel cookware, it would be an actionable step to prevent leaching.
- Once you are done cooking, make sure you remove the food from your cookware as soon as possible.
- Stay away from steel wool, scouring pads, and abrasive detergents for cleaning purposes. If you find remaining food stuck on your cookware, you should soak the pan in water for some time and let the residue soften naturally. However, gently scrubbing it using some baking soda and a soft sponge is okay.
Things to Consider Before Buying
Keep these things in mind before you are in the market to purchase a quality stainless steel set.
We talked a lot about it earlier. Now, you may have a clear idea about the grades of stainless steel cookware. So, you should go for 18/10 or 18/8 grades since these are the best options, you already know why.
The Weight of The Cookware
We are not diving into too deep like what would be the right thickness, but you should feel a certain heftiness of a cookware once you lift it. If you find it too heavy, this means, there are more materials in the cookware, meaning it will be costly.
The Core’s Material
Stainless steel doesn’t work great when it comes to conducting heat. You should go for a set that comes with a core of copper or aluminum because they assure the durability of your cookware.
If your cookware has an aluminum core, well, this core needs to become 3 times thicker than a copper core for getting a similar heat distribution. Therefore, if the weight is your concern to set your mind for the quality of your cookware, you should compare the same types of cookware (e.g aluminum core-aluminum core, copper core-copper core).
Frequently Asked Questions
Now, you tell us, is stainless steel cookware safe (chuckle)? Hope that you have enjoyed the tale about stainless steel. We tried not to skip anything important regarding the topic.
If you can purchase the right cookware for you and then use, clean, and maintain it in the right way, you will have a long journey with your cookware, no doubt. So, try your best not to mess up!