Photo: Chef’s Mark
These are the times when people are more than cautious and informed about the safe cookware, free of any and all kind of toxins.
In this race, stainless steel is a controversial cookware because there are numerous details to each of its series that allow what and what not to cook in them.
Plus, their level of oxidization also depends on the series you invest into and how much you are willing to spend. Before going any further, let’s dig deep into what this material is:
What Is Stainless steel Cookware?
Stainless steel is basically an alloy steel consisting a minimum of 10.5% chromium. The material is corrosion resistant by nature. However, this will also depend on the grade of stainless steel.
It is a safe material in use as far as you are well-informed about the kind of food that can be cooked in it. The nickel-free stainless steel is the safest one, but it is more susceptible to corrosion.
You can learn more on best stainless steel cookware before making a purchase.
Type of Food-grade Stainless Steel
While there is immense variety in food-grade stainless steel, here are some of the prime ones that are most considered while purchasing a cookware.
1. 200 Series
While 200-series is considered as food grade, it is not the best one to buy. Its composition is of chromium, nickel, and manganese alloys.
It is not considered even the authentic stainless steel in cookware. When manufacturers have to make cheap replicas of the cookware, their go-to material is 200 Series stainless steel.
The nickel proportion is basically lowered and manganese content is increased. This makes the cookware more prone to corrosion.
2. 300 Series
Basically, for food preparation, there are two types in 300 Series that are considered for manufacturing the cookware.
304 Stainless Steel
When it is about stainless steel cookware, the 304 SS is rather common and more dependable. It is classic 18/8 stainless steel which means there is 18% chromium and 8% nickel in the composition.
It is non-magnetic material and very shiny because of the composition. Plus, it has better capability to resist rusting and corrosion, except that it reacts to salt.
You can see the flatware grading system in this category to feature 18/10 composition. In this, the chromium content remains the same as 18% while the nickel increases to 10%. The difference between the both is unnoticeable given that there is only a meagre difference of 2% in both the compositions.
Outside the U.S. the 300 Series is also referred to as A2 stainless steel. Plus, it has a Japanese equivalent of SUS304 steel. If you see any of these two labels on the cookware then you should recognize them as 300 Series cookware only.
316 Stainless Steel
The other type in food grade stainless steel is 316 SS. The steel has excellent quality to stand out against corrosion and rusting.
It is referred to as marine stainless steel as it resists corrosion caused by salt and is used in marine applications. Plus, it is used for medical purposes as well, declaring itself to be known as surgical stainless steel.
The durability of this type is because of the additional molybdenum. The composition of 316 SS is 16 – 18% chromium, 10 – 14% nickel, and 2% molybdenum.
Surely, it is one of the expensive types of steel, so you will have to spend a bit extra to afford. Plus, not all manufacturers pick this steel type of construction of the cookware.
3. 400 Series
In 400 Series, the rapidly adapted sub-category is of 430 stainless steel. It is magnetic and completely nickel-free grade and thus referred to as 18/0 proportion. This means that there is 18% content of chromium and 0% nickel.
While it is official called nickel-free, it does have a negligible amount of it ranging to 0.75% nickel. If any flatware that does not have nickel at all will be at high risk of corrosion. Plus, it will lose its lustre within days.
While stainless steel with no nickel could make the best deal, but you can still go with 300-series cookware as they are more vividly available and makes suitable choices.
Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?
Well, the answer to the question will be yes, but there are some concerns that you should know about. The cooking material of this cookware is rather safe than aluminum or copper which can be more harmful in releasing toxins in your food.
The first thing that might concern a buyer is about corrosion and rusting. You should know that unlike steel, stainless steel does not readily corrode due to water exposure or other elements.
At the same time, it is not completely rust-resistant, especially in cases like low-oxygen, high salinity, and poor air circulation environments.
The next big thing of worry is leaching. While stainless steel is less prone to leaching, but it is not completely non-reactive. When food is cooked on high heat, both the components chromium and nickel leach different.
Therefore, there are two types of leaching concerns with stainless steel material that we will understand individually:
Chromium also have the tendency to leach. The recommended intake of chromium on daily basis is up to 30 mcg for adults. This establishes that our body actually needs a very small dose of chromium in a day.
The chromium needed by the body is fulfilled by food products like broccoli, potatoes, poultry, dairy products, apples, beef, etc. This means, we don’t actually need an extra dose from the stainless steel utensils used in the cooking process.
But unfortunately, chromium leaching is very common with these utensils. Therefore, you should be cautious while cooking in order to prevent this condition.
Nickel leaching is considered to be more toxic than chromium leaching. It has also been mentioned in the Substance Priority List of the ASTDR (Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry).
There is a minimum requirement of nickel in the human body that is already fulfilled by things like nuts, grains, and chocolates. Also, the kitchen appliances like coffee machine and crockpots use some part of stainless steel which makes sure to release some nickel in our food.
With overconsumption of nickel, one can develop various diseases and illnesses like cancer, lung disorder, eczema, allergies, etc.
Since there is a possibility that mishandling of stainless steel material while cooking can lead to all these serious health concerns, you are recommended to be very careful with this cookware.
In all of this, we recommend you to not worry about the cost and try to buy stainless steel cookware with 0% nickel as it is more detrimental to one’s health.
Ways to Minimize Risk of Leaching While in Use
There are some ways in which you can minimize the risk of leaching. Let’s take a look at the tips.
Don’t Overheat: The main purpose of leaching in stainless steel cookware is overheating. When it is exposed to high temperature the chromium and nickel content in the cookware start to leach. So, it is important to make sure to cook on medium/high heat with this cookware variety.
Limit Cookware’s Exposure to Acidic Food: Acidic food can become a cause of corrosion of stainless steel. Make sure you do not cook or store such food products in them.
Use Appropriate Utensils and Cleaners: Just like other utensils, it is important that you don’t harshly scrub stainless steel cookware as well.
In order to conduct heat throughout the pan, there is an inner layer of aluminum or copper in these pans. If you scrub the utensil too hard, there is a fine chance of you scrubbing the topmost layer, giving more exposure to the inner layers.
It can become an immediate cause of leaching. You should wash the cookware with mild cleaners and use lighter hand motion on it with less force.
Check for Food-Grade Raking: If you have followed this post from the beginning then you should know, 400 Series Stainless Steel is considered as the safest as it comes in 18/0 proportion of chromium and nickel.
Make sure you pick this proportion so that there is no nickel to leach and cause serious health problems. As far as chromium leaching is concerned, 18% of its content is considered as less harmful than anything more than this proportion.
Most Recommended Products
From Duxtop, this is a complete 17-piece range of stainless steel cookware constructed with 18/10 commercial grade stainless steel. There is heavy-gauge impact bonded aluminum encapsulated bottom for perfect heat conduction.
This one is relatively safer and can be used on all sorts of cooking surfaces including gas, infrared, induction stove, or ceramic cooktop.
The handles of all the pans are ergonomically shaped for anti-slipping and rivetted to offer firmness and durability. The set is dishwasher safe and safe to be used in oven as well. While there is limited-period warranty, it could be been better for more dependability.
- Comes in a pack of 17 tools
- Suitable for all cooktops
- Ergonomic handles
- Dishwasher safe
- Comes with limited warranty
Photo: Cook N Home
This is one of the most affordable stainless steel cookware sets you can find online. However, with the low cost, there has been no compromise with quality.
You get 10-pieces in this pack including 1-quartz and 2-quartz saucepans, a 3-quartz casserole pan, a 5-quartz stockpot, and a 10-inch frying pan with lids.
All the components are made with 18/10 stainless steel and aluminum disc layer on the bottom to evenly distribute heat throughout the cookware.
To keep it easy on cleaning, there is mirror polish inside and out. Plus, the handles are also very firm and durable with rivetted construction. It is compatible with gas, ceramic, electric, halogen cooktop. However, it is not compatible with oven. Plus, there is no warranty with this product.
- Very affordable product
- Even distribution of heat
- Multiple components in a pack
- Not oven safe
- No warranty
This model is available in a pack of 5 components including a 10-inch frying pan, a 3-quartz sauce pan with lid and a 3-quartz saute pan with lid.
It has 5-ply bonded 18/10 stainless steel construction with an alternative layer of stainless steel and aluminum to make sure that heat is conducted perfectly throughout the cooking base. Plus, the construction makes it one of the most durable products on the market.
This is a premium product with high-polished surface and starburst finish for superior stick-resistance. This way, you will be able to maintain the product easily.
Interestingly, this product is induction-safe and oven-safe as well with heating tendency of up to 600-degrees F. Plus, you get a limited-lifetime warranty. One thing that could concern buyers is the high cost of the product.
- Premium quality of the cookware
- Easy to clean
- Comes with warranty
- Very expensive
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are Stainless Steel Cookware Compatible With Induction Cooktop?
Not all stainless steel cookware is induction-safe. The steel in 18/4 and 18/10 grades are compatible with the induction cooktops. Plus, they should have magnetic rings on the bottom.
2. Can Stainless Steel Cookware Rust?
Yes, especially the 200 Series stainless steel is very prone to rusting. However, they can take a long time before rusting as there is no carbon in these materials. Stainless steel is better than many metals as far as rusting is concerned.
3. How Can I Avoid Corrosion?
The easiest way to prevent corrosion is by keeping the cookware dry all the time when not in use. Also, acidic food can become an instant cause of corrosion. Make sure you never store acidic food in stainless steel pots and pans.
4. Is Stainless Steel Cookware Non-Stick?
Stainless steel is not naturally non-stick. However, you can season it before every cooking session and try out all kind of meal-making with the cookware.
5. Do I Need to Season Stainless Steel Cookware?
Stainless steel does not have natural properties of being non-stick or naturally seasoned. Therefore, you don’t have to season it bi-yearly unlike ceramic or other cookware.
However, before every cooking, you should season it with oil and make the meals.
6. What Food Should I Avoid Cooking For Safety?
Stainless steel is not very compatible with acidic food. Therefore, you should make sure to not expose it to tango meals like tomatoes, syrups, sauces, etc. This will hamper the life of the cookware and promote corrosion.
The nutshell is that stainless steel cookware is safe, but it is to be used with caution. While there are all kinds of varieties of this material as well, make sure to pick one that has minimum nickel content. Other than that, this is a great material for everyday cooking.
- What is the healthiest type of cookware? – The World’s Healthiest Foods
- Metals in Foodservice – KaTom
- SAE steel grades – Wikipedia