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Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe To Use? Is It Still The Best Option?

Kitchen Accessories

is stainless steel cookware safe to use

Before answering the question: is stainless steel cookware safe to use, we should take a look at the type of steel used to make the cookware. 

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According to whfoods.org, pans made with stainless steel are safe, although some consideration is needed. Let's see why.

The market offers a range of cookware products enough to overwhelm a buyer. Different customers have a different preference based on criteria that include price, durability, material, and more. Some, however, base their decision on safety. 

Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?

Stainless steel is an excellent choice when it comes to cookware. Used all over the world, some studies, however, reveal that stainless steel cookware is not as inert as usually stated.

Stainless Steel Cookware


How Is Stainless Steel Cookware Made? 

Stainless steel cookware is made from a metal alloy of iron, carbon, and a combination of other metals such as chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and titanium in different percentages. Unlike ordinary steel, stainless steel is not subject to chipping or rust, corrosion, and water staining. The lack of corrosion eliminates the need for coating, as is the case with aluminum or iron pans.

Since it is not a great heat conductor, to overcome this problem, an internal copper or aluminum core is inserted into pans, or placed at the bottom. 

Without doubt, stainless steel remains the best option if compared with other cookware materials, because other metals cannot match the same properties.

Alloying Elements in Stainless Steel

Additional elements are added to stainless steel to improve durability and other properties:

  • Chromium: is added to increase resistance to oxidation. To be called "stainless," steel must contain a minimum of 10.5% chromium.
  • Nickel: stainless steels for food use contains nickel in most cases. This element contributes to improving the resistance to corrosion in the presence of acidulous foods such as tomatoes. Not less important, it is the nickel that gives the silvery shine to the steel. It should be noted that nickel changes the atomic structure of the steel, making it non-magnetic and therefore not suitable for induction stoves.
  • Manganese: it is a non-magnetic element used as an alternative to nickel due to its lower cost. Although it is suitable for food, it is not as resistant to corrosion.
  • Titanium: increases strength, corrosion resistance, and makes the steel brighter. Furthermore, titanium is much less dense, with the result that a titanium steel pot is lighter and stronger than a pure steel one.
  • Molybdenum: increases corrosion resistance. It is a metal that can tolerate high temperatures without expanding, softening, or breaking.

Leaching: Concerns Associated With The Release Of Metals In Foods During Cooking

release of nickel and chromium in foods during cooking

While the inner core of aluminum or copper does not come into contact with food, special attention is paid to the chrome/nickel alloy.

Elements such as nickel could potentially leach into food when cooking.

Some studies state that the health risks derived from nickel are higher than chromium. The release of metallic substances occurs when cooking acid foods, such as tomato sauce, especially at high temperatures. For this reason, it is best to stick with stainless steel cookware without nickel.

The Grades Of Stainless Steel - Not All Stainless Steel Is The Same

As a buyer, you need to understand that there exist different grades of stainless steel. Manufacturers typically indicate the chromium to iron ratio on a stamp at the bottom of the cookware.

When buying stainless steel kitchen accessories, we can see the numbers 18/0, 18/8, or 18/10 marked at the bottom. The first digit refers to the percentage of chromium, the second to nickel. Based on the above, the healthiest choice falls on nickel-free cookware, then 18/0.

Maintenance

Proper use and care of stainless pots and pans keep them at their best performance. To achieve this result and eliminate leaching risk, avoid abrasive materials when cleaning stainless steel.

By doing so, you will prevent potential health hazards and damages to cookware at the same time, improving their durability and overall lifespan.

Cooking The Safe Way With Stainless Steel

It would help if you also avoid sharp and pointed utensils using stainless steel pans, and of course even if you use iron or other cookware sets.

Avoid using severely corroded or scratched cookware because it is hard to determine the amount of chromium, iron, or nickel that they discharge into food while cooking.

Presence of these materials could be harmful to people sensitive to heavy metals. Health concerns recommend that people allergic to nickel should not use stainless steel cookware that contains that element.

Regarding the intake of chromium, unlike nickel, it is an essential element for our body. However, excessive doses, as is obvious to think, can cause health problems.

We all know that mineral elements such as zinc or iron are undoubtedly necessary for our organism.

However, in my opinion, if I need to take iron, I prefer to eat spinach rather than take it through a pan. The human body is designed to obtain minerals from foods.

How To Clean Stainless Steel Cookware Safely

Stainless steel pans must be washed after use to avoid staining and dark spots. The best practice is to use a simple sponge. A soft cleaning sponge or cloth prevents scratching the pan, remembering not to use abrasive cleaners when washing.

Pros & Cons

of using stainless steel cookware

Pros

  • Durability. Stainless steel tends to be very tough.
  • Generally dishwasher safe.
  • Appearance. Stainless steel is pretty, and it's easy to maintain that look.
  • Recyclable. Stainless steel is completely recyclable.
  • The surface is scratch proof, smooth, and non-porous.
  • Easy Clean and handle.

Cons

  • Can't be placed in the microwave like ceramic.
  • Poor heat conductivity, so it's always combined with a copper and aluminum base to enhance the heat propagation.
  • No zero-fat cooking - oil or butter is necessary to prevent the food from sticking to the pans.
  • It may leach heavy metal into foods, and it could be a problem for those who are allergic.
  • Once scratched or damaged, it is best not to use them to avoid potential leaks of nickel or chromium.

FAQs

Which tools are best suited to stainless steel pans?

It is always advisable to use silicone, wood, or plastic tools. Sharp tools can damage the surface.

What happens if I accidentally scratch the stainless steel pans?

When scratched with a metal tool, or after improperly washing it many times, stainless steel can release traces of metal into the food. Furthermore, the pan becomes more sticky.

Stainless steel or non-stick cookware, which one is the best?

Stainless steel pans are better. Teflon-coated ones had a drop in popularity after studies revealed that they could emit unhealthy fumes.

Is ceramic cookware better than stainless steel?

It depends on the conditions of use. Ceramic cookware is non-stick and allows cooking without added fat, but they should not be used at high temperatures so as not to lose the non-stickiness. Stainless steel is more resistant to impacts. Those in ceramics are healthier because they are inert and do not release elements in foods, but as they are sensitive to shocks.

What should you not use to clean stainless steel?

Avoid: abrasive detergents that scratch the surface; bleach because it stains stainless steel; detergents containing bleach. Also, don't leave them in the water so as not to stain the surface, so they should always be rinsed and dried.

How do you keep stainless steel cookware shiny?

To keep it as good as new, make a mixture of baking soda and water and gently clean the outer surfaces of the pans with a soft cloth. Rinse with warm water and then dry well.

Can I cook tomatoes in stainless steel pots?

If you search on the internet, you will find many affirmative answers, since the stainless steel pans are considered inert.

But, as already mentioned, the opinions regarding the release of metals are conflicting.

We all know that tomatoes are high in acid, and chrome/nickel, although in minimal doses, will be released into the sauce. So the answer is that if you have to make tomato sauce very often, it's best to use a glass, ceramic or granite pot.

Can there be lead in stainless steel pans?

From the construction technique point of view, no, lead is not present in stainless steel pans.

Conclusion

Finally, for the reasons indicated above, when in doubt, I prefer to stay safe.


Bearing in mind that stainless steel cookware cost a lot, to have no worries, I prefer to use 100% non-reactive, inert cookware, such as glass, ceramic or granite, to exclude any risk.


Again, the human body is designed to obtain nutritional elements from foods.