The type of cookware you use has the power to make or break your meals.
Because of this, you have to make sure you're using the right one. With its countless advantages, stainless steel cookware might be your best bet. It's long-lasting, relatively easy to care for and maintain, and does not react with different kinds of foods.
However, there are often concerns regarding its safety. This article will address all your concerns and show you how stainless steel cookware is one of the safer options for cooking, especially in comparison to many other cookware materials.
Are Stainless Steel Pans Safe?
Questioning whether the cookware you're using is safe or not is actually a good thing. This is especially true since some types of cookware material can leach harmful chemicals when overheated.
However, for the most part, stainless steel pans are safe to use. To understand why, you have to know what materials they're made of: Stainless steel is an alloy with chromium, which gives it a shiny appearance and makes it resistant to corrosion and staining.
This increases the durability of the cookware as well. Other alloying elements like nickel, titanium and copper are also added to make it even more robust.
However, you shouldn't be worried about this. The human body already requires chromium, and even though nickel can cause problems if consumed in large amounts, only a small amount is used in the construction of stainless steel cookware.
It's also worth noting that since nickel is more likely to be an issue than chromium, you may want to buy cookware with a low nickel-to-chromium ratio if you have a nickel allergy.
You'll notice that stainless steel is marked with numbers such as '18/10'. In these cases, the first number is chromium content and the second is the nickel content.
Basically, the amount of nickel in stainless steel cookware is so small that it's not going to cause any problems.
If you're allergic to nickel, though, get stainless steel cookware with higher chromium than nickel (or even better, no nickel at all). If it has no nickel, it will be marked as 18/0 stainless steel cookware.
In addition, you have to ensure that the cookware you’re buying is high-quality, even though it might be on the pricier side. This will ensure that it's safe and won't leach any metals into your food.
Other than this, you also have to take care of your stainless steel cookware so it stays in the same condition that you bought it in. This means only using utensils that don’t scratch the surface and result in corrosion.
You should also clean the cooking surface gently without harsh pressure or abrasive sponges, as this can damage your cookware, damage that can potentially result in metal exposure.
Thus, while stainless steel cookware is generally very safe, its safety is also hugely dependent on the quality of your cookware and how you care for it.
Different Types Of Food Grade Stainless Steel Cookware
In stainless steel cookware, there are different steel grades used.
The difference mainly lies in the elements used to make the cookware and the ratio of each element. This controls how strong and durable the stainless steel cookware is. Here are the most common food grades for stainless steel cookware:
This grade of stainless steel uses manganese as a substitute for nickel. It’s cheaper and lower quality than other stainless steel, but is also safe to use thanks to its low nickel content.
However, the change in components makes it more susceptible to corrosion so won’t be as durable as other, higher quality cookware.
This is the most common grade of stainless steel cookware. There are two specific types of 300-series stainless steel: 304 Stainless Steel and 316 Stainless Steel.
Both are quite sturdy and won’t result in leaching. They also resist rust and corrosion.
However, the 304 is the most commonly used in cookware as the 316 is more expensive. This is because it uses a small amount of molybdenum to increase its durability.
For this reason, there isn't a lot of stainless steel cookware made of 316 stainless steel.
The 400 series has 430, a type of stainless steel that is magnetic and made without nickel. Thus, this is the best choice for those who might be allergic to nickel and are looking for a nickel-free stainless steel cookware option.
However, this steel is more prone to corrosion than the 300 series and might lose its shine over the years.
Is Stainless Steel Toxic When Heated?
This is a question that causes anxiety in many people.
However, you have nothing to worry about. Austenitic stainless steel will not release any harmful toxins when heated.
You also don't have to worry about overheating stainless steel cookware, as the temperature at which stainless steel melts is well above the heat of a normal oven (around 1500 degrees Celcius)
Stainless steel cookware is annealed, which means heated and then rapidly cooled. Because of this, it's very stable and non-toxic.
Thanks to the lack of emissions, you can use your stainless steel cookware without worrying about inhaling any toxins.
Is 18/0 Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?
Nickel-free cookware is 18/0.
Nickel leaching can be a cause of concern when using stainless steel cookware. This is especially true for those who are allergic to nickel.
The human body needs small amounts of nickel, which we get through foods such as nuts and grains. Using stainless steel cookware only adds a negligible amount of nickel to your diet, even when cooking reactive foods like tomatoes or rhubarb.
The only problem is that you could have a nickel allergy and develop a reaction because of stainless steel cookware. To avoid this,
nickel-free stainless cookware is largely available as another option.
This kind of cookware is more expensive as it's made from high-grade stainless steel. Still, because it has no nickel in it, it's also considered the safest option. It might be more prone to corrosion, however.
How To Choose Safe Stainless Steel Pots & Pans
When choosing safe stainless steel pots and pans, there are a few factors to consider.
First, you have to be sure that the cookware you're buying is made of high-quality stainless steel. This can be either from the 300 or 400 series.
This is because high-quality stainless steel doesn't react with food, peel off or release harmful chemicals into your food.
Other than this, you have to closely look at the amount of chromium and nickel being used to make the stainless steel cookware.
When it comes to nickel, there are different factors to consider. Even though stainless steel cookware doesn’t have a huge amount of nickel to cause any real harm, nickel leaching is still an issue for those who are allergic to it.
In this case, you might want to consider buying nickel-free stainless steel cookware. 430-grade stainless steel is used to make such cookware, and even though it has a higher price point, it's safer than any other type of stainless steel.
For a convenient list of the best stainless steel cookware, click here.
Does stainless steel leach into water?
A study recently showed that while stainless steel might leach into beverages with high acidity, such as fruit juice, it does not leach into water, which is neither acidic nor alkaline.
Nickel and chromium also don't leach into beverages with low acidity, such as coffee or tea. Thus, it’s safe to boil water in stainless steel cookware without worrying about any leaching taking place.
However, that said, you should make sure that the stainless steel you use is high-quality and least from the 300 series.
Are there any stainless steel health concerns?
There are no major health concerns when it comes to using stainless steel pots and pans.
The only real worry arises from the potential for chromium and nickel leaching. This is only a problem if your cookware is cheaply made or damaged.
For anyone with nickel allergies, we recommend buying stainless steel grades that either have low or no nickel content. Once you're finished cooking food, remove it right away to avoid extended exposure.
Doing these things will considerably lower the minor health concerns attached to stainless steel cookware.
Another important thing to know is that some stainless steel cookware has layers of aluminum within it. This can potentially cause aluminum leaching if the surface is somehow scratched and exposed. To avoid this, we recommend you buy high-quality stainless steel that does not wear and tear easily.
You should also treat it with care, especially when cleaning it to make sure you don't damage the surface of the stainless steel pot or pan.
Is all stainless steel oven-safe?
Stainless steel cookware has to be the best option for oven-safe pots and pans; the high quality steel results in a sturdy and durable piece of cookware, which can withstand extremely high temperatures.
It doesn’t melt or warp, so it's safe to use in the oven. It's also much lighter in weight than something like cast iron, which is another advantage.
Some stainless steel cookware also have an aluminum core, which results in a more even heat distribution while cooking.
Does stainless steel cookware rust?
Stainless steel cookware does not rust easily, because it contains chromium. Chromium oxidizes and creates a natural protective layer on steel which prevents it from rusting.
However, this does not make rusting completely impossible, as stainless steel will eventually rust if not cleaned properly after each use.
Thus, it’s recommended that you clean the cookware after each use and occasionally polish it. Polishing the cookware helps keep the chromium coating intact, thus ensuring that rust doesn't form.
Rust resistance is a huge benefit of using stainless steel cookware. This makes stainless steel cookware a great investment, as it lasts longer than other materials.
However, you must always make sure to give time and care to the cleaning process.
Conclusion: Is Stainless Steel Safe to Cook With?
Stainless steel is, without a doubt, extremely safe to cook with!
The elements used in its construction, such as chromium and nickel, allow it to be a sturdy and durable piece of cookware. Though chromium and nickel leaching is a slight possibility, the amount is negligible unless you have a specific allergy.
High-quality stainless steel cookware might be on the pricey side, but it's also the safest cookware option and will last you for years to come. We hope this has helped you make a decision!
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