From utensils, pans and pots to appliances and even kitchen islands, stainless steel is present in so many corners of every kitchen. As one of the most versatile, durable and safe materials currently available, stainless steel is always a top choice for cookware. Even so, the variety of brands, sets, and products, all of which come with different names and rather uncommon technical terms, make buyers have plenty of questions when deciding whether to opt for this material or not.
This definitive guide to stainless steel cookware is meant to clear things out and ease your worries. Read on to find answers to all your questions, from the basics to the more complicated aspects detailed in plain language.
For those who still wonder what is stainless steel cookware, we will outline some general information. To begin with, let’s have a look at what this material is made of and what the numbers that usually describe it really stand for:
- Stainless steel is, in fact, a metal alloy consisting of around 10% chromium and several other metals, nickel included.
- Chromium enhances durability and protects against rust by forming when exposed to air, a non-toxic, passive film of chromium oxide.
- Nickel, while also helping with rust resistance, gives extra hardness and that high polishing look.
- The balance of chromium and nickel dictates the so-called “grade” of a particular type of stainless steel. Quality, durability, and the maximum cooking temperature are also connected to this grade, which is represented in numbers separated by a “/”. The first number indicates the percentage of chromium and the second number the one of nickel (e.g. 18/8 or 18/10).
- These grades are divided into three main series: 200, 300, and 400.
- The ones from the 200 series are the less expensive and also the less resistant because they have manganese instead of nickel and are more prone to corrosion.
- The ones from the 300 series, most often labeled as 304 respectively 316, represent the high-quality range, with more resistant products – in fact, the 316 products (the high-end grade, with surgical steel) also have some titanium or molybdenum in their alloy, which increases their resistance to salt water erosion.
- As for the 400 series, it consists of alloys even more corrosive than the 300 series, which is why are often used for the manufacturing of the inexpensive stockpots, kitchen utensils or mixing bowls. They are almost nickel free (with a maximum of 0.75%).
So now we know what Stainless Steel is made of, let’s see what it’s good for.