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Everything You Need to Know About Stainless Steel Cookware

December 27, 2023

Suppose you're considering a switch from non-stick cookware or trying to persuade anyone from your roommate to your second cousin about the merits of stainless steel in the kitchen. In that case, it's essential to understand the fundamental aspects of stainless steel cookware.

When discussing stainless steel cookware, many might picture a bustling professional kitchen filled with shiny, robust pots and pans. Stainless steel has a certain allure, suggesting a professional chef's finesse and a rugged, long-lasting quality.


Stainless steel blends iron and carbon, enriched with nickel and chromium. Chromium gives it its reflective, unblemished finish, while nickel enhances its sturdiness and resistance to rust.

Are Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?

Stainless steel cookware is considered safe. Due to its excellent thermal stability, it does not react with food or release dangerous compounds. This makes it popular in residential and commercial kitchens.


Stainless steel is safe since it contains iron, chromium, and nickel. The passive chromium oxide coating protects the iron against rust and corrosion. This layer is stable and non-reactive, preventing dangerous substances from entering food while cooking.


However, it's important to note that low-quality stainless steel or damaged cookware can pose risks. For instance, if stainless steel cookware is worn out or scratched, there's a slight possibility for metals like nickel and chromium to leach into food. But this leaching is usually at levels considered safe for most people. Those with nickel allergies or sensitivities might choose nickel-free stainless steel options.

Stainless steel cookware stock pot

What Stainless Steel is Best for Cookware? Stainless Steel Grades

Consider the grade of stainless steel when buying cookware. Most cookware is 304 (18/8 or 18/10) or 316 stainless steel. The numbers 18/8 and 18/10 refer to the steel composition: 18% chromium and 8% or 10% nickel, respectively. Higher nickel concentration makes cookware corrosion-resistant. While 18/8 is fine for most cooking, 18/10 stainless steel is superior for corrosion resistance and is used in higher-quality cookware.

Marine-grade 316 stainless steel contains molybdenum for corrosion resistance. This kind is ideal for tough settings for cooking acidic or salty dishes. However, it's more expensive and less commonly found in household cookware.


Aside from the steel grade, the construction of the cookware also matters. 'Cladding' is about the multiple layers in stainless steel cookware. These layers typically include a core of a magnetic material, such as aluminum or copper, enveloped by stainless steel. This structure ensures the cookware has a non-reactive surface and evenly distributes heat, leveraging each material's advantages to compensate for shortcomings.


For instance, tri-ply stainless steel cookware, which consists of a heat-conductive metal encased between two layers of stainless steel, is celebrated for its balance between lightweight design and effective heat distribution. Some brands even extend this concept to 5-ply or 7-ply varieties, offering even more durability and heat retention.

How to Properly Clean Stainless Steel Cookware?

Cleaning stainless steel cookware correctly is crucial for maintaining its appearance and longevity. Here are some steps and tips for proper cleaning:


Regular Cleaning

After using stainless steel cookware, wash it with warm, soapy water using a soft cloth. Rinse and towel dry to avoid water spots.


Removing Stuck-On Food

If food is stuck, dip it in warm water with soap for a few hours, then use a non-abrasive sponge or nylon scrubbing pad to remove the residue gently.


Avoiding Scratches

Don't use steel or harsh pads, which can scratch the surface. Scratches mark the appearance and can lead to more significant damage over time.


Dealing with Water Spots

Rinse and dry cookware after cleaning with a white vinegar or lemon juice-soaked towel to eliminate watermarks.



Polish stainless steel cookware using a soft cloth and cleanser for added shine.


Dishwasher Use

While many stainless steel cookwares are dishwasher safe, you should wash them by hand to maintain the finish. Dishwasher detergents can be harsh and may dull the surface over time.

How to Restore Stainless Steel Cookware?

Restoring stainless steel cookware involves removing stains, discoloration, and minor scratches. Here are some methods to restore its appearance:


For General Discoloration

Mix baking soda and water. Apply this paste to discolored areas and clean down the grain with a gentle cloth or sponge. Rinse thoroughly and dry.


For Burn Marks

If the bottom of the pan has burn marks, sprinkle it with baking soda and then pour in a little white vinegar. Let it fizz, and then scrub gently with a non-abrasive pad.


Removing Stubborn Stains

Use a stainless steel cleaner for tougher stains and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Always scrub in the direction of the metal's grain to avoid scratches.


Restoring Shine

Use a bottled stainless steel polish or a home remedy like olive oil to return the shine. Rub a tiny quantity of oil on a cloth and wipe off the excess with a clean cloth.


Preventing Future Damage

Don't use metal utensils to prevent future damage. Instead, opt for silicone, wood, or plastic spoons.

Is Stainless Steel Cookware Toxic?

The metal composition of stainless steel cookware raises toxicological concerns. Iron, chromium, nickel, molybdenum, and manganese comprise stainless steel. Nickel and chromium leaking into food are the main toxicity concerns.


Most stainless steel cookware is non-toxic and safe to use. Metal leaching into food is usually negligible and not harmful. Repeated usage stabilizes the cooking surface, reducing leaching.


However, certain situations can increase the risk of metal leaching:

● Cooking Acidic Foods: Cooking highly acidic foods (like tomatoes or lemon juice) can increase leaching, especially if the cookware is new.

● Scratched or Damaged Cookware: There's a higher risk of metals leaching if the cookware is deeply scratched or damaged. It's essential to replace cookware that's excessively worn out.

● Nickel Sensitivity: For individuals with a nickel allergy or sensitivity, it's advisable to use nickel-free stainless steel cookware.

● Quality Matters: Higher-quality stainless steel with higher chromium and nickel content is less prone to leaching and is generally more stable.

Looking For High-Quality Stainless Steel Cookware?

If you're searching for stainless steel cookware that will become your companion for years, Zhenneng is here for you with its timeless collection. Whether you want a pressure cooker or sauce pots, we have everything. Explore more here. 

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