by Riley Hendersen
In most stainless steel cookware, the stainless steel is only used as the cooking surface and not the entire product. In most instances, aluminum is used as the primary ingredient in making the cookware mold, because aluminum heats faster. Stainless steel is added as the coating to make the final product safe, easy to clean and durable.
Iron is the main ingredient in steel. To make stainless steel for cookware, additional alloys are added to the iron. Titanium, Copper and Nickel, among other ingredients, can be added in various percentages. However, to be considered stainless steel, a minimum of 12% Chromium must be in the mix.
In most cookware, the stainless steel is only used as the cooking surface and not the entire product. In most instances, aluminum is used as the primary ingredient in making the cookware mold, because aluminum heats faster. However, aluminum is not a good product to be used as cookware because it can be unsafe for humans to digest. So, it is added as the coating to make the final product safe, easy to clean and durable.
In 1913 a man was working on a project to reduce rust in rifle barrels. During this project, he was mixing different metallic compounds and accidentally discovered what we know of today as stainless steel.
There are many different types and configurations with different levels of metal alloys added. One type could be a very different mixture than another type.
To understand the compositions available, it is best to understand the rationale for adding the different metal alloys. Although other compounds, such as Titanium and Copper could be added, as well as non-metallic compounds, the ingredients of Chromium and Nickel are primary in determining quality.
Chromium is added because it is an ingredient that resists rusting and corrosion. It also provides the high gloss normally associated with cookware.
Nickel is added because it has the ability to withstand higher heats and makes the final product more durable.
When looking at stainless steel cookware, quality is easy to recognize. Manufacturers usually add the Chromium/Nickel concentration in the iron as a notation on the cookware. When looking at cookware for sale, one will see the notation of 18/10. This means that 18% of it is Chromium and 10% is Nickel.
Other notations include 18/0, which means that 18% of the it is Chromium, but no Nickel has been added. Because Nickel adds additional properties of durability and ability to withstand higher heat, the highest quality for cookware is 18/10.
Cleaning and Using
Chromium works by mixing with oxygen in the air. For this reason, the storage of leftovers in it is not recommended. When chromium cannot mix with oxygen, bacteria can trap within the steel itself. When used properly cookware can be very hygienic.
To help spread heat evenly, it is best to find cookware with a heat diffusing base. This alleviates any negatives associated when the heat does not always distribute properly.
Cleaning with dish soap and water is best, but one can use dishwasher if approved by manufacturer. It can scratch so abrasive cleaning products and bleach are not recommended.