Stainless Steel Cookware: Is It Safe?

Stainless steel cookware are one of the most sought after materials for cooking purposes. People tend to use stainless steel cookware for mainly its value and affordable pricing.

People are becoming increasingly conscious about cooking materials and tools used in the kitchen as toxin related diseases are on the surge.

So, the question poses its relevance, is stainless steel cookware safe for cooking? This article guides you to find this answer.

What is stainless steel and Composition of Stainless steel?

For most of the usage scenarios, the answer is yes. As long as you are using certified stainless steel cookware, there are little or no risk. Stainless steel is less prone to corrosion and more stable than many other available cookware.

Stainless steel is a compound metal which is composed of Nickel, Iron and Chromium. However, sometimes Aluminum, Copper and other materials are added with stainless steel compound which raises the question of food safety.

So, you better know about the actual materials in your stainless steel cookware. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) highlighted that stainless steel alloy is more stable than most of other cookware materials.

Discuss different type of stainless steel with their composition

200 Series

The 200 series is a class of austenitic stainless steel. This is characterized by low Nickel content and highly corrosive-resistant behavior. The 200 series stainless steel has a lesser ability than the 300 series to resist against pitting corrosion. This series also shows less protective ability in crevice corrosion. The 200 series is cheaper to produce as this contains low Nickel content. Though the 200 series is not recommended for using in chemical environments, most household usage are found to be safe (Bell, 2020).

300 Series

The 300 series steel is very famous for cookware because it can resist corrosion and rusting. The 300 series also combines two elements Nickel and Chromium which ensure food grade traits for cookware. However, there are growing concerns of releasing Nickel in cookware in small amounts which may transfer into food. Because of this reason, experts suggest to use branded and QC passed cookware to prevent any unwanted issues in cooking. You may check our experts’ pick for the 300 series steel cookware.

304 Series

The 304 series stainless steel is also very popular food grade steel that meets all criteria for safe cooking, preparation and dining. The 304 series stainless steel cookware is very common type of cookware. Sometimes, the manufacturers may label it with code or name such as 18/10 or 18/8. This code reflects the Chromium and Nickel proportion in the steel material. For example, in 18/10 grade, the material contains 18% Chromium and 10% Nickel. 304 grade stainless steel is popular for its resistance to corrosion and oxidization.

316 Series

316 series Stainless Steel is deemed superior when it comes to applications with different chlorinated solutions or exposure to salt content. Molybdenum is added in small percentage to the material to make it more resistant in corrosive environment. However, this process makes it expensive too. The 316 grade Stainless Steel is also called as the marine stainless steel for its superior performance in marine environments. This is also called surgical stainless steel for its usage biomedical implants.

430 Series

Generic 400 series steel is ferritic type of steel cookware and magnetic. The 430 stainless steel is used for making mixing bowls, flatware and different forms of cheaper stockpots. Often termed as 18/0, or we already know the meaning, it contains 0% Nickel and 18% Chromium. Sometimes allergic people may seek for Nickel free cookware which is not as resistant to corrosion like other types. In long term usage, the 430 series stainless steel may lose its shine. Though legally Nickel free, the 430 series stainless steel may contain 0.75% of Nickel.

3 Ply models

Three ply stainless steel cookware contains three different layers of metals, which are bonded together. Aluminum, copper and stainless steel can be used for different layers in three ply models of cookware. Sometimes, aluminum is used as the base plate for this three ply model of cookware which absorbs and distributes the heat quite well. This type of cookware is very durable, and keeps the dishwasher safe. The popularity of three ply models of cookware is surging up in recent times.

18/10 Grade stainless steel

18/10 grade is used for describing the composite element of the material used for the cookware. The 18/10 grade stainless steel cookware contains 18% chromium and 10% nickel. These composition makes the material very resistive against corrosive environments. This grade of cookware is considered as the best quality industry standard material for making flatware.

Why people choose Stainless Steel cookware?

Classic, durable and uncoated stainless steel is a justified choice for braising and browning. Stainless steel is popular for its sturdiness, as different cookware made from this material are indestructible. However, people have different choices when it comes to select a cookware, such as non-stick cookware, aluminum, ceramic, glass etc. People using stainless steel cookware, usually don’t expect it to chip, bend or warp even in long term usage. So, if you are looking for something that you can use in your kitchen for years without even any concern, stainless steel cookware is what you should go for. Stainless steel is good for its resistive behaviour in corrosive environment.

using stainless steel cookware

Stainless steel contains nickel and chromium which is food grade and complied with the market standard. As the composition contains no dangerous material, selecting stainless steel for daily cooking is a viable option. However, there are types of stainless steel, in which the nickel part may come off in small amount and mix with food. This is why it is important to know your cookware before buying and our guide may help you. Stainless steel material is good for adequate heat transfer. However, for increased heat transfer, sometimes one or more outer layers of aluminum and copper are added.

Stainless steel can withstand extreme corrosive environment. Even some of the variants can even last in marine environments for long periods. As this does not corrode easily, stainless steel cookware will increase the antique value of your kitchen over the time. This cookware can also be sanitized easily. Good grade stainless steel cookware is non sticky which improves the cooking experience. Easy maintenance and cleaning facility is one of the popular factors which people look for. Stainless steel cookware offers easy cleaning and maintenance facility. After a quick wash, you will be happy to see a shining cookware like before.

Unlike many other alternatives, stainless steel cookware helps to preserve the taste and quality of the food content. If you love the natural flavor of your food, stainless steel is an ideal choice for your selection of cookware. Stainless steel cookware is toxin free. For example, aluminum based cookware is also popular but it has one major drawback. Aluminum is reactive metal, which may lead to neurotoxin. Stainless steel cookware is free of such neurotoxic reactions, PTOE, PFOA, and BPA.

Stainless steel cookware, with no outer coating, looks aesthetic as well. This material is easy to use, easy to clean, easy to maintain, easy to afford and adds aesthetic value to your kitchen too. Probably, it is time you got one for your kitchen too.

Is stainless steel cookware safe?

Stainless steel cookware is usually deemed as safe material for using as cookware. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers stainless steel having at least 16% of chromium composition, as a safe choice for food contact. Any good quality stainless steel (304 series or 316 series stainless steel) is presumably a good choice than most other available options. Durability, affordability, safety, and reliability are some of the concerns for which people are increasingly using stainless steel cookware.

Though stainless steel is not as inert as people claim, the material is safer than most other available options for cookware. Stainless steel is safe for using as cookware as long as you are aware of the composition and know how to select the best cookware for personal use. Though 18/0 or nickel free stainless steel is the safest for cooking purpose, these are prone to corrosion. People are becoming more aware of the toxic materials in their kitchen which may cause different health hazards in their lives. Teflon coated materials, copper or aluminum surface have different degrees of health issues. As aluminum is reactive metal, neurotoxin may develop using aluminum based cookware. Copper based cookware can cause heart issues causing health consequences. Different alternatives such as glass, cast iron, stainless steel etc. can be used for cookware. Main concerns relating to using stainless steel cookware are chromium leaching and nickel leaching.

Chromium Leaching

The Institute of Medicine has not pointed any tolerable upper intake level (UL) for chromium. There is no direct evidence of adverse effects on body and high intake of chromium content. For most adults, recommended daily intake of chromium is 50 to 200 mcg. Our body collects necessary chromium from daily vegetables like beef, potatoes, broccoli, apple or dairy products. So, if the chromium leaching from the stainless steel cookware enters our body, there is a possibility that our body may react to the added chromium content. For this reason, this is vital to select appropriate cookware for daily use.

Nickel Leaching

Nickel leaching from stainless steel cookware is toxic for health, as Nickel is placed in the Substance Priority list (SPL) formulated by ATSDR or Agency for Toxic Substances and Diseases Registry. We need to restrict the intake of nickel from unwanted sources. For this reasons, choosing right stainless steel cookware is a must.

FAQs Section

Does Stainless Steel Cookware Stick?

Yes. Unfortunately, stainless steel is not nonstick. If you do not know how to control the temperature while adding ingredients, it might stick. However, stainless steel pans can also be seasoned to prevent from sticking.

Can Stainless Steel Cookware Be Toxic?

Ideally no. Unlike most other available cookware options, stainless steel is less reactive and shows resistance to adverse environments. However, chromium leaching and nickel leaching can be found in cheap graded (mostly 200 series stainless steel) cookware. Zero nickel (18/0) stainless steel cookware can be found in markets. Other than that, stainless steel cookware offers you a durable and solid experience in your cooking pleasure.

Can Stainless Steel Go In The Dishwasher?

Yes, stainless steel cookware is dishwasher safe. You need to keep in mind that stainless steel still may corrode when exposed to base or acid solutions. Stainless steel will not easily rust or corrode in most environmental scenarios. Even 400 series stainless steel can resist withstand prolonged exposure to marine environments.

Can Stainless Steel Cookware Be Used On Induction Cooktops?

Yes. Stainless steel cookware are excellent solution for induction cooking. In theory, induction cooking surfaces go better with cookware having high ferrous metal on the base. To increase the heat conduction, sometimes aluminum base is added with stainless steel cookware.

Is it safe to use scratched stainless steel for cooking?

Yes, as long as the scratch is moderate. Stainless steel cookware is famous for its durability and scratch resisting behaviour. However, due to long and heavy usage, the stainless steel surfaces may get scratched. If the scratch gets beyond the moderate level, chromium and nickel leaching may occur.

Shall stainless steel cookware be banned due to leaking of toxic metals into food?

No, at least not in near future. No rigid claims had not been yet made on the toxic material leaching from stainless steel cookware. If you choose right grade of stainless steel for right purpose (for example: 304 series for cooking), it is highly likely that no toxic materials will be released to your food content. However, in all instances, moderate usage is recommended.

Does stainless steel cookware need oil?

Yes. Stainless steel does not offer non-sticky feature like some of the alternatives offer. Stainless steel cookware need oil based on the requirements. Experts suggest that, if you can match the intensity of flame, you can avoid using excessive oil in your cooking.


Stainless steel cookware offers you good value, reliability and safer materials than most other cookware available in the market. Chromium and nickel are the main two components of stainless steel. This is important to select right grade of stainless steel for different purposes of kitchen and cooking usage. This article helps you to select right stainless steel cookware for your cooking needs.

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