Looking for non-toxic cookware? Does stainless steel really leach heavy metals into food? Here’s what you need to know to find the best healthy cookware for your family: what the issues are, how to minimize them, and cleaning tips for stainless steel cookware so you can make the most of your investment!
I used to use nonstick cookware… until I learned that the nonstick coating is actually toxic and unhealthy.
Then I switched to cast iron and stainless steel.
However… what’s this about stainless steel leaching aluminum into food?!
If you’re thinking about making the switch to stainless steel cookware — or perhaps you already have stainless steel pots and pans but they’re starting to look pitted and worn — here’s what you need to know to make the best choice for you and your family!
Plus, how to clean your stainless steel cookware to maintain it!
Is Stainless Steel Cookware Safe?
Before we talk about how to clean stainless steel cookware, let’s learn about how non-toxic and safe it really is.
What is stainless steel?
Stainless steel is a low carbon, iron-based steel with other metals mixed in to reduce corrosion and increase strength.
It always contains at least 10% chromium. Other metals can include nickel, manganese, aluminum, silicon, and sulfur.
The combination of metals determines the grade of the stainless steel.
Stainless steel does not conduct heat well, so cookware is usually made with an aluminum or copper core: essentially, a sheet of aluminum or copper sandwiched between layers of stainless steel to improve the pot’s heating ability.
The aluminum or copper core becomes an issue ONLY if the pot is scratched, grooved, or worn to expose it.
If your pot is rusting or if there are signs that the core is wearing through, it is time to replace the pot because it’s probably leaching those metals into your food.
What are those numbers on the bottom of your pots and pans?
Those numbers you see on the bottom of your pot refer to the grade of stainless steel. These numbers specifically refer to the amount of chromium and nickel blended into the stainless steel.
For example, the numbers 18/10 show that the pot is comprised of 18% chromium and 10% nickel.
The grade of stainless steel identifies how corrosive it is.
18/8 and 18/10 indicate that the pot is part of the 300 series of stainless steel. With a higher amount of nickel, the 300 series is more resistant to corrosion and rust.
A pot stamped 18/0 is part of the 400 series. With less nickel, these pots are more vulnerable to corrosion; they are also magnetic.
200 series stainless steel is considered low quality and made with manganese instead of nickel (source).
Does all stainless steel leach metals?
Through normal wear and tear, the metals in stainless steel will leach into food (source).
Cooking acidic foods will cause the pot to leach higher amounts.
In general, nickel leaches in higher amounts than the other metals. If you have a nickel allergy, you may need to avoid stainless steel entirely.
When shopping for stainless steel cookware, try to avoid the 200 series. It corrodes easily, is not durable, and contains manganese which can be extremely toxic.
The 300 series is the most common and considered the most durable. It is also highest in nickel.
Even though the 400 series is said to be less durable, its small amount of nickel makes it the safest choice.
Where was your cookware made?
As with anything else, it is best to check the country of origin of your cookware. Imported cookware will be made from metals sourced, heated, and poured under different regulations.
If you are purchasing cookware from a country outside of the U.S., it would be best to research the specific manufacturing guidelines of that country. An informed decision is always a safer one.
So, is stainless steel cookware really non-toxic and safe?
It’s hard to find truly non-toxic cookware. In my opinion, stainless steel and cast iron cookware are still our best, most affordable options.
They both have issues, namely leaching of heavy metals (cast iron leaches iron, read more about here). However, the alternatives are Teflon (toxic nonstick coating) and enameled cookware (high levels of lead and cadmium).
How To Clean Stainless Steel Cookware
Cleaning stainless steel cookware is easier than you may think! Plus, natural and non-toxic cleaners work well.
This means from cooking to cleaning, your stainless steel pots and pans are a healthier choice for you and your family.
I used to use nonstick cookware years ago, until I learned the nonstick coating is actually toxic and unhealthy. That meant switching to cast iron and stainless steel for me.
However, as I was used to nonstick pans, I had to learn how to use and clean stainless steel cookware.
One of the best ways to ensure easy clean up after use is making sure you use the pan properly to keep food from sticking in the first place. Work smarter, not harder, right?
How To Keep Food From Sticking To Non-Toxic Cookware
This will make cleaning stainless cookware a breeze! Here are two simple tips so food doesn’t stick to the pan:
#1 — Gently heat the pan before adding fat.
Don’t be tempted to use high heat though! Your food may end up burning… which is even worse than sticking!
In addition, too high of a temperature can cause your healthy cooking fat to smoke. This means the oil is breaking down and becoming unhealthy.
How do you know if the pan is hot enough for adding oil? Do a water drop test.
Splash a few droplets of water into your pan. If the water forms balls that skitter around the pan, it’s ready for your healthy cooking fat.
#2 — Don’t add cold food to a hot pan, if possible.
This means allowing your meats to come to room temperature, if you can.
Steel expands with heat and contracts with the cold. So, when you put cold chicken onto your hot, oiled pan, the surface of the pan contracts and catches the food, causing it to stick.
Simply get your cold foods out of the refrigerator about 10 minutes or so before you begin to cook.
If cooking with frozen meats, add a small amount of water or broth (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan) to your pan first then add the frozen meat. If you’re concerned about your dish turning out too soup, the extra liquid should evaporate off while you’re cooking the meats.
Daily Use Of Stainless Steel Cookware
You’re sure to get a lot of use out of your stainless cookware!
A big stock pot is wonderful for simmering rich, nourishing bone broths. A stainless steel frying pan can go from the stove top into the oven for easy one-pan meals or meats with a flavorful crust.
Cooking meats, vegetables, eggs, and soaked grains or beans are so easy once you understand how to cook in stainless cookware so it won’t stick.
Simply use your cookware and clean it once it cools. Hand washing and drying are best, especially if you want to keep your new cookware set shiny and beautiful.
For best results, use wood, bamboo, or silicone utensils instead of metal to avoid scratching.
Daily Care Of Stainless Steel Cookware
There are many commercial products available for cleaning stainless steel. However, many of these products may be toxic and unhealthy.
In addition to breathing in the fumes while using them, residue may stick to the pans and end up in your food. Yuck!
How to clean stainless steel without chemicals, you ask? It’s really very easy!
Stainless cookware doesn’t need anything complicated. You probably already have at least some of these items perfect for cleaning stainless steel in your home already:
- dish soap
- dish cloth
- baking soda
- gentle, non-abrasive brush or scrubber
- bamboo pan scraper
- and, of course, elbow grease!
How do you use these simple, natural products for cleaning your pots and pans?
First, allow your pan to cool to room temperature before cleaning. Do not add cold water to a hot pan as the temperature difference can cause warping. Also, putting a hot pan into water can also cause warping.
Then, simply clean your pot or pan with warm, soapy water. If needed, allow it to soak for a bit in the soapy water. Loosen any food particles with a non-metal spatula or pan scraper.
Alternatively, add water to the pan and bring to a boil. Use a non-metal spatula to loosen any food particles.
Use a dish cloth or non-abrasive sponge or scrubber to clean the pan inside and out.
Finally, rinse with clean water and dry immediately with a soft towel to avoid water spots from forming.
While some stainless steel pans are fine to clean in a dishwasher, most manufacturers recommend hand washing to preserve the beautiful finish of the pans.
Once the food has loosened after soaking it really is easy to clean the pans and not that much extra work!
Need some more healthy cleaning solutions for the rest of your home? Check out this article for simple and non-toxic ways to clean your whole house!
How To Remove Stains & Stuck Food
It happens to the best of us. Food sticks or the surface of the pan becomes discolored.
Or maybe you meant to get to the dishes right away and got distracted, meaning the food dried in the pan.
Don’t despair! There are easy and non-toxic ways to keep your cookware in tip-top shape.
#1 — Stuck or burnt-on food?
Removing burnt or heavily stuck-on food isn’t as hard as it sounds.
First, fill the pan with warm water and sprinkle some baking soda into the pan. Let it soak for 15 minutes, then use non-metal spatula or spoon to loosen the food particles.
If that doesn’t work, bring the water to a boil then turn off the heat. Then try to loosen the stuck food.
Alternatively, allow the water to cool down while you’re working on something else then wash and dry the pan as usual. A bamboo pan scraper is easy to use, too.
#2 — Chalky white spots?
Fill the pan with a solution of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. Bring to a boil then allow to cool. Wash the pan as usual.
#3 — Iridescent, rainbow-looking spots?
This discoloration is typically from overheating. Avoid this by not overheating (of course) but should it occur, try cooking something tomato-based in the pot or pan (chili, anyone?).
Also, you can boil a solution of water and vinegar in the pan.
#4 — Pitting or pockmarks?
This happens when you salt your water before bringing it to a boil, due to a reaction between the salt, oxygen in the water, and the chromium in the stainless steel itself.
Unfortunately, you cannot remove pitting that is already there. To prevent pitting in the future, however, add salt to water that is already boiling (there isn’t enough oxygen in the water to complete the reaction at that point).
Best Tools To Use When Cleaning Stainless Pots & Pans
To keep the surface of the pan or pot smooth and in top condition, avoid using harsh tools such as wire scrub brushes, metal mesh scrubbers, abrasive cleaners, or even a heavy duty scouring pad.
The danger with scratching your pots is not only unsightly, unattractive damage, but scratched or pitted pots have greater leaching.
Generally, all you need to clean your stainless pots and pans is hot soapy water and a dish cloth.
For times when food has dried or stuck on while cooking, a bamboo pan scraper is great for getting bits removed from the surface of the pan.
Never underestimate the value of good, old-fashioned elbow grease, either. While it may not be fun, it’s a very non-toxic way to clean your cookware! Plus, you get some good exercise too.
Another tool to consider is an eco-friendly spaghetti scrub.
While it may sound odd, it’s fantastic for cleaning all kinds of surfaces, even stainless steel. It’s also effective without dish soap (but can be used with it if needed).
A spaghetti scrub is made from biodegradable materials. The scrubbing factor comes from finely ground peach pits.
I love my spaghetti scrub and use it on nearly everything, especially my pans — stainless and cast iron.
As you can see, cleaning stainless steel cookware is not difficult. It also doesn’t require toxic chemicals.
Just a few simple, healthy, natural cleaners and tools and some old fashioned elbow grease are all you need. And if you properly heat your pans first, you may not even need the elbow grease!
What non-toxic cookware do you recommend? How do you deal with cleaning stainless steel cookware?
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Philippa Gaywood says
when money allows i will buy this:
Not sure if it big enough for your stock but i will make smaller batches
i have the other smaller pans and there are AMAZING… the food really tastes different…
Hi Philippa! I have been checking out Mercola’s cookware for awhile. Its interesting you say that it even tastes different!
I love, love, love my Pampered Chef pans. I won’t buy non-stick cookware any longer, but their stainless steel are brushed in such a way during manufacturing so they are sufficient at non-stick. I’ve set fire to them or had them wet &/or soaking for over a week. No wear or tear showing!!!
For bakeware I favor Pampered Chef Stoneware.
You can go on their website or speak with a dealer about the numbers/how they are made, etc. Very imformative. But seriously. Anything remotely cheap I would be replacing in at least every 2 years. I’m a bad cook & my family is super hard on cookware. These I’ve had 5 years with no marks or pitting. Amazing! Try it 🙂
Philippa Gaywood says
It does somehow… i don’t know why it tastes better…. BUT and its becoming a big one… they break too easily. i have broken 2 now (and they are expensive!!!) I’m not looking/saving for a cast iron skillet.
Mohamed kaila says
Sorry any One can help me to know the effect of higher level of manganese in that fry pan. please help me
Mercola is made in China. Very disappointing.
What about Saladmaster? I have a set that I purchased about 15 years ago. The literature says that it has titanium in it, and allegedly that makes it a very high quality pan. What do you know about Saladmaster? How does this fit into the information above? I certainly don’t want to be eating leached metals. Thank you.
Hi Terri. I did some checking into Saladmaster because it is super hard to find a 400 series pot, and Saladmaster always comes up in the conversation. From their site it appears that they put 400 series stainless on the outside, but the inside is a standard 300 series steel. I think the difference is their claim that the titanium makes it more resistant to leaching due to acidic foods, etc. but from what I have read titanium leaches, too. The perk with Saladmaster seems to be it’s incredible durability. I’m not sure if that helps, and I am certainly not a Saladmaster pro. I have never even owned a pot myself!
Great article. I noticed you referred to Saladmaster as Stainless on the inside. The outside is 400 series Stainless, but the inside is 316 Titanium Stainless that is nontoxic, naturally nonstick, and food wipes out with a sponge. It is pricey, but warranted for a lifetime. I calculated that I have bought 7 sets of cookware in my lifetime and I ended up throwing away after degraded. I am excited to think I am using something that makes my life easier, no toxins to feed my family, and I will never have to replace in my lifetime…and I will pass on to my children.
I use Saladmaster that I inherited from my Mofher. She always cooked on low heat with little water and only used a wooden spoon. I do the same.
Amy Yelk says
Salad Master is what I use as a chef. It doesn’t transfer any toxins at all to the foods and the foods don’t shrink like they typically do in less quality cookware. This is 360 grade metal and it is also surgical stainless steel, which means it can’t leach toxins. As a nurse, we used this in surgeries when doing hip or knee replacements. Many people who use this cookware have significant reduction of symptoms and even heal completely from some diseases due to the fact that no toxins are being cooked into the foods. I hope that helps. Remember to always cook on low to medium heat as well.
Hi Amy! So interesting about shrinking food. I had no idea that would be impacted. And the point about cooking on low to medium heat is an important one. Unfortunately Saladmaster is not void of leaching. Here is a quote from one of my favorite WAP articles: “Although some high-grade stainless steels are supposed to be risk free, they may be so only in water at near-neutral pH. None of the 300 and 400 series stainless steels evaluated are stable in tomato acids and salt.2 Series 316 corrosion-resistant stainless steel is the best (used in Saladmaster brand cookware). It is resistant to tomato juice and vinegar, but corrodes with exposure to citric acid and salt (so add salt after cooking).” http://www.westonaprice.org/environmental-toxins/mad-as-a-hatter
Thank you SO much for this CRITICAL info. I want the VERY BEST for my health. I can’t afford to play around as I’m full of tumors.
Can you please tell me if you ever found a set of stainless steel cookware that meets your standards? I’m looking for a set that’s not make in China or Korea and that can be heated to 500 degrees F and is also dishwasher safe.
Thanks so much.
Hi, I can guarantee you that Nutraease will not only satisfy, but surpass your needs and expectations. I have used both brands for many years, and Nutraease has proven to be the absolute best. I noticed all the pitfalls of SM have been looked at and improved. The health benefits of both are exactly the same, yet the quality of the material is even better with Nutraease. The price difference is also a major factor- SM is very expensive with prices ranging with a $1000-$4000 difference compared with Nutraease. SM’s welded handles have broken and chipped during first hand experience, and they only give you a small number of handles. With Nutraease, every pot is provided with their own pair that are all interchangeable. Nutraease cookware will not corrode, is stain resistant, dishwasher safe, is non-stick and is the healthiest cookware you can provide to you and your family.
I heard that Nutraease was expensive, around $6,000 for the set. Is that true?
Saladmaster cookware is also made in the USA, comes with a lifetime warranty, and the cooking method of Saladmaster retains more nutrients in the food which would definitely help someone trying to get/stay healthy.
Jim West says
“Tumors” are also the product of another toxin, EMF. See bioinitiative.org for many science studies. See smartGridAwareness.org also.
I have had my SaladMaster pots for over 30 years, they still look brand new (except for the handles). I have no visible pitting or scratching on any of them, and they are well used. My only ‘con’ (if you can call it that after 30+ years) is I’m not crazy about the handles, and I need to replace them.
My mom just went to the doctor and asked questions about metal and alzheimers. The doctor told her really woman need to worry more about calcification in the body because of all of the added calcium in the diet. I thought that was interesting. she was more worried about metal getting in her system.
huh! Good for your mom for being so pro-active on her health 🙂
TowneCraft of made from T304 stainless steal with an aluminum and iron core. These pans are amazing, waterless and made in the US by West Bend. Truly, I don’t think I could cook in anything else ever again.
A way to tell if your stainless steel is leaching other metals into your food is by putting a little baking soda in a little water, then boil it for a while. The soda water will have a destinct metallic taste if the steal is not the highest quality.
Hello, so does towncraft leach metals and is it safe to cook with? Less toxins?
I am concerned about the metals. Especially fillings, my family has early onset Alzheimer’s. Mother, Aunt, and Grandmother all passed by the age of 65. I also believe the body has to have the right amount of minerals Vit D being one of the major players. U can not have proper absorption of calcium with out Vit D and magnesium.
Philippa Gaywood says
Coconut oil for Alzheimer’s….
I found that interesting. It makes wonder about stainless steel flatware. Its very easy to bend. Do you know if they are safe? Or, what series of stainless steel they are?
Flatware is rated the same and should have the labels like pots (18/0, 18/10, etc). I imagine they would have similar issues if you are using a stainless steel spoon and leaving it in the pot when cooking, for example. I don’t believe there would be much worry with the use of stainless steel flatware for eating, considering the amount of time the food would be in contact with it. And the temperature would be considerably lower than that when cooking.
i can’t find a series number on the bottom of my moms pots…
or anywhere else on the pots.. i guess i could look up the name online? is there a website i can check it out on ?
Jennifer Hoffman says
I have the same question – I have farberware that I’ve been using for 30+ years. My mother and grandmother used the same and I have some of my grandmother’s pots as well. I don’t see a number anywhere on them. They ALL are smooth with no pitting with the exception of an old tea pot. Threw that away.
You could try ceramic flatware. I use a brand called Certine. I had been looking for something for a while and this works great!
Carol G. says
I have All Clad Stainless Steel pots and pans. They are quite thick before you would get to the aluminum layer. I have had them for ten years and they show no wear and barely show surface any scratches and those that I can see cannot be felt. I looked into Mercola’s ceramic pots and pans, but after an inquiry to the website I found out that they are made in China . . . No thanks. I have been interested in trying the ceramic iron skillets and soup pots, but imagine that they are quite heavy.
oooooh boo. Seriously they are made in China? That’s a bit disappointing! Great info on the All Clad. That brand actually keeps coming up in my searching and I am leaning towards those for my large broth pots.
I had a whole set of Mercola’s cookware. I really didn’t like it. Everything stuck terribly even though I tried using different oils and butter to cook the food in. I finally gave them away. Waste of money!
Jessica Klanderud says
I have some All Clad cookware and I’ve found them to be very high quality. They are also made in the USA – near me in Chambersburg, PA. They have a twice yearly factory sale where you can get the cookware for 60% off. I’ve gotten most of my pieces there and I am so happy with them. If you are at all able to attend it would be worth it. The sale is the first weekend of December and the first weekend of June every year.
From the research I’ve done, All Clad is not made in the USA.
Not “All Clad” but “All-Clad”. The latter is made in USA with USA made steel.
I should qualify- not everything the company makes is USA-made, but the products pertinent to the conversation here- cooking equipment that touches your food. Also- there are likely other companies that use the terms ‘all clad’ in their product lineups.
My all-Clad when I got it said made in Korea… not that that thrills me a whole lot more…
May not have been the real thing.
I don’t have a reason to think it wasn’t the real thing… but mine isn’t exactly new so it may be possible they’ve used different manufacturers in the past. It’s also possible it was the box that was made in Korea. 😉
Wasn’t = isn’t… I can’t look at it right now because it’s in Alaska and I’m not.
I have personally done the research as well, and bottom line is, unless your stainless steel cookware is dinged and pitted, the amount of metals likely to get into your food is negligible. Good quality stainless steel remains among the top of the list of safe cookware, as referenced in your site articles. Of course, you get what you pay for, so investing in a quality brand such as the All-Clad d5 series is best, but it’s not always affordable for everyone. So that’s when we have to make the best choices we can and remember to entrust our health to God.
Amen! Best reply I’ve read!
Cindy B says
We use Calphalon which is a very good brand as far as quality and durability… I would go for all clad if I could afford it… the same set I paid nearly $400 in calphalon would have cost about $1200 in all clad or more maybe… wonder about the cast iron/ceramic put out by LeCreuset.
I believe Lifetime is still made with surgical stainless. I could be wrong on that…it’s certainly expensive stuff!
Mary Osberg says
I’ve had Lifetime for 40yrs and it looks like new no pitting or anything
Where is Lifetime cookware made? Thank you.
Nutra Ease is Made in USA and it has a 50 yrs lifetime warranty no leeching and you cook your food in a clean pot.
I was told that it was made in Germany.
For stock i use a large Lodge made in USA cast iron dutch oven. It has a lid that will close tightly or vent. I love it! I roast chickens in it too, cook oven risotto etc. i do understand that there would be some who cannot have extra iron for specific reasons but in general iron is beneficial nutrient whereas toxic heavy metals are not. I have high mercury load, lead, and possible other other metal toxicity so i prefer iron to the other metals leaching.
I have heard that mercury is more toxic in the presence of iron. I know that iron iv’s made me feel VERY odd. If you are interested in my story you can find it here:http://www.familyhomehealth.blogspot.com/2014/06/food-as-medicine-for-incurable.html. And some more of my story is here: http://www.familyhomehealth.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-to-detox-and-why-you-should.html
I just bought my first stainless steel pan. It’s a Vollrath and I adore it. Vollrath is made in the USA and it’s 18/0, a 400 series pan. It was a bit pricey but less than All-Clad and I was able to buy it from a local small business restaurant supply store. I’m hoping to slowly replace all of my non-stick pans with this over the next few years.
Where did you find this information? I looked at their website for stainless cookware and the only information listed on each product page was either 18/8 or “high-quality.” Do you have a specific product name for your pan? Thanks.
I guess it gives two numbers (I must have looked too quickly, sorry) it actually says the interior is 18-8 and the exterior is 18-0. (So I guess it’s half 300 series and half 400 series?) I have the Tribute 3-Ply Fry Pan Natural Finish with Trivent Silicone Handle. My pan isn’t actually stamped with either of those numbers, but it is magnetic. 🙂
This is the webpage for the pan that I have: http://vollrath.com/ProductFamily/Professional-Cookware/Tribute174-3-Ply-Fry-Pans-Natural-Finish-with-TriVent174-Silicone-Handle.htm
Thanks, Maria! I had thought I’d reached the pinnacle in SS when I found out about all-clad, but now I see there are more important things to look for than just longevity. I’m new to cooking, and I just want to check that I’m understanding correctly: 300 vs 400 series relates to 18/8 or 10 vs 18/0 and is NOT a separate indicator of material quality?
This is actually quite troublesome to me, I enjoy sprinkling in lime juice and salt while cooking my fish, instead of after. So… what does everyone recommend I cook with instead, in those situations? I think I’ve read cast iron shouldn’t be mixed with tomato, and I think maybe now I should assume that includes all citrus and vinegar? Would a le creuset stoneware baking dish in the oven be suitable? Now I’m wondering what an all-clad can do that a le-creuset can’t! I’ve heard good things about x-trema cookware but I prefer to cook on an induction range so therein lies my dilemma. Any help would be appreciated, thanks!
I would look into Saladmaster.. they are made in the US for sure! 7-ply, 316Ti, series 400… safest cookware! they have demos and free house dinners..im located in san diego and my friend referred me to it. it’s the best cookware ever!
dont worry so much about it. the point was to not add anything until after the pan has heated up. as for cast iron and tomatoes it is just the opposite. tomatoes are best cooked in cast iron. i think it is the luteine that is released from the fruit but stand to be corrected.
I have Farberware stainless steel pots and pans that I bought 38 yrs ago. It hasn’t pitted, stained, or scratched. Only the handles seem to be getting a bit old, but still work fine.
My newer set of stainless already has stains on it that don’t come out. More like discoloration. I think those are Cuisinart. They work fine, but don’t look as nice as my old set. I’m keeping and using both sets, along with all my old and newer cast iron.
Unfortunately, they are both made in China.
Holly Gates says
300 series stainless is generally speaking more corrosion resistant than 400 series, meaning that less of the metal would get into your food).
Here is a very pertinent survey conducted by the government of Finland in 2010:
The study, titled “Review on Toxicity of Stainless Steel” is 87 pages long, with several dense pages of references at the end. For each potential area of concern with stainless affecting human health in every situations, the findings of numerous scientific studies are assessed and evaluated in light of EU guidelines for toxic material exposure. Whether or not you put any stock in the EU guidelines, the amounts and types of material which are found to transfer from stainless to food are interesting to think about.
As pointed out by others here, the main constituents of the stainless steels used in foodware are (300 and 400 series) are iron, nickel, and chromium. The materials of potential concern would be the nickel and chromium. In these alloys, the availability of nickel is found to be less than 0.1% of what it would be from a similar proportion of bulk nickel metal. The exception is alloy variants with sulfur added, typically to enhance machinability. These are not used for foodware. Even people hypersensitive to nickel (i.e. skin allergy) experience no reaction from intimate and lengthy contact with 304 or 316 stainless.
The availability of chromium however is approximately equal to what would be predicted given its proportion of the alloy. The question is how much chromium is coming off the metal during typical food preparation and storage activities.
The Finnish report finds that for medium to high pH range, even at cooking temperatures and with prolonged storage, essentially nothing transfers from the stainless to the food. Low pH materials result in some transfer.
One study cited in the report looked at storage of pickled lemon in stainless, which is lower pH than almost anything else you would think of using in the kitchen (pH 2.1). Kombucha is 3-4, pure white vinegar is 2.4. Other studies looked at prolonged boiling of low-ish ph foods in stainless. What was generally the result was that while some chromium and nickel transferred to the food, the actual amount was something like 10 times less than typical intake of these metals from the food itself (25ug/kg food is typical).
Exceptions are with the first few uses of new pots, and with some types of welds.
Many surgical implants and medical devices are made from 316L. This is because it is among the least reactive materials with biological systems that can be produced and worked at a reasonable cost.
To me, knowing that my food itself contains 10x the amount of what is coming off my pot makes me feel quite comfortable with the safety of my 304 stainless cookware.
Good research! And good information.
So which one would you buy?
I just got off the phone with Calphalon. Their stainless steel is 18/10 most of the time though some might be 18/8. Either way, their stainless steel lines are in the 300 series. I received my 10 piece set back in 2005 for a wedding gift. I love them to this day. They are easy to clean and now I can rest that they are a safe variety. Also, I, too, choose Calphalon because of its high quality and much more competitive pricing than All Clad. I will add that I began using a cast iron skillet for a lot of foods recently and like it.
I just contacted Calphalon’s customer service department. They have changed all of their stainless steel cookware to be induction ready. All of their stainless steel is now 18/0 even though their FAQ’s page in their website still says they use 18/10.
Diane Fernandez says
I have been wanting to buy Nutraease cookware for a long time because they say they use surgical grade steel/titanium. What does that mean? These are definitely pricey but are they worth it?
saladmaster is better than Nutraease.. surgical grade as in 316ti, better detachable handles as well as lifetime warranty and really good customer service.
Just saw the above reply and wanted to correct it because I was looking at the Nutra Ease cookware site when I decided to read more about aluminum in pots. Their website says “NutraEase™ is the ultimate in 316Ti Stainless Steel cooking technology. The combination of superior 316 type stainless steel and Titanium (316Ti) construction is designed to deliver one of the most durable surfaces available in stovetop cooking.” I hav
tony w says
Hi, I stumbled across this post while looking into SS cookware. We’re concerned about the leaching thing and generally trying to find healthy cooking alternatives (we still use a variety of SS cookware) but have recently been concerned after noticing discoloration, what others have called a “blueish rainbow tint”. Most opinions I read said this is nothing to worry about, but I’m still looking into it. This post was informative as we continue exploring options. However, one option I didn’t see above is glass cookware. A while back we bought an old Corningware Visions glass pot for cooking soup, etc. I would think that is safer than any type of metal pot. Any thoughts on that?
I’ve never heard about glass cooking pots but I do favor casserole dishes, since their nature is so easy to cook with. But all I’ve ever read and heard about glass is that it’s the most inert of all the options, even roasting over a fire.
I have an old Corning ware amber glass pot from the thrift store, too. I hope it’s healthy. It seems like nothing is nowadays.
I had a set of glass cookware and loved using them for specific things. I had European burners on the stove I had at that time and they were ok to use. Since then, we moved and “upgraded” to a glasstop stove. My specific stove says that glasstop cookware cannot be used on it so I sold the cookware. Sometimes wish I hadn’t of.
I have ceramic coated cast iron. Is there any reason to believe this is an unsafe choice? Is it fairly heavy but vey durable and i haven’t had any problems.
I use uncoated cast iron from the “Lodge” I sure hope it’s ok
From what I read, 100% ceramic is great, cast iron is good, ceramic coating is very bad for you as it is all chemical based material!
What have you read that makes you believe ceramic coating is bad for you? By this are you also meaning the enamel coating that Le Creuset uses? I am currently getting rid of all of my Teflon coated pans and am searching for a healthier alternative and was planning on replacing them with the cast iron enamel coated pans by Le Creuset. Any help is appreciated.
I replaced all my Teflon with old revere ware copper bottoms. And I have a few cast iron pieces. Any ideas on the safety of the revere ware?
I love my reverware. It always cleans up nice and it is lighter for my wrists, but wondering about the safety of them.
I realize this is from September of last year, but it was just shared via another blogger. Having read this I just grabbed one of my pots to see what it said on the bottom….no series number, but it is 18/10 stainless steel. I did a fair amount of research when I bought the set – couldn’t afford All-Clad so I went with Cuisinart Multi-Clad Pro, and I love it. Hopefully I won’t have too much pitting problems with it (in my lifetime). If you haven’t already purchased yours, look into the MCP.
Jackie Patti says
I got the MCP a year ago for Xmas and love it. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Otherwise, I use cast-iron and glass.
Your cuisinart mcp is almost identical to all-clad tri ply stainless the only difference being a millimeter or so thinner than all clad when measured with a verniers.
I know this is dated last year but I am just now reading this and I am courious as to your take on copper pots and pans?
Hi, your article on Stainless Steel cookware states that all of it LEACHES metals into the food. Some companies claim that
316Ti Surgical Steel does not leach. Do you have any info to substantiate that.
thanks so much
My husband and I are getting ready to buy 360 cookware. 360 is made in the USA in a “green” facility, meaning they don’t use harsh chemicals and finishes like most manufacturers. They are also wind powered. We’ve been really impressed with the company so far.
I just looked into their products and company and I like what I see! Did you purchase yet?? What do you think? How do their products compare to 316Ti Surgical Stainless Steel as mentioned above? Does anyone know the difference between Stainless Steel and Surgical Stainless Steel?
Hi, I just purchased the 360 stock pot. I looked for 2 years for a stainless steel crock pot.
So exited this company offers this. It is so well made. I have all clad and Le Creuset as well.
360 has aluminum in it.
So we are exceptionally hard on cookware & only 2 companies have stood up to our cooking & lifestyle. Pampered chef stainless steel (& stoneware for oven) and some pans sold at a home party in the 70s….I think maybe Miracle Maid? Went through my great aunt, my parents, and myself.
However, I am wondering about Cast Iron and helath risks (or benefits) from using it?
Also what to safely cook tomatoes in? Any ideas or suggestions?
We have enameled cast iron Le Creuset. I threw everything else away but I could only afford 4 pieces because they are expensive. I love cooking with iron over a gas stove. At Costco, I recently found a Kirkland (that’s Costco’s own brand) enameled cast iron stockpot. It’s just like my Le Creuset.
I did quite a bit of research on this about 10 or so years ago. As I lived near a Williams Sonoma outlet, I was able to purchase All-Clad bit by bit when I had the money. At the time, my sister and I would get together to do once-a-month cooking, so we really used those bigger pots and pans! I saw the investment not only for our joint cooking efforts, and my own cooking, but now as I am married and have a daughter, the investment in high quality pots and pans will be passed down to the next generation. After 10+ years of using them, they still look practically new.
Look into Townecraft. I bought the small set a few years ago and do not foresee ever buying another set in my lifetime. They’re amazing and address all of the issues you speak of in your post.
I have owned a complete set of Chef Ware by Townecraft for over 28 years now. I also have their bake ware. It is in great shape and cleans easily. I just recently broke a handle when I dropped it on my hardwood floor. The company offers a lifetime warranty. The imprint on the side of the pans says, “5-ply multicore, T304 stainless steel, made in USA = 85”. They were expensive when I bought them, but since I have not had to purchase any more cookware, I’d have to say they were cheaper in the long run. One of the main selling points was the fact that they are surgical steel.
My mom just purchased a ‘Marmite’ Stainless steel 16 quart stock pot for me, made in China. The numbers you mention earlier do not correspond to what is stamped on the bottom of the pot….at least as I can determine. So here is what is stamped on the bottom: 886420 (maybe 9?9?86420. Is this a 400 series? I am making a great deal of bone broth for clients with compromised health conditions, so want to use the least toxic/best quality stock pot.
Robin Johnston says
I know this is a 3+ yrs ago post, but I just have to chime in: Made in CHINA means that you have NO way to know what materials are in there. Their numbers if you see any, don’t mean a thing. I have banned China from my kitchen. And plastics. For many, many items, I’ve found out that you need to look in eBay, Etsy etc and buy vintage. Like maybe your mom’s blender, y’know the one she’s had 35+ years and still going strong? Same name so you assume still same quality and produced here. Careful. I’m finding that more often than not it isn’t anymore. For that old-fashioned quality you may just need to go for vintage. After I learned about the deliberate melamine poisoning tragedies with the pet food imported to us (if you don’t know about that just Google it) I purged everything from China that comes in any contact with food. Ours and our pets. It isn’t easy either! You have to spend an enormous amount of time to find out where every single thing you want is manufactured. Not just cookware, but dishes, glasses, flatware, dog’s bowls, etc. And then you still can’t always be successful. For example, I really want one of those can openers that don’t leave any sharp edges; but nope. No other country in the world makes one, only China. Add the fact that many of our familiar and trusted companies are quietly moving there now, and being sneaky about it too. Just because something was made here for generations doesn’t mean it still is. Big names. Appliances. Damn can openers. Swing-A-Way made your great grandparents, grandparents, parents, and probably yours here in the USA–until they sold their company here. But not their name. They took the name to China. They’re in all our usual stores and they look the same, but are all now made in China. But I’m seeing stuff like: they ship them to veterans organisations here and then say “sold by American veterans”. Omg right? Others put US in their product’s or company’s name. Or put a little thumbnail pic of the flag somewhere. Sooo much deception. Did you know that our regulations were changed a couple years ago, so manufacturers are no longer required to say where anything is made?! Didn’t hear about that in the news… Regarding foods, you need to find out where every single ingredient is SOURCED from too. Doesn’t matter one bit if something is made here, if they use components from there. Sorry about my rant here. I just get so mad! Oh one last thing. The American company that bought Swing-a-Way’s USA operations? Is EZ-DUZ-IT. So if ya want one that’s made here…
Sorry to resurrect a dead post, but I got upset.
“stainless steel can leach aluminum” um no.
For the record, there is no aluminum in 18/10. Metal can’t leach what is not in it. If you really care do your own research with real facts, not opinions.
Carbon, C 0.020 %
Chromium, Cr 18.5 %
Iron, Fe 71.23 %
Nickel, Ni 10.2 %
Nitrogen, N 0.050 %
What about the pans with multi-layer bottoms with aluminum?
I’m not any kind of expert on all the different pots, but everyone I’ve seen a solid stainless steel pot has an aluminum “disc” attached to the bottom and then covered again in stainless. So without significant and obvious damage the inside of the pot is sealed from the aluminum by a single solid piece of steel, the original pot. The same pot is usually sold without the aluminum as a less expensive pot. At any temps at home aluminum won’t migrate through the stainless. There are minimum temperatures for this type of alloying. Hope this helps.
That’s what I was thinking as I read this whole thread. Nothing like fear-mongering about things that we don’t need to… I have had my Cuisinart set for close to 30 years and they’re excellent. They have a copper bottom. I like my cast iron skillets and have a ceramic over cast iron dutch oven that I also love.
Verna, its not about fear mongering. If you bothered to read some of Nichole’s comments she states people reporting healing from their health conditions after changing their cookware. You are definitely trolling.
Digging through the inner layer of stainless to the aluminum core would be extremely difficult. If you clean your cookware with a diamond toothed saw you might be able to. 18/10 stainless is surgical grade and food-safe.
Thank you Nathan for that refreshingly mindful comment. It’s telling that informative comments like yours appear after so many unhelpful ones. They’re frustrating to read through and hard to ignore.
Made with 18/10 stainless steel, meaning it will not rust, chip, peel, or stain. With the soft silicone, handles you can comfortably hold it in your hand while absorbing tension, you can squeeze out all the juice you need to make your delicious food. The squeezer is super-efficient and has a tidy outlet providing you with the simplest concept of extracting juice.
You can find our company at https://stainless-cook.com/ Please send us an inquiry with any questions.
What country is it manufactured in and from what country are the materials from? Thank you.
Karen B says
Nicole–Your article raises some serious questions for me. I had always been told that the stainless steel was safe to use. I have Farberware cookware that is anywhere from 30 to 60 years old. some is still pretty smooth, but the really old stuff is pretty well-worn.
Does that mean I’m leeching other metals into our food?
Does anyone know of a plain stainless steel cookware set with no copper or aluminum inserts?
Everyone needs to be aware that cookware made today (even by the same manufacturer/brand) is not the same as what was made 10, 20, 30 years ago. The quality of materials has diminished over time. This is especially prevalent for products made overseas. Some manufacturers/brands that were made in the USA, are now made overseas. For those that are concerned about health, and what we may be putting into our bodies that can cause us harm, we really need to do our homework and spend time researching. You cannot believe everything you hear or even what may be imprinted on a product. The truth is out there, you just have to find it.
Pat L says
Ok, my head is appropriately spinning and about to explode with all the information about cookware, and I am really unsure now on what I should buy. Let me qualify by saying I’m new to TCS. Add to that, I’m a man (ok ladies, stop laughing). Now consider I’m 63 with health issues and I have to do my own cooking as I don’t yet have my wife on board with the healthy eating, AND I’ve never done much cooking (mostly grilling and single dish meals like chili or spaghetti). I’m up for buying new cookware if I can determine what would be safe and reasonable, but after reading these post I question whether anything is really safe. I’m currently cooking on two ceramic skillets and stainless steel pots (don’t remember the brand but they were expensive when we bought them 15 years ago). I’ll need to check when I’m at home. So, considering I’m a guy and I’m used to following orders (oh, excuse me … directions), anyone care to tell me … go buy this?
Holly M says
Do you know about Vitacraft cookware?? Expensive, but well worth it and it made in Kansas 🙂
Pat L says
Nope, not familiar. I’ll take a look at it. Thank you for the suggestion.
I have a small SS mixing bowl and revere 2 qt SS pot with copper bottom that became pitted from soaking cloth in clorox. Should these be thrown away?
I use antique Revereware pots, and a 100+ year old cast iron skillet. I am thinking about getting a crock pot too.
Wow it took a long time to read all. One of my friends became Saladmaster consultant, and strongly recommended her products for the health of our children. I was very upset, as I have been using over 11 yrs if rather expensive multi ply stainless steel set, along with Ecolution frying pans.
I definitely need to research further I guess for background information.
Steven Dombrowski says
I recently was reading over all the information on this page due to becoming more aware of possible toxicity in various types of cookware. I once did extensive research into non-stick coatings and found a scientist who said the chemicals from non-stick do not release unless above 500F-600F. Prior to that, I found everyone saying other things with little research.
As for stainless steel, I recently found a really great research article everyone should look at. The link will be provided at the bottom. I believe there is nothing to worry about as the scientific article says there is more of these chemicals in food we eat than what is released from our cookware. On another note, my grandmother who is in perfect health and is now 90 years old, has been using all this stuff along with aluminum foil to cook for her whole life. Just one example of many I know in this age range who have did this and are fine. Point being, we must not become nervous, but continue to look at all aspects of everything. I will continue to look into all this toxicity my whole life to stay on top of things but will always look from a science standpoint. The science community are the ones who actually test metals to see what temperatures leach into food.
Hope this all helps!
Thanks and here is the link.
Food Grade Solution says
I have do lot’s of research on food grade related. So, here you explain perfectly that i want to know about that. Thank you very much for the same. I really glad to visit on this site and keep posting the good stuff like this one.
Has anyone considered Belkraft 7 ply Ti Type 316 thermium surgical stainless steel and titanium cookware
Matt Weaving says
316TI stainless steel is an alloy steel made with stainless steel and Titanium. It is corrosion and chemical resistant. Hence, it is more durable and long lasting. This type of stainless steel can also withstand the constant change of temperatures. That’s why it is now used to produce sturdy cookware ranges. The 316TI stainless steel cookware ranges are affordable. They are also safe and easy-to-handle while cooking. Saladmaster provide the best 316TI Stainless Steel Product.
James Borst says
It is interesting that 18/10 means that it is made of 18% chromium and 10% nickel. My wife and I are considering upgrading our kitchenware now that we have been living in our home for over 10 years. We may also consider galvanized metal as well.
Look up Xtrema cookware. It is 100% ceramic, and extremely durable. No metals of any kind. Yes you can use on open flame, I’ve been abusing mine for four years now and still going strong. The wellness mama podcast has an interview with the creator from a couple years ago.
Helen Marie Fotovich says
In your article, you mentioned that dry beans are healthier than canned beans. I beg to differ with you. Dry beans, dried peas, all kinds of rice, grains and legumes are hot healthy to be cooked as they are. They need to be processed before cooking to get the best benefit from them. Why?
All these foods contain phytic acid which can cause havoc with your teeth. (Literally dissolve the teeth.) To get rid of the phytic acid, these foods need to be fermented. How is that done?
Measure out how much of any of the products you wish to cook. Put what you measured into a bowl. Cover whichever food you are working with water. Make sure there is at least one to two inches of water above the food. Cover with a loose-fitting lid or towel. Set aside for at least 6 to 12 hours. During that time, stir periodically. Before you begin cooking the food, rinse well. (A short-cut that I like to use is to add one (1) teaspoon of baking soda to the water. It can cut down on the fermenting time. Baking soda helps to remove the acid.)
Ladies in the jungles of Africa have been fermenting legumes and grains for centuries. Have you noticed what beautiful teeth they have?
Vicki Henry says
Hi Helen Marie, we do recommend soaking all seeds to reduce the anti-nutrients. Seeds includes nuts, seeds, legumes and grains.
Here are a few posts where we talk about soaking:
~ Vicki, TCS Customer Success Team
OK so we know how to clean the inside of stainless steel. but, I have a gas range and the outside is my primary concern. I am convinced that the only cookware that is OK on an open flame is cast iron. Stainless steel just gets more and more discolored.
Mrs Abbas says
Hi, with regards to stainless steel cookware, how can we know if a certain dent or pit in the surface of the pot is too deep. My steel frying pan has been unfortunately mishandled over the years and shows small dents and can be felt slightly. I wish I could upload a picture. Kindly guide, thanks!
You have constructively structured a piece of information. It helps to avoid misconceptions.
Thank you very much.
Jason Peterson says
The common soft 18/10 steel without molybdenum is vulnerable to salt. Avoid storing salted leftovers in it. Or soaking with salt. The salt gets concentrated as the water boils off and air pockets with oxygen get introduced by stirring, allowing for corrosion. I’ve a bad experience storing boiled grain products like salted fluffy rice. Meat under a layer of fat seems to be ok.
Pouring a small amount of water onto a hot pan for cleaning is fine. This is what you do when making a pan sauce. During cooking I usually scrub a moist piece of meat or a similar product along the pan’s edges where fried layers occur to deglaze them.
Heavy residue can be cleaned with caustic soda (caution). It won’t damage the steel unless there is also table salt present. Shallower white pits can be polished away with 800-1000 sandpaper and a polishing paste.
Would you also avoid using a nickel spoon rubbing it against porcelain which actively removes material?
Thanks for sharing. Regarding the nickel spoon – we havent’ heard that before, but if it is true, then yes sounds like a good thing 🙂
~Danielle, TCS Customer Success Team
So who is making Series 400 (18/0) stainless cookware? I am aware of the HOMICHEF brand, but my experience with that product is their 18/0 layer is so thin that any substantial acid contact will start to pit the surface. For example, I leave vinegar overnight to loosen food with 18/10 or 18/8 stainless, and there is never any issue. With HOMICHEF that can create a pit.
What I would really like to see is 18/0 stainless cutlery and serving dishes. I am using 30-year-old stainless silverware, and I am fairly sure that must be leaking metals with every meal I use it.
John Mullins says
Great article. This article is full of information & knowledge. Many thanks to the author for sharing this informative and helpful article with us.
Old lady here. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this article.
I have never been a fan of non-stick cookware. As part of the ‘better living through chemistry boom’ during the 60’s, my mother didn’t trust “lined pots”, so she stuck to her stainless steel pots and pans and cast iron skillets–and so have I.
This is the most informative article I have read about metal cookware. I am upgrading my collection and–being pressured by hubby to get non-stick (as if HE is the main dish-washer, lol), I decided to take a deep dive into this. I’ve wondered about aluminum, but your article has allayed my concerns and Stainless Steel Wins!
I’m sending a bunch of girlfriends to your site to read this.