I was having coffee with a buddy of mine some time back and we were talking about cookware. He popped a very interesting question to me. What the hell is this business with the 18/10 or 18/8 grade stainless steel that you see on some pots and pans?
It dawned on me that a lot of people who are not in the business of cooking may not know this as well. So here’s my take on this and hopefully it will shed some light on the subject and hopefully make some of you out there walk into your kitchen after reading this to take a closer look at your stainless steel pots and pans if you own them.
To begin with, what exactly is stainless steel? You’ve used stainless steel pans and they do stain and leave watermarks even after washing don’t they? A better way to describe this is to say that ‘stainless steel’ was derived from the term ‘highly stain resistant steel’.
It is an alloy comprising mainly of 10.5% or more of Chromium and more than 50% of Iron apart from other metals such as Nickel. It is the metal of choice for cooking as the alloy has no pores, crevices nor cracks no matter how minute they are. Simply said, it cannot harbour bacteria nor grime, unless the surface isn’t properly washed in the first place. Its neutrality also means that it will not affect the flavour of food contrary to acidic food on cast iron. I’ll leave that topic to another day.
Other metals and elements are incorporated into your pots and pans apart from Chromium and Nickel such as Vanadium, Titanium, Copper and natural elements like Carbon. Now here’s an interesting side-note. High-Carbon stainless steel usually contains a minimum of 0.3% Carbon. The higher the carbon content, the tougher the steel.
Now on to this business about the 18/10 and 18/8 grade stainless steel. The term basically reflects on the amount of Chromium and Nickel that has been amalgamated or should I say alloyed with the iron that make up what we know as stainless steel. Therefore, an 18/10 grade usually refers to an alloy of about 18% Chromium and about 14% Nickel. These two metals give your pots the ability to resist stains and corrosion.
The chemical property of Chromium is such that it causes the steel to react with elements in the atmosphere that forms a protective layer over the surface of our cookware. This is the layer that resists corrosion, stains and the likelihood of rust. Combined with Nickel it increases the protective layer and gives your cookware that luscious shine.
In essence, the higher the numbers, the more expensive and better your cookware. So before you buy that expensive brand of cookware, take a look at the stainless steel grade.