Guide to Kitchen Utensils, Pots, Pans and Accessories: Stainless Steel

About the uses, care, cost, and controvery surrounding stainless steel kitchen utensils, pots, pans, and accessories.


Properties: Stainless steel must contain at least 11 1/2% chromium in order to be called stainless. Alone it does not conduct or retain heat well, so copper, aluminum, iron, carbon steel, or vanadium are added. Stainless steel utensils are easy to clean. Terms relevant to stainless steel: 1. Bottom-clad--the utensil is copperplated or aluminum is bonded to the outside bottom. 2. Two-ply--utensils have a coating of another metal on either the entire inside or the entire outside of the pan. 3. Three-ply--utensils have another metal between the inside and the outside layers of stainless steel, somewhat like a copper, aluminum, or steel "sandwich."

Cost: Moderate to expensive.

Use: Made into cookware, bakeware, implements such as spoons, knife blades, and tools.

Care: When new, give the utensil a thorough washing in soapy warm water before using. For cooking, use a medium flame to heat, then turn down. There is never a need for a high flame because of the utensil's heating properties. Overheating will sometimes turn stainless steel dark in spots. Never pour cold water into a hot thin steel pan; it will warp. To remove burned-on food, fill with water, bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the water remain in the utensil until it has cooled. Scrub with a nylon scrub pad in the direction of the polish lines, rinse, and dry.

Controversy: In Let's Cook It Right, Adelle Davis says that investigations have shown "that if even the best stainless steel utensils are scoured only once with an abrasive powder, scratch pad, or steel wool, small amounts of chromium, nickel, and other highly toxic metallic compounds dissolve into every food cooked in them thereafter. Unfortunately, food is frequently burned the 1st time such a utensil is used and the pan is quickly scoured. Some authorities believe chromium and nickel are so toxic . . . they recommend discarding any utensil which has been scoured even once. Exactly how dangerous these metals are is unknown at present, but they do appear to be considerably more toxic than aluminum."

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