Stainless Steel is chiefly made up of Iron with Chromium being present about 10.5% and Carbon about 1.2%. Depending on the type of stainless steel being made, there could be other elements in alloy as well.
For the purpose of utensils, the most common commercially available steel grade is the SAE 202 one. This grade is used for storing food items because it has lower resistance to corrosion as compared to some other variants. However, the best grade for being used as utensils is SAE 304, which is also written as 18/10 in flatware grading systems. This represents 18% Chromium and 10% Nickel. This variety is resistance to corrosion and rust and is not magnetic. However, this is more expensive than 202 grade steel.
Another variant SAE 316 is used for making high-end cookware. It has additional element molybdenum which further increases resistance to corrosion caused by salt and chemicals.
Is Stainless Steel good for utensils?
Stainless steel has certain properties which make it good for use as utensils. These are…
1/8. Corrosion Resistance-Food grade stainless steel is resistant to corrosion which allows to make a wide variety of kitchen utensils.
2/8. Non-reactive-Stainless Steel is non-reactive in nature. This makes it suitable for cooking acidic foods which many other traditional cookware are not conducive for.
3/8. Ease of cleaning- Leftovers can be cleaned easily in stainless steel utensils without worrying about stains. You can use soaps or detergents, baking soda etc. to remove these. Ease of cleaning makes them one of the most hygienic utensils. Even where these have not been used for a long time, there is not much requirement of cleaning.
4/8. Quick Heat Absorption and Even Distribution of Heat-These utensils are able to absorb heat fast and quick. A multi-layered, multiple ply (3 or 5 ply) utensil is able to distribute heat more evenly.
5/8. Sturdy and durable- Stainless steel utensils do not corrode and these are relatively inert while cooking food. This makes them quite sturdy and durable.
6/8. Food retains natural taste- Since there is no addition of any trace elements from utensil to the food being cooked therein, food retains its natural taste and nutritional content.
7/8. Good For High Temperature Cooking- SS utensils are tolerant of high temperatures which makes them good for high-temperature cooking applications.
8/8. Non-toxic- These are not toxic in nature. One can remain satisfied that these do not leach toxic metals into food in quantities which can make these harmful for consumption.
Stainless Steel utensils manufacturing in India
Stainless steel kitchenware is manufactured in certain cities in India. Though there are more than 6000 manufacturers, these are concentrated in these cities. The major manufacturing hubs are Delhi, Kundli, Jodhpur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Salem, Thane, Pune and Jagadhri. Household consumption of stainless steel utensils was about 57% of the total consumption in 2012.
Drawbacks of Stainless Steel Utensils
In general, these utensils are non-toxic and do not have any side effect. However, for people who are allergic to heavy metals such as Nickel or Chromium, there can be acute contact dermatitis (ACD) or eczema. This can happen because traces of these metals can be leached into food, though the quantities, ideally, should not be harmful for anyone.
Another drawback is that the stainless steel needs more oil addition in order to avoid food to be sticking. Therefore, seasoning of utensil with oil is required before cooking.