Treasured for more than 200 years, stainless steel containers are loved the world over as durable, safe, and environmentally responsible food storage that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
While stainless steel containers may be easier to find these days, it's important to know that they're not all made equally. We’ve narrowed down what to look for to help you choose stainless steel kitchenware that’s right for your home. And if you already have stainless steel in your home, keep reading to learn the signs that your stainless steel might be ready for replacement.
At the highest level, we recommend stainless steel that is:
- Food grade
Investing in stainless steel with these characteristics will ensure that you get your money’s worth with kitchenware that is safe, durable, and sustainable for your family and the planet.
Choose Food-Grade Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is an alloy (meaning it's a mix of several metallic elements). Depending on the final usage of the product, different combinations are used to produce optimal characteristics. ie. transportation bridges, surgical tools or food storage containers require different optimal characteristics such as strength, pliability, and wear to form the products and to stand up to its intended use.
You may be familiar with18/8 which is a simplified classification system only describing 2 ingredients of many- chromium and nickel. 18/8 means 18% chromium, 8% nickel. This simplified classification, however, leaves out much needed details. The industry standard is using a series classification system ie 200 series, 300 series, 400 series with many sub classifications under each.
US FDA food grade compliant stainless steel is 200 and 300 series.
For the home, food-grade stainless steel is the most commonly used in commercial kitchens and hospitals, namely 201 and 304. Stainless steel in these grades are non-toxic, non-corroding, and non-porous with antibacterial qualities.
If you already have stainless steel containers and you’re not sure if it's food grade, here's are a few indicators that it may not be - metallic taste, tarnishes, and very light in weight.
Choose Seamless Stainless Steel Kitchenware
When choosing stainless steel kitchenware—whether stainless steel containers, water bottles, straws, or lunch boxes—ensure non-magnetic and made without without seams and joints. Unfortunately, adhesives used to join seams are toxic. Just like with canned soup or vegetables, an invisible resin coating is applied as a protective barrier so keep food from touching the toxic chemicals. While this in not a major concern for single use can, it is a problem for multi-use containers. The resin coating deteriorates with each wash, eventually exposing toxic chemicals and even leaving gaps in the seams for bacteria to hide.
With seamless stainless steel kitchenware, a simple wash with soap by hand or the dishwasher is enough to know that your container is disinfected and chemical free even if there is a severe allergy within the household as there will be no risk of cross-contamination, regardless of what the container was used for last.
If you already have stainless steel at home with seams, it is recommended to hand wash to extend the life of this resin, which breaks down more readily in high temperature dishwashers.
Here’s a simple test to tell if the resin has deteriorated and become porous: does the container or water bottle retain odors? If you’re not sure, make mint tea (or anything fragrant). Keep it in the stainless vessel for the day, pour it out and wash it. If it still smells of mint tea, this indicates the resin has deteriorated and it’s time to be replaced.
Choose Colorless Stainless Steel
When selecting kitchenware for your home, skip the colors and opt for the minimalist beauty of colorless stainless steel. Paints and dyes often contain lead and cadmium which are harmful to your health. With regular use and washing, paint coatings can chip and peel and can unknowingly be ingested.
Choose Sustainable Stainless Steel
Stainless steel that is food grade, colorless and seamless is the sustainable option. Due to its durability, it typically lasts a lifetime and you’ll be able to add to your stainless steel collection instead of having to replace it.
Stainless steel products made with paints, dyes, mixed grades are difficult to recycle and most will end up in landfills. On the other hand, food grade stainless steel that is not mixed with other materials ie plastic rim/lids, paint coatings or dyes) can be recycled at end of life to make new stainless steel products, and that cycle can be repeated infinitely!
Choose Stainless Steel
Simply choosing stainless steel for your kitchen is a step in the right direction, whether you’re doing a whole kitchen detox or swapping out one container at a time. It all adds up!
Here are 20 Tips for an Eco Kitchen with other simple things you can do that ultimately make a big positive impact, for your home and the world at large. And if you’d like to learn even more about stainless steel kitchenware and Dalcini, check out our FAQs.