Is it safe to use scratched stainless steel cookware? This is a very common question for someone who owns a piece of stainless steel cookware.
The short answer to this question is yes, it is safe to use scratched stainless steel cookware since unlike nonstick pans, harmful chemicals will not leach into your food, even if some coating comes off after a period of time.
Having said this, the degree to which scratches are deep on the stainless steel cookware may impact the safety of the food being cooked (we will discuss more in detail).
I have been using a stainless steel kadai in my kitchen for around 9 years now. Even though stainless steel is tough like cast iron, but scratches and dents are bound to appear, especially when it is used almost every day.
Till date, I cook all types of dishes in the steel kadai without any issues.
Through this post, we will discuss if it is safe to use scratched stainless steel cookware and also how to avoid scratches on stainless steel cookware?
You can also check out other posts on 7 Best 2 Burner Stainless Steel Gas Stove in India and 7 Best Stainless Steel Dinner Set Brands in India.
Is It Safe to Use Scratched Stainless Steel Cookware?
Stainless steel is extremely tough, it is a cookware which can be passed from one generation to other, and is known for its durability. Even though manufacturers state their stainless steel is scratch resistant, but scratches can appear after a period of time.
There are 2 main reasons, why you would see some scratches on the stainless steel cookware:
1). Usage of metal utensils on the steel cookware can cause scratches to appear
2). Using steel scrubber to remove stains can also cause scratches on the steel cookware
Now the scratches on the steel cookware can either be light or heavy.
If there are only light or slightly moderate scratches, you can continue to use the steel cookware as it is totally safe.
On the other hand, if there are heavy scratches on the steel cookware, it can cause chemicals to leach into your food and leave a metallic taste.
If there is no metallic taste in the food, your steel cookware is safe to use. However, in presence of metallic taste, you should get rid of the steel cookware.
Type of Stainless Steel Cookware
The safety of the scratched steel cookware also greatly depends on its construction or the way it was built in the first place.
Stainless steel cookware is usually made with a combination of metals, such as iron, carbon, and chromium. Now, when a steel pan made from these materials is heavily scratched, some metals can leach into the food, but only in small quantities.
However, if you are allergic to these metals, you should not cook any more in the heavily scratched stainless steel cookware.
At the same time, some steel cookware such as Tri Ply stainless steel comes with a layer of aluminium which is often sandwiched between two layers of stainless steel.
If this type of cookware has heavy scratches, there might be a slight chance that a layer of aluminium is exposed to the cooking dishes. However this will only happen when the steel cookware is of extremely poor quality and was bought cheaply.
This is because, in a good quality Tri Ply stainless steel cookware, the layers of steel are extremely thick usually ranging from 1.5 to 3.5 mm. A layer of steel with this kind of thickness is extremely difficult to penetrate unless you are drilling.
While looking for a steel cookware for your kitchen, avoid buying 200 series and look for 304 grade stainless steel, as it is food safe. If the pocket allows, choose a 400 series steel cookware, there is nothing better than that.
Why Should You Not Worry for Light or Moderate Scratches
The manner in which a stainless steel cookware is crafted, it very quickly forms a protective oxide layer which helps to prevent further corrosion. If there are light or medium scratches on the stainless steel cookware, these scratches help to rebuild the protective layer and prevent corrosion.
One thing you should understand is if there are scratches on the steel cookware, the new or opened layer is still stainless steel, unless it is a 3-ply construction. The new steel layer will reform the protective layer while you are cooking as steel always expands once it gets hot.
In simple words, the alloys used to construct stainless steel are mainly chromium and nickel.
These are fairly reactive metals and they will oxidize very quickly when scratched, and reform a non reactive surface. This non reactive surface will prevent the metal underneath from further oxidation.
So, even if you scratch a stainless steel pan or a pot, the metal itself will instantly form a barrier to prevent further corrosion.
Always remember, the ingredients or components of stainless steel are nontoxic in nature, which is why, it is safe to use scratched stainless steel cookware, unless the scratches are extremely deep.
How to Prevent Scratches on Stainless Steel Cookware?
While there is no health concern associated with scratched stainless steel cookware, there are still a few ways how you can prevent scratches on your stainless steel cookware.
1). Avoid Metal Utensils
Metal utensils such as tongs, spatulas are commonly used especially on steel pans and pots. These metal utensils can have sharp edges which can leave scratches on the stainless steel cookware. To avoid this, you can use spatulas made from bamboo, nylon or even silicone. Silicone spatulas are heat resistant as well as scratch resistant, so they won’t leave scratches on the steel cookware.
2). Avoid Steel Wool
There is no doubt about the fact that steel wools are a very effective way to remove stains and burnt food from most of the cookware types, however, they have sharp and abrasive edges. Steel wools when used roughly can easily leave scratches on the steel cookware. Instead of a steel wool, you can use Scotch-Brite sponge to remove stains or burnt food from the steel cookware.
3). Proper Storage
Yes, stainless steel is tough, but it is not the toughest, especially when you have cast iron, metal spoons, hard anodized cookware or dutch ovens in the kitchen. At times, we do not pay a lot of attention in how we store some utensils. For an example, stacking of steel cookware with cast iron can certainly leave a scratch on the steel cookware, which is why, you should invest in proper storage of dishes such as a dish drying rack, a trolley or a stand to store the dishes. Even if you want to store different cookware dishes together, ensure you place a newspaper or a soft tissue in between the dishes.
4). Don’t Cut or Chop on the Surface
While it may look tempting to cut or chop the veggies on a flat stainless steel pan or a pot, try and always avoid it. Instead, use a chopping board to take care of cutting and chopping needs. Impact with the knife on a steel cookware can easily leave an instant scratch, especially when you are using a chef knife. The usage of knife will allow bacteria to accumulate in deep holes and scratches.
How to Remove Scratches from Stainless Steel Cookware?
No one likes to see the scratches on the stainless steel cookware, especially when you are cooking on it every day. By following a few simple tips, you can remove scratches on the steel cookware.
Even before the scratches appear on the stainless steel cookware, remember this thumb rule, while trying to clean the stainless steel cookware, start with the gentlest method possible, and then try more and more potentially harmful or abrasive methods.
In most of the cases, you should be able to remove hard stains or burnt food from the steel cookware without using any hard detergents.
1). Use a Scotch-Brite Pad (Light to Moderate Scratches)
Using a scotch-brite pad is one of the most effective ways to remove scratches from the stainless steel cookware. These pads are soft on the impact and will never leave a scratch on any type of cookware. While choosing a scotch-brite pad to remove scratches from stainless steel cookware, select a pad which is as close to the depth of the scratch.
Now, locate the grin of the stainless steel cookware, you should be able to feel the grain with your fingers (there are lines on every steel cookware). Rub the pad over the grin of the stainless steel cookware, while doing this, ensure not to rub the pad against the grin. By doing this regularly, you will be able to remove scratches from the steel cookware.
Once the scratch is removed, pat that area with a soft piece of cloth. This process is ideal for light to moderate scratches on the steel cookware.
2). Use a Sandpaper (Deep Scratches)
While you can use a scotch-brite pad to remove light to moderate scratches on the stainless steel cookware, you will need a sandpaper to remove deep scratches from the steel cookware. A sandpaper comes with a coarse or a rough texture which is ideal to remove deep scratches without causing any further damage to the steel cookware pan.
The sandpaper should be wet and once it is wet, gently scrub the wet sandpaper on the deep scratches by following the grain on the stainless steel cookware (similar to the above process). Remember to not scrub against the grin while following this process.
Once this is done, use the fine textured side of the sandpaper to smoothen the scratches you have just fixed. Again, follow the grin of the steel cookware to apply the sandpaper. Now, you can rinse the steel pan with some water and wipe it with a clean cloth.
How Long Will Scratched Stainless Steel Cookware Last?
Stainless steel cookware can easily last for generations even if it has scratches. Depending on the nature of the scratch, you can use a stainless steel cookware anywhere from 5 to 20 years. If you can somehow manage to remove the scratches from the steel cookware, expect the steel cookware to last for even more years.
The problem comes when the scratches are deep enough to accumulate bacteria, which can potentially cause health hazards. If that happens, you should replace the steel cookware asap and not use it. At the same time, do not cook in the steel cookware if it leaves a metallic taste in your food, as it may be a signal that chemicals are leaching into your food. This is the right time to look for another stainless steel cookware piece or a set.
Conclusion – Is It Safe to Use Scratched Stainless Steel Cookware?
Yes, it is safe to use scratched stainless steel cookware as long as you know and understand how deep are the scratches. For light scratches, there is nothing to worry about and you can continue to cook in the steel cookware. For deep scratches, use the sandpaper method to fix those scratches. You can change the cookware if you have allergies to metals or if the food leaves a metallic taste. To avoid this happening in future, invest in a Tri-Ply stainless steel cookware set, since it has 3 layers and it’s virtually impossible to penetrate in those layers unless you are literally drilling.
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