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Why not chrome?

I've seen griddles that were chrome plated (decorative chrome), but I would think that chrome, especially industrial hard chrome (which is nearly indestructible; this is what the hydraulic pistons on a bucket loader are plated with for example, and most military rifle bores and chambers) would be good for aluminum, copper, steel, or iron cookware.

Copper for example is usually tinned, but the tin wears off eventually, and can't handle high heat. Sometimes a sheet of stainless steel is bonded to it, but stainless steel is a poor conductor and it is "sticky", so even though it is far more durable than tin and can handle high heat, many people still prefer tin because of its better conductivity and better "non-stick" quality.

Chrome on the other hand, has greater thermal conductivity than tin (and far greater than stainless steel), and has a high degree of natural lubricity. This natural lubricity helped alleviate the jamming problem (mostly failures to extract) that early M16 rifles were having in the Vietnam war. By hard chroming the chambers, there was far less friction between the chamber walls and the fired brass cases, allowing easier extraction, thus less jamming. However, I don't know if that would translate to any degree of "non-stick" in cookware; I've never cooked on chrome to find out.

So it seems to me that industrial hard chrome would be a better performer thermally than both tin or stainless steel; far more durable than tin, and at least as durable as stainless steel; might possibly have some degree of "non-stick" due to its natural lubricity; able to handle far higher heat than tin (higher than cookware would ever be subjected to); and unlike tin, metal utensils are no problem for chrome.

Is there something I'm missing? Why isn't anyone making hard chromed copper or aluminum cookware?

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  1. One article I read about chromium: "does not tarnish in air, but can burn when heated forming the green chromic oxide. It is used in plating other metals because of its hardness and non-tarnishing properties."
    http://chromeforcars.com/a80a/

    Hard chrome plating isn't any different than decorative chrome plating, it's just applied thicker.
    "Hard chrome plating is almost always applied to items that are made of steel, usually hardened steel. It is metallic in appearance but is not particularly reflective or decorative. Hard chrome plating is not a finish that you would want on a wheel or bumper.:Hard chrome plating is almost always applied to items that are made of steel, usually hardened steel. It is metallic in appearance but is not particularly reflective or decorative. Hard chrome plating is not a finish that you would want on a wheel or bumper."
    http://www.finishing.com/faqs/chrome....

    1 Reply
    1. re: monku

      "One article I read about chromium: "does not tarnish in air, but can burn when heated forming the green chromic oxide. It is used in plating other metals because of its hardness and non-tarnishing properties."
      http://chromeforcars.com/a80a/"

      That would have to be far more heat than would ever be used in cooking. Like I said, I've seen chrome-plated griddles and they do fine (for example - http://www.amazon.com/Griddle-Chrome-...). Also, chromed bores in military rifles can be subjected to intense heat (sustained full-auto fire can heat a barrel red-hot, due to the friction between the bore and the high velocity bullets).

      "Hard chrome plating isn't any different than decorative chrome plating, it's just applied thicker."

      Yes, that's correct, but it is *much* thicker (measured in thousandths of an inch rather than in millionths of an inch like decorative chrome) and that makes a world of difference in terms of durability. Decorative chrome can't even be subjected to a hardness test without cracking because it is so thin. It is kind of like the difference between aluminum foil and a 1/8" thick sheet of aluminum.

    2. Mainly because chromium is toxic if it's ingested.

      Edit: That's just falling back on the knowledge I gained from my high school chemistry class...

      13 Replies
      1. re: deet13

        Plenty of commercial griddles are chrome plated (I've seen consumer griddles that were chrome plated as well), so that shouldn't be an issue.

        1. re: MaximRecoil

          I believe they are nickel plated and not chrome plated.

          1. re: monku

            I don't know if they make nickel-plated griddles or not, but they definitely make chrome-plated griddles:

            "A griddle is a thick metal plate for cooking, known for maintaining even heat. This cooking tool is usually made of cast iron, steel (polished or cold-rolled), or aluminum, and may have a chrome finish."

            Here is another one that is actually called "Chrome Max
            - http://www.concessionstands.com/48-EL... - and it features a hard chromed cooking surface:

            "Product Description (548CHSD)
            Chrome-Max 48” wide griddle with 3/4” hard chrome surface providing superior cooking performance and even heat distribution. Highly polished chrome surface reflects heat inward reducing radiant heat, lowering energy cost 30% and keeps the kitchen cooler."

            1. re: MaximRecoil

              "A cause of occasional confusion is the fact that people may tend to describe any shiny finish as "chrome" even when it really has nothing to do with chromium. For example, brightly polished aluminum motorcycle parts, electropolished stainless steel boat rigging, vacuum metallized balloons and helmets, shiny painted wheels, and nickel plated oven racks are sometimes called 'chrome' by the lay person."

              From the same referenced article above:
              http://www.finishing.com/faqs/chrome....

              1. re: monku

                Yes, many laypersons do make that error. Manufacturers are not laypersons; they know what materials they use to build their own products. Additionally, they can not legally falsely represent the materials used to build their products. If they say hard chrome, then it means hard chrome (not nickel, though nickel is often an underplating for chrome finishes), or if they say trivalent chrome then they mean trivalent chrome. To do otherwise would open them to legal problems; like a company selling pyrite as gold, or glass as diamonds, etc.

            2. re: monku

              keep it coming folks, this is interesting (but when it comes to chroming I want a Porsche 911 body or a Karmen Ghia dipped so the glare is like looking at the back of a spoon)

            3. re: MaximRecoil

              Yeah, the "chrome" on the surface of most of those products tends to be polished nickle plating.

              1. re: deet13

                Which sounds better "nickel plating" or "chrome" ?

                1. re: deet13

                  That's not true. A manufacturer can not legally say that something is chrome if in fact it is not. That would be like claiming your pan is made from copper when in fact it is made from zinc, or claiming that something is a diamond when it is actually glass.

                  Many of them specifically say it is not just chrome, but hard chrome, which is a specific process. This manufacturer - http://www.keatingofchicago.com/produ... - specifies "trivalent chrome" which is also a specific process:

                  "The key to great griddle performance is in the Miraclean® surface. The Keating Miraclean® Griddle begins with a 3/4" thick, precision formed, highly polished steel plate. A trivalent chrome surface is applied through an 8-step process."

                  1. re: MaximRecoil

                    From my understanding hard chrome plating "is not particularly reflective or decorative."

                    1. re: MaximRecoil

                      Agree that the Miraclean® Griddle is made with a trivalent chrome, but it isn't a "mirror" like chrome.

                      1. re: monku

                        All griddles for which the manufacturer specifies as chrome plated are in fact chrome plated. Keating (the manufacturer of the Miraclean) claims to have introduced chrome plating for griddles in 1966.

                        The level of shine depends on the level of polish of the underlying materials. Any type of chrome finish can be shiny, it is just that hard chrome generally isn't, because it's purpose is not decorative, so the underlying materials don't get the surface prep that something destined for a decorative chrome finish would get.

                        The finish on the Keating Miraclean grill is more of a satin finish than a mirror polish.

                  2. re: MaximRecoil

                    Chromium is actually a nutritional requirement.

                2. Max: I have no knowledge of the toxicology of chrome-plated copper cookware, but common sense tells me that the R & D boys at Falk, Borgeat and Mauviel would have already done this if it was safe, the lining thick, and the bond durable. My WAG is that it must be a safety issue, because I THINK I remember that chrome can easily be plated onto copper and that the original chrome wheels in the auto aftermarkets were chrome-on-copper-on-steel.

                  IF it is safe, and IF a thick enough layer of chrome can be laid down onto copperware, you may be on to something. Some copperware manufacturers have plated nickel to copper pans' interiors for the same advantageous reasons you propose. The problem with that material is the deposited nickel layer is necessarily pretty thin, and as such it wears through. When THAT happens, you might as well scrap the pan (unlike wiping on a new layer of tin).

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Since many griddles have chrome plated cooking surfaces, safety shouldn't be an issue. Unless a significant amount of chromium leaches into food when cooking with it (which I doubt), then it is not going to get into your food anyway. Stainless steel has a minimum of about 11% chromium by the way, and the common 304 grade has up to 20% chromium.

                    Regarding toxicity, everything is toxic depending on the dosage, even water:

                    "All things are poison and nothing is without poison, only the dose permits something not to be poisonous." - Paracelsus, The Father of Toxicology

                    However, if there is no path for intoxication from normal usage of undamaged products, then it is considered safe.

                    There may be other problems with applying an industrial hard chrome surface to copper or aluminum though.

                    1. re: MaximRecoil

                      true, nobody gets out of here alive.

                      1. re: hill food

                        "true, nobody gets out of here alive."

                        Now I have to listen to some Hank Williams ("I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive").

                      2. re: MaximRecoil

                        Max:

                        A Wiki search reveals that not all "chromes" are created equal. Hexavalent chrome (aka Chrome IV) is apparently highly toxic and mutagenic, and chromate powders were among the first compounds identified as carcinogens. If you Google Trivalent chrome (aka Chrome III), there pop up several results talking about its safety for workers. Like PTFE linings, saying a cured lining is safe (a dubious statement for PTFE anyway), is different than saying it is safe for workers who make and apply it.

                        You seem knowledgeable... What do YOU think is the reason(s) no copperware to date has been offered hard-chromed?

                        1. re: kaleokahu

                          Well, not all chrome plating procedures are created equal, but they all result in chrome on the surface. The procedures themselves involve hazardous materials that are not relevant to the safety of the final product, such as chromic acid.

                          I know I've said it before, but the fact that there are many chrome plated griddles on the market and in use says quite a bit about the safety of chrome plating for a cooking surface. It also seems to say something about durability and performance, since most of the griddles are multi-thousand dollar commercial units; and commercial use tends to quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.

                          "You seem knowledgeable... What do YOU think is the reason(s) no copperware to date has been offered hard-chromed?"

                          Hard chrome is usually applied to hardened steel, so maybe there is something about copper or aluminum that would prevent such a thick layer of chrome from being successfully applied. That's the only guess that I can come up with; hopefully someone will know for sure.

                          1. re: MaximRecoil

                            IMO, perhaps it's more cost effective and profitable for companies to use teflon as a surface for pans, as opposed to chrome.

                            I understand what you're saying about the industrial applications for chrome plating. As I recall, portions of the 25mm cannon receiver and barrel assemblies (a M242 Bushmaster) on my Bradley were plated with industrial grade chrome (it was pretty f'n far from being shiny).

                            If chrome's safe to use, then I assume that the retooling of a companies entire production line would probably keep that from happening. Unless someone proved that there would be more of a profit to be made with a production line set up to manufacture chrome plated pans.

                    2. It's a cost factor. Stainless lined or tin coated cookware is a lot cheaper than chrome plating.

                      Stainless bonded to copper is readily available (from Falk, the guys who patented the process), and forming it into the various shapes of pots and pans is relatively straightforward. Tin coating has been done for centuries, and can be done by almost anyone, anywhere with a minimum of training and fuss, and no special equipment is needed.

                      For chrome plating... if you want corrosion resistance (which for cookware you do), you first need to plate it with nickel, and then chrome. So it's actually two plating processes. Plus, the compounds used in chrome plating are generally hazardous, carcinogenic, or downright toxic. The pure chrome you get out of the process is fine, but the chromium compounds and their use are all highly regulated. Dealing with the industrial waste of chrome plating is expensive because of all the rules and regulations regarding treatment and disposal of the waste. All those procedures and tests, etc. all take time and money and would increase the cost of a chrome-plated pot or pan to something above the cost of a stainless lined piece, with little real-world difference in performance.

                      Now, for irregular pieces like a griddle, chrome plating makes sense because you simply can't form bonded copper into those shapes. For commercial applications, hard chroming makes sense because the better performance of the large areas on commercial grills and griddles and the better wear resistance are worth the cost.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: ThreeGigs

                        "For chrome plating... if you want corrosion resistance (which for cookware you do), you first need to plate it with nickel, and then chrome. So it's actually two plating processes."

                        That's for decorative chrome and doesn't apply to copper, since copper doesn't have a corrosion problem anyway. Copper is sometimes the immediate underplating for chrome on steel in fact.

                        However, hard chrome is normally done on steel (and directly to steel; no underplating; since hard chrome is so much thicker than decorative chrome it doesn't need an underplating of anything). As I said in another post, I don't know if the "hard chrome" process can successfully be applied to copper or not.

                        "All those procedures and tests, etc. all take time and money and would increase the cost of a chrome-plated pot or pan to something above the cost of a stainless lined piece, with little real-world difference in performance."

                        The difference would be in thermal conductivity and level of "non-stick". Not only is chrome far more conductive than stainless steel (more conductive than tin also), but even hard chrome — while very thick compared to decorative chrome — is still thin compared to a stainless steel layer; so there is less material to interfere with the conductivity of the copper. Chrome is more "non-stick" than steel too, according to the company that makes the Miraclean commercial griddles.

                        "Now, for irregular pieces like a griddle, chrome plating makes sense because you simply can't form bonded copper into those shapes."

                        I don't know what you mean by that. A griddle is about as simple of a shape as you can get (it is just a sheet of metal, usually 3/4" thick steel plate in the serious-duty models).

                        I agree that it is not cheap, especially on top of the already expensive cost of copper. BTW, it turns out that Griswold (and maybe others) used to make chrome plated cast iron pans, but it was thin, not hard chrome. That's an interesting idea too. A hard chromed cast iron pan could be used as a general purpose pan, without the pitfalls of enamel. I'm tempted to send a cheap cast iron skillet off to Metaloy and have it hard chromed; if nothing else it would be a unique — albeit, ultimately expensive — piece. I'd want to find an old cast iron pan though, the kind that has been machined smooth, rather than the typical Lodge with a dimply surface.

                        1. re: MaximRecoil

                          Max: "I'm tempted to send a cheap cast iron skillet off to Metaloy and have it hard chromed..."

                          Go for it. Why not a garage-sale copper pan while you're at it? Let us know how it works out.

                          1. re: MaximRecoil

                            Why not get a cheap copper pan off ebay that has had the tin lining worn off and send that off to get plated instead? I see those pans go for 15 to 20 dollars on a semi-regular basis and are often about 2mm thick. If it still has a little tin left on it you could hit it with a oxy/acetylene torch or even a butane torch and wipe the rest off.
                            I would be very interested to hear about the results of a hard chromed copper pan!

                            1. re: cannibal

                              I was thinking cast iron because I know for a fact that cast iron can be hard chromed without issue, but I suppose I could ask them about copper to see what they think (it would be nicer to have a hard chromed copper pan than a cast iron one, if it is doable). If I decide to do something like that I'll certainly tell about it here.

                            2. re: MaximRecoil

                              Whoops, I meant grill, not griddle referring to the irregular shape.
                              *I* know it'll make a difference in thermal conductivity, just like I know copper makes a difference. However the public at large already won't pay 10x to 20x as much for a copper piece that performs only marginally better (in their eyes) than aluminum. Oh sure, you'll get high end buyers and people who add whatever costs the most to their wedding registries, but would the extra 10% in performance justify the extra cost of the chrome plating? And... I'll speak for the worth of a thin layer of a less conductive metal between the copper and food, as it allows the heat to conduct sideways for a less intense hot spot on a gas burner.

                              Personally, if hard chroming added $100 to the cost of a pan over stainless, I might do it for a saute or fry pan, but definitely not a pot, sauteuse or windsor.

                              FYI: chrome doesn't work well on bare cast iron, it has to be nickel plated first, especially in applications where heat cycling will happen. Without a nickel layer, hydrogen embrittlement happens, then when heat is applied the chrome cracks and the crack propagates down into the CI substrate. Gotta have nickel under the chrome to protect the iron. Also, I never heard of Griswold making chrome plated pans, just nickel plated ones.

                              1. re: ThreeGigs

                                "FYI: chrome won't 'stick' directly to cast iron, it has to be nickel plated first."

                                Steel is hard chromed directly to the steel; Iron may or may not be done this way. See this link where people are discussing it - http://www.finishing.com/498/36.shtml

                                For example:

                                "I know that there is a general practice to undercoat cast iron and then do hard chrome plating over it which increases the cost of plating considerablly. However as written above we sucessfully plate the Cast iron Liners directly with hard chrome plating. We have being doing these process since more than 15 years and have no problem, such as peel off or lact of better adhesion. Also what is important is we plate on diesel engine liners which are subjected to high pressure and temp."

                                "And I never heard of Griswold making chrome plated pans, just nickel plated ones."

                                According to a collector's forum post they made both:

                                "How to tell if Nickel or Chrome?
                                ERIE and slant TM's are always nickel.
                                Block TM's are usually chrome but the earlier ones are nickel like block TM heat ring skillets and the very first smooth bottoms. Some later pieces such as the 90 double skillet are usually nickel but were made in chrome. Hammered ware could be either. Silverlike is nickel and chrome was called what it was."

                                http://www.griswoldandwagner.com/cgi-...

                                1. re: ThreeGigs

                                  according to my collectors book (the blue book), Griwsold made 3 types of chronium finishes, beginning about 1932. ther made Chrome. Silverlike, and DuChro.
                                  the nickel-plated were introduced around 1930.

                            3. I would imagine cost being the biggest issue with chrome plating.
                              Also, is chrome plating a "green" thing to do?

                              Finally would chrome plated cookware really be worth the extra $$$ compared to stainless or anodized Al?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: dave_c

                                No, chrome plating isn't green. it makes sense where it's actually useful, which sure aren't things that can be fabricated cheaply out of stainless steel. You know, like most cookware. Piston rings, sure. Hydraulic cylinders, sure. Land-Rover swivel balls, sure. Frying pans, nope.

                                Besides, what people who buy expensive cookware like is *shiny*. Hard chrome plated stuff is usually shiny.

                                1. re: dave_c

                                  dave_c: Green? No, plating is an industrial process that typically uses nasty chemicals that are either expensively reprocessed or dumped into the environment during the dead of night.

                                  "[W]ould chrome plated cookware really be worth the extra $$$ compared to stainless or anodized Al?" Yes, unquestionably. Existing copperware (lined in tin or nickel, or bonded to SS liners) already outperform SS and Al in every way having to do with cooking, except high-heat searing. Copper's chief disadvantage--other than price--comes from convenience factors, like not being able to use metal utensils on tin, not being dishwasher friendly, the need to retin about every decade, etc. Copper lined in SS is a compromise of sorts that solves the utensil problem, but purists feel the SS detracts from copper's performance. The SS liners are not very thick, and if they wear through, the pan is finished forever. And the jury is still out on the propensity of SS-lined copperware to delaminate over time.

                                  Hard-chromed copper pans (IF safe, IF durable, and IF do-able at a reasonable price) would be a giant step forward. As Max has pointed out, chrome would be durable to utensils and cleaning, more nonstick, and a far better conductor than either SS or tin. The added thickness of hard chrome would also mean never (measured in a human lifetime anyway) having to retin or replace.

                                  So yeah, it would be a big deal. It would remove many of the reasons NOT to buy and use copper for everything (including searing!), and would further widen the performance gap between the rest of the field and copper.

                                  1. re: dave_c

                                    In the plastics industry, sometimes we have molds hard chrome plated. What it provides is a non-stick surface and a really hard durface that isn't scratched easily. This plating goes directly on hardened steel, A-2 or D-2 typically. I have no idea how much it would cost to coat a pot, much less a copper pot but I bet it isn't cheap. A mold about a cubic foot in size can cost up to the price of a nice car, so a thou or more for chrome isn't out of the question. Yes it is green or at least some of the chemicals are, oh, you wrote "green" not green, no it's not that kind of green at all, it's got to be close to the "anti-green" in that respect. I would only be guessing but the advantage I could see would be non-stick, maybe, melted plastic doesn't want to stick to it anyway.

                                    1. re: mikie

                                      "I have no idea how much it would cost to coat a pot, much less a copper pot but I bet it isn't cheap. A mold about a cubic foot in size can cost up to the price of a nice car, so a thou or more for chrome isn't out of the question."

                                      Hard chrome is expensive, but not *that* expensive (at least not *necessarily* that expensive). Metaloy will hard chrome a gun for a couple/few hundred dollars; they've been doing it for a long time (nearly 30 years) and they are the "industry standard" so to speak for hard chroming guns; competitive shooters commonly use them once they wear the bluing off their frames, and gun manufacturers even outsource to them if they want to offer their guns in hard chrome. They offer a lifetime warranty on their finish:

                                      "Our Original Metaloy™ Finish has a lifetime warranty on your firearm. If it should chip, peel, rust or fail in any way we re finish it at no charge to you. Period!"

                                      A gun has a lot of small parts that would all need to be prepped and plated, so they are more expensive to do than a single object. For example, they will hard chrome a 1911 barrel or magazine tube for $35. Here is their price list - http://www.originalmetaloy.com/pricin...

                                      However, there are two things that I don't know:

                                      1. Will they hard chrome a pan as opposed to their usual firearms jobs (if not, someone else would, but I would prefer Metaloy because I know their reputation)?

                                      2. Can a copper pan be hard chromed properly/successfully in the first place?