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Are all 18/10 Stainless Steel Cookware Created Equal?

I've noticed that the stainless steel interior of my professional brands tend to stay pristine. Where as my "made for home" brands tends pit and the interior finish is marred and scratched. All of my SS pieces claim to be 18/10 on the packaging. Below are the pristine pieces from workhorse to least used. When they get burnt bits that hot water or vinegar can't take off they get cleaned with BKF. I use the same gentle method for cleaning all of my SS.

* Berndes 9.5" deep skillet
* Anolon 10" skillet
* All-Clad 8" frypan

These are the pieces that have the marred, scratched, and salt pitted interior. Again from most to least used.

* Schulte-Ufer ecoline 1.5qt sauce pan
* Emerilware 2qt sauce/saute pan (Made in China by All-Clad)

The only piece that is not made in China is the AC 8" frypan. Sometimes I think not all the manufacturers producing the 18/10 SS sheets are equal. All-Clad claims their SS and other materials all come from a US supplier, for cookware thats made in the USA. However, the Berndes and Anolon are made in China. Where their SS sheets come from is unknown. Their interior looks as good as new.

So has anyone else noticed any difference in the SS quality of your cookware? Or is stainless steel is stainless steel and it makes no difference who makes it or where it comes from?

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  1. I do notice a difference, not only between brands but sometimes between individual pieces within the same brand.

    I don't have any All Clad, Anolon, or Cuisinart because frankly I hate all of their handle designs; just not comfortable to hold/lift. We do have various stainless pieces by the following brands: Farberware, Belgique, Scanpan steel (the original line, not the CTX), JA Henkels, Emerilware (just the lipped saucier), KitchenAid (one roasting pan), and the Sur la Table house brand (just a double boiler). All 18/10 stainless. Also a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker which is 18/10 as well.

    We wash all by hand and in 95% of instances the interiors need a bit of Bon Ami to get them pristine. I've never had to use Barkeepers Friend on them although we do have it on hand if needed. None have ever pitted but I find that the Scanpan and Belgique tend to need the Bon Ami more often than the others do, even after cooking the same kind of foods in them. The Henckels pieces clean up the easiest, and the KR cooker takes the most effort.

    As far as scratches goes, IMO that depends on how the mfr finished the interiors. The brushed stainless ones pretty much hides any scratches they might get. The Scanpan ones have a smooth and extremely shiny surface which of course shows every single scratch on it.

    Then again, our kitchen sink is a huge 16-gauge Franke which in spite of its brushed/matte surface shows a bazillion scratches; I'm sure the next owner of this house will immediately rip it out because it doesn't look like something in a showroom (LOL) but it doesn't bother us a bit. That too gets spruced up with Bon Ami but there's no hiding the entirely-scratched-up bottom. (I prefer to call it "patina", LOL)

    The variation that I've noticed is actually within the Farberware line but that may be a result of our having so many of them. Their 10-qt stockpot is definitely lighter in weight than its identical-line 8-qt cousin (same range, Fware Classic, same handles, same everything) which is certainly counterintuitive. Logic suggests that the larger pot of the same material should weigh more than the smaller! So I am assuming that they made the walls (sides) of the 10-qt thinner so as to keep the cost and weight down a bit. I find the larger pot actually harder to get clean (more effort required) than the smaller one so maybe it's a materials issue. All our SS cookware was made in China except for the KR pressure cooker which thankfully is still made in Switzerland (unlike their small items which are now made in China, what a surprise) and the Scanpan Steels which were made in Denmark.

    10 Replies
    1. re: skyline

      "None have ever pitted but I find that the Scanpan and Belgique tend to need the Bon Ami more often than the others do, even after cooking the same kind of foods in them. The Henckels pieces clean up the easiest, and the KR cooker takes the most effort."

      I'm glad you mentioned this. I too have noticed a difference in clean-ability of the SS between brands. I have sauteed meat in all 3 skillets as well as the 2 sauce pans. The Schulte-Ufer and Emerilware tends to not deglaze very well. They will leave more burnt fats (oil). Fond and brown spots don't come off easily with the water shock. You would think the Emerilware with the aluminum/copper disk would have better even heating and deglaze advantage, no so. These pieces always need BKF to bring them back to new condition.

      The Berndes 9.5" deep skillet is a disk bottom like the 2 sauce pans. Cooking beef (steak), pork (chops), or fish (salmon) deglazes well every time. Often leaving the it cleanable with just water and sponge. The AC 8" SS was purchased recently and it cooks scrambled eggs like in a nonstick. It cleans in seconds with water and sponge.

      I started this thread because I'm looking for a new 1.5 qt sauce pan to replace the Schulte-Ufer. And wasn't sure if I should stick to a professional brand of just pickup a "made for use home" brand. I think I'll cough up the cash and go with professional brands on the next SS purchases. See how that that plays out.

      Thank you for sharing your experiences.

      1. re: jshawn2

        To be honest I wasn't even aware that Berndes makes SS pieces; I thought they were all nonstick. I just checked online; is yours the "Cucinare" one? Looks nice, and the handle looks comfortable also. I notice it says "mirror finish" -- does that mean it has a smooth polished SS interior like my ScanPan steel saucepans? Unfortunately by the time I went to replace my former 8-9" skillet they had discontinued that line and so the pan I have in that size is the Belgique which is one of the not-so-easy-cleaning ones.

        I do think the brushed finish makes a difference in cleanup quality vs the smooth polished. Makes sense: Those micro-grooves can trap 'stuff' while a smooth surface doesn't. Thus I am interested in checking out that Berndes if the interior is indeed a polished one.

        1. re: skyline

          I think, Cucinare is their new SS line. The piece I have has been discontinued that's why its hard to find pictures. It's the Berndes Millesima 9.5" deep frypan. I've posted pictures of it on chowhound before:

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/771894

          From the pictures, it looks like a saute pan with straight edge walls. But the walls do flare out making it more of a skillet/frypan. The Berndes piece actually has a brushed interior. In fact, all of my SS cookware have a brushed interior finish. So I'm at a loss as to why fond and burnt on stuff doesn't come off cleanly in some, thereby, making it hard to clean afterwards. My only conclusion is the difference in quality of the 18/10 SS sheets that each manufacture uses.

          1. re: jshawn2

            The 8" pan of the same line that I got from TJMaxx has become one of my favorites.

            I haven't had problems with any of the induction compatible SS pans from TJMaxx, including Chantal and Berlin Kuche. None of these have been expensive. I can't predict the corrosion resistance of a pan by sight, but I can look for other indicators of quality construction.

            How do your various pans react to magnets? The bottom of your induction compatible pan should be magnetic, but the sides shouldn't. 18/10 is the most corrosion resistant SS in household use, but it isn't magnetic; hence the need for an extra layer on the bottom for induction use. 18/0 is magnetic. 18/8 isn't magnetic, but it isn't a corrosion resistant as 18/10. I wonder if the problematic pans have been mislabeled, using the less expensive 18/8.

        2. re: jshawn2

          I've been researching cookware for the last week...what a headache! So much variety.
          Decided to stick with iron since iron leaking is rather beneficial to the body than toxic, in comparison with other metal leakings - am not even looking at aluminum or non-stick since they're overly toxic; even steels have toxicity possibilities (especially Chinese stainless steel that is produced with God knows which alloys..) I decided on the "made in USA" 100+year old company named Lodge, their iron skillets are pre-seasoned so hopefully they will be easy to clean.
          Here is research about safety of different types of cookware, definitely helped me to make my choice, please spread the word!
          http://whfoods.org/genpage.php?tname=...

        3. re: skyline

          some KR pressure cookers in the US are made in India and God knows where else; also their web site states they have aluminum in their alloy?!? Wanted to buy a stainless pressure cooker, and the research gave me that unsettling info...

          1. re: Vavaland

            Aluminum in SS cookware is most likely used in a multilayer design, where the aluminum serves as more conductive layer.

            There are some SS alloys that include aluminum, but those (or atleast some of those) are expensive ones used for specialized very high temperature uses (e.g. jet engines). In those the aluminum works like chromium to resist corrosion.

            18/10 means 18% chromium, 10% nickle

            1. re: paulj

              That's not the case; it stated something like "do not use abrasive scrubbers not to damage aluminum finish". If you are really interested i can find it.

              1. re: Vavaland

                http://us.kuhnrikon.com/us/en/product...

                Swiss engineered and Swiss made
                The pot's surface can be damaged with abrasive cleaners and dishwashers.
                If washed regularly in the dishwasher, synthetic fittings may lose their shine and aluminum may oxidize or corrode.
                Superthermic-sandwichbase

                The dishwasher warning is a generic one, and does not imply that any particular pot contains aluminum, either as a finish or part of the alloy.

                I don't share your fear of aluminum. I have a small Indian made pressure cooker that is aluminum, as well as an American made aluminum one.

                1. re: paulj

                  Oh ok, then it makes sense.
                  Thanks for the explanation.
                  As for aluminum... It's everyone's choice to believe or disbelieve things, but I'd rather stay away from even potentially toxic substances. Research has been very contradictory depending on who is conducting it... Anyway we will never know for sure until it's too late, and even then won't know for sure :)

        4. I have to assume that some stainless steel is better than other stainless, from a quality standpoint. I don't know if Chinese-produced stainless is less fine as other. But in my experience, stainless steel pans will scratch and stain. They get used and they don't stay perfect. I think the most important thing is to keep the bottoms of the pan clean, to make transfer of heat more efficient, and to keep the stovetop clean. The point is, are your pans giving you good service? Do they allow you to produce good food? To me that is what is important.

          1. I think it is possible that the hardness of the stainless can be different, even with the same alloy, so maybe this has something to do with your observations that some are more 'marred and scratched' than others. Both of those terms suggest a softer material to me.

            Generally, it is easier to machine and form softer metals, so using softer grades of stainless is a way for manufacturers to keep their costs down. I suspect these pans are made by stamping, so they have to be pretty soft to be formed.

            This is just a guess on my part. To know for sure, you'd have to do some scientific hardness testing of your pans to see if there is indeed a difference. But, I have seen this trade-off between cost and hardness of stainless within my field of expertise.

            2 Replies
            1. re: pweller

              "I think it is possible that the hardness of the stainless can be different, even with the same alloy, so maybe this has something to do with your observations that some are more 'marred and scratched' than others. Both of those terms suggest a softer material to me."

              I went to Macy's today to look at their entire line of SS cookware. And ironically, I came the same conclusion as you did. At first I wanted to keep this to myself because it sounds crazy. But since you brought it up I'll share my theory too. Typical composition of 18/10 SS is 18% chromium and 10% nickel. But another factor like the stiffness or hardness of the 18/10 SS sheets must come into play. The high end cookware must use better tempered and heat treated SS sheets to line the interior.

              That's why my lower end pieces scratched easily like nonstick and the finish became marred after many treatments of BKF. The scratches and marred finish doesn't bother me. But what does bother me is that these pieces score poorly in food release and clean-ability. They always leave burnt on grease (fats and oil) and never clean well after deglazing with warm water.

              Here is something interesting which I wish I found earlier. This is from All-Clad's FAQ (http://www.all-clad.com/consumer-serv...) They are using some sort of proprietary/trade secret their own blend of type 304 SS. Which puts them ahead of everyone else in terms of interior SS performance.

              15. What is the stainless cooking surface in All-Clad cookware made of and how is it tested to ensure quality?

              1. The cooking surface of All-Clad stainless cookware is made from a proprietary formulation of 304 grade stainless steel specially adapted to meet All-Clad specifications regarding grain size, texture, alloy content, and other physical properties that make All-Clad the finest cookware. Stainless steel came into commercial use about 100 years ago. At that time, metal manufacturers had learned that the addition of chrome in the range of 18% and the addition of nickel in the range of 10% yielded an alloy that was very strong, ductile and corrosion resistant. This class of materials hence became known generically as "18-10" steel. By the 1920's, the term "stainless steel" had evolved and this class of materials had become more well understood and was subdivided into defined alloys, some with higher alloy content, and some with lower alloy content. This was generally determined by the application of the metal and cost constraints. The higher the alloy percentages, the higher the cost of the metal. 304 is the most widely used stainless steel with 17% to 18.5% chrome and 8% to 10% nickel. 301 is lower in chrome and nickel and is used when the corrosion resitance or strength are not as demanding. This grade has come to be known as "18-8". Neither of these designations is a recognized metallurgical term with composition limits. In our business, 18-10 has been used generically to indicate 304 stainless at the higher end of the composition limit range and 18-8 normally indicates alloys at the mid to low end of the composition range. All-Clad's metals meet the metallurgical definition of higher alloy 304 but are referred to in the industry as 18-10 stainless.

              2. All stainless steel used by All-Clad is certified to meet National Standard ISO 9000 (International Organization for Standardization)and ASTM A240 (testing and standards) for all 304 series stainless steel intended for use with food. Every "melt" by our steel suppliers is tested and certified to meet the ASTM 240 (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards.

              Here is a more info on 18/10 and type 304 SS. More than anyone needs to know:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAE_stee...
              http://www.bosunsupplies.com/Stainles...

              In a way, this kind of answers my original question in the title. SS manufactures can strengthen the SS and vary the alloy to give it unique qualities. All-Clad has gone through great lengths to keep theirs a trade secret. I'm guessing their competitors are doing the same thing.

              1. re: jshawn2

                Not sure if the interior finish makes a differece.
                I am BLOWN away by how easy to clean my Demeyre pots are compared to my AC pans