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Is My Cookware Toxic?

Today, I was making a pot of soup using some cheap steel pots that came with my rental apartment. I have no idea what brand they are but each has a lining on the outer bottom of the pot. After I poured some of the soup from a smaller pot into the larger one, I noticed a light powder on the surface of my soup. I first thought it was stray coriander but when I began to wash my smaller pot, I noticed that its bottom layer was loosening and a gritty, flaky substance was coming out of the crack. Does anyone know what this substance is? I skimmed the surface of the soup with a spoon to try and remove the debris but should I throw it away instead?

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  1. "cheap steel pots"

    Steel or stainless steel?

    "I noticed a light powder on the surface of my soup. I first thought it was stray coriander but when I began to wash my smaller pot, I noticed that its bottom layer was loosening and a gritty, flaky substance was coming out of the crack."

    It is not unusual for stainless steel pans to show some white powder due to salt deposition. However, these salts should not show up as light powder on the surface of your soup. They should dissolve.

    I wonder if the cookware was properly clean before cooking.

    I have no idea what it is at this moment. If I think of anything, then I will let you know.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Sorry, I assume stainless steel.
      The pot was perfectly clean. The problem is that there is an outer layer of metal bonded to the bottom of the pot (there is nothing wrong inside the pot) and it is loosening on one side. There is a gap and I can see that it seems to be filled with a flaky, greyish substance. If I shake the pot upside down, more comes out. So, I guess the question is, what do manufacturers use to fill the bottom layer of stainless steel pots?

      1. re: suavehouse113

        From your description it seems that it is a laminated botton, which means an aluminum disc sandwiched between stainless steel. There may be something else to bond the layers together. If the seam is broken, then water will be retained inside, which may cause a chemical reaction producing the result you are seing. I don't know if it is poisonous, but I wouldn't want to use a pot which was coming apart at the seams.

        1. re: suavehouse113

          I agree with GH1618. It sounds like it is a disc-bottom pot/pan. The greyish substance is probably aluminum oxide or a bonding metal. That being said, whatever that happens should be outside of the cooking area, so it should not get inside the soup. Unless of course, the cooking surface (interior surface) is cracked.

          1. re: suavehouse113

            I agree with GH and CK. Don't use this pot. And you can tell if the pot is stainless or regular steel, by putting a magnet on the side. If the magnet doesn't stick it is probably steel, unless it is aluminum. If the magnet sticks, it is steel. But whatever, if you think there is contamination into food, don't use it. I'd also notify landlord so he can replace the pot. (He might not, but you will have done the proper thing in notifying him.)

            1. re: sueatmo

              The magnet test doesn't always tell the whole story anymore. 'Stainless Steel' used to be 18/10 which won't stick to a magnet. Now 18/10 is used mostly on higher priced cookware. It may be given that this is a cheaper pot that it is 18/0 which is weakly magnetic.

        2. What is this "crack"? Is the pot formed from merely a sheet of stainless steel, or does it have an aluminum disc embedded in the bottom? The latter construction is usually obvious from the shape of the pan at the edge of the bottom.

          1 Reply
          1. re: GH1618

            Hmm, could it be aluminum? Can aluminum form some aluminum salts dissolve into the soup and then precipitate to resurface at the top of the soup?

          2. Hi, suavehouse:

            Highly unlikely that the pots themselves are toxic. Please tell us you cleaned and washed them well before you made your soup.

            "[T]he crack..." Whatever this is, is it *inside* the pan or outside?

            I'm going 'way out on a limb here, to respectfully suggest you're dealing with...dust.

            Aloha,
            Kaleo

            2 Replies
            1. re: kaleokahu

              The substance is coming from the outside of the pot. I rubbed some between my fingers and it is powdery and gritty. It would never have ended up in my soup if I hadn't held the smaller pot upside down over the larger pot to pour in some more liquid. That's when the stuff started falling out, it seems.

              I've just found one pot whose bottom inscription is legible and it says "18/10 stainless steel." Does that mean the substance is likely to be chromium or nickel?

              1. re: suavehouse113

                Hi, suavehouse:

                If it's 18/10, it has chromium (18%) and nickel (10%) *in the alloyed steel*. But these elements are not going to come out of the steel with cooking.

                I'll go out on another limb... If your pots are clad aluminum, AND there's a crack through the SS exterior, AND the pan has been exposed to salty water, it is possible that you have salt crystal formation on the exposed aluminum.

                That's the best I can do.

                Aloha,
                Kaleo

            2. "When in doubt, throw it out" applies here, I think.

              2 Replies
              1. re: GH1618

                Agree. Usually I am against throwing away foods because I think people often overreact, but in this case, I don't have a good feel of what happened, so it may be safer just to toss the food away.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Agree with both of you. I would toss the pot as well because it likely will continue to produce powder. I would also examine the other pots to see if they suffer from the same problem. If necessary, go to a thrift shop and buy a replacement.

              2. It could be a clad bottom pot and he cladding is delaminating. The powder could be dried soap residue from water that got in between the layer and evaporated. Then again, someone may have sprayed the bottom with oven cleaner to remove burned on grease. And the bonding agent is dissolving. I don't know. What I do know is that a few years ago, some manufacturers had problems with water getting between the clad bottom and the pot or pan proper and when heated, the resulting steam completed the removal of the bottom. I do not recall if there were injuries. I don't think it is a problem with cookware now, but there may be some old defective units laying around. Personally, I would not use it or them.

                2 Replies
                1. re: dcrb

                  I agree. I will be replacing the pots. I often boil salty pasta water in this particular pot which sometimes splashes out and runs down the side when it's too full. This probably contributed to the delamination.

                  1. re: suavehouse113

                    "I often boil salty pasta water in this particular pot which sometimes splashes out and runs down the side when it's too full. This probably contributed to the delamination."

                    It shouldn't cause delamination. Either way, it is time to get a new pot. A delaminated pot is not functioning as it should be anyway.

                2. Aluminium salt corrosion seems to be a possible explanation. Thank you all for your replies.