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Dec 1, 2013 07:37 AM

18/8 versus 18/10 stainless steel, does it matter?

What is the practical difference between 18/8 and 18/10 polished steel?

I've read that 18/10 is less likely to rust because of it's higher concentration of nickel, but what about heat stains?

I expect SS pans to discolor over high heat, but I recently tried a pan (listed as 18/10) that turned blue every time I used it, even over medium heat. I know it doesn't affect performance, I'm just a bit OC about SS. I don't care about scratches, just it's tendency to stain and ease of cleaning. Will the nickel affect heat staining?

While we're on the subject, can anyone tell me what causes that blue reaction? Some people say starchy food, others say it's only heat. Some say it goes away if you cook something non-starchy, but I've never waited long enough to find out. I'm confused.

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  1. I'm a little OCD about such stains too. ;)

    Multicolored sheens are probably due to overheating or "hard water" meaning an extra high amount of minerals dissolved in your tap water. You can get those stains regardless of whether you cook starches or not, but starch can add to the problem. If you cook acidic food it may help dissolve and remove some mineral stains, but it's faster to simply scrub off mineral stains with a dash of vinegar, lemon juice, Barkeepers Friend, or some other acidic cleaning agent.

    It's also possible that the 18/10 pan was polished differently so more stuff clings to it, or it has different trace impurities.

    The answer to 18/10 vs 18/8 is that there is no real difference in practice. The whole xx% chromium/xx% nickel grades of stainless is decades out of date. The real way steel is graded today is via American Iron and Steel Institute/Society of Automotive Engineers (AISI/SAE) standards. 18/8 and 18/10 both fall under 304 Stainless so if you buy 18/10 it's probably really just 18/8.3, the lowest you can go and still legally advertise it as 18/10. (304 specifies 18-20% chromium, 8-10.5% nickel, .08% carbon, 2% manganese, 0.75% silicon, and trace amounts of a couple of other elements.)

    Chromium and nickel are more expensive than iron. There is a loophole in federal law allowing manufacturers to claim "18/10" if they are at least 8.3% nickel. Many take advantage of this to shave costs, even the high-end brands, so a lot of 18/10 is actually 18/8.3 which is basically 18/8.

    I wrote an article about this a while back. I can't link to articles at my site directly due to forum rules here but you can search for "inox" at

    1 Reply
    1. re: centurylife_dot_org

      <The answer to 18/10 vs 18/8 is that there is no real difference in practice.>

      Thanks for explaining the metallurgy.

    2. Hi, Duffy:

      Based on my experience with flatware, European 18/10 holds a polish longer. Bluing (and before that, golden straw color) is caused by high heat in the presence of oxygen.


      5 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Happy Elastic Pants Weekend, Kaleo :)

        Thanks for that explanation. I'd always heard it was high heat, and the oxygen thing makes sense.

        It was a Tramontina Tri-Ply saucepan that behaved badly for me, and I chalked it up to either a lemon pan or inferior steel. My Calphalon Tri-Ply has only changed color when high heat is used. Even then, usually, but not always, I need to heat it dry for a bit.

        So is it more likely the pan is thinner than my other pans, and not a lemon or made of inferior steel? It wasn't thin stuff by any means. And it's not like I'm judging it next to heavy stuff like Demeyere, but still, do you think that's it?

        I'm looking at a variety of Vollrath pans, all made with 18/8 steel. Given it's reputation for quality I thought it might be listed as 18/10 and want to make sure I'd have nothing to worry about. So talk me down off this ledge, will you?

        BTW - side note - On Black Friday I scored a pair of Mauviel M'Stone1 pans. I got the 6.6 qt stewpot for $50 and the 3.2 qt. sauté for $55. No lids, but still a steal. :)

        1. re: DuffyH

          Hi, Duffy:

          Assuming the pan reached some sort of heat equilibrium, I can't see how bluer would equate with thinner. The extent of my experience with blued SS pans was my mom's Revereware years ago.

          "I ... want to make sure I'd have nothing to worry about."
          No worries regarding function at all. But I know you well enough to know that you worry a lot about the appearance of your SS, so I'm not even going to try to assuage your cosmetic concerns.

          I will say this: I would not assume that everyone's 18/10 is exactly 18/10 or that any two 18/10s are exactly the same.

          Great score on the Mauviel. My score was yesterday, when I visited a local auction house that was helping liquidate Seattle's City Kitchens. I got *tons* of good stuff for $66 total, including a 72" gel mat for $25 (retail $249).


          1. re: kaleokahu


            <I got *tons* of good stuff for $66 total, including a 72" gel mat for $25 (retail $249).>

            High five! I've been haunting Amazon's warehouse and other liquidators for a replacement for my 48" mat. It's about 6 yrs old, brown, in front of my sink and the color is wearing off. I spend a LOT of time washing dishes.

            <I know you well enough to know that you worry a lot about the appearance of your SS, so I'm not even going to try to assuage your cosmetic concerns.>

            Not even a little? Ok. :)

            I do think I've reached information overload, so will you help me out? Looking at mid-weight steel for small-medium size saucepans, which would YOU buy? Fully clad or disk, I'm open to new things at this point, so give me your personal recommendation, please. It's just got to be steel.

            1. re: DuffyH

              Hi, Duffy:

              Saucepans... Fully clad or disc?

              Unfortunately, this is usually an apples-oranges comparison. Personally, I like very thick conductive-wall saucepans, but if you're limiting yourself to steel, you typically have a choice of: (a) fully clad with a core of 2mm or less of aluminum; OR (b) poorly-conductive straight-gauge SS walls with a MUCH thicker (4-6mm is not unusual) disk base. There are trade-offs between the two.

              Since you have IO, I would put it this way: If you already know that your hobs are very even, I would go with fully clad. If, on the other hand, evenness is a challenge AND what you generally cook tends to be less-than-viscous, less delicate things in your saucepans, then I would go for a mondo-thick disk base line.

              I was reminded of this tradeoff yesterday, when I had a chance to buy a full set of Demeyere cutaways for Atlantis and Apollo. The disks are very thick; the wall cores are not.

              I hope this helps.


              1. re: kaleokahu


                First, your information ALWAYS helps me. Even when I disagree with you, I learn something, and that earns my respect. :)

                My saucepan cooking is not usually delicate, but is often thickish sauces, especially in the 2-3 qt size. So for these smaller pieces, it sounds like you'd recommend heavier walls, like fully clad or thick aluminum. This is good, because disk-bottom stainless isn't my favorite thing.

                I'm open to aluminum; I was already sold on it for the bigger pans, for it's lighter weight. Since I haven't found plain aluminum with an induction base, that leaves nonstick. I can live with that in saucepans, where stickiness is not part of the equation.

                I'm not sure about the sauté pan I scored, but Mauviel's got a ceramic coating and it should be halfway decent for browning, likely good enough for the things I cook in that shape. It was too good to pass up and I've got until the end of January to return it.

                Do you have any personal favorites in clad steel? Also, do you know of any other aluminum I ought to look at? Logic tells me the Europeans might have the best stuff for induction.