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If you are using stainless steel cookware, then you know that it is durable, easy to use, and easy to clean. But occasionally, you come across a conversation about nickel being used in stainless steel cookware, followed by some valid questions –Should I start looking for nickel free stainless steel cookware brands for kadhai, pressure cooker, and frypans? How to prevent the leaching of such metals into food? The key is to not panic and start replacing your stainless-steel cookware. All cookware is subject to wear and tear irrespective of what material it is made up of. When you compare different types of cookware, stainless-steel cookware is by far the least harmful compared to the rest. Good quality stainless steel (SS 304) has many elements in it including nickel. But it’s there for a good reason.
The 300 series stainless steel has chromium and nickel to increase its durability. Nickel and Chromium also help to give surgical stainless steel its corrosion resistance properties. Nickel as an element also adds life and versatility to your cookware because it has the ability to absorb energy without breaking.
According to this report of the National Library of Medicine, our body can tolerate up to 1000 µg of nickel. It has been observed during tests that 300 series stainless steel leaches only 88 µg of nickel. Just to give you an idea of just how often we come in contact with nickel apart from stainless-steel cookware, there’s more nickel to be found in vegetables, legumes, seafood, and even some fruits like raspberries and pineapples. A study showed that a cup of peanuts has 136 µg of nickel which is still more than what you might get out of stainless-steel cookware.
Stainless steel jewelry comes in direct contact with skin which is one of the inlets for nickel into your body.
Some premium clothing has stainless steel fasteners and zippers for increased durability. Touching such surfaces also results in nickel intake.
Coins usually contain copper and nickel. Handling loose change frequently is also another channel for nickel into your body.
Some of the inks have metallic salts including that of chromium, copper, and nickel.
To prevent oxidation and deposition of rust on the paper, paper clips have nickel plating.
A study showed that 80% of a key consisted of nickel to prevent corrosion.
Certain brands of metallic watches have stainless steel for increased durability. Hence, wearing such watches for a prolonged duration may result in rashes around the wrists.
Fishes like shrimps, crawfishes, and mussels are rich in nickel. According to a study, some types of fish contain 0.08 milligrams of nickel.
Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts contain high levels of nickel.
Green vegetables like cabbage, kale, spinach, and lettuce contain around 0.11 milligrams of nickel.
There is a small percentage of the population with nickel allergy. How can you tell if a person is allergic to nickel? People allergic to nickel usually experience mild rashes, blisters, and skin irritation. If the allergy goes undiagnosed for a long time, there are painless medical treatments available for such conditions including oral antihistamines and creams. Either way, if someone has a nickel allergy, they are generally advised to avoid anything containing nickel. People allergic to nickel are also advised to avoid foods like oats, multi-grain bread, spinach, beans, and even chocolate among others apart from stainless steel cookware. Studies have found 12% - 15% women and only about 1%- 2% men are allergic to nickel.
Research has proven that stainless steel cookware is more likely to leach nickel if you are cooking with something highly acidic like curd or lemon juice for a long period of time. There is no nickel leaching while cooking liquids like coffee, tea, milk, or any other liquid with low acidity levels. Distilled water being neutral is also free from leaching. In the case of tap water, the PH levels are low. This means that even tap water is free from nickel leaching.
Yes, if your cookware is made of stainless steel, it would most likely have chromium and nickel in there.If there are cookware brands that claim to have nickel free cookware, they are most likely not using a durable version of stainless steel that is rust resistant.
18/8 proportion stainless steel has 2% lesser nickel than 18/10 proportion stainless steel. This also means that it is less durable and lesser corrosion resistant than 18/10 stainless steel. If you are certain that you are allergic to nickel, choose the 18/8 variety of cookware but in all other cases, it is best to use 18/10 variety.
Stainless steel cookware tends to leach nickel only under a specific set of circumstances. But with proper care and usage, the amount of nickel leached into the food can be reduced. Here’s how it’s done.
The non-stick prevents the contact between the acidic contents and the stainless-steel surface which prevents nickel leaching.
Research shows that nickel leaching reduces over time and use. Once your cookware has gone through more than six or seven cooking cycles, the amounts of nickel leached into the food lower over time.
Only when the stainless-steel cookware reaches a temperature over 200℃, it starts leaching nickel. The best way to prevent this is to switch to triply stainless-steel cookware. It is an excellent conductor of heat, so you don’t have to heat the cookware over 200℃.
Unless you’re allergic to nickel, using stainless-steel cookware is the last thing you need to worry about. In fact, some studies suggest that our body needs nickel in small amounts for proper functioning. If you come across any brand claiming to sell you nickel free stainless steel cookware, it is merely a marketing gimmick if not proven by data.
No matter which series of stainless steel you come across, nickel will always be present and is in fact playing an important role. If you happen to stumble upon stainless steel cookware which is completely free of nickel, it only means that it is not durable and will be more prone to corrosion. So next time you come across a conversation about nickel leaching, you will have an excellent opportunity to do some myth-busting.