What is 18/10 Stainless Steel Cookware?

stainless steel cookware set

If you browse through any display of fine cookware, you’re likely to see “18/10 Stainless Steel” advertised as if it’s a benefit for the cook. However, most people have no idea what this designation actually means. By learning what 18/10 stainless cookware is, you can decide for yourself if it’s a priority for your home cookware.

So what is 18/10 Stainless Steel Cookware?

In relation to cookware, 18/10 stainless steel is a term used to describe the percentage of chromium and nickel found in the stainless steel mix that is used to manufacture the cookware. The ’18’ is the amount of chromium and the ’10’ is the amount of nickel.

You also might have also seen other combinations when researching cookware, namely 18/8 and 18/0 and you might have even seen 13/10 if you have been shopping for flatware. These are all just different combinations of chromium and nickel that are added to the stainless steel alloy.

  • 18/10 – contains 18% chromium and 10% nickel
  • 18/8 – contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel
  • 18/0 – contains 18% and no nickel
  • 13/0 – contains 13% chromium and no nickel

304 vs 316..What does it even mean?

Sometimes you may see stainless steel cookware branded with a number like 304 and 316.  The difference between the two is that the 316 graded cookware is just more corrosive resistant than the 304. This is because the 316 grade stainless steel alloy contains a small percentage of molybdenum. This of course, makes it more expensive than 304 cookware.

The 316 grade would be a benefit in a professional cooking environment or if you cook with a lot of acidic or salty foods. Otherwise, as a home cook you can save a bit of money and sick with the 304 cookware which will be the 18/10 or 18/8 branded cookware.

What Makes Steel Stainless?

Stainless steel is one of the most popular materials for cookware because it is smooth, doesn’t stick easily, is resistant to corrosion, and because its natural gleam is very attractive. But what makes stainless steel different from regular steel?

Steel itself is an alloy, or combination of different metals, that is made up mostly of iron. Steel is made harder and more durable than iron by adding other metals such as carbon. However, steel remains prone to corrosion, rusting and pitting easily – which is far from ideal in cookware.

In order to make steel more suitable for use in the kitchen, another metal is added to the alloy – chromium. Chromium has a chemical property that causes the steel to react with elements in the atmosphere, forming a protective layer over its surface. This protective layer resists corrosion, far removing the chance of stains and rust marring the surface of your pans.

The first number in 18/10 stainless steel refers to the percentage of the alloy that is made up of chromium. In order to be considered stainless steel at all, that number must be at least 10.5%. A higher value of chromium means that the protective layer will be thicker and will repair itself more quickly if damaged. Therefore, 18/10 stainless steel has a high level of chromium, and will be more resistant to staining and corrosion.

What Makes Stainless Steel Bright?

Chromium alone is not enough to create the most durable and beautiful stainless steel cookware possible. The addition of another element to the alloy increases the effectiveness of the protective layer that forms over the steel surface, and also makes the cookware gleam more brightly. That element is nickel.

The second number in 18/10 stainless steel refers to the percentage of nickel in the cookware. Although 18/8 also indicates high quality stainless steel cookware, the higher both numbers are, the better the cookware.

In Conclusion

The number 18/10 in stainless steel cookware indicates a very high-quality, durable construction that will be highly resistant to stains, rust, and corrosion while maintaining a bright, attractive shine.