Here comes another “story of my life” piece relating to a time I bought something cheap instead of something good. This time I was inspired by my set of “it will do” cutlery and wanted to look into buying stainless steel flatware.
It turns out my current silverware was actually pretty decent! My set is rated 18/10, but I had no idea what that meant. Here is what I found out.
common stainless steel
Knowing whether stainless steel is 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0 is just part of the equation. There are more than 150 grades of stainless steel. 15 of those are the ones that are most commonly used.
stainless steel 18 10 flatware
18 10 flatware is the higher grade to look for when searching for quality stainless steel flatware. The numbers stand for different percentages of elements.
It is easy to assume that steel is involved somewhere in the process. “Steel” is in the name after all. The process a stainless steel factory uses for making stainless steel involves mixing iron with carbon (0.2-2.1%) to get you to the level of being just steel. To bump that up to “stainless steel” 18% of the total mixture is chromium.
Not only is this 18% chromium the “18″ in “18 10 flatware”, but the chromium helps give the steel a little shine and is the key component in resisting corrosion. And what is flatware good for if it doesn’t have a little shine to it? The steel treated with chromium reacts with oxygen in the air to create a barrier too thin to see, that keeps corrosion and rust away. Notice I said “in the air.” Even though water is one part oxygen, if stainless steel is submerged in water for prolonged amounts of time it will start to corrode.
But, if you add some nickel you get a harder, shinier, better protected metal. 10% nickel is the “10″ in “18 10 flatware.” So, the less nickel you have, the weaker, duller, and less protected the metal is. Which is why 18 0 flatware isn’t as good.
Stainless steel flatware manufacturers who make 18 0 kitchen flatware are generally adding manganese instead of nickel. Although the manganese mimics some of the properties and effects of nickel, it is used as a cost cutting measure and produces a slightly lower grade product.
At the bottom of the flatware barrel…well, somewhere above plastic…is an even more inexpensive product. 13 0 flatware. The numbers still mean the same thing, so this product isn’t as shiny or protected and will probably stain faster than you’d like.
As a side note, stainless steel has been found to actually help remove odors when combined with running cold water. So much so, that there is a metal bar of soap called the Wonder Bar. I even attempted to find out how it works.
If you’re looking for flatware that you want to last, I think it is worth it to go the extra bit to at least make sure you have 18 10 flatware. The same goes for 18 10 stainless steel cookware. Anything less and you’ll just be spending that extra money on Bar Keepers Friend and towels.