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Is It Safe To Store Food In Stainless Steel Containers? (Solved)

Is It Safe To Store Food In Stainless Steel Containers? (Solved)

Do you know what the greenest material for storing food is? Here are some clues- it’s safe, odor-resistant, nearly indestructible, retains heat/cold, is 100% recyclable, and even seals the freshness of your food.

The answer is Stainless Steel, also famous as rustless steel and SS. What’s more, SS even cleans like a charm!

Today we’ll talk about everything about it from its 5 benefits, food-grade options, hot/cold food storage, how to clean it.

Ready to find out all about it? Read on!

5 Reasons and hygienic benefits why it’s safe to store food in stainless steel

Do you know stainless steel is over 100 years old? The first Stainless Steel was invented back in 1913 in Sheffield, UK.

Unlike pure raw metals, stainless steels mix metals such as chromium, molybdenum, iron, and sometimes nickel.

Let’s look at its economic, health, and hygienic benefits.

#1 Doesn’t react or leach with food

Firstly, SS is neutral and inert. That is, they don’t leach chemicals into your food like plastic.

Moreover, you don’t have to worry about odors and stains with rustless steel. Why? That’s because SS is a non-porous alloy. Hence, it’s widely used in professional kitchens and hospitals.

Rustless steel is also inert to alkalis and acids that can sometimes be produced by certain foods and vegetables, unlike plastic containers. 

What about storing tomato sauce?

Storing Tomato Sauce In Stainless Steel Container

As SS is inert to alkalis and acids found in meat, milk, raw vegetables, and cooked foods, you don’t have to worry about storing tomato sauce in these containers. Comparatively, plastic containers leach 55x faster!

#2 Locks freshness

Want a food storage box that can seal away the freshness? Go for SS with an airtight lid!

Stainless steel even retains heat, thanks to its high thermal inertia. Hence, you can expect it to offer lasting hotness and coldness to your food. As a result, your food lasts longer. Moreover, SS can prevent decay in food and, in turn, wastage.

#3 Durable and recyclable

SS containers don’t warp, break, or crack, unlike glass or ceramic. Conversely, plastic materials break down every time you wash them. Hence, rustless steel is a low-maintenance material for storing food.

While aluminum starts pitting quickly, stainless steel guarantees years of use, thus saving money in the long run.

Besides being completely recyclable, SS is also 100% reusable, much like aluminum. To put that into perspective, 75% of SS products and aluminum tin cans made a century ago are still in use!

#4 Safe

Another reason to stick to SS for safety is its resistance to rust and corrosion, unlike cast iron. The best thing is the coating on SS repairs itself with oxygen.

Is it also safe to store food in stainless steel pots?

Yes, it’s safe to store your food in SS pots because it’s anti-bacterial. Moreover, viruses can’t survive on their surface for more than a few hours due to their smoothness.

Are they dishwasher safe?

Yes, SS food containers are safe to use in dishwashers. However, you must first make sure the handles are safe as well!

#5 Popularity: Why is Kourtney Kardashian obsessed with stainless steel containers?

Kourtney Kardashian in her kitchen with stainless steel containers
Photo : @Instagram

Apart from using premium water bottles, Kourtney Kardashian also uses nothing but SS plates, pots, and glasses for kids.

Her reasons? Absence of BPA and phthalates in rustless steel.

She prefers SS more than all the other options “because it’s durable, more hygienic, and doesn’t contain chemicals. We even use reusable stainless steel straws instead of wasting disposable plastic ones“.

Types of stainless steel to store food in

Everything from cookware to utensils, cutlery, and appliances, SS is used for a wide range of things in kitchens and hospitals today.

However, stainless steel is a mix of different metals. Hence, not every piece of SS is made the same or used in the food industry.

Let’s look at the ones you can use in the kitchen next.

What type of stainless steel is food-grade?

GradingEffects and traits
200Used for food canisters, this is a low-quality SS that’s not entirely rust-resistant.
304From appliances to utensils, flatware, and even storage bins, SS is the most commonly used material in most kitchens. It’s vibrant with a mix of nickel and chromium that makes it resistant to corrosion, except against salt. It’s also known as 18/8.
316Kitchen cookware, hibachi grills, and equipment in professional kitchens are made from SS 316. That’s because it’s corrosion-resistant against everything found in kitchens, including salt.
430Usually found in flatware and professional prep tables, 430 is the magnetic type of SS made with a mix of nickel and not entirely resistant to rust.
440You’ll find 440 SS in professional knives, flatware, cutlery, and even on your oven handle as it’s the most powerful type. They’re also resistant to corrosion and ravages of time.

What do international regulations say about using stainless steel for food?

You can use stainless steel for food no matter where you are, unlike aluminum or red porcelain.

In Europe, EC 1935/2004 specifies safety, leaching, and taste/color changes for containers used for food. Moreover, the Council of Europe updated their guidelines for food-safe containers in 2013 to include a new test to check against reactions with citric acid.

Besides, the FDA has approved 304 SS owing to its compliant chromium content in the U.S.

Can you keep hot food in stainless steel container?

Yes. SS containers actually function as a hot case when you add food. In short, the container will retain and heat up to keep your food warm sans any harm or damage. That’s why it has been the most common lunch box in India for ages. Win-win, right?

Can you freeze food in stainless steel?

Yes. Whether it’s an SS pan, pot, tiffin box, or canister, you can put them in the freezer without worrying about warping, cracking, or breaking. SS is safe in the freezer as it doesn’t crack under low temperatures.

Moreover, you can also thaw food from rustless steel food boxes quickly.

How do you clean stainless steel cookware? Dos and don’ts

How do you clean stainless steel cookware?

SS isn’t just easy to clean but also simple to disinfect. Additionally, it’s low-maintenance compared to all the other materials.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind while you’re at it.

5 Effective cleaning products for stainless steel

  • Use warm water to remove grease.
  • Try lukewarm soapy water to remove oil.
  • Diluted vinegar can eliminate limescale that forms due to years of negligence.
  • Remove residues of tea and spices with baking soda and boiling water with up to 15 minutes of soaking.
  • Acetone and other alcoholic cleaners will eliminate glue residues quickly.

5 Cleaning products to avoid with stainless steel!

  • Highly concentrated bleaches can aggravate corrosion and lead to pitting.
  • Pitting-based corrosion also worsens with cleaning products that use chlorides and salts.
  • Using abrasive materials:
    • Wire wool and iron scrubs can leave scratch marks on rustless steel.
    • They can destroy the passive film coating on the surface of SS containers, exacerbating corrosion.
  • Scoring powders can be equally harmful to the passive layer on SS products.
  • Don’t use silver dip cleaners because they contain chlorides and extremely strong acids.
Wire wool and iron scrubs can leave scratch marks on rustless steel.
Strongly Discouraged!

Useful information about stainless steel you NEED to know

Before you fully commit to SS products in the kitchen, keep the following things in mind.

Stainless Steel for food and drinks

Food and drinks are safe to prepare and store in SS containers in professional kitchens and homes. SS can last a long time without harm or damage being an inert material.

Stainless Steel for healthcare

SS containers, appliances, parts, and products are easy to disinfect, sanitize, and sterilize (thermal and chemical). Hence, they take no time to maintain.  

As a result, they prevent cross-contamination essential in healthcare. That’s also because the SS surface is smooth, non-porous, and resistant to bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses.

Moreover, SS is highly resistant to natural wear and tear, increasing its life span.

Stainless Steel Family

There are four main categories of the rustless steel family of materials. Take a look at their characteristics:

MartensiticsFerriticsDuplex GradesAustenitics
High Strength
Reasonable ductility
Hardenable by heat treatment
Modest corrosion resistance
Reasonable ductility & corrosion resistance
Resistant to SCC (stress corrosion cracking)
High strength
Good to excellent corrosion resistance
Good ductility down to 58°F (-50°C)
Good fatigue strength
Good strength & highly formable
Hygienic due to good to excellent corrosion resistance
Excellent ductility even at very low temperatures

Comparative material attribute

I’ve compared the complete set of traits for four types of stainless steel and their attributes against aluminum below.

AttributeAustenitic
Stainless
Ferritic
Stainless
Duplex
Stainless
Carbon Steel
S355
Aluminium
AI6061
Yield StrengthMid RangeMid RangeStrongStrongMid Range
Highly HygienicStrongMid RangeStrongWeakMid Range
WeldabilityStrongMid RangeStrongStrongStrong
Lifetime
Appearance
StrongStrongStrongWeakStrong
Energy Absorp’nStrongWeakStrongMid RangeWeak
Fire ResistanceStrongStrongStrongStrongWeak
Service LifeStrongMid RangeStrongWeakMid Range
Life Cycle CostStrongMid RangeStrongWeakMid Range
Life Cycle
Emissions
StrongMid RangeStrongMid RangeMid Range

Healthcare-related infections of stainless steel vs. others

Stainless Steel Attributes Advantages

When it comes to health and hygiene, several factors affect food containers. Let’s take a look at it:

MaterialAntimicrobial
Surfaces
Silver-Containing
Coatings
Copper &
its Alloys
Stainless
Steel
Initial EffectivenessReasonable 🟠Very Good 🟢Very Good 🟢Very Good 🟢
Later EffectivenessReasonable 🟠Poor 🔴Reasonable 🟠Very Good 🟢
ExplanationNot effective against all micro-organisms.
Generally, only inhibit micro-organism growth.
Surface performance diminishes rather quickly with regular use.
Coating wears off and no visible identifiers of failure.
Known weaker performance against viruses.
Release of Copper ions diminishes over time as surfaces oxidizes.
Less effective against resistance forming bacteria, eg; E-Coli.
Completely inert and passive.
Hard smooth surface.
Self-repairing passive film.
No deterioration over time (at least 100 years).
Life Cycle CostHigh 🔴Very High 🔴High 🔴Good 🟢
Wear ResistancePoor 🔴Poor 🔴Reasonable 🟠Very Good 🟢

Why start using stainless steel for food storage right away!

We learned why SS is the safest bet when it comes to hygiene, health, and durability. Besides, it keeps your food safe from bacteria, viruses, and rust for a long time.

Here’s another reason to love it- it’s affordable!

The only con of stainless steel? It isn’t microwave-safe and can lead to portal fires when used for that.

Sources

Author

Laurent
About Me | + posts

As the founder of Container FAQs, my goal is to provide readers with in-depth information on the containers used in daily life and related subjects. Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you have any suggestions for articles you would like to see on my blog.

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