Metal Utensils: Steel and Stainless Steel

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About
Ordinary steel consists of iron (see above) with a little carbon added to harden it. ‘Mild’ steel is fairly soft, and is used in sheet form for baking trays and other utensils. ‘High carbon’ steel is harder and is used for good-quality cook’s knives.

Steel is much more prone to rust than either cast or wrought iron and, except in knife blades, is always given a protective coating of tin, zinc, or enamel. When bare steel comes into contact with the complex chemicals in foodstuffs unexpected things can happen, often caused by chelation of iron atoms. The red anthocyanin pigments in fruits and red cabbage turn dark blue or grey, and off flavours may form. If a fruit pie is baked in a chipped enamelled steel dish, the filling will discolour around the chip.