If you’re in the market for stainless steel flatware, you’ve probably come across three different types of steel —18/10, 18/8, and 18/0. These numbers don’t tell you a whole lot so it’s understandable that you might not know the difference. So, what exactly makes one type of stainless steel different from another, and which makes the best flatware?
The three numbers used to differentiate stainless steel show the percentages of nickel and chrome used to make the metal. For example, 18/8 stainless steel contains 18% chrome and 8% nickel. The rest of the metal is pure steel. Varying amounts of nickel and chrome affect the steel’s strength and anti-corrosive properties.
In this guide, we’ll help explain the main differences between these three types of steel, what they’re commonly used for, and the pros and cons of each. With this information, you’ll be able to find the best flatware for your household needs.
An Overview of 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0 Stainless Steel
What is Stainless Steel?
To understand the difference between these three commonly used types of steel, you’ll first need to understand what makes stainless steel “stainless”. When smelters cast steel, they use a combination of iron and carbon to make a stronger, more durable metal. Yet, it’s still susceptible to corrosion. Stainless steel helps resolve this problem by adding additional metals to make it more resistant.
Most stainless steels are cast using a mixture of chromium and nickel. These two metals are both resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion so, when added to steel, they boost the steel’s overall anti-corrosive properties. However, chromium and nickel are more expensive than iron, so smelters use varying amounts of these two metals to better manage the cost to the consumer.
Adding nickel and chromium also affects the overall strength of the steel. Stainless steel cast with more nickel will be stronger and more durable than steel cast entirely with chromium. Therefore, these metals tend to cost more than nickel-free steels.
What is 18/10 Stainless Steel?
18/10 stainless steel is a type of stainless steel cast with 18% chromium and 10% nickel. Sometimes, though, smelters will reduce the amount of pure chromium to 16% and add an extra 2% molybdenum to lower the cost. This doesn’t affect the steel’s corrosion resistance while helping the consumer at the cash register. These steels generally contain 0.1% carbon to strengthen the final product.
While the carbon content may seem low, if smelters were to add more carbon, it would become more prone to rust and corrosion. Nonetheless, it’s still durable stainless steel commonly found in most household kitchens.
18/10 stainless steel stands out from other varieties of stainless steel for the following reasons:
➔ It’s easier to mold – 18/10 stainless steel can be easily molded into shape without much resistance. This makes it well suited to kitchen equipment such as pots and pans, flatware, and utensils without costing extra for intense machining.
➔ It is highly anti-corrosive – 18/10 steel contains a high amount of nickel and chromium, making it more resistant to corrosion than many other types of stainless steel. It can even hold acidic products and other causative chemicals without degrading. Its anti-corrosive properties make it suitable for cooking with vinegar and other acidic foods.
➔ It’s highly heat-resistant – 18/10 stainless steel can also stand up to high heat. This makes it ideal for cookware, such as pots and pans. You can leave it over a fire without it bending or melting.
➔ It’s useful at sea – If you live in a coastal region or own a boat, 18/10 stainless steel will come in handy in your kitchen. Its higher nitrogen content makes it more resistant to salt and saltwater than many other types of steel.
The only downside to 18/10 stainless steel is that it’s more expensive than other commonly used types of steel. Its higher chromium and nickel content make it slightly pricier but the benefits are often worth it.
18/10 Stainless Steel at a Glance
Resistance to corrosion
More resistant to corrosive compounds such as salt, rust, and caustic chemicals than 18/8 and 18/0 stainless steel.
Resistance to heat
More resistant to heat than 18/8 and 18/0 stainless steel. It can withstand temperatures up to 1598°F and can even reach temperatures of 925°C before it starts degrading.
18/10 steel is commonly used to make hubcaps, automotive parts, cookware, storage tanks, and electrical equipment
What is 18/8 Stainless Steel?
18/8 stainless steel is a type of stainless steel cast with 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Smelters also add a wide variety of other metals to 18/8 stainless steel but they’re added in such negligible quantities that they’re not worth mentioning.
With a lower nickel content, 18/8 stainless steel is slightly less resistant to corrosion but it’s noticeably cheaper than its sturdier counterpart. Nonetheless, it’s still a high-quality metal that can withstand most types of corrosion without trouble.
Although 18/8 stainless steel is only marginally different from 18/10 steel, its uses and characteristics are noticeably different. Here’s how:➔ It requires special tools to mold – Fabricating cookware and flatware from 18/8 steel will require a special set of tools. They should be cleaned beforehand to prevent contamination. While this may sound more troublesome, you can easily use 18/8 steel to craft other equipment.
➔ It’s less resistant to corrosion – It can’t be denied that 18/8 stainless steel is less anti-corrosive than 18/10 but it’s still an excellent product. Many marine-grade products are made from 18/8 steel—meaning it’s classed to withstand saltwater corrosion—but it may begin to crack or chip over time.
➔ It’s less heat resistant – For the most part, 18/8 steel performs the same as 18/10 steel over a fire. It can withstand temperatures up to 1598°F without trouble but it will begin to degrade faster if exposed to higher temperatures. Still, most cooks will not cook at such high temperatures so it should still perform well in the kitchen for daily use.
If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative to 18/10 stainless steel, 18/8 steel will perform nearly just as well. It only starts to show its weakness under extreme situations.
18/8 Stainless Steel at a Glance
Resistance to corrosion
Many marine-grade appliances are made from 18/8 stainless steel, proving that it is highly resistant to most types of corrosion. It can stand up to acidic environments, water, and salt but it will begin degrading sooner than the more expensive 18/10 stainless steel. Also, if it’s exposed to heat, the degradation will set in sooner.
Resistance to heat
18/8 steel is near as heat resistant as 18/10 steel. It can withstand temperatures up to 1598°F but it will begin breaking down if left above 1697°F for too long. Anything higher than this and the metal will start to deform.
18/8 steel is commonly used to make marine appliances and marine parts, chemical and pharmaceutical equipment, outdoor enclosures, and outdoor furniture.
What is 18/0 Stainless Steel?
18/0 stainless steel is a type of stainless steel cast using 18% chromium. It does not contain any nickel although it may contain trace amounts of other anti-corrosive metals. These amounts are added in such negligible amounts that they are commonly left unlisted. With less nickel, 18/0 steel is less resistant to corrosion and will break down sooner.
Compared to 18/10 and 18/8 stainless steel, 18/0 is the weakest and least resistant to corrosion. That being said, though, it is also the least expensive type of stainless steel since it lacks any added nickel. Its lower price and high availability make it a common household material—mostly for flatware and other kitchen utensils.
18/0 stainless steel is quite different from its tougher counterparts. Here’s what you should know:➔ It’s not suitable for salty environments – 18/0 steel is far less resistant to corrosion than its marine-grade equivalents. Do not leave it in saltwater or caustic chemicals for too long. It is, however, dishwasher safe and will stand up to standard rust.
➔ It’s not very heat resistant – Avoid heating 18/0 steel over a fire. It’s not made to withstand high temperatures for very long and will begin melting or deforming quickly.
➔ It bends easily – 18/0 steel is commonly used for flatware and kitchen utensils. If you’ve ever bent a fork or a spoon, you know just how easy it is to deform this type of metal. Avoid using tools made from 18/0 steel for more than their intended uses.
18/0 stainless steel is a perfectly suitable material for most household utensils. In most situations, you won’t need much more than this unless you are specifically wanting to heat it or leave it in a caustic environment. Its low price tag makes it an appealing and smart buy for most situations.
18/0 Stainless Steel at a Glance
Resistance to corrosion
18/0 stainless steel isn’t meant to be used in highly saline environments or with caustic chemicals. It will degrade quickly if left in saltwater or if exposed to acidic compounds. It is dishwasher safe though, so if your flatware is made from 18/0 steel, you can simply pop it in the dishwasher for a quick clean.
Resistance to heat
Compared to 18/10 and 18/8 stainless steel, 18/0 is the least resistant to heat. We don’t recommend using it to cook since it cannot withstand the same high temperatures as the other two types of steel.
18/0 steel is commonly used to make everyday knives, forks, and spoons, kitchen spatulas, ladles, whisks, and other common household tools.
What is the Best Grade of Stainless Steel for Flatware?
Since you’re in the market for flatware, you’re probably wondering which type of steel makes the best forks, knives, and spoons. It depends on what you’re looking for. 18/10 and 18/8 stainless steel flatware are more durable and resistant to corrosion than 18/0 flatware but they’re also far more expensive.
We recommend sticking to the lower-grade 18/0 steel for your everyday flatware. There’s no need to spend as much on the flatware you’ll use to lick peanut butter off a spoon or eat your morning breakfast. Save the finer steel for your fancy dinnerware.
18/10 and 18/8 stainless steel flatware have a higher shine than their less expensive 18/0 counterparts. This makes these two types of steel highly favored at dinner parties where you want to show off. They’ll also stand up to stains, so you won’t have to polish them just to make a statement.
At the end of the day, let your budget and your needs determine what you want. If you can afford an everyday set of 18/10 or 18/8 stainless steel flatware, go for it! It will last longer and shine brighter but it will also cost you 4x more than a set of 18/0 stainless steel forks, knives, and spoons.
When looking for new flatware, you should compare the different grades of stainless steel. The two numbers shown denote the amount of chromium and nickel added to boost resistance to corrosion. The higher the chromium and nickel content, the more durable the flatware.
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