Nowadays, many kitchen utensil materials are in the market, from metals to woods to glasses and synthetic ones. We will discover the pros and cons of each material, which ones are safe to use and which ones are not. And at last, you can decide which ones are worth investing in.

1. 11 Different Materials for Kitchen Utensils

Whenever someone goes to the market to buy cookware utensils, there are many materials to choose from. It becomes impossible to decide which material utensils will give the best results and are safe to use. Last but not least, durability and price are also the major factors to consider.

Below are 11 different materials with their pros and cons;

  • Nylon
  • Silicone
  • Stainless steel
  • Wood
  • Glass
  • Teflon
  • Ceramic
  • Aluminum
  • Plastic
  • Cast iron
  • Copper

Nylon

Nylon kitchen utensils

Nylon is a synthetic material. It is a bad conductor of heat, so it is the material widely used to make stirring spoons, spatulas, e.t.c.

Pros

  • Does not react with food
  • Silky-smooth surface finish
  • Can be washed in a dishwasher
  • Flexible, easy to reach hard places
  • Does not scratch cookware surface
  • Heat resistant up to 400° F ( 4° C )
  • More smell and stain-resistant than wood

Cons

  • Not biodegradable
  • Less durable than silicone
  • Can crack more easily than silicone and harbor bacteria
  • May release DDM a harmful chemical into food when heated above 400° F ( 4° C )

Silicone

Silicone materials

Silicone is a compound made up of quartz sand, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and maybe more elements. All of these elements are non-harmful. According to the FDA, silicone products are safe to use. Silicone is widely used to make mats, spatulas, spoons, whisks, e.t.c.

If you want to know if silicone kitchen utensils like silicone baking mats are safe, check my previous article about safety of silicone baking mats to get the answer.

Pros

  • Bad conductor of heat
  • Does not react with food
  • Flexible nature, easy to reach hard places
  • Non-abrasive nature, best for coated non-stick surfaces

Cons

  • Not biodegradable
  • May leach some chemicals when overheated

Stainless steel

Stainless Steel material

Steel is an alloy of iron and carbon while adding 10.5% chromium will make it stainless steel. Food-grade stainless steel must contain 16% chromium. Sometimes nickel is added to increase the features of stainless steel. Stainless steel cooking material is also mixed with other metals such as aluminum and copper to increase its conductivity.

Pros

  • Oven safe
  • Rust-resistant
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Durable, can last for years

Cons

  • Clad stainless steel may become harmful if not maintained well
  • Nickel or chromium may leach into food and cause health problems
  • Pure stainless steel is not a good conductor of heat; metals such as aluminum and copper are added to increase conductivity

Wood

Wood material

Wooden kitchen utensils have been in use for thousands of years. Wood is mostly used to make stirring and serving utensils, such as spatulas, spoons, plates, dishes, e.t.c.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Does not scratch the non-stick surface
  • Unlike other materials, wood is 100% biodegradable
  • Does not react with food; acidic or alkaline does not matter.

Cons

  • Can pick up smell
  • Can be stained easily due to porous surface
  • Can break and food can fill in the pores causing sanitary issues
  • Can not be washed in a dishwasher because moisture can break wood

Glass

Glass material for kitchen utensils

Glass utensils are becoming more and more common nowadays due to their decent appearance, which can fit any kitchen easily. Glass is mostly used to make pans, plates, cups, dishes, and a lot more.

Pros

  • 100% Recyclable
  • Retain heat for a longer duration
  • Can last for 7 to 10 years with proper care
  • Does not react with food, not even with acidic foods
  • Can be washed in the dishwasher due to their non-porous surface

Cons

  • Good conductors of heat but less than metals
  • Heavier than metals, plastics, wood, silicone, e.t.c.
  • Can break easily either with sudden high temperature or force
  • Low-quality utensils can leach lead and other harmful chemicals

Teflon

Teflon is basically a coating to make utensils non-stick, which is also called PTFE.

Teflon utensils

Pros

  • Easy cleaning
  • Smell and stain resistant
  • Gives a premium look to utensils
  • Food does not stick to the bottom
  • Least friction surface, even sometimes oil is not required

Cons

  • PFOA coated utensils are not safe
  • PTFE coated utensils can withstand temperature up to 500° F (260 ° C)
  • Requires non-abrasive spatulas such as nylon, wood, e.t.c to avoid scratching of surface

Ceramic

Ceramic utensils

Ceramic is a natural material. Ceramic utensils come in two options: 100% pure ceramic cooking utensils and ceramic coated utensils.

Pros

  • Scratch-resistant
  • Retain heat very well and conduct heat slowly and evenly
  • Smell and stain resistant
  • Can be used for years with proper care
  • Neither react nor release any chemicals into food, safest than all other materials

Cons

  • Most Expensive
  • Can be cracked with sudden temperature change
  • Ceramic coated utensils are basically metal utensils with a ceramic coating, which can be harmful

Aluminum

Aluminum kitchen utensils

Kitchen utensils made of aluminum are also commonly used. Untreated aluminum cooking utensils are not safe to use. In contrast, aluminum utensils clad with stainless steel or non-stick coated or anodized are safer to use. It is best not to use aluminum utensils daily if you do not want heavy metal leaching into your food.

Pros

  • One of the lightest material
  • Enhanced aluminum cookwares are non-sticky
  • Good conductor of heat only second to copper

Cons

  • React with food, can change its odor and flavor
  • Pure aluminum kitchen utensils can not be used on induction stoves
  • Coated aluminum utensils can release harmful chemicals like lead, cadmium, e.t.c into food

Plastic

Plastic kitchen utensils

Plastic utensils are used in almost every kitchen in the world. Plastic materials such as nylon, silicone, e.t.c are safe to use while other cheap plastics are not. It is best to avoid plastic utensils other than nylon and silicone as much as possible.

Pros

  • Light in weight
  • Bad conductor of heat
  • Mostly are flexible and sturdy
  • Used to make spatulas, spoon, e.t.c
  • Does not scratch non-stick surfaces

Cons

  • Leach harmful chemicals into food
  • Plastic other than nylon and silicon can react with food when heated

Cast iron

Cast Iron utensils

Cast iron is one of the safest cooking utensil materials. Cast iron comes in two options; uncoated cast iron and enameled cast iron.

Pros

  • Oven safe
  • Can retain heat for longer
  • Durable, can last for decades with proper care
  • Uncoated cast iron can become better with usage
  • Release iron into food which can help in iron deficiency disease

Cons

  • Cast iron is prone to rust
  • Conducts heat slowly and unevenly
  • Heavy-weight than most other materials
  • Uncoated cast iron can change the color and taste of acidic food
  • Enameled coated cast iron may release harmful chemicals like lead, cadmium, e.t.c

Copper

Copper utensils

Many professional cooks use copper utensils all around the world. Copper utensils are not very common due to their high price.

Pros

  • Distribute heat evenly
  • Safe to use in the oven
  • Anti-microbial
  • Better conductor of heat than other materials such as cast iron, stainless steel, e.t.c.

Cons

  • Leach copper into food
  • Requires regular polishing to maintain a shiny look
  • can be scratched easily
  • React with many natural minerals, acidic food, e.t.c, so it is lined with non-reactive compounds, such as tin, stainless steel, e.t.c

2. What Materials are Cooking Utensil Handles Made of?

Usually, cooking utensils handles are made up of the materials which must have most of these properties;

  • Durable
  • Non-slip
  • Oven safe
  • Easily cleanable
  • Does not dissolve in water
  • Should not leach any harmful chemicals
  • Scratch-proof, to avoid harboring bacteria
  • Insulator or bad conductor of heat, because it will prevent easy moving of utensil without burning of hand during cooking

The materials that have these properties are given below;

  • Steel
  • Wood
  • Nylon
  • Plastic
  • Silicone
  • Bakelite
  • Bamboo
  • Some more

Among these, wood and plastic handles are the most common because they have most of the above properties, are cheap, and are easily available.

Cooking Utensils Handle Materials

3. Which Cooking Utensil Material is Best for Health?

All the materials which are used to manufacture kitchen utensils and equipment, these 4 below are considered among the safest ones to make heat-conducting cookware;

  • Glass
  • Ceramic
  • Cast Iron
  • Stainless Steel

Glass is considered one of the safest materials to cook food because it does not release any harmful chemicals. Glass is also non-reactive and does not react with basic or acidic or any other food. Plus, glass can break easily with force or sudden temperature change.

100% pure Ceramic utensils are completely safe for health. They do not release a single chemical in food. They do not harbor any harmful microorganisms. The only downside is that they are expensive and can break with sudden temperature changes.

Uncoated cast iron does not contain any harmful chemicals such as lead, cadmium, e.t.c because they do not have any coating. They even release iron into food which is beneficial for iron deficiency. Plus, uncoated cast iron requires regular seasoning to prevent rusting, or it can be harmful to health. Overall, cast iron is one of the safest materials in cooking concerning health.

Anodized or coated stainless steel may release a small amount of nickel or cadmium when misused. Still, there is no proof of serious health problems using enhanced stainless steel utensils. Although, it is advised to avoid nickel-containing stainless steel if you have a nickel allergy. Overall, stainless steel is reliable to use.

While to make spoons, whisks, stirring handles, non-sticking mats, e.t.c these below materials are considered the safest;

  • Wood
  • Nylon
  • Silicone
  • Bamboo

Silicone lies at the top because it does not leach any chemicals into food and is crack resistant. While wood, bamboo, and nylon also do not leach any chemicals, but they can be cracked over time and harbor bacteria. Wood and bamboo utensils are needed to replace more frequently than silicone and nylon ones to avoid sanitary problems.

4. Which Materials of Cooking Utensils Should You Avoid?

These below are 4 materials that you should avoid using as cookware for cooking food, or mixing handles, or storage containers, or serving equipment if you want to avoid harmful chemicals in your food;

  • Teflon (PTFE)
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Cheap Plastic

Teflon: PFOA was previously used to manufacture Teflon. But PFOA can cause many liver, thyroid, cancer, infertility, and other diseases. So, PFOA was banned in 2015. Now, PTFE is used as a coating agent, which is safer than PFOA. But some manufacturers still use PFOA, or low standard PTFE or other cheap chemicals for coating. So, it is best to avoid Teflon cookware if you do not know the brand’s quality.

Copper: Copper is a better conductor of heat than most other materials. But pure copper utensils can release copper into food, while tin, stainless steel, e.t.c coated copper utensils may release other harmful chemicals. Plus, copper is also expensive. It is best to avoid copper utensils if you do not know how to buy the safest ones.

Aluminum: Aluminum utensils no doubt release aluminum into foods. Even premium quality anodized and coated aluminum cookware can become harmful after some use. Especially coated utensils need proper care to avoid chipping off of coatings to prevent releasing toxic agents such as lead, cadmium, e.t.c. While most sellers claim anodized aluminum is safe to use, but the quality is still the issue. So, avoid aluminum cookware as much as you can.

Cheap Plastic: At last, you should avoid plastic other than nylon and silicone at all costs. Because spoons, spatulas, containers, jars, and many other kitchen equipment made up of cheap plastics can cause serious health problems. It is better to invest in wood, bamboo, bakelite, nylon, silicone, and other safe materials to make mixing utensils, containers, and similar products like this where insulating heat is the main goal.

5. How to Choose the Right Materials for Your Kitchen Utensils?

You can choose the right material for your kitchen utensil and equipment based on the following factors;

  • Price
  • Lifespan
  • Cleaning
  • Safe level
  • Oven/Microwave safe
  • Heat conduction

Price

Well, who does not want premium quality kitchen utensils and equipment at low prices? But cheaper cooking utensils and equipment can be harmful to health because of low-quality chemicals and raw materials used in their production. So, it is best to invest once in the best quality products to avoid health issues.

Below is the comparison of all the material prices:

Price comparison of different utensil materials

Safety Level

This is one of the main concerns which you should look for when buying any utensils. It is best to invest in pricey, safe utensils than spend a lot of money and hours curing the diseases.

The materials mentioned above are categorized as below;

Safest materials: Cast iron, glass, ceramic, wood, bamboo, and silicone cooking tools do not leach any known harmful chemicals into food.

Safe with proper care: Coated-Copper, nylon, enhanced aluminum, and stainless steel leach chemicals into food when their protective upper coating is scratched or chipped off.

Not safe: Cheap Plastic cooking utensils and equipment are never safe to use.

Lifespan

Some of the above materials can last for decades, while others can only last for years or months at maximum.

Decades life span: Copper, ceramic, glass, and cast iron utensils can last for decades with proper care.

Years life span: Stainless steel and aluminum cookware can last for years if cared for well.

Months Lifespan: Nylon and silicone can last for more months than wood and bamboo cooking tools. In contrast, cheap plastic products have the lowest lifespan.

Heat Conduction

If you want to make handles or serve or mix tools, choosing insulator materials is the best option. But if you want utensils to cook food in them, you should go for the best heat conductors.

Insulators: Nylon, silicone, wood, bamboo, plastic, e.t.c are all non-conductors of heat and are ideal for mixing, serving, handling, and storage tools.

Poor Conductors: Stainless steel is a poor conductor of heat and is always mixed with good conductors for best results.

Slow conductors: Ceramic and cast iron are slow conductors of heat. But when heated, they do the job very well and retain heat for longer durations.

Fast Conductors: Copper and aluminum are the fastest conductors of heat. But both are toxic. They are either treated or mixed with other materials for safe use.

Oven/Microwave safe

The above materials are categorized as follow;

Oven safe: Glass, non-stick, nylon, silicone, copper, ceramic, cast iron, aluminum, and stainless steel are all oven safe.

Not oven safe: Wood, bamboo, and cheap plastics are not oven safe. Because wood and bamboo utensils can get wrapped or burned, in contrast, plastic utensils can melt in the oven.

Microwave safe: Glass, nylon, silicone, and ceramic are microwave safe.

Not Microwave safe: All metals can damage your microwave. Wood and bamboo utensils can burn, while nylon and cheap plastic can melt in the microwave.

6. Which Stainless Steel is Best for Cooking?

There are many grades of stainless steel in the market today. Steel is made by adding carbon to the iron. Additionally, 10.5% chromium is added to give it the name of stainless. For stainless steel to be food grade, it must have at least 16% chromium in it.

201, 304, and 316 are the kinds of Food-grade stainless steel, which are usually used to make utensils and drinkware. More chromium and nickel increase the corrosion resistance capacity but also increase the price of products.

304 Stainless Steel Vs 201 Stainless Steel

Pic source:elkayusa

These kinds are compared in detail in the below chart, including their safe uses:

201 vs 304 vs 316 stainless steel

 

201 Stainless Steel

304 Stainless Steel

316 Stainless Steel

Chromium

16% - 18%

18%

16%

Nickel

3.5% - 5.5%

8%

10%

Rust Resistance

Least

Medium

Can even be used to contain salty ocean water

Brittle

More

Less

Less

Cookware safe

Mostly

Yes

Yes

Drinkware safe

No

Yes

Yes

Price

Lowest

Medium

Highest

7. Nylon Vs Silicone Cooking Utensils

Nylon and silicone are both popular materials especially for cooking utensils. Many people want to know which one is better. The main differences between nylon and silicone cooking equipment are given below:

Nylon

Silicone

Heat Resistance

400° F (  204.4° C )

482° F ( 250° C )

 Crack Resistance

Crack easily and harbor microorganism

Do not Crack easily but can also harbor microorganisms when cracked

Non-stick

Yes

Yes

Leach Harmful Chemicals

DDM etc.

None

Dishwasher Safe

Yes

Yes

LifeSpan

Less than Silicone

More than Nylon

Price

Less

More

Final Words

After reading this comprehensive guide about kitchen utensil materials, you must benefit a lot. Share it with your friends or on Facebook, Twitter, Quora, Reddit. Or leave a message below to let me help you if you have any problems.

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