Food Grade Aluminum – All Things You Need to Consider
“Food Grade” aluminum is a relatively new terminology in the food industry, you may or may not have heard it used. You may have heard your friend raving about her new aluminum frying pan that never sticks and is as light as feather, which has led you to this article.
Certainly, when you first hear the term aluminum it does send off some alarm bells in your mind, surely that is a term used to define a toxin? It definitely does not sound as safe as the usual terms you hear surrounding kitchenware like bronze, diamond coated and stainless steel.
Do not worry though, we have prepared an article today which should put your mind at ease and teach you everything you need to know about Food Grade Aluminum. In fact, you may find that you already have and own some aluminum cookware in your kitchen!
It is definitely a topic to read up on as we find that currently, many more manufacturers are switching over to use food grade aluminum in their kitchen products. This ranges from all sorts of cooking devices that you find in your kitchen from toaster ovens to Moka coffee pots.
We are sure you always check the ingredients of what you are putting in your mouth so it is just good practice to check what you are preparing your food on and in. For the sake of this article let’s assume that you haven’t heard it before; so, what exactly is it?
What is Food Grade Aluminum?
It is first important to understand that “Food Grade Aluminum” is not an official or technical term. It does not exist in the metal industry and nor has it been officially recognized by any governing organizations including the FDA, EOA or CDC.
The term was coined in reference to 1100 aluminum. 1100 aluminum is the most “commercially pure” aluminum-based alloy, the strongest in the 1000 series and due its high electrical conductivity, resistance to corrosion and durability, is heavily used in cookware.
The term “food grade” does not mean that 1100 aluminum is safe, it is a term used to lead people to believe that one product is better than another; there is no such thing as “food grade aluminum”. This is because there are always trace amounts of other heavy metals in aluminum.
All aluminum alloys are non-toxic, but it is worth noting that some aluminum contains a very small amount of lead and others have manganese or magnesium in them; these additions are to improve machinability, strength, firmness and durability.
Are We Certain that It is Safe?
There had been rumors circulating, back in the 1960s and 1970s, that the presence of aluminum in cooking equipment or drinking from aluminum cans can cause Alzheimer’s disease; however, these claims were found to be untrue.
The research included aluminum from other sources as well, therefore, the study actually showed that aluminum is safe. Think of it like this, how long can you wear an aluminum bracelet for, before you start to affect your outer skin layers? Exactly, it’s pretty safe!
That said, it is recommended that you don’t store foods in open aluminum once you have used them, transfer them to a separate container to keep in the fridge until you need to use them again.
Great, so How do I Decide Which One to Use?
When deciding which grade of aluminum you should use, you need to be thinking about how you are going to be using it; how often, how intense that use will be i.e. heat and cold, how will you clean it etc.
Aluminum is one of the most popular and widely used metals in cooking. It is not as expensive as stainless steel, it’s lightweight and resistant to rusting. Stainless steel pans, I’m sure you’ve experienced, can be fairly weighty and not ideal when moving pans around if cooking multiple dishes. It also conducts heat pretty quickly, so cooking times can be improved – great if that’s one of your goals!
The Different Grades of Aluminum
There are four aluminum grades that are most commonly and safely used in cooking:
- 1100 aluminum: Commercially pure, resistant to corrosion and most commonly used in food processing industries. It is an excellent workable metal.
- 3003 aluminum: The most widely used aluminum alloy and with added manganese is up to 20% stronger than 1100 aluminum. Very workable, like 1100, it has good resistance to corrosion.
- 3004 aluminum: heaviest duty aluminum used in the food-service industry.
- 5052 aluminum: Has one of the highest fatigue strengths of all the aluminum alloys and is extremely resistant to water corrosion.
Good Aluminum Upkeep Practices
In order to ensure that you get the best use out of your aluminum and that is lasts the tests of time, here are a few tips you can use to make sure you take good care of it:
- If your aluminum becomes stained over time, use acidic products to clear these off. The best suggestions are lemon juice, vinegar or cream of tartar
- Don’t use wire cleaners, or abrasive brushes as these will scratch the soft surface of the aluminum. These scratches create grooves, which will lead food to getting stuck in them, making them harder to clean and less effective in use.
- Ensure that you avoid having any salt or chlorine products come into contact with the aluminum products – this can cause the metal to pit and the product to become less workable.
What are the 3 Most Important Things to Remember?
- Aluminum is safe and non-toxic, there is no such thing as “food grade aluminum”. Some aluminum may contain traces of lead, but the aluminum used in cookware most often does not contain any lead.
- If you are concerned about ingesting aluminum, there are steps that you can take to ensure that your food is stored correctly.
- Do your research prior to purchasing cookware or kitchen appliances to understand what you are buying and how it meets your needs.
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