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Brass Utensils for Cooking – Is it Safe?

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Your choice of cookware is an important decision. As a rule, you want to be familiar with the tools you use in your kitchen. Knowing how to use them isn’t enough, however.

Instead, you should also be familiar with their characteristics and how they could possibly affect your cooking process.

So, is it safe to cook with brass utensils? No, it is not safe to cook with brass utensils. This is because of the reactions that occur when brass is subjected to high levels of heat, including too much zinc leaching into your food, the release of zinc oxide fumes, and the development of a corrosive patina (tarnishing).

This guide will delve into this matter further as we examine why brass cookware is simply unsafe for cooking.  We’ll also provide some tips on the things you need to consider when shopping for cookware.

Brass – Overview

Brass is the generic term used for a wide array of copper and zinc alloys. Brass is primarily known for its many advantageous properties that make it the metal of choice for all sorts of jobs.

Listed below are some of the characteristics that set brass apart from other metal alloys:

  • Strength and hardness
  • Machinability
  • Resistant to wear and tear
  • Ductility
  • Electrical and thermal conductivity

Brass is often used to make:

  • Tools 
  • Instruments
  • Fittings
  • Fasteners and connectors
  • Appliance components 
  • Ammunition parts

It is hardly surprising to find that it is also one of the most widely used metals out there today.

Why Can’t You Cook With Brass?

Now, with brass being a commonly used metal for a wide array of industries, it would only make sense for it to be used in cookware.

After all, the alloy is also able to successfully transfer heat without much trouble, as it is highly conductive. On paper, at least, it looks like a good choice.

However, once we delve deeper, it will be made clear why you should avoid brass cookware at all costs.

These are the reasons why not to use brass cookware:

  • Overexposure to Zinc – One of the main components of brass is zinc. If heated at the high temperatures required to cook food, this metal leaches into the food and water that it comes into contact with. While trace levels of zinc are harmless, even healthy, it is a different story at higher levels. By cooking with brass, you are effectively giving yourself and whoever eats your meals prolonged exposure to zinc. Over time, the build-up of this metal in a person’s system will prove to be dangerous and detrimental to their health, negatively affecting the body’s ability to absorb iron and copper.
  • Exposure to Zinc Oxide – In addition to this, zinc oxide fumes are another problem you have to deal with when cooking with brass. This is because of the process of dezincification. As your brass cookware is exposed to high levels of heat, it subtly gives off fumes and releases zinc into the air. The zinc then has a chemical reaction with oxygen and forms zinc oxide, another dangerous compound that is toxic and can cause metal fume fever, which has flu-like symptoms.
  • Brass Develops Patina – One of the distinctive characteristics of brass is that it tarnishes like silver and copper over time. You’ve seen it before; it’s the sickly green layer that can be found on aged metals. It is caused by copper’s reaction to oxygen and water. In most cases, this patina is corrosive and dangerous when ingested. 

We have established the fact that brass is a versatile material that has a wide array of uses.

However, the same can’t be said for it being used to manufacture cookware. It is simply ill-advised and could prove dangerous.

Things to Consider When Buying Cookware

Now that we have established that brass isn’t safe for cooking, it is time that we explore the different options available to you.

However, before we do that, we also need to look at the different things you need to consider when looking at the different cookware choices. 

This way, you won’t be choosing a pan because it looks fancy. Instead, this guide aims to help you make an informed decision.

That said, here are the things you should consider before buying cookware:

  • Reactivity – As mentioned earlier, metals can have possibly negative chemical reactions. to certain foods. For instance, aluminum tends to react with acidic ingredients. It is worth looking into how your cookware may react with the type of food that you are cooking.
  • Conductivity – You’ll want to look into your cookware’s ability to conduct heat, as it affects the speed and evenness of your cooking. After all, not everything is made the same and some cookware is made from materials with better heat conductivity. For instance, copper cookware is lauded in this regard, as it is able to quickly transfer heat to the food.
  • Maintenance – This is another thing you have to consider. If you are like us, then you’ll probably want to look for a piece of cookware that doesn’t require constant upkeep in order to do its job well. In this regard, copper and cast iron cookware lose some points, as they require a lot of work to maintain their pristine condition. 
  • Durability – Durability, or the toughness of the material, is another important factor to consider when looking at the different cookware options. After all, you want them to last you as long as possible. It is worth mentioning that stainless steel is known to be one of the most durable cookware materials around. 

Now that we’re familiar with the criteria that separates good cookware from mediocre cookware, we’ll discuss a few of the best options.

Alternative Metal Cookware

While brass is no longer an option, using metal cookware still remains a popular option.

Although ceramic is also a popular choice, we’ll be discussing metal alternatives here.

Here are some of the best materials to choose from:

  • Stainless Steel Cookware – Durable and long-lasting, uncoated stainless steel is a classic. It will always be a good choice for your kitchen. If you are looking for something versatile that can handle a wide array of kitchen tasks, then stainless steel cookware would the perfect choice for you. 
  • Enameled Cast Iron Cookware – Enameled cast iron cookware embodies the combination of classic design and innovation. Aside from being aesthetically pleasing, these pots and pans will also have no trouble getting the job done. Incredibly tough, they can be used on the stovetop as well as in the oven.
  • Uncoated Cast Iron – Cast iron is one of the oldest types of cookware out there. Its durability and versatility have helped it stand the test of time. If you are looking for a safe alternative to nonstick pans, then look no further.
  • Copper Cookware – Copper cookware is known for its distinctive shine and great heat distribution. This type of cookware offers optimal control during cooking. It also helps get the job done as quickly as possible.
  • Aluminum Cookware – Cooking with aluminum is as straightforward as you can get. It is also lightweight while still being durable and strong.

Please note that metal should never be used in the microwave, even if these materials are safer than brass for other cooking methods. You should instead use a ceramic plate or dish.

Presented below is a table of the different metal cookware options available to you.

We’ve summarized the things that make each of them great and their respective drawbacks. We’ve also factored in their distinctive characteristics. This way, you can pick the cookware that is right for you.

Cookware Pros and Cons

Material Pros Cons
Stainless Steel
Stainless steel cookware is known for its durability, low reactivity, and low maintenance nature. Its high conductivity ensures rapid and uniform cooking.It can be tough to clean, especially with food stuck to it.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron cookware has high heat retention capabilities and has no problem with acidic ingredients. This material is also durable and corrosion-resistant. It can be cumbersome and heavy. Its enamel will chip if not maintained properly.
Uncoated Cast Iron This is a classic and durable piece of cookware that serves as a great alternative to nonstick materials. Impractical for everyday cooking and high-maintenance when it comes to proper seasoning. It is also susceptible to rust without proper care.
Copper This type of cookware is incredibly versatile. It can be used for a wide array of processes in the kitchen, including frying, sautéing, and high-heat searing. It is also perfect for slow-cooking dishes and letting sauces simmer delicately on the pan. Copper cookware is known for being pricey. It can also dent easily and the material will have a reaction to the food unless you use one with tin or stainless steel lining. Patina can also develop over time.
Aluminum It is surprisingly strong and durable despite its lightweight design. It is reactive to a certain degree, especially when it comes to acidic food. This may lead to discoloration and may leave the food with an unpleasantly bitter taste.

Choosing your cookware is vital to your overall kitchen experience. That said, stay away from brass, as it is not ideal for cooking at all. Instead, try our suggested alternatives.  

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