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topic 35556

Safety of nickel or chrome plated grilling surfaces



A discussion started in 2005 & continuing through 2017

(2005)

Q. Do chrome plated grilling surfaces leach hexavalent chromium or nickel into food?

Luka Prgin
- Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada


(2005)

A. Hello Luka. In the year 2005, I don't think I'd design a food surface with chromium plating on it any longer, although it has been used in the past. I doubt that a grilling surface that a consumer is looking at is chrome plated; it's probably nickel plated or polished stainless steel. But in any case, if there is chrome on it, it's metallic chrome; it's not in the hexavalent state and I don't think it will spontaneously become hexavalent from the heat. Nickel is quite acid resistant, so I doubt that much nickel can be leached out.

Unfortunately your question is abstract. If you will tell us whether you are a designer wanting to know if it's safe to specify, vs. a consumer who knows with certainty that their vintage grill is nickel-chromium plated, vs. a consumer who has a shiny new grill and is just assuming it's nickel-chrome, then we could probably answer better. Thanks!

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2005)

Q. I am a consumer that grills a lot of chicken, and I'm looking to purchase a rotisserie grill which has a plated rack (which is in contact with the chicken). Most of the grilling racks out there look like they have some sort of plating that appears to be chrome or nickel. I'm coincidentally a designer and I do spec nickel plating frequently on my projects, but I'm not sure if any of these plating processes are safe to use with cooking. I'm afraid that the metals used these plating processes will leach into my food via the heat and cooking liquids.

Thanks for your help,
Luka

Luka Prgin [returning]
- Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada


(2006)

A. Nickel is quite inert and is used, I believe, on virtually all oven racks and baking racks and a lot of B-B-Q grills, Luka. I've never heard of any reports of toxicity; if any reader has, please correct me.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



(2006)

Q. I believe there are several ways to nickel plate stainless. Is the Ni-contamination of food that is grilled related to the actual nickel plating process, or, are there nickel plating processes that are not recommended for grills, ovens, etc? Thank you.

Bill Emkey
- Windham, New Hampshire


(2006)

A. It's true that there are several different nickel plating solutions, Bill, but regardless of whether the nickel plating salt was sulfamate, sulfate, chloride, etc., the deposit is nickel metal. Again, as far as I know there is no nickel contamination of food.

But again, abstract questions can receive misleading answers. Please tell us your situation.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2006)

Q. Ted - Thanks for quick response. I often see chrome-Nickel - is the chrome component a concern regarding food. Also are different nickel plating processes more robust than others, especially at high cooking temperatures.

Electropolishing has been suggested as an alternative to the nickel plating. Any comments on this.

Thanks again!

Bill Emkey [returning]
- Windham, New Hampshire


(2006)

A. I don't believe there is any real danger from either nickel or chromium -- but I don't design food surfaces and a designer of this stuff has to look into NSF and FDA and other government approvals, and should be tuned into that industry. But as I mentioned, I would probably avoid chromium plating, simply because who wants to defend it these days? The best process is probably sulphamate nickel because it can be done without any addition agents and they can lead to discoloration and blistering with heat.

Electropolishing applies to stainless steel not carbon steel, and isn't always quite as bright as nickel-chrome plating, but electropolished stainless steel is great for corrosion resistance, and as a food surface because of its microscopic smoothness. But you are still talking in the abstract, not introducing yourself and your situation. An answer to a curious consumer who is trying to judge a product based on sales pap is a totally different thing than design advice to a manufacturer :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



July 22, 2008

Q. The men who delivered my new stove yesterday said I could not keep my oven grills for the purpose of putting them on a fire for a bar b-q. The stove is about 25 years old. Was it made with dangerous metals for food to touch directly in those days?
Thank you for any insight you might provide.
Mimi

Mimi Gaudreau
- Magog, Quebec, Canada


July , 2008

A. Hi, Mimi. I've personally never heard of anything like that and find it unlikely. If we choose to be suspicious, maybe the grills are stainless steel and have good scrap value and they wanted them. But a general principle is that it is always questionable to use items for purposes for which they were not intended. When that is done, the researchers and statisticians and epidemiologists who are always busy tracking trends have no feedback through which to foresee problems. I am not chemophobic in the least, so I would probably use them myself, but there is no way to insure you that they are safe -- because nobody conducts double-blind research on using oven racks under the direct flame and higher temperatures of B-B-Q grills.

Decades ago, refrigerator shelving was (at least sometimes) cadmium plated and definitely could (and did) cause food contamination issues when used as a B-B-Q grill surface.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


March 2, 2009

Q. Stainless steel is steel alloy with added Nickel and Chromium.
What is the likelihood that the Chromium or nickel would get into food if you are, lets say grilling meat or vegetables on a stainless steel surface?

Luka Prgin [returning]
- Guelph, Ontario, Canada


March 6, 2009

A. Hello again, Luka. Stainless steel is considered one of the safest of all food surfaces, and most people do not believe in such leaching.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


April 25, 2009

Q. I have a follow up question to this. I am building a charcoal smoker and am considering making the firebox out of 304 SS as I have some laying around. My question is do I have to worry about Cr, specifically hex chrome, leaching out of the stainless during cooks. If so what is of the most concern, ingesting or inhaling? I'm told the oxidation limit for 304 is around 1500 ° F and that lump charcoal/carbon burns at around 1200 to 1500 degrees. I see many gas grills have stainless heat shields over their burners and a few I've seen appear to have signs of oxidation. Does that mean they were giving off hex chrome?

Thanks for taking the time to answer.

joe biflic
- Boston, Massachusetts, USA



A. Hi Joe. I think it is not a problem. People burn their stainless steel pots and pans on their stovetop all the time :-)

But the temperature of burning coal or charcoal is highly dependent upon the ventilation conditions. If that were not the case we certainly wouldn't be able to melt steel or do blacksmithing.

Regards,

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey



February 4, 2015

Q. Is there a specific specification of nickel to plate grill grates? What are the standards for the FDA? I want to quote a grate and don't want the coating to melt.

L Goodsi
- Bakersfield, California



A. Hi L. Nickel plating will not melt.

But I am not from the appliance industry and not comfortable trying to advise people what the FDA and other legal standards as well as good practices are. Familiarity with the issues of an industry sector, gained through industry journals, conference attendance, membership in educational organizations & trade groups, and retained experience learned from mentors are important -- and while I can offer some of that on metal finishing issues, I can offer none regarding the design of grates for various appliances. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



Corrosive Pineapple Poke Bundt Cake

December 21, 2015

I have a 13 year self cleaning electric oven. The oven racks were in same condition as when stove was new shiny chrome(?). Before I baked the following cakes my oven was clean and racks shiny.

Several days ago I baked three Pineapple Poke Bundt Cakes, a new, never been used, one-piece bundt pan, and two bundt pans more than 10 years old made up of two pieces and they have been used to bake this cake with no problems. The three pans have a gray colored finish and I greased the pans with a small amount of oil before pouring in cake batter. When I removed the cakes from the oven I noticed a liquid in the bottom of the oven but never examined it or the oven racks. The cakes were beautiful and tasted very good but I am concerned about having eaten the cakes.

A couple days passed and I knew I had to use self cleaning feature to clean the oven. I proceeded to remove the racks when I noticed what appeared to be corrosion/rust all over the racks. What a mess this made for cleaning the racks with brillo pads. The corrosion/rust was removed but now my racks are dull dark to light gray.

Can you explain to me what happened.

glenda serafin
- grovetown, georgia usa



September 1, 2016

Q. I want to buy a vintage stove top potato baker. The item I found has a chrome baking surface. I'm not sure what this means. When I think of chrome I think of hubcaps. Is baking a potato on vintage chrome safe?

SHELLEY DAVIS
- NYC New York


February 12, 2017

Q. I am installing baffle plate in a smoker. I am thinking of using nickel plated piano hinges. Smoking temp is expected to be 250 °F (350 °Max at start). Should I use stainless instead.

Robert Mitchell
- Woodbine, Maryland


February 2017

A. Hi Robert. Nickel plating is used on the continuous casting ("extrusion") molds for red hot steel, so the temperature is not really a problem for top quality nickel plating. But I'd bet that the stainless hinge is better quality and that you'll be happier with it longer.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



May 29, 2017

Q. Wow All Good Q & A but ... please can I use oven racks for my charcoal grill?

Thanks
Bill

Bill Quilson
- Orlando Florida


May 2017

A. Hi Bill. The general principle is don't use materials for purposes that weren't intended; but grilling is not that different than baking & broiling, so I can't see any reason that you can't. They are almost surely nickel plated or stainless steel and therefore food-safe. However, the corrosion situation outdoors is much different than in an oven and they will probably start rusting in pretty short order, especially if the grill doesn't have a top or isn't kept closed.

Note that decades ago refrigerator racks as opposed to oven racks were sometimes cadmium plated and this was a genuine health concern; I saw a medical article where serious illness in a whole family was tracked to using those old cadmium plated racks on a barbeque. Bon Appetit.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



June 26, 2017

Q. Hi -
I recently purchased a used smoker, and the shiny cooking grill surfaces have quite a few rust spots.

I'd like to rehab the metal, but have a very limited budget. I can sand the rust off, but not sure if that's too abrasive, and I don't want to have to do that every couple of weeks.

Any suggestions?

TIA,

Skip Stocks
- Federal Way, Washington USA


Plated Cooking Grate

June 2017

A. Hi Skip. Replacements are available even for limited budgets. You're not going to get them clean short of sanding, and they will be prone to rusting, but good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



October 6, 2017

Q. I have a Wedgewood Stove from 1949 or 1950, and it has a center grill that is chromed (and now pitted a little, worn, and with rust underneath). My understanding of the process back then was that it was copper, nickel and chrome. You can see the copper worn through on the edges. I have a lot of health issues, so I am very careful to cook in only stainless steel, cast iron, porcelain, or glass baking dishes. So I have not used the center grill. I can have the center grill redone to look better and stop the rust underneath, but I still don't think I would cook on it. What is the difference between chrome and nickel? What are the health concerns about either. Thanks

Katherine Holmes
- Lakewood, Washington


October 2017

A. Hi Katherine. I don't think I've actually seen one of those kitchen stoves with nickel or nickel-chrome plated griddles, and I'm sure I've never seen anything cooked on one. It's probably quite impractical to cook anything on such a griddle because using steel wool for cleanup would quickly destroy the shine.

Although I don't think there's any significant danger from either, I doubt that anyone has done safety studies per today's standards. Nickel-chrome plating will be shinier and longer lasting than nickel plating without the chrome.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



Using a U-line chrome plated rack to smoke a pig

October 13, 2017

Q. I am smoking a whole pig for the first time (225 degrees) and I am looking for something cheap to put underneath to be able to spin (not flip). I have a new u-line chrome rack that I never put together. Would there be a food safety issue?

Dan carlson
- Stillwater, minnesota usa


October 2017

A. Hi Dan. My guideline is that is something was not designed for that purpose its not a good idea to use it for that purpose. Yes, the U-line Chrome Rack is probably just nickel and chrome plated and is probably okay. But in our high technology age, things are sometimes not made of what we think they are; and these days there is zero enforcement of truth in labeling for such issues. So really, how do you know it's not chrome-look paint, or that it hasn't been coated with a polyurethane to forestall rust? And even if it is standard nickel and chrome plating, what if the plating blisters and peels? Some plating can withstand very high temperatures, but if something was designed to be a storage rack we really have no grounds for expectations or complaints if the plating doesn't hold up to temperatures in excess of boiling.

Finally, just because people used nickel-chrome plated trays, can openers, flatware and cake knives in the past is not epidemiological evidence that cooking on chrome would be considered safe these days. Something made from stainless steel would certainly be better. Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"



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