Use & Care of Tinned Metals
What is Tin
Tin (Sn) is a soft, malleable, silver-color metal. It is generally used to coat other metals and to make alloys.
Tin is not reactive to acidic foods, it is not allergenic, does not rust, and can be easily refurbished, and at a very reasonable cost, compared with other metals.
It is the preferred choice of lining for cooking utensils and molds made of otherwise reactive metals, like copper and steel. It is also used to coat steel used for cookie cutters, to help prevent rusting.
What is the Color of Tin
Tin is a silvery metal when new, however it becomes darker with cooking. This is normal and in no way interferes with the properties of the metal.
Often, the darkness caused by dried, stuck-on food is mistaken for the bare copper or steel. To test this, wet a paper towel and gently rub a small spot with a little cleanser. If it becomes silver in color, the color is dried foodstuffs – otherwise you will clearly see the copper or steel, a sign that the utensil may require re-lining with tin.
How to Use Tin-Lined Cookware
Stovetop cooking generates higher temperatures than tin’s melting point (about 450°F or 230°C), however liquid being heated in a tin-lined pan will absorb a lot of excess heat and help keep the tin intact. The majority of oven-baked recipes call for temperatures that will not harm a tin lined utensil that is properly used.
Whether on the stovetop or in the oven, the principle is the same: prolonged (and unnecessary) high heat will damage the lining. With any quality cooking utensil, high heat is rarely necessary, and the best results come from moderate heat.
Use only wood, nylon, silicone or other non-metallic utensils to stir and scrape.
How to Care for Tin-Lined Cookware
Tin is a soft metal and should be cleaned with a dishcloth or sponge. Never use abrasive cleaning materials, such as metal scouring pads or metal scrapers.
As with all metal utensils, avoid using cleansers and detergents that contain high percentages of free alkali or acid.
Tin is reactive to tri-sodium phosphate, meta-silicate and chlorine. Avoid using detergents or cleansers containing high quantities of these materials.
Rinse thoroughly after washing and dry to avoid spotting. Tinned steel should be dried thoroughly immediately after washing to prevent rust from forming on spots where the tin might have worn off the steel, and around edges where turned, soldered or welded.
Store tinned items in a dry location.
Re-Tinning Metal Cooking Utensils
Most tin coated pans will require re-lining at some point to cover spots that have been scratched bare over time. A tinsmith does everything by hand. From totally cleaning your utensil of built-up grease and stuck-on foodstuffs, to heavily re-coating with tin, to polishing the entire pan.
When Not to Re-Tin
In the case of copper, the tin prevents reaction with acidic foods. If you’re not cooking acidic foods, then it’s not necessary to have a tin lining. Also, if the copper pot is going to be subjected to very high temperatures, such as for making hard candy, the copper needs to be bare in order to support the high temperatures. And bare copper is desirable in making meringues, because of its reaction to egg whites, which makes them peak faster and longer.
In the case of steel, the tin coating basically prevents rusting and reaction with acidic foods. If you are using the pan for baking and you keep it dry and well oiled when in storage, re-tinning, though desirable, is not necessary. Any bit of rust can be scoured off.
In the case of antiques, we don’t recommend retinning, as doing so is likely to diminish the item’s value as an antique. If you plan to use it, however, and it is in good condition, then retinning may prove worthwhile.
How to Care for Tinned Steel Cookie and Other Cutters
Wash with a dishcloth or sponge. Never use abrasive cleaning materials, such as metal scouring pads.
Avoid using cleansers and detergents that contain high percentages of free alkali or acid. Tin is reactive to tri-sodium phosphate, meta-silicate and chlorine. Avoid using detergents or cleansers containing high quantities of these materials. Check the labels on your household cleaners.
Dry thoroughly immediately after washing to prevent rust from forming on spots where the tin might have worn off, and around edges where turned, soldered or welded.
Store tinned cutters in a dry location.
How to Renew Rusted Tinned Steel Cutters
Use fine sandpaper to remove the surface rust, hand wash with hot sudsy water, dry thoroughly, and use.
Before storing, hand wash with hot sudsy water, dry thoroughly, lightly coat the cutters with mineral oil from a cloth or paper towel, and place in a plastic bag.
We recommend mineral oil over vegetable oil because it does not get sticky or become rancid. Food grade mineral oil is readily available in supermarkets and drug stores.
Often, the oily content of cookie dough can be enough to keep cutters from rusting, and they need only be wiped with a paper towel if frequently used. If used infrequently, we recommend hand washing, drying thoroughly, and lightly coating with mineral oil before storing.
Re-tinning regular steel cutters is not practical. However if you want to keep a good cutting edge on heirloom cookie cutters, you might consider having the steel electroplated with tin.