Know Which Stainless Steel Material Is Appropriate For Commercial Kitchens?

Stainless steel is stainless steel, right? Well, sort of. It’s not quite that simple. Stainless steel is an alloy containing iron, chromium and occasionally other elements, including nickel, copper, aluminum, molybdenum and more.

The specific chemistry behind stainless steel isn’t important for our purposes. What matters is the properties different types of stainless steel have, including resistance to corrosion and exposure to chemicals like salt. 

You want to know what they can do to keep your commercial kitchen working smoothly, and we’re here to tell you. 

Stainless Steel Families

You will encounter four main families of stainless steel when you begin to look into the different types. They are:

  • Ferritic stainless steel, which is generally composed of between 10 and 30 percent chromium.
  • Austenitic stainless steel, which has between 16 and 30 percent chromium and two to 20 percent nickel.
  • Duplex stainless steel, so named because it’s a combination of ferritic and austenitic stainless steel. 
  • Martensitic stainless steel, which is 11 to 17 percent chromium and 0.15 to 0.63 percent carbon.
  • Precipitation hardening stainless steel is a subcategory you will sometimes see. It falls between austenitic and martensitic stainless steel, and they’re subjected to various heat treatments to ensure maximum durability. 

The main difference between the stainless steel families is their chemical composition and structure. 

Stainless Steel Grades

Stainless steel grades aren’t like the letter grades you received in school. They can be a bit of a headache, especially when you’re looking for a new oven and not a chemistry lesson. It’s worse if you’re operating on an international level because grade naming conventions vary by country.

In the United States, we use the SAE grading system. Each type of stainless steel is given a three-digit number that tells you something about it. 

For commercial kitchens, we’re going to focus on the 200 series, 300 series and 400 series. 

  • The alloys in the 200 series are also called nickel steels. 
  • The alloys in the 300 series are referred to as chromium-nickel steels.
  • The alloys in the 400 series are known as molybdenum steels. 

The 200 and 300 series fall into the austenitic family, while members of the 400 series are either ferritic or martensitic. 

What’s Right for Your Commercial Kitchen?

The most common type of stainless steel found in commercial kitchens is Type 304. It has a sleek, attractive appearance and resists corrosion. It does not, however, resist damage caused by salt. 

Type 316 has molybdenum in it, making it more resistant to salt than Type 304 while equally if not more resistant to corrosion. It’s great for items like barbeque grills and cookers but less well-suited for general pots and pans. 

Stainless steel in the 430 series doesn’t resist corrosion quite as well as other varieties, but it’s suitable for silverware and some prep tables. 

If you have a high-quality stainless steel knife set, it’s probably made from stainless steel from the 440 series. It has more carbon in it than other types, which makes it stronger. Utensils made from stainless steel from this series are built to last.  

Stainless steels in the 200 series tend to be more affordable than steels in either of the other categories we have discussed, but they’re usually less resistant to corrosion. It’s a trade-off. 

Most people love their stainless steel appliances whether they’re at home or in a commercial kitchen. Purchasing an appliance or other equipment made from the correct type of stainless steel can save you money and increase your productivity in the long run, so it’s a good investment. They also look sharp. 

If you’re in the market for high-quality stainless steel commercial kitchen equipment—whatever type of stainless steel might be involved—Texas Restaurant Supply has your back. We offer both new and used equipment, and our inventory changes every day. 

We have convenient locations in Irving and Grand Prairie, and we will ship nationwide to help meet your equipment needs. Interested? Reach out to us today.