What is Stainless Steel?
An Intro to Metallurgy
In today's market, you have stainless steel appliances, stainless steel grill, stainless steel everything to choose from. It’s common to see a product branded as “stainless steel,” but not everyone knows what this actually means. In this article, we’ll help you understand what is stainless steel and how it impacts bbq grills.
Ready for a crash course in outdoor kitchen chemistry? Don’t worry. We’ll keep it brief.
Why Choose Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel isn’t just one type of metal. Rather, it’s a blanket term for a family of iron-based alloys commonly used in everyday products. These products can resist corrosion better than most metals, which makes them a great option for outdoor environments.
Corrosion is the enemy of metal. This chemical process occurs when iron oxidizes in the presence of water and salt. Most people just refer to this as “rust.” If you’ve ever lived in an area like the Midwest, you’ve seen plenty of rusty automobiles driven through harsh winters. On the coasts, the salty sea air can have a similar effect.
All iron products—including stainless steel—can see corrosion after years of use or abuse. However, stainless steel alloys will provide the best corrosion resistance, especially when properly cared for.
What types of Stainless Steel Are Available?
While there are many grades of stainless steel in existence, you’ll most commonly find three types in luxury grills: 430, 304, and 316.
- For a good mix of value and durability, check out 430 stainless steel. While not as premium as 304 or 316 stainless steel, you’ll still get a durable product at a more affordable price.
- The most common type of stainless steel found on the best luxury grills is 304 stainless steel. This is an easily recognizable mark of quality in a residential grill.
- For an even more corrosion-resistant design, check out 316 stainless steel. Commonly referred to as “marine grade stainless steel,” this material isn’t as common in gas grills, but it does exist (see the Blaze MG Grill). It’s a pricier option, but it’s great for saltwater/coastal areas.
Thicker is Better
The type of stainless steel on your grill is important, but gauge—or thickness—of the metal can be just as important. The gauge of stainless steel can commonly be found anywhere from 30 gauge to 7 gauge. Also note, in this case, smaller numbers are thicker than larger numbers, so 16-gauge stainless steel is thicker than 18-gauge stainless steel.
The gauge of stainless steel is important to consider. After all, what good is the best grade of stainless steel if it’s too thin to withstand regular use? That won’t be a problem with our grills, but it’s something you’ll want to keep in mind if you’re shopping around.
Does a Grill Need to Be Stainless Steel?
No… if you enjoy paying for a new grill every couple of years. As the saying goes, “Buy it nice, or buy it twice.” Or, in the case of your cheap big box store grill, maybe even three or four times.
Outdoor grills will be exposed to rain, snow, and dew on a regular basis. Even if you properly cover your grill with a quality, vented cover, some moisture will still find its way to your grill. You’ll be dealing with the salt present in spice rubs, marinades, seasonings, and anything else you put on your food. In other words, your grill is going to see some tough conditions—you’re going to want to make sure it can step up to the challenge.
Other Materials Found in Grills
Don’t assume the grill you’re looking at is made from stainless steel just because it’s a shiny metal. In cheaper grills, that shine will quickly wear away, and you’ll be left with an inferior grill made from inferior materials.
In cheaper grills, common materials include:
- Painted or powder-coated steel. This can work well on a grill and is cheaper than stainless steel, but once the coating is chipped or damaged, your grill will rust from the inside out. This is typically why grills around the $500 price point may only last a few seasons.
- Cast Iron. Although cast iron is great for cooking as far as its cooking properties are concerned, it’s terrible for outdoor use. Cast iron will rust when left outdoors, which is why many grills feature porcelain-coated cast iron as a way of prolonging the life of the product. Like Powder-coated steel, though, once the coating is damaged, the metal will be susceptible to rust.
- Aluminum. Aluminum solves one problem faced by outdoor grills—it’s a corrosion-resistant material. However, aluminum is not as strong as stainless steel, which means damage and wear are more likely.
How to Tell if You’re Getting Quality Stainless Steel
Always read the fine print. As you’re now aware, not all stainless steel is made the same. Manufacturers and retailers know this, too, which is why you’ll often see vague product descriptions at big box stores. They may list a grill as “stainless steel,” but leave it at that. What grade? What gauge? Which parts of the grill?
There’s a little trick you can use to tell the quality of stainless steel being used on a grill: touch it with a magnet. Does the magnet stick? The metal contains a lot of iron, iron means corrosion, and corrosion means rust. A magnet won’t stick to quality stainless steel, because of a higher presence of nickel and chromium - which allow more corrosion resistance.
Get Your Questions Answered by Experts
Need more assistance with finding a great grill? Give our product specialists a call at 888-690-3773. They’re here Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central Time to help you find the best outdoor kitchen products for your needs. They can also answer any questions you may have about the buying process, installation, or how to use your new grill.
We’re looking forward to working with you!