Stainless steel and aluminum are two construction materials frequently used in the design of foodservice equipment and supplies, and is usually a big selling point for manufacturers and customers alike. So which one is better? Well, that depends on your needs!
Stainless steel is composed of iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and copper. Don’t let the name fool you though. Stainless steel can still stain. A scratch to the surface can lead to rust, as well has heated water that leaves behind deposits and chlorides. However, the reason it is called stainless steel is because it won’t corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel.
There are five different classifications of stainless steel: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex, and precipitation hardening. The most popular you’re likely to encounter when shopping for foodservice equipment and supplies is austenitic, ferritic, and martensitic stainless steel.
Austenitic stainless steels are one of the most weldable stainless steels and encompass the common 300 series (chromium-nickel combination), the 200 series (manganese-chromium-nickel-nitrogen combination), and specialty alloys.
Ferritic stainless steel contains iron-chromium alloys. They have high flexibility, but poor temperature strengths when compared to austenitic grades. This is a popular choice manufacturers use when designing kitchen sinks and counters.
Martensitic was the first to be developed for commercial uses, and in the initial stages it was mostly used for produce cutlery. It’s similar to the ferritic group, but contains a balance of chromium and nickel. Combined with the ferritic group, you have your 400 series.
One of the biggest benefits of an aluminum construction is that the material is light-weight and durable. This makes it a great option for structural parts and equipment housings, as well as heavy gauge cookware. It’s also a great conductor of heat. It’s an excellent thermal conductor.
Aluminum has higher oxidation and corrosion resistance because of passivisation, the process of rendering a metal surface chemically inactive.
So, stainless steel or aluminum? Which should you get?
Depends on your use. Aluminum is typically cheaper than stainless steel as stainless steels are harder and usually more difficult to form than aluminum. However, aluminum has a better thermal conductivity which is better for cooking equipment.
Aluminum is more prone to surface scratches and more likely to dent, so this may be more challenging to clean.
If you’d like more information on the differences between stainless steel and aluminum, check out this blog.