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Stainless Steel or Aluminum?

Tuesday Tip: Should You Use Stainless Steel or Aluminum?

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

Stainless Steel Work Table

Stainless Steel Work Table, CRP model 671-740

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.


Aluminum Stock Pot

Aluminum Stock Pot, CRP model 535-156

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.

Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum: Which is Better?

Stainless steel and aluminum are two metals very important to the foodservice industry.  So which is better? Both, actually.  Each metal is better for different applications.  When we attended Vollrath University in late June, they broke the two down and explained which is better for specific uses.

Stainless Steel


Stainless steel is made up of iron, chromium, nickel, manganese and copper.  This iron alloy has a minimum of 10.5 percent chromium, an agent that provides corrosion resistance.  It’s non-porous and non-corrosive with a higher resistance to rust as well.

What makes stainless steel less corrosive is a “passive” layer of chromium oxide that the chromium forms.

Vollrath explained this is 12 to 30 percent chromium and too thin to be visible but protects the metal beneath.  Nickel assists in the process and restores itself with oxygen. So—as long as the passive layer or film stays intact, isn’t broken or contaminated, a product remains stainless.

Can it still stain though? Yes. A scratch to the surface can lead to rust.  So can heated water that leaves deposits and chlorides found in salt, water, cleaner and quaternary salts.  But even though the possibility to stain is there, Vollrath reminded us it’s called stainless because it won’t rust, corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel.

Types of Stainless Steel

There have been at least 150 grades of stainless steel found; 15 of those are used in the foodservice industry and four of those 15 are more popular among foodservice equipment and supplies.

Vollrath explained there are two types of stainless steels:


Comprised of alloy with nickel and chromium.  There are the 200 and 300 series stainless steels and are the most specified grades in foodservice.  Austenitic stainless steels are corrosion and water resistant.  They are non-magnetic as well.

200 series: In general, this type of stainless steel is commonly used for wheel covers and door hardware.  Being more specific to the foodservice industry, these are commonly found in counters, oven parts, covers and tray slides.

300 series: These are typically found in steam table pans, sinks, food processing equipment and Bain Maries.  The 300 series contains 301 and 304 stainless steels.

  • 301 stainless steel is 17 percent chromium and 6 percent nickel (otherwise known as 17/6).  As there is less nickel, it isn’t as corrosion resistant as 304, however Vollrath said it is more difficult to form and is stronger because it has less nickel.
  • 304 stainless steel is 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel (otherwise known as 18/8). It resists most oxidizing acids and is very corrosion resistant.


This type of stainless steel does not contain nickel and does not have the same corrosion resistance found in the 200 and 300 stainless steels. It’s also magnetic.

400 series: In general, type 430 stainless steel (explained more in detail below) is found in automotive trim, architecture and mufflers.  Specific to the foodservice industry, this type is common in flatware, carts, structural parts and steam tables.

  • 430 stainless steel is 16 to 18 percent chromium and contains no nickel (otherwise known as 16/18-0).  Despite not having any nickel, it is quite corrosion resistant but not as much as the 300 series.



Vollrath explained aluminum has higher oxidation and corrosion resistance because of passivisation.  When aluminum is oxidized, its surface will turn white and will sometimes pit in some extreme acidic or base environments.

Aluminum is more lightweight than other metals and is strong.  It’s particularly strong when blended with alloy elements, hence being ideal for structural parts and equipment housings as well as heavy gauge cookware.

Aluminum is also a great conductor of heat. Vollrath said it has excellent thermal conductivity which makes it ideal for cookware and equipment where good heat conductivity is needed. It is also less expensive than stainless steel.



Types of Aluminum

Similar to stainless steel, there are different types of aluminum, each different for specific foodservice applications.


Vollrath said this type of aluminum is 99 percent pure.  It’s soft, forms easily and can’t withstand tough commercial duty applications or high heat applications without warping.  This type of aluminum also dents and scratches easily.


This type of aluminum is one to 1.5 percent manganese.  It forms easily and items of this type hold up extremely well for normal use, however, may still be too soft for commercial/heavy duty use.


This type of aluminum is one to 1.5 percent manganese and 1 percent magnesium.  It’s more difficult to form than the 1100 or 3003 and Vollrath said is much more impervious to sever use.  It’s tougher and lasts much longer than 3003.  This is a type of aluminum ideal for quality cookware, bake ware and tougher commercial equipment applications.

Recap: Stainless Steel vs. Aluminum…Which is Better?

Vollrath wrapped up this section with the following information to help determine which metal is best for specific applications.


Stainless steels are harder and are especially harder to form than aluminum.

Thermal Conductivity

Aluminum has a much better thermal conductivity than stainless steel.


Aluminum is more porous and prone to surface scratches and dent, which makes it harder to clean.

Effect of Foods

Stainless steel is less reactive with foods.  Aluminum can react to foods which may affect color and flavor.


Aluminum is typically lower in price than stainless steel.


The gauges for each are different.

Thanks again to Vollrath for the great training and information.  Be sure to check out their products on our website, take a look at their website as well as their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channel.

Buying Guide: Outdoor Furniture

Need help making a purchase? Central has you covered with a library full of buying guides you can conveniently find on our website. Today’s buying guide will cover outdoor furniture.


Time to Renovate Your Dining Area?

If you need to replace your outdoor dining furniture, or just want a new look, Central offers a wide selection and can help you find the perfect solution.  View the different types of outdoor furniture options below, and chcek back to our website for upcoming outdoor furniture promotions.



Aluminum is great for outdoor use, and with proper care your furniture will look terrific for many seasons.

  • Easy to maintain
  • Will not rust
  • Versatile. Coordinates well with other aluminum products as well as wood, wrought iron and even granite.
  • Weather resistant. Made to endure most weather types.
  • Lightweight, yet sturdy

Shop Aluminum Furniture



Central’s teakwood furniture has an aluminum base or frame, so it offers the same great features as aluminum with the additional striking good looks of teakwood.

  • Withstands most weather types and requires little care and no preservatives or treatment of any kind to protect it from the elements
  • Extremely durable hardwood
  • Outdoors: Ages to a handsome silver gray in six to nine months or can maintain its brown color with teak oil
  • Indoors: If kept away from natural sunlight, in six to 12 months the wood will become a darker shade of brown or can maintain its color with teak oil

Shop Teakwood Furniture


Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is heavier than other types of outdoor furniture, which makes it great even for windy areas. Wrought iron furniture looks great, and most of the chair styles Central offers are stackable for convenient storage.

  • Simple maintenance: Wash occasionally with mild soapy water, then towel dry. Wipe furniture with a clean, dry cloth frequently. Use touch-up paint (available at any hardware store) if small areas of the finish come off.
  • All of Central’s wrought iron furniture features a powdercoat finish.

Shop Wrought Iron Furniture



Resin outdoor furniture is easy to keep clean with just water and a towel. Very lightweight which makes rearranging your patio easy, and most chairs are stackable for convenient storage. Resin is resistant to everything from weather like salty sea air to stains and chlorine.

Shop Resin Furniture



Melamine table tops are built to last. They look great on resin or aluminum table bases, and have many great features that ensure they’ll last for many seasons.

  • Weather resistant
  • Stain, scratch and burn resistant
  • Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns
  • Easy to clean: Use a multipurpose cleaner to care for your melamine. Frequently wipe your table tops with a clean, damp cloth, and for a real shine rub occasionally with a damp window leather. Avoid abrasive cleaning agents like acetone and varnish remover as these may leave streak marks.

Shop Melamine Furniture


More Outdoor Products

In addition to tables and seating, Central also offers a wide selection of other products great for your outdoor area, including:


For more information, view this Outdoor Furniture Buying Guide in full.  If you’re ready to shop, be sure to check out all of Central’s outdoor furniture.

Clean up on Spring Dining with Central!

Spring is almost upon us and with the warmer weather it’s time to start thinking about outdoor dining. Stumped on what you might need or just searching for ideas on what works best?  Whether you’re looking to begin seating outdoor or renovating the furniture in your current area, Central has tips and great deals on all the products you need to create the ideal outdoor setting for your guests!

Photo from grosfillexfurniture.com

The first step in choosing the right furniture (indoor or outdoor) is to analyze the available space and what you want to convey to your customers.  To make the most of what’s available, one option would be to use bar height products like the line from Grosfillex.   These tables and stools allow for smaller parties and groups looking to enjoy a nice cocktail on the patio.


Bar Height Table Bases          
Melamine Table Tops           
Havana Bar Stool 

Another major detail in picking out outdoor furniture is the material it’s made from.   The best choice will be durable and visually pleasing and require little to no maintenance.  Central offers three options that fit perfectly into these categories: wrought iron, aluminum and teak.

Photo from centralrestaurant.com

Wrought iron furniture is great because it lasts years with little maintenance and because it is constructed of such heavy duty material, it also stands up great to those spring days when the wind picks up a bit.  Create a classy look for a great price with Central’s Value series wrought iron furniture.

Value Series – Wrought Iron Outdoor Furniture
Side and Arm Chairs
Bar Stools


Aluminum offers a lighter, rust-proof construction.   This option even has a sleek enough look to be used as indoor or outdoor pieces.  Central makes aluminum furniture even more affordable with our Central Value series.

Value Series – Aluminum Indoor/Outdoor Furniture
Aluminum and Aluminum/Wicker Arm Chairs 

Photo from centralrestaurant.com

Finally, there is teak, an extremely durable hardwood that requires little care and no preservatives or treatment of any kind to protect it from the elements.   The unique color changes of teak can also be a draw.  If weathered it can turn a silver gray, if used inside it will become a darker shade of brown and when teak oil is used the wood maintains the original tawny color.  Each color allows for its own unique look and adds to the charm of the item that requires little maintenance for years of service.  Central offers several different choices in teak tables and seating that allow for a layout that will fit any patio.

Florida Seating Teakwood
Bar Stools
Inlay Tables 
Standard & Bar Height Table Sets 

Photo from centralrestaurant.com

Once you’ve picked out the perfect items created from just the right material for your space, the final step is to create a specific space for your outdoor dining area.   Although some open-air dining spaces have a boundary of some sort (possibly a sidewalk), it’s always more inviting to create a defined section to make it seem more inviting.  Central even has this covered with Grosfillex portable patio fencing !  The fencing is easy to assemble, weather resistant and can be filled with water or sand for extra stability.

With all of these great products to get you ready for the big spring/summer outdoor dining rush, Central has everything you need to make the season a success and keep your customers lining up to sit on your patio.  

Don’t hesitate to contact Central with any questions about any of the offers listed at 800-222-5107.  And if you’ve purchased any of these wonderful outdoor products from us, please share what you think below, through a product review on our site or on our Facebook or Twitter pages!