When it comes to outdoor living products and décor, your style choices can seem limitless, but did you know when it comes to outdoor cooking products, in particular, almost all of your options come down to just one crucial material selection? Stainless steel is virtually ubiquitous in the outdoor cooking category, but not all Stainless steel is the same, and you might not realize how impactful this choice of materials is.
Stainless Steel’s untarnished history begins in the early 1900s when a British metallurgist discovered that adding chromium to steel could create a material that was more resistant to corrosion. This new alloy quickly became popular among manufacturers, who used it for everything from cutlery to medical instruments. Stainless steel is a popular material also because it is stylish, durable, and easy to clean, unlike other materials, such as cast iron, it is non-reactive, so you don’t have to worry about food sticking or tasting metallic. Additionally, it can withstand low and elevated temperatures because it is a poor conductor of heat.
Where it gets more nuanced is that there are different grades to Stainless steel, and these grades make a significant difference in the life and utility of the material. Grades of stainless steel are determined by the amount of chromium and nickel present in the alloy. The higher the chromium content, the greater the corrosion resistance. For example, the most common grade of stainless steel, 304, contains 8% chromium. 304 Stainless steel is used in various applications, including lab equipment for chemical handling, aerospace, automotive, water bottles, home appliances, and commercial kitchen equipment. 304 grade stainless steel is a blend of benefits from the formulation of the steel, and the lowest impact to cost in providing the value of those benefits. However, there is another grade of stainless steel which is rarer, and more robustly resistant to corrosion over time.
If you are looking for a material that can withstand the rigors of even the most demanding applications, 316 stainless steel is a more impactful choice. 316 contains 16% of chromium and is a more premium grade of stainless steel. Some of the most common uses for 316 stainless steel include commercial food processing equipment, chemical storage tanks, and marine environments. These are applications where corrosion resistance, and constant exposure to corrosive elements are a lifelong issue for the material, and so a more resilient alloy of stainless steel is absolutely necessary to deliver those benefits. 316 is the alloy of choice for these highly exposed, and often commercially valuable applications.
When it comes to 304-grade and 316-grade stainless steel, there is a substantial difference in terms of their suitability for cooking. 304-grade stainless steel is better for general purpose indoor cooking due to its lower carbon content. This means that it is less likely to discolor or rust when exposed to heat or moisture. On the other hand, 316-grade stainless steel contains higher levels of chromium that adds more resistance to corrosion and is better suited for high-heat applications and applications where cooking surfaces will be exposed to high-temperature fluctuations under exposure to weather.
Stainless steel is expensive because of the way it’s made. The process of making stainless steel is complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, stainless steel is usually only found in high-end products, like our Indu+ Carts.
Our Bistro and Grill Island use 316 stainless steel for the grill range and cooking lid. This provides superior durability and longevity, as well as an attractive appearance. The burners on our grill islands are also made from the same quality material, which is resistant to corrosion and easy to clean. The double-walled insulation icebox on our bar island also features 316 stainless steel, due to its excellent thermal resistance that helps keep your drinks cool. When paired with Grade-A premium teak, stainless steel delivers a durable yet remarkably chic combination for superior resistance to water damage and a modern style that’s stunning.
Although stainless steel is a durable and low-maintenance material, it does have some drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks is that it can be easily scratched or dented. Stainless steel is also susceptible to staining, especially if it encounters certain acidic substances. The material can also become dull over time if it is not properly cared for.
Here are a few tips on how to care for stainless steel so that it stays looking clean and beautiful, just like the first day you got it:
- Avoid using hard cleaners or abrasives on stainless steel. This can damage the finish and make it more susceptible to scratches and staining.
- Use a soft cloth or sponge when cleaning stainless steel. This will help avoid scratching the surface.
- If you do need to use a cleaner, make sure it is designed specifically for stainless steel. This will help avoid damage to the finish.
- When drying stainless steel, use a soft cloth or paper towel. Again, this will help avoid scratching the surface.
- Regularly dust and clean stainless steel to keep it looking its best. This will also help prevent the build-up of dirt and grime, which can damage the finish.
There are a lot of dissimilar materials that can be used in high-end outdoor products, and it can be difficult to know which one is right for you. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a material for your next high-end outdoor cooking product:
- How long do you need the product to last?
- What kind of exposure to environmental moisture will the product be used in?
- What other features do you want the product to have, and what are the best materials to provide those benefits?
The most important thing is to be informed about what you’re buying so that you can make sure you are getting the best possible product for your needs. With a little bit of effort, you can make sure that your outdoor living space is furnished with the highest quality materials and will last for many years to come.