Demystifying Stainless Steel! Why you should know more

 

demystifying_steel

Have you ever noticed that some stainless steel is more durable than others? Ever wondered why some is magnetic and some is not? It turns out that stainless steel is a broader concept than many realise, referring simply to a group of hybrid metals (“alloys” if you like). Why should you, a food business owner, need to know about stainless steel though?

Being properly aware of what you’re investing your money into is important. We don’t want you to buy a product which is insufficient for your needs, nor do we want you to spend money on a piece of equipment which provides more protection than you really need.

So, let’s talk stainless steel. Stainless steel alloys are made by mixing iron with at least 10.5% chromium, as well as other metals and materials like carbon. The different “recipes” for stainless steel result in different types, impacting price, strength, and corrosion resistance. You may have noticed we label benches “430 grade”. That description tells you something about its composition. It’s part of a larger group called “ferritic” stainless steel.

Another group common in foodservice (and elsewhere) is called “austenitic.” Most commercial sinks are made from a type of austenitic steel tagged “304 Series.”

All of this can get rather confusing, so let YCE and Busychef break it up a bit for you – we have been making stainless steel benches, sinks and shelves for 35 years.

Austenitic Steel

The most common type of steel used today, austenitic steel accounts for 70% of steel production. Because of the materials used in this alloy, it’s particularly resistant to corrosion.

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304 Austenitic Stainless Steel

Known for being the most common type of stainless steel used, 304 is practical and hardy. It’s resistant to food products, sterilising solutions, and most organic materials. Because of its superior rust protection, it’s used in sink bowls and other surfaces which are most likely to come in contact with corrosive substances. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of nickel and how difficult it is to work with austenitic steel, this is more expensive than many other stainless steel options. An example of a sink made from this material can be found on the Busychef website here.

201 Austenitic Stainless Steel

You could consider 201 the kid brother of 304, since they share a similar chemical composition. It’s still food safe, but doesn’t hold up to corrosion quite as well, so it’s not going to withstand chemicals like bleach. Because of this, it tends to be less expensive. You’ll often find it in the form of handwashing sinks, but we won’t use it for fabrication.

Ferritic Steel

The main way ferritic steel differs from austenitic is that is contains nickel and is also magnetic. For example, want to find out if your stainless steel is austenitic or ferritic? Grab yourself a magnet. If it sticks, it’s ferritic. It’s known for being both corrosion resistant and hold up against stress.

430 Ferritic Stainless Steel

For environments with less chemical use, 430 is a great option, as it’s made with chromium. 430 is used most often for ovens, refrigerators, and economic cost sinks or tables. While it may be cheaper, if properly taken care of, it can last you a long time and will end up being a wise investment. We tend to use 430 for undershelves, wall shelves etc.

316 Ferritic Stainless Steel

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316 isn’t something you’ll find very often in the restaurant world, though it’s been known to pop up occasionally, like in food trolleys meant for hospitals or food processing equipment. It’s extremely corrosion-resistant because it has larger quantities of nickel, and as such, it is mainly used in the medical world. Because of the amount of nickel it contains, it’s difficult to fabricate, and so is quite expensive.

Gauge

Counter-intuitively, the lower number gauge, the thicker the steel. Take note that while the steel may have a lower gauge, and therefore be thicker, the type of steel still matters. Gauge is just the density, not the quality.

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18-Gauge

Also known as the economy gauge, for a lower cost you get a respectable piece of stainless steel. It tends to work best for things like wall shelves and undershelves. (1.24mm)

16-Gauge

This is where you get the most bang for your buck. It’s a quality thickness which will serve many uses, but won’t break your budget. You’ll find plenty of well-built sinks and prep tables which use 16-gauge. (1.65mm)

14-Gauge

The perfect gauge for butchers. You can hammer and hack things on this gauge all day long without bowing the stainless steel. It’s also going to look smooth and sleek over a longer period of time. (2.11mm)

If you would like advice from the experts on which quality or gauge to choose for your food establishment, please get in touch with the Busychef team on 0500 008075 or email sales@busychef.co.uk. You could also take a look at the Lincat fabrication we sell online at busychef.co.uk website here.

Three Ways To Care For Stainless Steel In Your Kitchen

KitchenCookingAreaStainless steel is a staple in all commercial kitchens, and when properly looked after, it can be found shining everywhere from your worktops to the sinksworktopsrefrigeration, and the cooking and dishwashing equipment. There are a number of reasons for this prevalence, but mostly, stainless steel is used throughout because it is very durable, safe for food preparation, resists corrosion more so than other materials (resist is the key word here) and it is nonporous, so moisture, bacteria and other harmful remnants can’t easily seep into the material. However, contrary to popular belief, stainless steel can stain and even rust if not properly maintained. Here are some tips for cleaning and maintaining your stainless steel surfaces in the kitchen – or indeed anywhere it’s found – so you get rust-free service for years:

  1. Always use soft cloths, rags and sponges when cleaning the surfaces of your countertops, sink bowls, and your stainless steel equipment. Abrasive brushes, scrapers and steel wool can quickly scratch and damage the thin film shield that protects the steel, creating a better opportunity for rust to form. Also, it is a general tip that you should clean going with the grain line. Usually, you can see  which way the grain of the steel is going and it’s best to polish going with- not against- that line.
  2. Be sure to clean your stainless surfaces regularly and use the right sanitising cleaners, keeping in mind the recommended concentration of your cleaner. Cleaning solutions like alkaline and alkaline-chlorinated cleaners should be used whereas traditional chloride solutions are advised against. High chlorine content is not recommended for stainless steel cleaning as it will eventually pit and rust the steel surface. If you do use chlorinated cleaners, be sure to check the concentration and strength, and then rinse it off quickly, before wiping down and drying the stainless surface.
  3. Hard water is one of the hardest things on stainless steel (no pun intended). Many commercial food  businesses know this all too well and have equipped their water supply with  filtration systems to soften the water by sifting through some of the harsh chemicals that result in deposits, spots, and eventually, rust. Furthermore, hard water when heated can leave deposits on your steel surfaces which will eat through the protective film, causing rust, once again. Knowing this, it’s important to keep water from standing on surfaces and wipe down moisture whenever you can.

Blog post by Ian Canavan www.busychef.co.uk