Not all stainless steel is the same.

A wide range of products are made from stainless steel, from dining cutlery to components of vehicles, surgical instruments and catering equipment. 

So, how do you know what type of stainless steel to use in your commercial kitchen? 

With over 20 years of experience as stainless steel fabrication Syndey specialists, we know everything there is to know about commercial stainless steel kitchens and which stainless steel grade to use.

Keep reading to discover the difference between the grades of stainless steel, and find all the information to determine which stainless steel grade is right for you.

A quick overview of the stainless steel grade system

Stainless Steel Restaurant Sink

Wondering what a stainless steel grade even is?

All stainless steel is non-porous, meaning liquid can’t get through. Stainless steel, however, can corrode over time, and different types have a variety of elements and metals in their makeup. The grade describes the composition of metals inside the stainless steel and its corrosion resistance.

At its core, stainless steel is an iron alloy, mostly iron and chromium. However, other elements can be mixed and alloyed to enhance different characteristics. These elements can include nickel, carbon, silicon, manganese and molybdenum.

What are the different grades of stainless steel for kitchens?

Two categories of stainless steel are commonly used in kitchens and for commercial hospitality use: austenitic grades (316 and 304) and ferritic grades (430). 

304 grade

304-grade stainless steel is made from carbon, chromium, iron, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, sulphur and silicon.

304-grade stainless steel is the general use food-grade stainless steel and is commonplace in commercial kitchens. Though it is considered high quality and as strong as 316 stainless steel, it is more susceptible to pitting corrosion and less resistant to salt and alkaline environments than its 316 equivalent.

316 grade

Like 304-grade, 316-grade stainless steel also has carbon, chromium, iron, manganese, nickel, phosphorus, sulphur and silicon, with the addition of molybdenum. The addition of molybdenum gives it a stronger corrosion resistance.

Even though both 304 and 316 stainless steel are of high quality, 316 can be considered the higher-quality version used in commercial kitchens. 316-grade stainless steel has a similar strength to 304. Still, its higher corrosion resistance means it can withstand better the acids, alkalis and chlorides in some foods, solutions and marine environments.

430 grade

430 stainless steel comprises carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulphur, silicon and chromium. As a ferritic grade stainless steel, it differs from the 304 and 316 austenitic steel as it has no nickel in its components.

It is less expensive than its 304 and 316 counterparts, but its properties are less durable and not as commonly used in versatile environments. For example, 430-grade stainless steel performs well under high temperatures, so it can often be found in heat-related applications, but it is much more brittle in the cold, so it is not an ideal general-use metal. 

It is often used in hospitality for applications like dishwasher linings and stainless steel range hood exhausts but not working bench spaces and cold storage shelving.  

Choose the right stainless steel grade for your kitchen

The classification of a commercial kitchen includes a wide range of vastly different business types. You may be starting up a new takeaway shop, a cake-decorating kitchen, or a commercial kitchen in a local hospital. You may be a chocolatier, a fine dining restaurateur, or a Brazilian BBQ specialist.

Every business and kitchen is entirely unique, and the material you choose must match your workflow and purpose to ensure it works and stands the test of time. 

The best stainless steel grades for specific commercial kitchen applications

Stainless steel is one of the most commonly used materials in commercial kitchens. It comes out on top compared to other metals like copper, aluminium, titanium and cobalt because of its durability, adaptability, availability and cost.  

However, within the family of stainless steel metals, you must also find the right grade for your various kitchen areas.

Here is an example of many areas where you’ll likely use stainless steel and the recommended grade. 

Exhaust Hoods & Ventilation

  • 304, 316, 430

In a high-temperature environment rarely exposed to cold temperatures, exhaust hoods and ventilation shafts are among the few areas in which 430 stainless steel can be used.

Stainless steel benches

  • 304, 316

304 is the most commonly used stainless steel for benches. However, 316 has a higher resistance to corrosion and saltwater environments and is the choice for areas exposed to alkaline materials regularly or under stringent hygiene standards. 

Stainless steel bars

  • 304, 316

316 would be a higher quality recommendation in marine environments or high-use zones that will encounter corrosive materials. However, 304 is often the lower-cost option commonly used in commercial kitchens and still carries the high-quality stamp. 

Stainless steel cooking appliances

  • 304, 316, 430

430 stainless steel is commonly used to line dishwashers and range hood appliances due to its low cost and high heat resistance. Other appliances will generally incorporate the standard 304 or 316-grade alternatives.

Stainless Steel Shelves

  • 304,  316

304 is the budget-friendly version on the list of high-quality food-grade stainless steels and is the type most commonly used for shelving. 316 has higher corrosion resistance and is recommended in applications encountering high stress or marine environments. 

Tips for cleaning food-grade stainless steel

Once you’ve got your stainless steel, you want to keep it shiny, clean and maintained. Kitchen-grade stainless steel is best cleaned with one of the following methods:

  • Warm, soapy water
  • Steam
  • Mechanical scrubbing
  • Detergents and scouring powders
  • Nitric acid
  • Alkaline solutions
  • Organic solvents

Where to find the best stainless steel for your commercial kitchen

If you are building a stainless steel commercial kitchen, we are the custom stainless steel fabricators you need on your team.

We specialise in commercial kitchens and the hospitality industries and know exactly the type of metal, alloys and stainless steel grades to use throughout your kitchen.

With over 20 years of building stainless steel commercial kitchens that look good, work well and match their designated uses, we can help with your project.

Our team can offer assistance with everything from consulting on design to custom fabrication and even installation.