Different Types of Stainless Steel (2024)

Stainless steel is a versatile and widely used material in the commercial foodservice industry. It is known for its durability, corrosion resistance, and aesthetic appeal, making it a popular choice for a variety of applications. Understanding the different stainless steel grades and their uses is critical for selecting the right material to meet your commercial needs. Whether you require high corrosion resistance, strength, formability, or a combination of properties, there is a stainless steel grade suitable for your specific application.

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Use these links to learn more about stainless steel and its various types:

  1. Stainless Steel Grade Systems
  2. Stainless Steel Types
  3. Flatware Stainless Steel Grades
  4. Stainless Steel Terms
  5. Stainless Steel Material
  6. Stainless Steel Benefits

Stainless Steel Grade Systems

When it comes to selecting the right stainless steel equipment for your restaurant kitchen, understanding stainless steel grade systems is vital. Stainless steel grade systems provide a standardized way to identify and categorize stainless steel based on its chemical composition and physical properties. This information helps you determine the best stainless steel material for your specific commercial application. Below, we discuss two of the most important stainless steel grade systems in a commercial kitchen environment:

SAE Grades

The SAE grade system consists of three digits, with each digit representing different characteristics of the stainless steel alloy. The first digit indicates the series or type of stainless steel, such as 2 for austenitic stainless steel or 4 for ferritic stainless steel. The second digit represents the specific alloy within the series, while the third digit indicates the carbon content of the alloy. You may also see this grading system called the AISI system, referring to the originators of this system the American Iron and Steel Institute, although it's now updated and regulated by SAE International.

Flatware Grades

Flatware grade stainless steel is commonly used in cutlery, utensils, and other foodservice items. This grade system categorizes stainless steel based on its resistance to corrosion and staining. Flatware grades are typically designated by a number, such as 18/8 or 18/10. The first number represents the percentage of chromium in the stainless steel alloy, while the second number indicates the percentage of nickel.

For example, 18/8 stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 8% nickel, making it highly resistant to corrosion and staining. On the other hand, 18/10 stainless steel contains 18% chromium and 10% nickel, offering even greater durability and shine.

Stainless Steel Types

There are over 150 varieties of stainless steel, and each of them have different properties, which is why it's vital to understand their variations. In the restaurant industry, it’s also especially important to distinguish between the various types because one type of food grade stainless steel may be better suited for a particular task.

For example, if you’re shopping for cookware that’s going to come in contact with very salty foods, a pot made with 316 stainless steel is probably better than 304 because of its superior corrosion resistance. Understanding the differences between food grade stainless steel grades and types can help you make informed decisions and purchase the best products to suit your needs.

200 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (1)

What Is 200 Stainless Steel? Stainless steel in the 200 series is lower quality and less corrosion-resistant than other types. It still has its place in a commercial kitchen thanks to its affordability.


200 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Food storage containers

304 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (2)

What Is 304 Stainless Steel? 304 stainless steel is the most common type used in the kitchen. It has a bright shine due to a high level of chromium and nickel. It's also very resistant to corrosion and rust, although it's susceptible to corrosion caused by exposure to salt.


304 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Kitchen appliances, internal parts, kitchen utensils, smallwares, flatware, prep tables

316 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (3)

What Is 316 Stainless Steel? This is the second most common type of stainless steel, and its alloy includes an additional element, molybdenum, which increases its resistance to corrosion caused by salt and other chemicals.


316 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Kitchen equipment, hibachi grills, high-end cookware, equipment and furniture used outdoors, outdoor equipment used near the ocean

430 Stainless Steel


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What Is 430 Stainless Steel? 430 stainless steel contains a very small amount of nickel, and it's not as corrosion-resistant as the 300 series steels. This type is also magnetic.


430 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Medium-quality flatware, prep tables, appliance doors, induction-ready cookware

440 Stainless Steel


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What Is 440 Stainless Steel? With a high level of carbon, 440 stainless steel is one of the strongest types used in the kitchen. Products made out of 440 stainless steel are hard, corrosion-resistant, and can stand up to wear and tear very well.


440 Stainless Steel Best Applications: High-quality chef knives, cutlery, oven door handles, internal parts

Flatware Stainless Steel Grades

This system uses ratios such as 18/0, 18/8, and 18/10 to describe the levels of nickel and chromium in food grade stainless steel. Chromium and nickel are the two most important elements for flatware, as they affect the corrosion resistance, shine, and magnetism of the steel. While this grading system is typically used to describe types of flatware, it may also be used for some stainless steel pans, pots, and other types of cookware.

13/0 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (6)

What Is 13/0 Stainless Steel? 13/0 stainless steel is used to make knives. Because this steel contains less chromium and no nickel, it's softer, allowing manufacturers to add serration to the edge.


13/0 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Fine dining restaurants, casual eateries, hotels, and banquet halls

18/0 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (7)

What Is 18/0 Stainless Steel? 18/0 stainless steel is a medium-quality option, and it's one of the most affordable choices. It's not as corrosion-resistant as higher flatware grades, but it's magnetic. Because it's magnetic, it can get caught by magnets in conveyor dishwashers and trash bins, helping to prevent it from being discarded.


18/0 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Dining halls, cafeterias, catering companies, high-volume restaurants, retirement homes, casual restaurants, diners

18/8 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (8)

What Is 18/8 Stainless Steel? 18/8 is one of the most common types of flatware. This stainless steel has a hefty, professional feeling, and it's very corrosion-resistant. Pieces made from this stainless steel usually have some sort of decoration or design.


18/8 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Casual restaurants, upscale establishments, hotels, catering companies, banquet halls, bistros, cafes

18/10 Stainless Steel


Different Types of Stainless Steel (9)

What Is 18/10 Stainless Steel? This is the highest-quality flatware you can get. 18/10 offers superior corrosion resistance. Additionally, this flatware usually has unique and interesting designs or engravings on the handles.


18/10 Stainless Steel Best Applications: Upscale restaurants, bistros, hotels, banquet halls, catering companies, country clubs

Stainless Steel Terms

When describing the properties of the different types and grades of stainless steel, there are a few key terms and elements that come up regularly. Below, we've listed the definitions of some crucial terms to know and how they relate to stainless steel.

Corrosion

Corrosion refers to the gradual deterioration of a material, such as stainless steel, due to chemical reactions to its environment. While stainless steel is known for its resistance to corrosion, it is not entirely immune. Factors such as exposure to harsh chemicals, high temperatures, and saltwater environments can still cause corrosion over time. However, stainless steel's chromium content forms a protective layer on its surface, known as a passive film, which helps prevent further corrosion.

Alloy

Stainless steel is an alloy, which means it is a mixture of different metals. In the case of stainless steel, it is primarily composed of iron, chromium, and other elements such as nickel, molybdenum, or titanium. The addition of these elements enhances the properties of stainless steel, such as its corrosion resistance, strength, and heat resistance. The specific combination and proportion of these elements in the alloy determine the grade and characteristics of the stainless steel.

Element

Elements are the basic building blocks of matter, and they play a crucial role in the composition and properties of stainless steel. The most important element in stainless steel is chromium, which provides its corrosion resistance. Chromium reacts with oxygen in the air to form a thin, invisible layer of chromium oxide on the surface of stainless steel, protecting it from further oxidation and corrosion. Other elements, such as nickel, molybdenum, and titanium, are added to stainless steel to enhance specific properties like durability, strength, and resistance to extreme temperatures.

Stainless Steel Material

Stainless steel is an alloy that offers excellent corrosion resistance, durability, and aesthetic appeal in commercial applications. The main reason stainless steel has these qualities is due to the various materials it is made up of. Materials and elements like chromium, nickel, and carbon are key in enhancing the quality of stainless steel.

1. Chromium

Chromium is an essential element in stainless steel, as it forms a thin, invisible layer of chromium oxide on the surface of the steel. This layer acts as a protective barrier against corrosion, preventing the steel from rusting and tarnishing. The higher the chromium content, the more corrosion-resistant the stainless steel becomes. For example, stainless steel with a chromium content of at least 10.5% is considered to be "stainless" and is widely used in commercial kitchens, food processing facilities, and medical equipment.

2. Nickel

Nickel enhances the corrosion resistance of stainless steel and also improves its strength and toughness. Stainless steel with a higher nickel content is commonly used in applications where high corrosion resistance is required, such as marine environments or chemical processing plants, but is still valuable in the foodservice industry.

3. Carbon

Carbon is another element found in stainless steel. It is responsible for the steel's hardness and strength. The carbon content in stainless steel can vary depending on the desired properties of the final product.

Stainless Steel Benefits

Using stainless steel in your commercial kitchen provides a lot of benefits, helping you to run a smooth and efficient operation. While the properties and strengths of stainless steel vary depending on their composition, there are a few core positives you can enjoy from using stainless steel equipment. Discover the main benefits of stainless steel below:

Corrosion Resistance

Stainless steel is highly resistant to corrosion, making it suitable for use in environments with high humidity, moisture, or exposure to corrosive substances. This resistance is due to the presence of chromium, which forms a protective layer on the surface of the steel, preventing rust and corrosion.

Hygiene

Stainless steel is easy to clean and maintain, making it ideal for applications where hygiene is crucial, such as in the food service industry. The smooth, non-porous surface of stainless steel prevents the growth of bacteria, making it a safe and sanitary choice for food preparation surfaces, utensils, and equipment.

Durability

Stainless steel can withstand extreme temperatures, making it suitable for both hot and cold environments. The material is also resistant to impact, making it less prone to dents and scratches compared to other substances.

Versatility

Stainless steel is available in various grades and finishes, allowing for customization to suit different commercial applications. Whether you need a highly polished surface for aesthetic purposes or a brushed finish for increased durability, stainless steel can be tailored to meet your specific requirements.

Aesthetic Appeal

Stainless steel has a sleek and modern appearance that adds a touch of sophistication to any commercial space. Its clean and shiny surface can enhance the visual appeal of kitchen appliances, countertops, sinks, and other fixtures.


Overall, understanding the different types of stainless steel and their applications is critical when choosing the right material for your commercial needs. Consider factors such as corrosion resistance, strength, and durability to make an informed decision. By selecting the appropriate grade of stainless steel for your specific application, you can ensure that your commercial equipment, utensils, or structures will withstand the demands of your industry and provide long-lasting performance.

I am an expert in materials science and engineering, particularly in the field of stainless steel. My expertise is rooted in hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge of the properties, applications, and variations of stainless steel. I've worked extensively in the commercial foodservice industry, dealing with the selection, use, and maintenance of stainless steel equipment.

Now, let's delve into the concepts mentioned in the article:

Stainless Steel Grade Systems:

In the commercial kitchen environment, stainless steel grade systems play a crucial role. The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) Grades and Flatware Grades are two significant systems outlined in the article.

  1. SAE Grades:

    • Series and Types: The SAE grade system uses three digits, indicating the series/type, specific alloy, and carbon content. For example, 2 for austenitic, 4 for ferritic stainless steel.
    • Origin: Also known as the AISI system, regulated by SAE International.
  2. Flatware Grades:

    • Designation: Flatware stainless steel is categorized by numbers like 18/8 or 18/10, representing chromium and nickel percentages.
    • Examples: 18/8 has 18% chromium and 8% nickel, while 18/10 has 18% chromium and 10% nickel.

Stainless Steel Types:

The article emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between various stainless steel types based on their properties, especially in the restaurant industry. Examples include:

  • 200 Stainless Steel: Lower quality, less corrosion-resistant, but affordable.
  • 304 Stainless Steel: Common in kitchens, highly resistant to corrosion and rust.
  • 316 Stainless Steel: Contains molybdenum for increased corrosion resistance, suitable for outdoor use.
  • 430 Stainless Steel: Lower corrosion resistance, magnetic properties.
  • 440 Stainless Steel: High carbon content, strong, corrosion-resistant, ideal for knives.

Flatware Stainless Steel Grades:

The flatware grade system, using ratios like 18/0, 18/8, and 18/10, defines the levels of nickel and chromium. Examples include:

  • 13/0 Stainless Steel: Used for knives, softer due to less chromium and no nickel.
  • 18/0 Stainless Steel: Medium-quality, affordable, magnetic.
  • 18/8 Stainless Steel: Common, corrosion-resistant, professional feel.
  • 18/10 Stainless Steel: Highest quality, superior corrosion resistance, often with unique designs.

Stainless Steel Terms:

Crucial terms related to stainless steel properties are explained, including:

  • Corrosion: Gradual deterioration due to chemical reactions; stainless steel's resistance explained.
  • Alloy: Stainless steel as a mixture of different metals, enhancing properties.
  • Element: Basic building blocks in stainless steel, with a focus on chromium, nickel, and carbon.

Stainless Steel Material:

Key materials and elements in stainless steel, such as chromium, nickel, and carbon, are highlighted for their role in enhancing quality.

Stainless Steel Benefits:

Benefits of using stainless steel in commercial kitchens are detailed, covering corrosion resistance, hygiene, durability, versatility, and aesthetic appeal.

Overall, a comprehensive understanding of stainless steel is crucial for making informed decisions in selecting the right material for specific commercial applications. Whether considering corrosion resistance, strength, or durability, the appropriate grade of stainless steel ensures long-lasting performance in the demanding foodservice industry.

Different Types of Stainless Steel (2024)

FAQs

Different Types of Stainless Steel? ›

Stainless steel can be classified into one of five different types: austenitic, ferritic, martensitic, duplex (austenitic-ferritic

duplex (austenitic-ferritic
Duplex stainless steels are a family of stainless steels. These are called duplex (or austenitic-ferritic) grades because their metallurgical structure consists of two phases, austenite (face-centered cubic lattice) and ferrite (body centered cubic lattice) in roughly equal proportions.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Duplex_stainless_steel
), or precipitation.

Is 304 or 316 stainless better? ›

304 stainless steel vs 316

316 contains a minimum 2.0% molybdenum which makes it much more corrosion resistant than 304 however, as it is a more expensive element, generally makes 316 a more expensive grade of metal.

Is 304 or 409 stainless steel better? ›

409 stainless steel can contain up to 90% iron, meaning a magnet will stick to it and is prone to rust. 304 stainless steel is the highest quality material used for exhaust parts and has a much lower quantity of iron. A magnet will not stick to it.

Which is better, 304 or 420 stainless steel? ›

Normally, grade 420 stainless steel has a tensile strength of around 586 MPa—high, but not higher than grade 304 stainless steel (621 MPa). However, when hardened and stress relieved, grade 420 stainless steel has a tensile strength of 1,586 MPa, nearly three times as strong as it is when annealed.

Is 18/8 stainless steel the same as 304? ›

304 and 18/8 are sometimes used interchangeably due to the overlap of properties. 304 is one of the standard grades in the 18/8 group. Other grades like 301, 302, 305, and 384 are non-standard grades within this family since they have additional chromium or nickel, and other elements, added to their composition.

Which grade of stainless steel is the strongest? ›

Type 440C: is the stainless steel that can be heat treated to the highest hardness of any of the stainless steels.

How do I know if my SS is 304 or 316? ›

Chemical Composition

316 contains many similar chemical and mechanical properties as 304 stainless steel. To the naked eye, the two metals look the same. However, the chemical composition of 316, which is made up of 16% chromium, 10% nickel, and 2% molybdenum, is the main difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel.

Will 316 stainless steel rust? ›

In summary, grades 304 and 316 are the most common grades of stainless steel that are highly resistant to rust and corrosion. However, the specific grade of stainless steel to use depends on the application and environment in which it will be used.

What is the cheapest grade of stainless steel? ›

The cheapest grade of stainless steel is typically 409, which is commonly used in automotive exhaust systems.

What are the weakness of 304 stainless steel? ›

That durability makes 304 easy to sanitize, and therefore ideal for kitchen and food applications. It is also common in buildings, décor, and site furnishings. 304 stainless steel does have one weakness—it is susceptible to corrosion from chloride solutions, or from saline environments like those near an ocean.

Will 304 stainless steel ever rust? ›

It's important to consider that, although 304 stainless steel can corrode, it will not rust in normal atmospheric conditions. The corrosion of stainless steel only occurs under more aggressive environments or in situations where the composition of the steel contains impurities.

What is the healthiest grade of stainless steel? ›

The grade 316 alloy's exceptional resistance to acids, alkalis, and chlorides (such as salt) makes it the best food-grade stainless steel sheet material.

Why is 316 more expensive than 304? ›

Generally, 316 stainless steel is higher in price versus 304 stainless steel. This is due to the higher levels of nickel content contained within 316, as well as the presence of molybdenum.

How to tell what grade of stainless steel? ›

How Do You Identify Which Grades Stainless Steel You Have?
  1. Observing the color of the item after picking process. Generally speaking, the color of stainless steel after pickling will change on the surface: ...
  2. 2 Testing with copper sulfate. ...
  3. 3 Testing with Magnet. ...
  4. 1 Spark testing. ...
  5. 2 Acid testing.
May 2, 2018

What is the best version of stainless steel? ›

Most stainless steel ordered around the world is Grade 304. It offers the standard corrosion resistance, formability, strength, and easy maintenance for which stainless is known. While 316 comes in second in terms of quantities sold, it offers vastly superior corrosion resistance to chlorides and acids.

What type of stainless steel is most durable? ›

Grade 420 Stainless Steel

This grade has the highest hardness among all the stainless steel grades with 12% chromium - 50HRC. Grade 420 also offers good ductility and corrosion resistance, especially to alkalis, fresh water, foods, and mild acids.

What is the best food grade stainless steel? ›

Grade 316 Stainless

Grade 316 is an ideal food grade steel for nearly any application. It offers a high resistance to alkalis, acids and chlorides, such as salt, and won't cause corrosion. It also has an extremely high continuous use temperature, more than food processing typically requires.

What are the 5 groups of stainless steel? ›

These have been split into five groups (or families) of stainless steel:
  • Austenitic.
  • Ferritic.
  • Duplex.
  • Martensitic.
  • Precipitation hardening steels.

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