Understanding Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel is a popular choice for grills and smokers. Two types of stainless are used in the manufacture of BBQ cookers: Austenitic and ferritic.

Because it contains more nickel and less steel in the alloy, the most common type of austenitic steel, called 304, is higher quality and higher cost. The most common ferritic steel, called 430, is not as durable and it is harder to weld properly. 430 contains more steel and magnets stick to it. 304 will not attract magnets. But don't bother bringing magnets to a big box store on your next shopping trip. Most grills are 430 with the exception of some burners and grates, and many use more than two types of steel which can only be identified with a metalurgy gun. See the $35,000 model below. Only the most expensive cookers use 304 extensively.

Placeholder

The most significant problem with cheap grills is they often use very thin 430 stainless. These lightweight machines are pretty and shiny on the showroom floor but vulnerable to the demands of grilling. They can quickly develop minute stress fractures that lead to corrosion and reduced performance. They also lose their shine quickly and need polishing to maintain their sexy showroom look.

According to the AmazingRibs.com science advisor Prof. Greg Blonder, 430 is not as durable as 304 and it is harder to weld properly. "The welding heat remixes the steel microstructure away from optimum, so the weld often rusts or cracks. But very few grills at the low end are welded. Almost all bent and screwed."

Don't be afraid of 430, it does not deserve the derision common on the internet, but do look for heavy gauge construction throughout. Look at the screws, because sometimes they are not stainless and they will rust. Be advised that some manufacturers use heavier gauge steel on the lid and only the lid. They know it is one of the first things you will touch and a heavy lid creates a good first impression. They may even use 304 on the lid and 430 on the cart.

If you are choosing between stainless and other materials, select in favor of thickness. Thick powder coated steel or enameled steel will retain heat better than thin stainless and if properly coated, they will not rust. And coated steel is cheaper than stainless.

Stainless steel is so popular because it looks good. Alas, all stainless shows dirt, dust, grease, and rainspots and maintaining that beautiful shine is an ongoing task that many, including Yours Truly, cannot bear. Manufacturers recommend cleaning your grill after each use! Right. I don't know anyone who does this.

Warm soapy water with a clean water rinse works well. Do not burnish stainless steel with a circular motion. Rub, wipe and polish in the direction of the grain. Do not use abrasive pads or steel wool. Covering your grill will keep it cleaner and extend its life.

There are a variety of cleaning products available from branded and generic stainless steel polish to disposable grill wipes. Read the labels. Some can damage your deck and furniture. If you're so inclined to clean your grill, roll it onto your driveway, wash with warm soapy water, rinse with your hose, dry it off, then polish. But beware that these chemicals then find their way into the water table.

Blonder says "I pay more attention to cleaning the inside than the outside. On the outside, beware of kitchen cleaning products- they can erase the printed lettering around the knobs!"

I asked Meathead what he thinks and he said "I have a well-worn Char-Broil made with 430 and it is holding up fine after many years of heavy use. It looks like crap because I don't cover it. If you are a neat freak you'll go crazy polishing your smoker. But it's a barbecue for cryin' out loud. Who cares if it's dirty on the outside?"

I've found that beer applied to the cook improves the appearance of my grill. Particularly when I know a load of tasty meat is sizzling under the lid!

stainless steel grill

Max Good

As AmazingRibs.com's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, Max Good is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max loves barbecue so much that he took his barbecue sauce recipes, had them bottled, and now sells them around the country.

Search Our Reviews and Ratings

Click Search to see all our Reviews and Ratings. Use the filters below to refine your search.

*Based on 4" raw burger with 1/2" space on all sides

“The most respected and comprehensive reviewers of grills and smokers in the world”

- Larry Olmsted,
Senior Contributor (Forbes)


What people say about us

"The world’s leading outdoor cooking resource." Larry Olmsted, Forbes.com

"An amazing compendium of barbecue knowledge." Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue, Austin

"I was crowned World Brisket Champion at the Jack Daniels World Championships using your Big Bad Beef Rub. Your site has played a pivotal role in my development." John Lattuca, WeekendWarriorBBQ, Montreal, Canada

"This meal was as memorable as my first sex, only better." Marie Overholt, San Francisco, CA

"The BBQ community is so extremely fortunate to have someone as passionate and articulate as you." Frank Ostini, Chef Winemaker, Hitching Post II Restaurant & Winery, Buellton, CA

"I adapted your brisket rub recipe this summer and my customers love it (8,000 pounds served in 6 months)! My brisket even won 'best beef' in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair." Chef Larry Vito, BBQ Smokehouse, Sebastapol, CA

"Meathead is the best writer covering this part of the culinary world." John Markus, Producer, BBQ Pitmasters TV show

"The Rosetta Stone of BBQ." Bill Lamb

"I got laid last night because of your pastrami" Name withheld for obvious reasons

"Knowledgeable, smart, hilarious, and self-effacing." Laurel Stone

"I have worked as a professional cook in high end French restaurants for several years, so when I hit the internet looking for some BBQ info, I was really pleased to find an in depth and expansive site that had all the tips I was looking for." Aaron Ettlin, Portland, OR

"A Famous Dave's commercial came on claiming the best ribs in the world, and my honey shook his head and said, 'nope, it's right here.' Many, many thanks!" Red Taylor, San Francisco, CA

"We had a fantastic season winning two Grand Championships and five Reserve Grand Championships. I always appreciate referring to your site. Thanks." Steve, Grills Gone Wild, IA

"I have always loved cooking ribs but with our new gas grill they were never as good as charcoal. Well that all changed last night when I made the greatest ribs I have ever tasted. My wife wanted to know if I bought them somewhere and then claimed I cooked them myself." Allen Nicley, Mont Alto, PA

"The Memphis Dust and the pulled pork are excellent! I had to dang near run people out of my house!" Aswad Johnson

"I was about to buy a new smoker. After reading your article about setting up a horizontal smoker, I decided to try rehabilitating something the previous owner of my house left in the backyard. Total investment: $100. I figure I saved at least $500!" Coleman Shelton, Calvert City, KY

"Amazingribs.com is the most information packed barbecue site known to man." Pitmaster and BBQ Columnist George Hensler

"AmazingRibs.com is the world's go-to place for a barbecue treasure house of reliable information." Ardie "Remus Powers" Davis, author of numerous barbecue books

"This is my new go-to method for prime rib." Candy Weaver, President, Kansas City Barbeque Society

"We've won five Grand Championships and two Reserve Championships in the past three months. Learned much about BBQ from you and wanted to give you credit." Harry Soo, SlapYoDaddyBBQ.com

"The Alton Brown of Que." Joe Mizrahi, Smokin' Joe's, NYC

"I have always loved to travel and eat. Life became boring when I had to give up my worldly adventures. Thanks to you I now love to cook. I am now having adventures at home in my kitchen and my back yard. I am no longer bored, and my large family is grateful too. Thank you so much." Dugan Hoeflinger, Tucson, AZ

"I am in the process of opening a cafe and thought your simple sweet sour slaw is an amazing winner." James Murray, Toronto

"I had two ribs and my boyfriend ate the other 3 1/2 pounds. He couldn't stop to talk. He had to bring a box of tissues to the table because these ribs are so good they make him weep. He tells me that my ribs have deepened his love for me. Well, fine, but I know that just means he wants more ribs." Nancy J. Mostad, Minnesota


Placeholder

Steel thickness

The thickness of steel is expressed in "gauge" numbers. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the steel. Here are some common gauge numbers of steel used in making grills.

GaugeThickness
100.1345"
120.1046"
140.0747"
160.0598"
180.0478"

Laser film

Placeholder

There is one minor hassle to buying stainless. If you have to do the assembly yourself, you may discover that the stainless parts come coated with a plastic film that protects the surface from scratches. It is not hard to remove, but it can take as long as an hour on a big grill.

The invention of stainless steel

In preparing this article, our science advisor, Prof. Greg Blonder, pointed out that the history of stainless steel is fascinating. Click here to read about how stainless steel was invented.

Related articles

Placeholder

Placeholder

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. On Amazon it works on everything from grills to diapers, they never tell us what you bought, and it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! And remember, we only recommend products we love. If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazonhttps://tinyurl.com/amazingribs

...some HTML for the first variant...

Placeholder

Placeholder

Get Smoke Signals, our free e-letter. No spam. Guaranteed

Enter your email:

If you love barbecue and grilling, get a FREE 30-day membership in our Pitmaster Club. We can up your game.

  • FREE 30 day trial membership.
  • Sneak previews of Meathead’s new book.
  • We block ads from members.
  • Real community. No politics. No flame wars.
  • Monthly newsletter.
  • Video seminars with famous pitmasters.
  • Weekly podcasts with Greg Rempe.
  • Weekly BBQ cartoons by Jerry King.
  • Comprehensive Temperature Guide Magnet ($10 retail).
  • Monthly giveaways of Gold Medal grills and smokers worth up to $2000.
  • Discounts on products we love.
  • Support for AmazingRibs.com!

Lookit what our members are cooking:


Post comments and questions below

Placeholder

1) Please try the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.

 

Click to ask questions and make comments