Stainless steel. It's the steel alloy (a combination of iron and another element, typically carbon) used in everything from massive bridges that span rivers, to the small surgical utensils used for precise cuts. I know you've heard of it. It's virtually impossible to go through life without encountering this material. But what exactly is stainless steel?
A Brief History of Stainless Steel
Iron artifacts that have the corrosion-resistant properties of stainless steel have appeared all over the world. But most of these surviving artifacts have stood the test of time due to their combination of iron and phosphorus, rather than iron and carbon. So they're not true stainless steel (more on this below).
The history of modern stainless steel begins with Pierre Berthier, who noted that iron-chromium alloys resisted corrosive substances. By 1821 he had discovered these properties, which he promoted for use in knives and other silverware. But steel remained brittle and impractical, despite his advances.
The biggest challenge in creating a type of steel that resisted rust was decreasing the carbon percentage. In the late 1890s Hans Goldschmidt developed a process that produced chromium without carbon. This helped researchers such as Leon Guillet to improve their steel alloys into products that could be considered truly modern stainless steel.
A large breakthrough came in 1912 when engineers Eduard Maurer and Benno Strauss, recognizing the advantages that chrome-nickel steel hulls in boats had over regular steel alloys in resisting corrosion, patented austenitic stainless steel, of which 304 stainless steel is derived (more on 304 stainless steel below).
Stainless steel, or corrosion-resistant steel, inox steel or simply inox, is a steel alloy with a maximum of 10.5% to 11% chromium content by mass. Like the name indicates, stainless steel will stand up to water and corrosion better than regular steel.
But the name can be misleading. Stainless steel implies it's stainless, but it's not stain proof. Rather, stainless steel will not stain, rust or corrode on the same level as regular steel. Basically, stainless steel is more durable than typical steel, and it's because of this durability that stainless steel is used in outdoor applications, from the bridges mentioned above, to outdoor gas grills and other items outside of your home.
You might be wondering what makes stainless steel so special? Regular steel combines iron and carbon. This regular carbon steel will rust, particularly when exposed to water and oxygen. Rust, or iron oxide, occurs when water and oxygen are present on steel and will accelerate corrosion.
Stainless steel separates itself from regular steel by the amount of chromium present in the metal. If enough chromium is present in steel, it will build a protective layer of chromium oxide that blocks iron oxide. This layer will prevent both surface and internal corrosion of the steel. In other words, rust has a hard time growing and spreading with true stainless steel.
There are several different grades and types of stainless steel, with each offering various properties, advantages and disadvantages. For example, if strength and hardness needs to be improved, more carbon is added; or if a flexible sheet of stainless steel is desired, more nickel is added.
The Advantages of 304 Stainless Steel In Outdoor Applications
The austenitic steel patented in 1912 by engineers Eduard Maurer and Benno Straus currently makes up 70% of the total stainless steel production in the world. Austenitic steel, or 200 and 300 series stainless steel, is steel that has been super-heated to extreme temperatures. This process changes the crystal structure of the steel. While this improves the features of the steel, this process destabilizes the material. So a stabilizing element is required, typically manganese and/or nickel.
The subject of this blog, 304 stainless steel, falls into the 300 Series of stainless steel. It's the most widely used stainless steel in the world. It's also known as A2 stainless and 18/8 stainless steel due to being composed of 18% chromium and 8% nickel.
The key to 304 stainless steel's success in outdoor applications is the high nickel count. Stainless steel high in nickel will resist stress-corrosion cracking better than other stainless steel types. The higher nickel count means the steel is not magnetic, but will resist iron oxide. This makes 304 stainless steel popular in kitchen appliances such as refrigerators, and outdoor items such as natural gas grills.
Most premium grill manufacturers use 304 stainless steel in their products. Like we mentioned above, 304 stainless steel will resist corrosion and rust more effectively than typical stainless steel. It's a great product for outdoor placement and use.
Twin Eagles is one such manufacturer that uses 304 stainless steel in their grills, accessories and grill components. Created by a commercial appliance engineer, they focus on reverse-engineering every aspect of a gas grill to improve function.
Twin Eagles offers a full selection of gas grills, grill components and fun patio cooking appliances, such as their innovative Salamangrill with Base pictured right as an example; view the Salamangrill by Twin Eagles Grills here.
Here are other grill manufacturers that use 304 stainless steel:
Family Leisure offers grills, grills with carts, smokers, grill islands and even infrared grills; view All Family Leisure Grills here. Looking for specific grill accessories? We offer the best grill accessories with free nationwide shipping; view All Family Leisure Grill Accessories here.