Stainless steel vs steel smokers and pits

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by 56jeff, Jun 16, 2015.

  1. I look at new Pits and wonder if there is any advantage of owing a Stainless pit / smoker over a plain steel unit.

    The Stainless steel pits look nice, But, the price for nice is not so nice.



  2. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Stainless is all but indestructible...short of throwing some really nasty chemical cocktail at it, you really can't hurt it. Well, technically, there are bunches of differing stainless alloys, each having a specific application (or combinations) for which it is designed, but stainless won't corrode from typical use and cleaning, nor from exposure to the weather. For a cooker, I want stainless food grates, from now on...I've had chrome plated grates crap-out on me with several cookers, so far...gets old. Stainless cooker grates can be scrubbed to your heat's content, if you desire...just don't use carbon steel scrapers, brushes, or scrubbies...all tools for cleaning should be stainless as well. Stainless with Stainless, otherwise, particles of the non-stainless is left behind on the surface, basically rendering it non-stainless until removed. You can let the petina build-up on stainless grates just as you would with carbon, as well...your choice. That said, if the expense of a full stainless cooker drives you away, you may want to opt for just S/S cooking grates in a less expensive pit constructed with carbon steel and coated with high-temp enamel. But, if you let the petina build up anyway, and you'll always do this (not cleaning it up for delicate items), then there's not much point in having stainless grates.

    Now, a S/S fire-box coupled to a C/S burned-out, corroded fire-box in the future...other than the possible corrosion issues at the joint with fastening dis-similar metals (bolt together design, painted C/S may rust-through...depends), might be worth looking into, however, if all %100 stainless from the ground up, I can't see where there would be any issues at all.

    I digressed...good luck and many great smokes to you!!!

  3. boykjo

    boykjo Sausage maker Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    Most store bought stainless smokers are a poor grade of stainless.....Just stick a magnet to it and you'll find out real quick what ya got.........

  4. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    To some degree that's true (as I'll explain below), but it does depend on what you want from your stainless material, and what application it will be used for. Not all stainless steel is alike, or designed for the same anti-corrosive properties (as I'll also give an example of below).

    400 series stainless are chromium steels with 10-20% chromium and low/no nickel content have a higher yield strength, and can be heat-treated/hardened to a variety of strengths, probably due to it's higher carbon/iron content. The 400 series results in lower corrosion resistance. These are also known as ferritic steels, or martensitic (martinsite), and have a noticeable attraction to magnetic fields, though not as strongly attracted as carbon steel. They are always magnetic.

    Austenitic steels, such as the most common type, being 304, are non-ferric, non-magnetic, unless it is bent or rolled at low temperatures (cold-forming, cold-rolling, etc)...then it can become ferritic in the area of the forming. There is also a 200 series. Both 200 and 300 contain 15-30% chromium and 2-20% nickel. The nickel content has a direct correlation with magnetic attraction: more nickle = less magnetic attraction. 300 series has good cold-working abilities and is more corrosion resistant than 200/400. 200/300 are non-magnetic in their annealed state.

    The give-away:

    Ever heard the term 18/8 stainless (or 18-8)? 300-series stainless steels have roughly 18% chromium and 8% nickel. “18-8” is just a broad description for stainless steel grades 302-305, 316, 321 and 347. All numeric designations having various amounts of differing alloy ratios. 18-10, or 316, contains 16% chromium, 10% nickel (and 2% molybdenum). Molybdenum is added to help resist corrosion to chlorides (sea water, sodium chloride). 316L is a low-carbon version for use where welding will be done...this reduces harmful carbide emissions from the welding process. All of that said, you really don't need a smoker or cooking grates made from 316 or 316L stainless, unless you add chlorides to your rubs, brines or marinades (???), do I have you thinking yet? OK, sodium chloride is...................................SALT. I think it's safe to say that it would be wise and prudent to specify 316 if ordering a stainless smoker...well, at least for the cooking grates, if nothing else.

    I can say from experience that aluminum cooking vessels and salt do not get along, and I have a holey 32qt turkey fryer pot to prove don't even think about aluminum for a long-term cooking solution, unless you run a zero-salt intake, all the time, every time...don't think that's gonna happen very often. Aluminum is not very resistant to acidity, either.

    If you're curious, there are over 50 stainless steel alloys currently in use (from whenever my last S/S research was), bearing their own designating numbers, in their respective series (200/300/400). BTW, I've never seen any 200 series yet (that I'm aware of), but read about it's existence. So, I did some digging now, just for kicks. It is better known in Europe than here in the US, but manufacture for 200 was increasing here and in China before ~2006. It was introduced to dodge the high prices of nickel to manufacture 300 series, by using chromium/mangenese in the alloy (and reducing nickel). These can be worked to higher strength than 300 series, though there is an ultra-low nickle grade which doesn't fair as well in anti-corrosion testing as 300, much the same as 400. The 200 series appears to be used primarily for structural designs were moderate corrosion resistance is desired, such as truck frames, shipping containers, and possibly high-rise or bridge structures with exposed metal frame-work. Another side-note I read is that 200 series can be used with a smaller cross-section for improved weight-reduction (higher strength/weight ratio), due to it's ability to be worked into such higher strengths.

    Anyway, enough S/S trivia...jeeze, the stuff I get caught-up in on this forum...I thought we were talking about smokers...[​IMG]...(that's at me)...oh, that's right, we are!!![​IMG]

    Smoke on!!!

    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015

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