Why do stainless steel grill parts rust? This is another question we get asked all the time and there are almost as many answers as there are gas BBQ grills. I meet customers who purchase a stainless steel barbecue grill with a lifetime guarantee because they no longer want to buy a new grill every two years. Then two years later their big stainless steel grill is rusting and they feel betrayed. There are a lot of answers to this question but most of them are simple and sometimes obvious.
One reason is the quality of the grill parts. We know restaurants and resorts cannot waste time buying a new grill for their kitchen every few years so we assume if we purchase commercial quality items we can get the same level of quality as professionals. Now any cheap, low cost manufacturer can call their product a commercial series or a professional series item and the association is made. Add a few hundred dollars profit to the price and the customer gets tricked. I have seen this in many industries when the terms “commercial” and “professional” get used as the name of a product model rather than a true description of the quality of the product.
Many of these manufacturers will use a low grade stainless steel to further the association with commercial quality. Many of us do not realize there are many different types of stainless steel. We do not understand the differences and we go looking for stainless as symbolic of a well made product. I cannot tell you how often a buyer will walk into my retail store claiming they want a stainless grill. In their mind, they have asked for a particular level of quality using the term “stainless steel”. With a few extra questions, they will share their belief that stainless steel will save them the inconvenience of replacing grill parts within the year or buying a whole new grill next year. The fact is there are several types of stainless steel, many no better than regular steel and indistinguishable visually.
Look at who makes the grill – not the importer but the actual manufacturer. Barbeque grills that are made in America will generally disclose the type of stainless steel that has been used. If the manufacturer is providing a warranty, call them and see if a human answers or if the warranty is a sham. When we purchase an American Made stainless steel BBQ grill, we spend a lot more money and have much higher expectations of the product. Contact local dealers and find out if local professionals who repair grills recommend the product. Best Product Reviews
Commercial products do not say “commercial” on them and restaurants or resorts do not buy their appliances at the gigantic retail exchanges that advertise the lowest price in town. I have clients who purchase a $300. grill and feel they have spent a lot of money. For that BBQ owner the information above regarding different types of stainless steel is applicable. Keep the grill covered and clean it as often as possible.
Today, well built products are manufactured from a stainless steel designated as 304. 304 stainless steel is often referred to as 18/8 stainless because of the main chemical additives that make it resilient outdoors. In order to be considered 304 stainless steel not only are iron oxides drained to such a degree that a magnet cannot hold it but nickel and chromium are added during the smelting process in amounts of 8% nickel and 18% chromium.
Chemicals added to stainless steel protect the material in its specific application. A different stainless steel is used for an indoor refrigerator that does not contend with humidity, rain, snow or heat. Outdoor gas barbeque grills use 18 gauge 304 stainless steel because of the nickel and chromium. Nickel is a hardening agent. Nickel is shiny and attractive but its main benefit is as a hardener. When stainless begins to rust it shows up as “pits”. Pitting occurs as a small violation in the surface of the stainless like a dot. As a hardening agent, nickel will usually stop this from starting.
Chromium protects the surface of the stainless steel in the same way that oil protects a cast iron pot. Chromium reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere and creates a barrier at the surface of the stainless steel. If the stainless surface ever becomes damaged or scratched the surface can be lightly sanded and the chromium will recreate the barrier. Chromium is added during the smelting process so scratching-out rust does not remove the protective effects of chromium.
Mid-range barbeque grills like Weber and Broil King use combinations in manufacturing. While the majority of the stainless steel on these grills is of the 400 designation, the cooking grates, heat shields and gas burners will be made of 304 stainless steel. This is because the inside of the grill gets wiped down less and gets a whole lot messier than the hood.