professional kitchen


The decision between stainless steel and aluminium is vital for equipping your kitchen. Both metals are prominently used in the catering industry for their exceptional properties, but which is the ultimate kitchen material for your business?

Whether you're redesigning a commercial kitchen or preparing to open a restaurant, understanding the characteristics of stainless steel and aluminium will ensure you choose the equipment that best suits your demands, complies with food safety regulations and improves the effectiveness of your kitchen's operations.

Why choose stainless steel for your equipment?

Stainless steel is popular for commercial kitchen appliances because it's strong, safe for food and easy to clean. Additionally, it's resistant to corrosion and scratches. It's also extremely popular thanks to its hygienic design and because it can withstand extensive usage.

Stainless steel is not the same as regular steel. It has iron and at least 11% chromium. This composition gives it the ability to resist rust and scratches. It also has an impermeable surface which limits moisture absorption and ultimately prevents equipment damage.

Another reason why so many professional kitchens use stainless steel is because it has a non-toxic nature, which ensures food safety.

The benefits of using stainless steel appliances

Stainless steel is an extremely robust material and can withstand both high and low temperatures. It's light and looks professional, so it's great for catering equipment and accessories.

  • Durability: Stainless steel is renowned for its ability to withstand the rigorous demands of a professional kitchen due to its durability.
  • Hygienic properties: Its smooth surface prevents bacteria growth which is important for food preparation areas.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Its clean, polished look is a preference for many chefs and kitchen designers.
  • High heat resistance: Stainless steel can withstand extreme temperatures, which makes it ideal for cooking surfaces and ovens.

The limitations of stainless steel

While stainless steel is a preferred material in many professional establishments, it still has its weaknesses. To make the right choice for kitchen equipment, it's important to know and understand its limitations.

  • Inflexibility: Stainless steel is heavy and can be more difficult to shape and customise than some other materials.
  • Heat retention: While it resists heat, stainless steel may need time to cool down, posing a burn risk in fast-paced kitchens.
  • Maintenance intensity: It requires regular cleaning to keep its luster and for hygienic reasons.

Why choose aluminium for your equipment?

Aluminium is a lightweight material that is corrosion-resistant and has good heat conduction and magnetic properties. Compared to most other materials, such as stainless steel, it’s also less expensive. It’s mostly used for commercial kitchen equipment and appliances including backsplashes, cookware and food prep surfaces that don't need to be very robust. Aluminium is used in cookware with non-stick coatings because it reacts with acidic food and can alter its taste.

The benefits of aluminium

Aluminium is a newer contender gaining popularity for its lightness and excellent thermal conductivity. It's often the material of choice for pots and pans, but its benefits extend beyond cookware.

  • Lightweight and flexible: Aluminium is easy to move and shape, making it ideal for mobile kitchens and custom projects.
  • Superior heat conduction: With aluminium, heat is distributed quickly and evenly, which is perfect for cooking.
  • Cost-effective: Aluminium is generally more affordable than stainless steel, making it a budget-friendly option.
  • Recyclable: Aluminium is an environmentally friendly material, with a high recyclability rate.

The limitations of aluminium

  • Durability concerns: Compared to stainless steel, aluminium is not as hardy and can be easily dented or scratched.
  • Chemical reactivity: Aluminium can react with acidic or alkaline foods, affecting taste and potentially posing a health risk.
  • Oxidation: It tends to tarnish over time and may discolour food or be more challenging to clean.

Comparing stainless steel to aluminium appliances

Choosing between stainless steel and aluminium for kitchen equipment depends on the specific piece and its purpose.

Food preparation equipment

For worktables , sinks and other surfaces, stainless steel's durability and ease of cleaning make it an industry favourite. But for small appliances or mobile workstations, the lightweight nature of aluminium could be a significant advantage.

Cooking equipment

Large-scale industrial kitchen appliances like stoves and ovens are typically made from stainless steel. This is because it’s a sturdy material resistant to abrasion, moisture and chemicals. The heat resistance of stainless steel, which helps retain heat within an oven and keeps the kitchen from overheating, is another important benefit of choosing this material for ranges and ovens. Additionally, it's an extremely easy-to-clean material.

Because aluminium has excellent heat conductivity, it's commonly used for appliances like waffle makers and donut makers . Waffle makers are usually made through a process called die casting, where molten aluminium is injected into a mold. Waffle makers and donut makers with an aluminium baking tray often contain a non-stick coating to enhance easy cleaning.

Refrigeration equipment

Most kitchen appliances that require structural support are made from stainless steel, which is one of the strongest and most corrosion-resistant materials. This is why it's commonly utilised in commercial fridges and freezers . Stainless steel is also heat resistant, which helps to maintain the interior temperature of refrigeration units.

However, aluminium is commonly used to coat the inside of refrigerators since it's corrosion-resistant. It's also one of the least expensive and lightest materials. Additionally, aluminum uses less energy to cool appliances than stainless steel since it’s more resistant to lower temperatures.

Factors to consider when deciding 

When deliberating between stainless steel and aluminium, several key factors should guide your choice.

Budget and cost

Aluminium is cheaper to buy and install, but stainless steel lasts longer, which may make up for the higher initial cost.

Specific requirements

Consider the needs of your food and menu. Stainless steel is excellent for maintaining food integrity, while aluminium's heat transfer benefits may be more critical, especially for dishes that require precision.

Maintenance and cleaning

Aluminium can tarnish and be more challenging to clean, whereas stainless steel can maintain its appeal with thorough but straightforward maintenance.

Health and safety

Food safety is vital in professional kitchens. While stainless steel's non-porous surface is an advantage for hygiene, aluminium's reactivity with food can be a disadvantage.

Stainless Steel or Aluminium?

In summary, the decision between stainless steel and aluminium is complex and relies on your specific cooking needs. Stainless steel is perfect for busy kitchens that need strong and clean materials as it's durable and hygienic. For businesses that want cost and efficiency, especially in mobile or custom kitchen setups, aluminium is the best metal.

To choose the right material for your restaurant, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages of different materials. Additionally, think about what your kitchen needs and the cost in the long run. If you're unsure, ask a kitchen equipment expert like Maxima for advice that takes into account your specific business situation.

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