Visit any commercial kitchen in the United States and you will see plenty of stainless steel. The same is true for food and beverage manufacturing plants. Everywhere you look, you find stainless steel pots, pans, prep tables, mixing bowls, and so on. Stainless steel is literally everywhere.
This is no accident. Stainless steel possesses some properties that are ideal for food production. From durability to easy cleaning, stainless steel is incredibly attractive to both large-scale food processing and retail food service. It is more attractive than plastic, wood, and many other traditional materials.
Stainless Steel Basics
Stainless steel is a ferrous alloy made by combining iron with chromium. Different forms of stainless steel may also include nickel, aluminum, carbon, silicon, and other elements. By combining the elements in just the right formula, manufacturers can create incredibly durable metals capable of withstanding a ton of punishment.
The main attraction stainless steel offers is its resistance to corrosion. By itself, iron corrodes quite readily. That is one of the reasons cast-iron cookware has to be routinely oiled. But combine iron with chromium and you have a metal that resists corrosion. In fact, a good stainless steel product should never rust.
Stainless Steel and Commercial Food Production
Corrosion resistance is just one of the reasons that stainless steel is so popular in commercial food production. There are other reasons as well, including stainless steel’s ability to resist bacteria, mold, and other contaminants. Simply put, contaminants don’t easily thrive on a stainless steel surface.
Protecting against contamination is already tough enough when you are talking something like a food prep table. It gets considerably more difficult when you’re designing closed receptacles. For example, Texas-based CedarStoneIndustry manufactures unitanks and brite tanks for the beer brewing industry.
A brite tank is a tank used to carbonate and finish beer. A unitank is a tank that combines the functions of a fermenting tank and brite tank in a single unit. All of Cedar Stone Industry’ tanks are made of stainless steel. That is good for breweries inasmuch as the tanks are a lot easier to keep clean. They are also easy to sanitize, making the chances of contamination much lower.
Tough and Durable
Both commercial food manufacturing and retail food service put a lot of stress on tools and equipment. Going back to brewing momentarily, unitanks and brite tanks have to be able to withstand considerable internal pressure as beer is fermented, carbonated, and clarified. Stainless steel is more than capable of withstanding that pressure.
Closed-loop extraction in the cannabis industry puts similar demands on processing equipment. A closed-loop extraction tank is sealed shut and pressurized during the extraction process. You need a material tough enough to withstand the punishment. Stainless steel fits the bill.
In a commercial kitchen, a stainless steel prep table can withstand decades of daily use. It is not bothered by sharp knife blades or heavy cans full of food. It is not bothered by things being dropped or stacked on it. Stainless steel isn’t even bothered by the high temperatures commercial kitchens are known for.
A Hard-to-Replace Material
People manufactured food and brewed beer long before stainless steel was invented. But you could argue that stainless steel helped to usher in large-scale production that did not previously exist. It has gradually become a material that is hard to replace in food and beverage manufacturing.
If it were not for stainless steel, commercial kitchens and food manufacturing plants would look a lot different. Exactly what they would look like is unclear. But thanks to the availability of stainless steel, we do not have to imagine.