Stainless steel is the hero to industries that require sturdy, dependable, sanitary products to keep materials clean and safe for human consumption. It’s in our kitchens and on our dinner tables, needles are crafted out of it, as are surgical implants. At Skolnik, we produce stainless steel, crevice-free, seamless process drums, perfect for personal care and pharmaceutical products or on your food processing line.
But what is it that makes stainless steel…. stainless? Why is it good for handling food? And what is the difference between “304” and “316” type steels?
First, the science behind the steel. Steel is an attractive material in general because it’s lightweight while maintaining excellent strength. The down side to regular steel is that has a tendency to pass on a metallic taste, and more importantly, it corrodes quite easily. Exposed to any amount of moisture, steel generates iron oxide and, over time, regular steel rusts away.
The solution, however, starts with one element: chromium. The same element used in making your car wheels shiny is also the key to making stainless steel work. By smelting a steel alloy that involves at least 10.5% Chromium, the resulting metal spontaneously generates a microscopic layer of chrome oxide, an inert, self-repairing film that protects the metal below. Thus, manufacturers such as ourselves are able take advantage of the strength and durability of steel, while resisting much of the corrosion and unpleasant taste that plague many other metals. This makes it a great material for food-safe applications.
Just what qualifies for “food-safe” though? According to the FDA, “materials that are used in the construction of utensils and food contact surfaces of equipment::
- Must not allow the migration of ‘deleterious substances or impart colors, odors, or tastes’ to food […]
- Be ‘durable, corrosion-resistant, and nonabsorbent’ […]
- Possess sufficient ‘weight and thickness to withstand repeated warewashing’ […]
- Be ‘finished to have a smooth, easily cleanable surface’ [and]
- Have resistance to ‘pitting chipping crazing, scratching, scoring, distortion, and decomposition’.”
With chrome oxide perpetually preventing harm, stainless steel is up for the food-safe task, which is why we use in such products as our process drums. It’s sturdiness and ability to withstand sanitation processes while resisting passing on unwanted substances makes it ideal to store food-safe products.
Now, all stainless steel is not made equal. While a major component may be chromium, there are many variations the chemical composition of the alloy, each with their advantages and disadvantages. For example, there is 18/8, named for its 18% chromium and 8% nickel composition. At Skolnik, we use types 304 and 316. 304 has the same 18% chromium, 8% nickel mix that 18/8 has, but 316 has 16% chromium, 10% nickel, and 2% mollybdenum. While 304 is more cost effective and plenty corrosion-resistant, the addition of mollybdenum to 316 helps fight against corrosive salts, something 304 is not as good at resisting.
Which type of drum you use is going to depend on what you need them for, and we are more than happy to help you find the right fit for your project, but no matter which type you go with, if you buy from Skolnik you’ll be getting high quality, food-grade products made out of the best stainless steel that will keep you and your customers safe.