The most important decision for your outdoor kitchen project is the cabinetry material. The best material will be durable in a variety of climates with limited maintenance. When considering outdoor kitchen materials, metal is the best choice due to its long term durability in the outdoors.
In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of two popular metals for outdoor kitchens: aluminum and stainless steel. At Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens, we pioneered the use of stainless steel outdoor cabinets. With the addition of a powder coat finish, stainless steel is the longest lasting material for outdoor kitchens.
Aluminum is a common choice for outdoor applications. It does not contain iron, which means it will not rust when exposed to moisture. Although the surface can corrode, aluminum can be powder coated to add beauty and maintain its appearance.
Despite its outdoor durability, aluminum has drawbacks when used for outdoor cabinets. It is a very soft and lightweight metal, meaning it can dent easily. This type of damage will compromise the structural integrity of the cabinet boxes, so the doors may not close properly.
It also conducts heat very well, and it has a lower melting point than other metals. These properties make it a less attractive option for grill cabinets, as it is more prone to negative effects from heat.
Stainless Steel Cabinets
Stainless steel contains iron, which is susceptible to rusting outdoors. However, it also contains at least 10.5% of the element chromium, which assists with rust prevention. To maintain its appearance, bare stainless steel should be cleaned regularly. Like aluminum, it can be powder coated to further limit maintenance.
Stainless steel is a versatile material because it is available in many grades. For outdoor kitchens, 304 and 316 grades are commonly used. 316 is especially useful in coastal applications for its enhanced corrosion resistance.
It is a highly durable material, especially near sources of heat. When used outdoors, it remains durable and structurally sound with regular maintenance.
Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel: Which Metal is Better?
An outdoor kitchen is a long term investment. The best metal for the outdoors will be resistant to weather effects, have structural integrity, and will be easy to maintain. When comparing aluminum vs. stainless steel, stainless steel is the clear winner for outdoor kitchen cabinetry. Stainless steel is a structurally sound material that will withstand everyday wear and tear.
Both aluminum and stainless steel require regular maintenance to retain their finishes in the outdoor environment. Neither option is fully resistant to degrading. Since both metals can be powder coated to limit maintenance, they require similar upkeep.
In that respect, the choice can come down to color and style options in the outdoor kitchen market. Danver offers over 40 powder coat finishes for our stainless steel cabinetry, which is far above the industry standard. We also have a selection of door styles to choose from to further enhance the aesthetics of the project.
As mentioned, aluminum is lighter and less dense than stainless steel. These properties are detrimental to the structural integrity of cabinet boxes if damage occurs. It is much easier to dent and damage aluminum than stainless steel. A dented cabinet door will affect how the door closes, as well as the weather resistance of the cabinetry.
A final consideration is how both materials conduct heat. It is important for outdoor kitchen cabinetry materials to handle high temperatures (400-600 degrees F) without warping or melting.
A drawback of aluminum is that it absorbs heat easily. As such, it is susceptible to warping and losing strength with repeated exposure to cooking temperatures. Stainless steel handles heat very well and will not crack or warp, making it a much better option for outdoor kitchens.
The cabinetry material is the most important consideration for your outdoor kitchen project. Both aluminum and stainless steel can be powder coated in a variety of finishes, and they require similar upkeep outdoors.
Stainless steel is a superior material because it is stronger, denser, more durable, and handles heat better than aluminum. An aluminum outdoor kitchen is likely to require replacement of components far sooner than a stainless steel outdoor kitchen. For these reasons, a stainless steel outdoor kitchen is the best choice for long term value.
Ready to invest in your next outdoor kitchen project? Contact us to learn why stainless steel is the superior material for the outdoors.
This article is based on industry knowledge and research by outdoor kitchen design professionals, including our in-house experts and engineers with decades of experience.
Our goal at Danver is to provide factual information on relevant topics to help readers make informed decisions about their outdoor living spaces.
This article uses trusted sources with references hyperlinked to the source material.