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Aluminum Basics

Aluminum is a silvery white and ductile metal that is soft and easily formed. It's the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust and the third most abundant element overall. It makes up about 8% by weight of the Earth's solid surface. Aluminum is commonly used in the foodservice industry in cookware and bakeware and is a great conductor of heat.

Grades of Aluminum

It's important to have the correct Grade/Alloy to achieve the best results for each food service application. Let's take a look at a few grades that are commonly used in foodservice.



1100, 99% Soft and forms easily. Can't withstand tough commercial duty applications or high heat without warping. Items made of this material dent and scratch easily.
3003, 1 to 1.5% manganese Easily formed. Items of this material typically hold up extremely well during normal use, but can be too soft for heavy commercial use like cookware.
3004, 1 to 1.5% manganese and about 1% magnesium More difficult to form than 1100 or 3003. Much more impervious to severe use and tougher and longer lasting than 3003. 3004 is used for quality cookware, bakeware, and tougher commercial equipment applications.

Aluminum cookware


Benefits of Aluminum

NON-CORROSIVE Like stainless steel, aluminum has a higher resistance to oxidation and corrosion due to passivation.

LIGHTWEIGHT AND STRONG Unlike most other metals, aluminum is very light weight and strong, particularly when blended with alloying elements. This is perfect for structural parts and equipment housings, as well as heavy gauge cookware.

GREAT HEAT CONDUCTOR Excellent thermal conductivity make aluminum a good material for cookware and equipment where you need heat conductivity.

LOWER COST This make it a popular material for food service applications.


Aluminum is widely used in the china segment of the foodservice industry. It is used as an additive to the raw materials of china to add strength to thin wall finer china, providing greater strength without making the china heavy or clunky. Aluminum works well since it melts at 1221 degrees F and fully vitrified china is kiln baked between 1400-2200 degrees F.

Aluminum is also found in housings for larger foodservice equipment items, such as slicers, mixers, and horizontal cutter/mixers. As previously mentioned, it is also common in pots, pans, and bakeware. Essentially, aluminum is used anywhere in the foodservice industry where a strong, light, easily constructed material is needed. Since aluminum is a non-ferrous alloy, aluminum cookware can not be used with induction cooking equipment as this technology relies on ferrous magnetism to transmit heat.

Stainless vs Aluminum Differences

  • Strength - Stainless Steels are harder materials. Stainless is harder to form than aluminum.
  • Weight - Stainless is much heavier than Aluminum.
  • Thermal Conductivity - Aluminum has much better thermal conductivity than stainless steel, providing even heat distribution.
  • Price - Aluminum is generally less expensive than Stainless Steels.