Expanded Steel Questions

Discussion in 'Smoker Builds' started by britj, Jan 6, 2014.

  1. Hey everyone, I am still in the process of planning my build and collect materials. I started thinking about the cooking surface. All signs are pointing to expanded steel. My question(s); what thickness should I go with (reverse flow smoker), and any particular finish? just plain old expanded steel, stainless, some kind of coating?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Stainless would get expensive real quickly.  Also keep in mind that after about the 2nd smoke, the metal is going to be covered and "protected" with carbonized juice and smoke anyway.  I don't think there is much to be gained by using expensive stainless or coated steel.  Also stainless and any coated metal will be harder to work with and require specialty welding equipment (and recoating if the metal is a coated type).  Keep it simple by using plain old steel and expanded metal sheets.  Easy to weld and modify.  But this is just my opinion. 

    As long as it's not galvanized.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2014
  3. bkleinsmid

    bkleinsmid Smoking Fanatic

    [​IMG]   X2.........
  4. radioguy

    radioguy Smoking Fanatic

    Most guys use plain steel expanded metal.  It comes in varying size of "holes" and thicknesses.  You want to get the flattened type, it is rolled and flattened ....no sharp edges.  #9 thickness by 3/4" is most common for food grates.   Search Mcnichols dot com their website gives you all the options. 

    Good Luck

  5. boykjo

    boykjo Sausage maker Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member

    YEAH THAT..................
  6. Ok thanks guys. I will go with just regular old expanded metal, ill go with the 3/4 #9. I just had a fear of it rusting out. but I guess I can always replace it if needed. I am an electrician and do a lot of work at perdue chicken plants so I can get scrap pieces of stainless cheap if not free (I have about 40 ft of 3" and 4" stainless pipe in my shed along with a bunch of sheets of stainless sheetmetal). I know the size of the expanded steel that I would need would not be avail to me, small pieces yes, but that large, negative. that's the only reason I asked about what material. I still plan to have a little prep table somewhere on the trailer and will be using stainless for that.

    anyways, thanks again guys!!
  7. I use stainless expanded metal on all my cookers. They are awesome. Easy to keep clean and will last forever. If you use regular carbon mild steel they work great too. Once you get it seasoned it is important to always clean and re oil asap to prevent rust. The more you use them the better they will become. It just takes more work to get them to a point where they need little work.  Just like a cast iron skillet you have to oil before and after every use to prevent rust. Over the years I feel like stainless is more  sanitary and easier to keep up with
  8. Food for thought;

    My cost for mild steel 3/4" x9 , 4'x8' is $42.00

    My cost for stainless 3/4" x9 , 4'x 8' is around $160.00 ( goes up and down about $20.00, not sure why it fluctuates more than other products)

    And my cost for 3/8" stainless round , in 12 ft lengths is $8.32 a piece.

    The 3/8" round lets me build the grates to the exact length and depth that I want them to be, with no worries on wasting material on unusable drops, so cost wise, it's more effective than using the stainless 3/4" x 9, unless I was mass producing smokers and building all my grates the exact same size.even then, I would need to add the cost of 3/4" x 3/16" stainless steel angle to support the expanded, or weld it to mild steel angle ( no way ) .

    Just food for thought,
  9. bigwheel

    bigwheel Smoking Fanatic

    Great advice radio guy. The flattened is the only way to fly. That old sharp large bore stuff can tear a whole in a nice juicy tin foiled brisket. The Noo Yawk Crutch as its called here in God's Country.
  10. yeah If you did stainless the stainless angle is a factor if you weld to mild steel it defeats the purpose and you have a cross contamination issue with the two metals. Like Ribwizzard said rod is a great alternative if you can't do something with your drop cuts of exp metal. I used rod a few times and it was strong and looked nice.
  11. bigwheel

    bigwheel Smoking Fanatic

    The health goons in this area say folks have to use SS grates to get approved by them. Dont know many backyard types who bother with it. 
  12. SS is only if you worry about leftovers not being cleaned up and going rancid and contaminating the metal. Or if you serve to the public. Smokers do not get near as hot as a direct fired grill. Temps are no where close enough to kill germs on a burn off. Sorry if encouraging food safety is being a goon. Carbon steel is great and cheaper if you take care of it there is nothing wrong with it but there is nothing wrong with opinions based on safety for other people. Most smoker designs in general are for smoking only not design for burn offs. Not to say that you can't do it on any cooker and get it clean SS is just an extra peace of mind and if you want to get technical the whole debate is mute unless you get into NSF rated stainless. Not here in any kind off way to argue just trying to learn and share opinions. Thanks
  13. Sorry think I made a typo I meant to say NFS rated SS thanks
  14. Mild steel works fine, and I've built , owned, and cooked on plenty of smokers that had mild steel cooking grates. Here's what I've found works best with working with them:

    Go ahead and sandblast them ( never blast the stainless ones) but the mild steel ones have mill scale on them, and what I've noticed is that if you sand blast the mill scale off before seasoning mild steel expanded metal, the seasoning oils stick much better. I'm in Florida, and rust is always an issue, so I always leave to cooker dirty and wash it right before a cook. I'll take the racks out and pressure wash them from both sides. On racks that were not sandblasted, all the seasoning washes off and the racks will start to rust very quickly if I don't dry them and spray them with oil. The sandblasted and seasoned racks will keep some of the seasoning and I don't have to be in such a hurry to get them sprayed with oil, they won't rust as quickly.
  15. On the stainless steel expanded metal cookers, the only problem I've ever experienced with them is in high heat applications. Stainless steel for whatever reason will warp faster than mild steel at grilling temps. I have a 38" x 38" charcoal grill at the shop we do burgers and dogs on. We replaced the mild steel cooking grate last year with stainless steel 3/4" x 9 due to rust on the mild steel from neglect. Cooking with the same temps as before, the stainless steel will hump up in the middle where the mild steel one never did,

    The guys at the steel outlet always suggest to go up one size when replacing racks with stainless.
  16. I have not found a down side to the round stock yet. Other than the weight of the rack is much heavier, and takes more patience when fabricating to get it layer out and square and all bars parallel
  17. As far as preheating a cooker to " burn it off", your right, ...never going to get it to temps high enough to do any good.

    Like I mentioned, I always leave the cooker dirty. Other than draining off any fluids and removing all food bits, foils etc, all I do is throw one more log on after food is removed to dry it out, the when temps drop down I close up all vents and leave it be until the next time I need to cook. All those cooking fats and smoke residue will keep rust and mildew from growing inside the CC.

    Even with stainless grates, the reverse flow plate is still mild steel and will rust.

    The times I felt it was necessary to clean the cooker before storage, I'll make sure to fire it up and run it around 350* for at least an hour! spraying it with veg. Oil several times and getting it baked on there good and all water cooked off before shutting it up tight.
  18. Yeah your right Ribwizard  the whole cookers are mild steel we leave them dirty also and when we do clean we heat the metal up and take paint roller and roll vegetable oil everywhere we can. I think it takes the oil good when the metal is warm the pores are opened up to accept it. If its too hot the oil just runs off.
  19. I made a gas grill for my Sister years ago, and her Husband would complain of it rusting. He had it in his mind that every time he cooked, he would finish by running the thing at top temperature and scrub everything clean. I went back and forth on him about how he should leave it dirty until next time he cooked, but never could get it through to him that the problem was him, not the cooker. Guess the guy never owned a cast iron skillet. Finally I just gave up and they ended up leaving the thing at that house when they sold and moved. It's a shame, it was one of the nicest gas grill I ever built, the cooking grate was 1/2" round stock and it would sear a steak like you would not believe! If I knew he was such a dumb***, I would have made it stainless.
  20. That's a real shame. There is a fine line with the metal on getting too hot can definitely do more harm than good.  I think this whole thread is great. This topic is a great discussion. My wife has a cast iron skillet she inherited from her grandmother. I guess it is about 60 or 70 years old now. Not a spec of rust on it.Best flavor you can imagine. I have always tried to take care of my grills and smokers the same way she does that skillet. Seems to be so far so good after 15 years. That metal inside my old smoker is clean but solid black just like that skillet. The stainless grate has always stayed nice too we always have enjoyed it. Back too the thread I guess it just depends on how you are willing to take care of your stuff.

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