Metal baskets are a familiar item in foodservice. They’re versatile, durable, and come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, and designs. They’re used for fried appetizers, bread baskets, shared dishes, and entrées. But with so many choices out there, how do you even know where to begin looking for the right metal foodservice basket for your operation?
We’re going to help you get started by exploring some of the coatings commonly used on metal baskets for foodservice. Why? Because most metal baskets used in foodservice are made from low carbon steel, which can easily corrode. For that reason, it’s almost always coated with a food-safe material.
By starting with understanding common foodservice metal basket coatings, you can narrow down which qualities are most important to your operation and move forward from there.
What is Low Carbon Steel?
This metal may not be as familiar to you as other food-safe metals like stainless steel, aluminum, or cast iron, but it’s frequently used for front-of-the-house tabletop accessories and point-of-purchase displays. European chefs enjoy a line of low carbon steel frying pans, which require seasoning similar to cast iron pieces, but it’s generally not used for cookware in the states. Low carbon steel is less expensive than other metals, but is also more susceptible to corrosion, which is why it’s almost always coated in a food-safe material.
Four popular coatings typically used on low carbon steel:
- Chrome Dipped
- Black Powder
- Powder-Coated Polyethylene (PE)
Coating Options for Foodservice Metal Baskets
All good choices, each of the popular coating options have different qualities that may impact your foodservice operation in different areas. Broadly speaking, here are some best practices for your metal foodservice baskets:
- Hand wash
- Use a food-safe paper liner in baskets for food contact
- Air dry after every wash
- Use bleach or harsh sanitizers
- Use abrasive scouring pads to scrub
Chrome-Coated Metal Foodservice Baskets
Chrome-coated foodservice baskets look a lot like stainless steel, resulting in a higher-end look. This can help to elevate your brand positioning and perception in your guests’ eyes. They may even be willing to pay a bit more for dishes served in a vessel they perceive to be more lavish than some other options out there. The exciting news here is that chrome-coated foodservice baskets are typically less expensive than stainless steel.
To apply a chrome coat, baskets are dipped in a liquid bath. This process results in a thorough coating of the basket and rarely misses any spots.
Chrome coating stands up well in high-volume foodservice environments and doesn’t chip, crack, or nick easily. These kinds of metal food-safe baskets usually have a long service life. However, if you notice wear and tear on your coating after a while, it’s probably time to retire that basket. You don’t want to get any chrome flecks in your guests’ food.
Chrome is a harder material than some of the others used for coating metal foodservice baskets. In some cases, the harder material results in more pronounced edges which can scratch some surfaces. That’s something to take into consideration if you have delicate tabletops. However, most foodservice institutions’ tabletops can withstand these kinds of baskets.
Black Powder-Coated Metal Foodservice Baskets
Black powder coating is a great economical option. The coating is applied using the powder coating process, which is sprayed onto the basket rather than the basket being dipped into the coating. The Powder Coating Institute says:
“This application method uses a spray gun, which applies an electrostatic charge to the powder particles, which are then attracted to the grounded part. After application of the powder coating, the parts enter a curing oven where, with the addition of heat, the coating chemically reacts to produce long molecular chains…”
Black powder-coated metal foodservice baskets have a sleek look and a matte finish. They’re scratch-resistant, but they’ll corrode overtime. This means that you’ll likely have to replace these kinds of baskets more often than stainless steel-, chrome- or PE-coated metal baskets. But with the lower price point, that may even out in the long run.
They’re a great option for fast-casual restaurants with a self-serve model. That service model usually includes using metal baskets for almost all menu items, and having the guest throw away their own trash before they leave. If you’ve ever operated a restaurant like this, you know how easy it is for these baskets to accidentally end up in the trashcan. In short, if you have high turnover rates for your metal baskets, black powder coating may be a great option.
Polyethylene (PE) Coating on Metal Foodservice Baskets
PE coating is another popular option, in part because it can easily be applied with a custom color. It’s applied using the same thorough dipping method as chrome coating.
One of the biggest differences between chrome and PE coating is the feel. Chrome, of course, feels like metal because it is metal. PE coating is thicker and feels like a mix of rubber and plastic because the material is not as hard as chrome.
Softer than chrome coating, PE is not likely to scratch surfaces. It will, however, chip, flake, or nick more easily than chrome, which means its service life can be a little shorter. Like we mentioned, if you notice chipping, flaking or nicking, it’s time to retire your metal foodservice basket. Not only can those chips get in your guests’ food, but low carbon steel will begin to corrode when it’s exposed to air and water.
PE is also a great choice because it resists heat. If you have poolside, patio, or deck dining, this is a great option because it won’t get hot in the sun.
Teflon™-Coated Metal Foodservice Baskets
Teflon™ is known for its durability and non-stick qualities. When it’s applied to metal foodservice baskets, it brings those qualities along. However, it’s an expensive option, which means it’s not used as frequently for high-volume foodservice as some of the other coatings discussed.
Typically when food is served in a metal basket, a food-safe paper liner separates the food from the basket. If you go that route, Teflon™'s non-stick quality won't do much to improve your operation because food contact surface is the paper liner, not the Teflon™. However, you may find great value in Teflon’s™ durability and easy clean-ability.
Whether or not Teflon™ is right for your operation just depends on what you’re looking for.
Food-Safe Paper Basket Liners
Food-safe paper basket liners are almost always used in conjunction with food served in metal baskets, so we’ll touch briefly on it here.
Pictured: food-safe waxed paper basket liners
Using a food-safe paper basket liner does several things for your guests and operation alike:
- Keeps servers’ hands and other surfaces from coming into contact with food through the spaces in the basket
- Keeps servers’ and guests’ hands clean when handling baskets
- If you’re serving something with a sauce, a food-safe paper liner keeps the sauce contained
- Adds aesthetic appeal
- Design options can be used to create themed tabletops
Another great reason to use a food-safe paper liner instead of serving your food directly in a metal basket is because food can get caught in the small spaces where the rows of metal intersect. Using a high-heat commercial dishwasher should kill any germs, but it’s always possible that a small amount of food sticks around.
Using a food-safe paper liner generally reduces the occurrence of cross-contamination and is regarded as a best practice. This additional item is something you should consider including in your search for metal foodservice baskets.
Custom Capabilities of Metal Foodservice Baskets
The flexibility of low carbon steel lends itself to customization. Different sizes and shapes are available. Some examples of this may be incorporating a branded theme into your basket, like small, medium, and large guitar-shaped baskets for a music-themed operation, or a paw print shape for a dog-friendly patio café.
If this is attractive to you, keep in mind that developing a custom shape will add to your order fulfillment time and overall cost. Here at G.E.T., we have in-house experts who can help you develop a customized size or shape for your metal foodservice basket with sound structural integrity.
We hope this insight on the coating options available for metal foodservice baskets helps you find the right fit for your operation. At the very least, you should now know where to start your search for the perfect metal tabletop solution. If you'd like to learn more about the different grades of stainless steel, we recommend "Grades of Stainless Steel & What They Mean for Your Foodservice Operation."