Whoever said all good things must come to an end clearly did not have a stainless steel toaster.

In recent years, a small, but vocal cadre of homemakers and interior designers have turned their backs on the iron-based alloy that has long been a fixture in kitchens across the country, declaring stainless steel "out." Yet, there the shiny, modern surface remains, showing up in microwaves, refrigerators and coffeemakers from Baltimore to Santa Barbara [source: Pandey].

Composed of at least 11 percent chromium, stainless steel earned its handle based on the material's natural ability to retain an unscathed, "stainless" appearance despite being subjected to a wide range of heat, splatters and spills. Its resistance to stains and corrosion as well as bacteria, make stainless steel a popular choice for kitchen appliances. It also has also come to represent a distinct, sleek look that many people associate with modern elegance [sources: Qiu, Dickinson].

Stainless steel has had a home in the kitchen for more nearly a century. "It is functional as well as good looking and timeless," says Fitzhugh Karol, an artist who makes custom furniture for interior design firm The Brooklyn Home company.

Of course, all of that timeless functionality ain't cheap. Modern elegance can come with a hefty price tag, as stainless steel appliance are typically more expensive than other types of appliances. The cost of going stainless is compounded for many kitchen dwellers who find that stainless steel appliances look their best when matched with other stainless steel appliances. In for a penny, in for a pound [source: Dickinson].

It also requires a significant amount of upkeep: While the material wards off bacteria and stains, stainless steel apparently has a soft spot for fingerprints, which must be constantly wiped off in order to keep appliances smudge-free [source: Dickinson].

So is stainless steel here to stay or will it go the way of formica and laminate? Read on to find out.