You may be wondering what the difference between the materials used for making grill grates is. The different grills are fitted with different types of cooking grates, the most popular being cast iron, stainless steel, and porcelain-enameled.
You should take into consideration what the grill grates are made of when choosing a new grill because it is the cooking surface that will come into direct contact with your food.
The best grill grates need to be durable, safe, non-stick, easy to clean and provide, and even heat transfer while retaining the heat for as long as possible.
Here are the main features of the most popular types of grill grates and everything you need to know for picking the most suitable ones.
What types of grill grates are there?
Most grill grates are constructed of stainless steel, cast iron, or these metals but porcelain coated.
Here are the key features of each of these three main types of grill grates, along with their pros and cons.
Made of stainless steel
The stainless steel grates are among the most affordable of all options. They are lightweight, which makes them easier to move to access the coal or to clean them.
Stainless steel grates heat up fast but are not as good at retaining the heat as the other materials used.
High-grade stainless steel is durable and highly resistant to corrosion, but what may come as a surprise to some it is not 100% corrosion-proof. So, you can expect that the grates of your grill will begin degrading over time due to the regular use, the grease, the scrubbing, and the weather elements.
When it begins corroding, the stainless steel cooking grate can cause the food to stick to it during the grilling due to the rougher surface.
- Stainless steel grates are lighter and easier to move than cast iron ones
- They heat up very quickly
- These grates are highly corrosion resistant when they are new
- They are not as expensive as others
- They are not as good at retaining the heat because they are thinner than others
- They will degrade and corrode over time
- When they corrode, the results of the wear and tear can make the food stick to the grates
Made of cast iron
Cast iron cooking grates are thicker and provide excellent heat retention, which means even temperature without hot and cold spots throughout the grilling, as well as beautiful sear marks.
But due to their thickness, cast iron grill grates take longer to preheat than the stainless steel ones.
Also, because of its thickness and weight, a cast iron grate is harder to lift up and move, and thus the access to the coals can be harder than with a grill with a lightweight stainless steel cooking grate.
Another downside of this type of grill grates is that cast iron needs a lot more maintenance, including immediate scraping and cleaning after use and then seasoning with oil while the cooking surface is still warm. This is because cast iron has a porous surface that opens up when heated and is prone to rust if left without cleaning and oiling.
But on the bright side, if you take proper care of your cast iron grill grates, they will last for years.
- Excellent heat retention
- Even cooking temperature
- When properly maintained, cast iron grates are very durable
- You can expect to achieve gorgeous sear marks on grates made of cast iron
- Cast iron is heavy, so it is harder to lift up to access the coals
- The porous surface is prone to corrosion if not cleaned and seasoned regularly
- They require more maintenance than many of the other grill grates
- These grates have to be seasoned after every use in order to ensure that the food does not stick
With enamel coating
Enamel-coated grill grates are either cast iron or stainless steel grates, which are coated with smooth porcelain enamel. The coating helps protect the metal surface of the cooking grate from corrosion and also makes it non-stick.
While enamel-coated grill grates are easy to maintain, non-stick, and can be cleaned quickly, there are some downsides to this type of grates. The enamel also helps improve the heat retention of stainless steel grill grates.
The main drawback is that the enamel coating is quite delicate and can be scratched or chipped during cleaning or use. This will cause the grates to lose their non-stick functionality and can also cause rusting of the metal underneath the coating.
- It makes the grill grates non-stick and easy to clean
- It helps prevent the corrosion of the metal
- Boosts the heat retention of coated stainless steel grates
- The enamel can easily be chipped and damaged when not cleaned and handled with care
- When it becomes damaged, the grates lose their non-stick and corrosion-proof properties
Which grill grates are the best option?
As you can see, all of the main types of grill grates have their pros and cons, so the question is – which ones are the best of all?
The answer to this question depends on your personal preferences, as well as how much time and energy you are willing to spend to keep the grates clean and properly maintained.
Cast iron grates are incredibly durable, but only if they are maintained regularly. This means heating them up to burn off the residue and then scraping them from any debris after each use. Plus, in the end, you will need to season them with oil to prevent them from corroding, and to ensure that they are non-stick. But as a whole, they are among the most durable of all. Provide excellent heat retention and beautiful sear marks. Thick cast iron grates are among the top choices when it comes to grilling
delicate foods such as thin chicken or fish fillets.
Stainless steel is light and easy to lift and move. It preheats fast but doesn’t have the retention of cast iron. Still, stainless steel grates are inexpensive, relatively easy to maintain, and will allow you to make gorgeous sear marks.
As for the enamel-coated grates, they are very easy to clean and maintain, but they are also very easily damaged. Once the enamel has cracked, there is no way to stop the corrosion underneath and the sticking of the food.
Still, if you are careful with them, enamel-coated grill grates are an excellent choice.
Related: How to Season Cast Iron Grill Grates?
Is there an upgrade available?
The good news is that you don’t have to throw away or replace your grill if the grates become damaged or if you are not happy with how they perform.
There is a superb innovative alternative for all types of grill grates – namely, the GrillGrate.
These reasonably priced grill grates come in panels that are made of hard-anodized aluminum, which is known for its corrosion resistance, quick preheating, temperature amplification, and even temperature retention.
These alternative aluminum grill grates are compatible with different gas and charcoal grills and with pellet smokers.
They are capable of increasing the temperature of the cooking surface and holding it even without cold or hot spots.
These grates help collect the juices and grease from the meat and food, vaporize them back to infuse the food with more flavor and moistness, and prevent flare-ups and deep cleaning.
Their design allows for making steakhouse-quality sear marks.
So, if you want to invest in better quality grill grates without having to replace your whole grill or upgrade to a higher-end one, then these GrillGrate could be the most suitable solution for you.
How to clean and take care of the grill grates?
Many people prefer stainless steel grates due to their lightweight and ease of cleaning. The easiest way to ensure that these grates are clean and ready for the next use is to burn off any leftover residue with the help of aluminum foil and then use a nylon brush to scrape off any leftover debris.
Related: How to Clean A Rusty Grill [Step by Step Guide]
Cast iron grates need to be cleaned and seasoned after each use if you want them to last for a long time and perform as expected.
So, after you are ready with the cooking, try to burn off as much of the stuck food and residue from the grate. After that, use a good-quality grill brush and scraper to remove any remaining debris.
Since cast iron grates have a porous surface, it is essential that you use oil to season them after cleaning the grates.
The most efficient way to season your cast iron grate is to apply a thin coat of vegetable oil using a towel or other when the grate is still warm.
Since the enamel can easily be damaged when not handled properly, you should avoid using scrapers and use a brass bristle grill brush instead to clean the grates after use.
You should also make sure that you don’t drop the grates because this can cause cracking of the enamel coating as well.
Check lour comprehensive guide on how to clean grill grates
In the end, we have to say that even though cast iron grill grates require the most maintenance, they are our preferred type of cooking grates due to their durability, excellent heat retention, and non-stick qualities.
Still, it is a matter of personal preference when it comes to which grill grates are the best.