Cooking grates are an essential part of your bbq grill, and whether it is a gas grill, charcoal grill or electric grill… you will need grates. Simple. They are usually already provided with your grilling unit and you probably considered the grates’ material while choosing your bbq, but did you dig further into what types of grill grate materials are there? And which one is the best grill grate material ?
You landed on the perfect place to check out all of this, and don’t worry, most likely the grates on your grill can be changed in case you decide to opt for a new material, but hopefully you already have the one that best suits your needs.
First of all, what are the main cooking grates materials available? There are three main ones: stainless steel, cast iron and porcelain (usually porcelain coated). The likelihood of you having already one of this is pretty high. Even if they look similar, and the differences might not be easily noticed by somebody who’s not an expert, there are key differentiating points which play in favour of one material or the other. You mainly need to be looking at the built, the longevity and the maintenance.
Let’s go together through these materials:
Stainless steel grates
Heavy duty stainless steel grates are very common on the market and are very practical. If you pick some good quality ones, and you look after them properly, they will last in time and work perfectly. They are quite light in terms of weight, so they are easy to operate and manoeuvre. Their usual smooth finishing also allows you to be able to clean them relatively easily when needed. They will make a perfect option for a portable grill for example. They are solid and thanks to their light weight, they will heat up quickly, but because of that same reason, heat retention will not be the best.
Also, regular usage and cleaning will lead to some damage to the surface, which will then become a bit tougher to clean. The food is also likely to stick to the grates, which means that regular upkeep and cleaning is needed to avoid any build up. High quality stainless steel grates are corrosion resistant, however, they are not immune to it; so you will have to look out for any potential rust appearance.
Cast iron grates
Probably the most advertised material. It’s heavy, sturdy and solid which matches the common idea of good quality and durable material. Which is indeed the case. Cast iron is probably the most common material found on vintage (and some modern) bbq grills. It’s pretty heavy so it can be a bit difficult to manipulate, and even if it takes a little longer to heat up, thanks to its weight, the heat retention and heat transfer are great. If you fancy those iconic grill marks, cast iron grates are really the ones that you are looking for.
Cast iron grates are also very durable and chances are they will outlast your grill if looked after in a proper manner. That could almost be considered a drawback, but everything that lasts in time usually requires some sort of regular maintenance. In this instance, it means that you’ll need to season the grates before you use them for the first time (seasoning is done by rubbing oil on the grates) and this will need to be done periodically in order to avoid dryness, as it might cause the food to stick, and the material to fleek, which will eventually make your grates not usable anymore. A good cleaning after the use is also recommended.
Stating porcelain as a material is very common and at the same time very tricky. In fact, we should really speak of porcelain-coated steel or cast iron grates, as porcelain is mostly the finishing coating around the grill. This was made to get the benefits and sturdiness of cast-iron but adding the smooth, non-stick finishing. The mission is accomplished in this regard.
The porcelain coating is also meant to help in preventing the corrosion. However, even if porcelain enameled grates are affordable, it is essential that you don’t check exclusively the price tag as there are several qualities and if you opt for a poor one, it might get chipped very easily, which will make the grates sticky and will open the way to potential corrosion and rust. So you will have to pick good quality porcelain grates and make sure you don’t scrap them with any metal tool that’s too sharp, prefer some quality tools
As you could see, every material offers pros and cons, so it will be really a matter of personal preference when changing (or not) your grill grates. It will also depend on your cooking style, your ability to maintain those grates and your needs. The main points to remember are : Cast iron is the most solid, heat retention is great but it requires maintenance; stainless steel is easy to maintain, durable but does not retain heat as much as cast-iron; porcelain coated grates are great for their non stick abilities but the coating makes them a bit more fragile.
Best Grill Grate Material : quick facts
|Stainless steel||Cast Iron||Porcelain|
Heats up quickly
Easy to clean
Does not retain heat
Not 100% corrosion resistant
Can lose its non-sticky ability over time
Very sturdy and solid
Excellent heat transfer
Will retain heat
Will take a little longer to heat up
Fragile-prone to chipping
Can’t season it