Most grill grates are not chosen by the griller. They are simply the grate that came with the grill, and it is an accepted part of the unit. However, grates come in different materials and different designs. These variables do have an impact on cooking, so consider your grill grate when choosing a barbecue.
Grill Grate Materials
Generally speaking, there are three types of grill grates: porcelain-enamel, stainless steel, and cast iron. Each offers different benefits.
Porcelain-enamel is found on some cast iron grill grates because cast iron can rust and corrode. They will hold up longer than some options but can chip and are somewhat fragile. They don’t offer a very good non-stick surface. Also, they are very fragile. They do provide even heat once warmed, so it larger cuts will cook evenly.
Pro: even heat and non-corrosive
Con: chips and not non-stick
Steel is the least expensive option among grill grates, but you usually see stainless steel. These grill grates are effective, but they wear out quicker than other options. They sort of feel cheap, and they may not provide even heat.
Con: not durable
Cast iron is a fave among grill enthusiasts because it heats evenly and offers a durable non-stick surface once seasoned. However, it can corrode and rust, which is why it is sometimes covered in porcelain.
Pro: non-stick, even heat, durable
Con: rust, more expensive
If you had to rate grill grates from worst to best, you’d begin with steel and end with cast iron. Cast iron is heavy, and as long as you don’t mind a little maintenance, it is non-stick and cooks evenly.
How do I maintain my cast iron grill grate?
- Don’t use soap. Only clean your cast iron with warm water.
- Season your grate. This means cooking some oil into it, preferably oil with a high smoke point.
- Remove any rust with a wire brush and re-season as necessary.
- Don’t leave standing water on the grate.
- Enjoy even cooking on a non-stick surface!
Any of the grill grate options above will work to cook a mighty fine steak, but the experienced barbecuer knows that quality equipment produces the best and most repeatable results. Choose your grill with care, and pay attention to what materials you are cooking with. It is a cost vs. benefit decision, and if you spend a little extra to get a quality grate, you won’t be disappointed.