What Is the Best Material for BBQ Grill Grates?

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There are many options when it comes to the best material for your BBQ grill grates.  When it comes down to it, the best option will be unique to you and your requirements.  We each have things we value more in a product than others.  This guide will help you deicide what the best grill grates material is for you.

Materials for BBQ Grill Grates

When it comes to the materials for your BBQ grill grates, there are a few different options:
  • Steel or Stainless Steal
  • Cast Iron
  • Porcelain Enameled (Steel or Cast Iron)
Let’s take a look at each type of material, and its properties.

Steel or Stainless Steel BBQ Grill Grates

Steel or stainless steel is a very common material for grill grates.  The difference between steel and stainless steel is the addition of other metals.  Stainless steel has chromium added to it, so that it won’t get rusty.  Because of this, stainless steel is a very popular choice when it comes to cooking in general for pots and pans, as well as grill grates.  You will mostly see stainless steel on the market.
Steel is an alloy made of iron and carbon as a base.  Stainless steel adds chromium to prevent rust and corrosion, so it is just another form of steel alloy.  The addition of these metals allows it to conduct heat well.

Cast Iron Grill Grates

Like steel, cast iron is an alloy made of iron and carbon, but with a different ratio.  It has a lower melting point than stainless steel, and true to its name, melted iron is poured into a mold (or cast) to create the finished product – hence the name cast iron.  It is also very popular for cookware since it conducts heat so well, however, it does not have chromium in it like stainless steel.
This means cast iron is prone to rust, and must be cared for accordingly.
However, because it retains its heat, it can give better grill lines at lower temperature.
The difference between stainless steel grill grates and cast iron grill grates comes down to a few things:
  • Stainless steel is easier to clean and maintain than cast iron
  • Cast iron holds its temperature better than stainless steel
  • Cast iron is heavier than stainless steel

Porcelain Grill Grates

Porcelain grill grates are just steel or cast iron grill grates that have been coated with porcelain.
Yes, that same porcelain that your kitchen or bathroom tiles are made out of!  This means they are prone to chipping if they are hit with metal or dropped.
You can read our in-depth article about porcelain grill grates here.

Determining the Best Grill Grates Material

Now that you know a bit about the different types of grill grates materials, let’s help you decide what the best grill grates are for you.
Here are the things you must consider:
  • Type of grill and heat being used
  • Cleaning and maintaining your grill grates
  • Weight of your grill grates
The best BBQ grill grates material will depend on all of these factors.  I have used every grill grate material at some point, and here is what I have found in my grills and here is what I have found.

Grilling Temperature:

  • If you are grilling at high temperatures (600 degrees F+) stainless steel will sear meat and make grill lines just fine.
  • If you are grilling at lower temperatures, cast iron or porcelain grill grates will give better grill lines.

Care and Maintenance:

  • If you want the lowest maintenance grill grate that can take the most abuse, stainless steel is the best choice.
  • Next is porcelain, but you still need to be careful when cleaning it.
  • Cast iron grill grates take the most effort to maintain, just like a cast iron pan.

I have had cast iron grill grates on my Weber Genesis for the last two years.  Guess what?  I did not maintain them, and it is time to buy some new grill grates!

Grill Grate Weight:

  • Stainless steel is the lightest grill grate, followed by porcelain enameled stainless steel.
  • Cast iron is significantly heavier, and porcelain enabled cast iron is the heaviest due to the coating.
Weight is an important factor if you will be changing of the position of the grill grates while they are hot.  While a good pair of heat resistant gloves are an absolute must, you will still be close to the heat source!  Lighter grill grates are quicker to switch out than heavier ones!
There really is no wrong choice when it comes to your grill grates – they all operate in a similar fashion, it is just a matter of your preference, your requirements, and sometimes what your grill comes with.
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