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Choosing the Right Grill Grate Metal

Time to Read: 2 m 55s

For DIYers who are dreaming of a well-seared, juicy steak cooked to perfection on their homemade barbeque grill or firepit, one consideration is the metal to choose for the grill grate. The choice of material is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for this project, so don’t rush ahead without doing a bit of research.

stainless steel grill grate

Desirable characteristics for your grate may compete, so it’s important to study the characteristics of each material in order to make an informed decision.

Most people would agree on the following characteristics for a grill grate:

  • It should provide good heat transfer to cook evenly and produce great sear marks.
  • It should be non-stick or at least relatively easy to clean – because who wants to waste time scrubbing the grill after enjoying the world’s greatest steak?
  • Plus, it needs to be strong and durable, so that hopefully it lasts as many years as your grill. Flames and heat can wear down a thin, low quality metal grill, cutting short its useful life.

Now, here are the basic choices for grill grate material:

  • stainless steel
  • porcelain enameled steel
  • plain tempered or chrome-plated steel
  • cast iron
  • porcelain enameled cast-iron
​Of these, the most durable materials with the highest heat capacity are cast iron and stainless steel.

grill grate on top of fire However, the two materials are quite different, and each has benefits and drawbacks.

Cast Iron Grill Grate

Everyone is familiar with Grandma’s well-seasoned cast iron pan and cast iron grill grates offer the same gourmet performance. Many grilling purists would have nothing else. For one thing, cast iron holds a lot of heat, allowing it to produce a mouth-watering pattern of sear marks. The oily seasoning helps prevent food from sticking, And cast iron can last a lifetime, if properly cared for.

One drawback of cast iron grates is the maintenance required. Like Grandma’s pan, plain cast iron needs to be seasoned before use and then cleaned and oiled regularly. Keeping up with the maintenance will help prevent the cast iron from rusting. You may want to bring it inside when it’s not going to be used for awhile. 

But if you don’t want the bother, choose cast iron coated with a porcelain enamel. Just be aware that over time the coating may develop cracks, which allow water to reach the metal beneath, eventually leading to rust. Plus, the coating prevents those great grill marks and dampens the sizzle when the meat hits the grill.

Stainless Steel Grill Grates

Most low-cost grill grates are made of plain or plated steel. These won’t last long in the heat and will eventually warp, rust and begin to stick. Stainless steel is a much sturdier material that resists corrosion and prevents food sticking.

Stainless may not be as glamorous as cast iron grill grates. But the benefits of stainless are many, especially for an outdoor appliance, because it can better withstand the elements. The metal heats up quickly, though it won’t hold as much heat as cast iron, so once the heat source is removed, cooking slows down. Stainless steel grates are long lasting, require very little maintenance, and won’t rust or corrode. If they darken over time, the stain can usually be removed with a grill brush.

Which metal will you choose for your grill grate? It’s a tradeoff. But either way, be sure to keep it well maintained, and it will give you years of service.

Industrial Metal Supply stocks a wide range of metal and metalworking supplies, including cast iron bars and 304 & 316 stainless steel round tube. Stop by one of our seven locations today.
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