Stainless Steel Grill Grates vs. Cast Iron | Everything You Need to Know

Another day, another debate: this time we’re pitting cast iron grill grates against stainless steel varieties. Since the grate is the only part of the grill your food touches, many pit masters agree it’s an element you shouldn’t overlook.

Whether you’re replacing warped grates or you’ve bought a grill with grates you don’t like, the following list of pros and cons will help you pick a clear winner and settle the debate faster.

charcoal in portable grill

Cast iron grill grates

Pros:

  • Although cast iron takes longer to heat up, it’s molecular structure makes it incredibly efficient at retaining and transmitting heat for long periods.
  • Cast iron grill grates create excellent grill marks. If you’re a stickler for those delicious-looking definitive lines, this factor might boost the value of cast iron grates for you.
  • Some manufacturers produce their grates with a porcelain coating, which can make them easier to clean and maintain.

Cons:

  • Cast iron grates not only take more effort to clean than many other materials, but you need to brush them immediately after cooking and then oil them while they’re still warm. While you’re taking care of this task, your food could be getting cold.
  • To prevent corrosion and rust, cast iron requires a rigorous seasoning and maintenance routine.
  • Superior cast iron grill grates can be pricey.
  • Contrary to popular belief, cast iron grates do not become non-stick like griddles and pans. The oil that nestles in this porous metal tends to burn off over the high heat of the grill. Any non-stick properties are also scrapped off when you brush off the grease and food residue.
how to clean cast iron grill grates
Photo: David Reber

Stainless steel grill grates

Pros:

  • Stainless steel does not corrode or rust as easily as iron, making it a highly durable metal.
  • Thin grates let through a greater amount of radiant heat, which allows for even browning rather than dark grill marks. An overall golden crust is a preferable outcome for many grill masters.
  • Stainless steel grill grates are super easy to clean and maintain, which makes them perfect for cooks who prefer low maintenance kitchen and backyard tools.

Cons:

  • Stainless steel does not retain heat as well as cast iron.
  • Even though it won’t affect the taste of your food, these grates tend to discolor over time.
  • They can be confused with nickel-plated or chrome-plated grates, which are not as durable.
  • Cheaper stainless steel will need to be replaced more often. Although they can cost more upfront, it’s best to purchase a high-end brand for increased longevity.

The verdict

Grates should be strong, resilient, and durable no matter which metal you choose. However, your decision really boils down to a maintenance issue. If you’re willing to put in the extra effort for cast iron, then go for it. Otherwise, save yourself the hassle and stick with stainless steel… do you agree? 


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