Which material is better for grilling?
Have you always wondered whether stainless steel grates or cast iron grates make for better grilling? Then let’s take a trip together through the world of grilling and BBQ to find the answer.
The grate itself is the key component of a gas grill and has a major influence on the results of your summertime sizzling. The two classic types offered by gas grill manufacturers are the cast iron grill and the non-rusting stainless steel grate. But which is best for your own grill is a hotly debated topic even among well seasoned grillers. Many people feel that grates made from stainless steel are automatically better due to the higher quality material. That is only half the truth, as there are advantages and disadvantages on both sides. The intended use and the expectations of the griller are also important considerations for deciding on a grate type.
Advantages of stainless steel: The grill grate for all time
With a grate made from non-rusting stainless steel, the grill benefits from all the typical advantages of this high-quality material. Stainless steel, also known as V2A, withstands high temperature fluctuations, does not rust and is easy to clean. Less grilling residue remains stuck to the smooth surface, and the attractive look is an absolute plus for people who are serious about appearances. The material is particularly popular among professional grillers for its easy maintenance.The first and most obvious disadvantage is the cost. It is much more expensive than its competitor and must be assembled or welded.
The actual disadvantage lies in the properties of the material itself. The most commonly used V2A stainless steel with material number 1.4301 is “austenitic”. In other words, this chromium-nickel steel is less efficient at emitting heat than cast iron. Anyone relaying on a stainless steel grate should make sure that the bars are sufficiently thick. This gives the grate enough of a reserve to release sufficient heat. Thin and wire-like bars cannot supply enough energy to the grilled food, which ends in a weak branding effect. Here one must follow the motto: more is more. Bars of 5 mm diameter should be viewed as a minimum. This allows enough heat to be stored to print a beautiful pattern on the steak.
One man’s joy is another man’s sorrow
What is a disadvantage for some, can be an advantage for others. Cooks who like to grill indirectly appreciate the lower heat conductivity of austenitic stainless steels. During slow and indirect grilling, the grate does not burn as strongly into the meat, as can often occur on cast iron grates.
Summary of stainless steel grate advantages
- V2A stainless steel grill grates are essentially non-rusting and therefore last longer
- The material can be cleaned with a brush, and dish detergent can also be used on the grate
- The material is stable and withstands falls
- Perfectly suited for indirect grilling
- Visually more appealing than black cast iron grates
Disadvantages of a stainless steel grill grate
- The price is higher compared with cast iron grates
- High quality stainless steel grates are only found on more expensive grill models
- Stainless steel grates are not as effective at branding the grilled food if the metal is not thick enough due to the lower thermal conductivity
Cast iron grill grate: The better heat conductor
The significantly better thermal conductivity of cast iron makes the cast iron grate an ideal grill partner if branding is desired. In addition, the grates are inherently solidly built, which results in high heat storage.
The disadvantage of such a grate lies in its susceptibility to rusting and the associated care requirements. Cleaning with water and cleaning agent is not recommended since this would remove the protective layer of oil and regreasing would be required. If the cast iron is not sealed, it can rust. This results in unattractive spots that could even end up on the food in the worst case. If the grill is not used for a time, it is recommended that the grate be removed from the gas grill and stored dry in a greased condition.
Cast iron should also be handled carefully. Due to its porous basic structure, it is not proof against breakage, meaning that greater attention is required.
Advantages of cast iron grill grates
- The better thermal conductivity of the material allows the cast iron grate to emit heat better
- With its typically more solid construction, the cast iron grate stores more heat
- High-quality cast iron grates have V-shaped bars that can be used on both sides, depending on the desired effect
- Cast iron grates are significantly less expensive than stainless steel grates
Disadvantages of cast iron grill grates
- Cast iron grates without enamel coating must be burned in before the first use
- Due to the high risk of oxidation, cast iron grates must be coated with a light layer of oil or grease
- The cast iron grill can be disadvantageous for indirect grilling
- Can break
Summary of cast iron vs. stainless steel grill grate
Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean worse. Grills with cast iron are a great basis for excellent grilling results. The grate really heats up and makes for perfect branding of the meat. The down side is the extra care required. If you decide on the more expensive stainless steel, you should at least pay attention to the material thickness. Then you can also achieve the perfect BBQ with stainless steel.
And the winner is…
…both. Because it is impossible to definitively say who has won the battle, we have a tip for you. If you use two different grill grates, you can enjoy the advantages of both materials. Then you can accomplish intense searing and indirect cooking at the same time. Nothing will stand in the way of the perfect BBQ.
As long as you aren’t all thumbs, you can easily build your own stainless steel grate from the stainless steel selection of materials4me. We offer V2A stainless steel bars in 4, 5, 6 and 8 mm an, which are perfectly suited for a grill project. For a sleek frame, try ourbox sections made out of stainless steel. This allows you to skip the welding and build a frame that is simply bolted together. Shipping of the stainless steel sections is even free for orders of €100 or more.