What are the different types of grill grates and what impact do they have? Whether you’re buying replacement grill grates or looking for a grate upgrade, it’s important to understand how each grate type impacts your BBQ.
Grill grates have a profound impact on your grilling success from even heat over the cooking surface to avoiding food sticking. When searching for new grates it’s worth paying attention to the material’s ability to retain heat, non-stick properties, longevity, and the ease of maintenance.
We breakdown 6 types of grill grates below including the top 5 types we recommend and 1 type to avoid completely.
Need replacement grill grates? We recommend using the stores below for great grill grate inventory. These online stores are the easiest to search and filter for the right grill grates:
- BBQ Guys – Over 200 grill grate options including brand specific and universal options. Filter by brand, size, and material.
- GrillGrate Brand – GrillGrate is a brand making innovative aluminum grill grates. There store on Amazon has an aluminum grate option that fits any grill.
- Hisencn on Amazon – The Hisencn store on Amazon has replacement parts for most grill brands including a ton of universal sized grill grates.
Table of Contents
Cast iron has been trusted by pros for decades (really centuries!). It’s heavy, has great heat retention, and is durable enough to last a lifetime. Cast iron grates are the gold standard for many cooking professionals and amateurs alike. Much of this has to do with its ability to maintain temperature well which helps to apply even heat to the cook surface.
The downside of cast iron grill grates is they require a bit more maintenance. Cast iron is prone to rust which cuts the useful life down significantly. To prevent rust, cast iron requires seasoning of the grates regularly. You also don’t want to throw these in the dishwasher or use oil-removing soap to clean them. If you can commit to maintaining them, cast iron is well worth it. If you want low maintenance grates, don’t spend the money on cast iron and choose another grate from this list.
Cast Iron grates come stock on: some Broil King grills, Masterbuilt Gravity Series charcoal smokers.
Stainless Steel grates are a solid choice for any grilling style. These grill grates are tough, won’t rust, and can last forever, literally! These benefits are made all the better because these qualities are achieved with very little maintenance.
While stainless grill grates are great for those wanting a low-maintenance grate, you do have to pay some attention to how you prep these grates. Food does tend to stick to stainless steel grates when not properly prepped. To keep food from sticking ensure the grates are well oiled, heated properly, and avoid low-cost grate options.
When buying stainless steel grates, it’s best to search for grates that have larger diameter rods (9mm). There are many “wire” stainless steel grates with smaller diameter rods which doesn’t allow stainless steel to perform to their full potential. The larger diameter grates have better heat retention and therefore perform better than smaller diameter options.
Stainless steel grates come stock on: Kamado (Big Green Egg) and some Broil King grills.
Cast Stainless Steel
While not common on many grills, cast stainless steel offers the benefits of both cast iron and stainless steel. Durable, heavy, and providing a large cooking surface with good heat retention all without much maintenance, cast stainless steel seems to be a no-brainer, right? The down side is cast stainless steel grates are expensive. Depending on size, some brands can set you back $100s.
If you are cost-conscious but want many of the benefits from cast stainless steel, check on larger rod diameter stainless steel grill grate (9mm).
Cast stainless steel grates come stock on: Some select premium grills options.
Porcelain coated grill grates are up there as one of the most popular grill grate and for good reason! Porcelain coated grates popularity is a result of their great cost to quality ratio. For this reason many grill manufacturers use these grates on their grills. Porcelain coated grates are low cost and readily available at any grill retailer.
The exact coating quality may differ by brand, however, the pros/cons of porcelain coated grates remain generally the same across brands. Benefits include good non-stick properties, they deliver acceptable sear marks, transfer heat well, and require practically no maintenance.
While porcelain doesn’t rust, the underlying material is often steel or cast iron which rusts easily. Over time and heavy use, the porcelain coating can crack and chip. This cracking can decrease the non-stick effectiveness of the grates. Over time, chipping can cause the environment and moisture to reach the steel or cast iron core which could rust and corrode quickly.
The good news is quality porcelain grates can last for many years before any cracking occurs, if ever. Given the low cost and non-stick quality, porcelain coated grates are a smart choice for most grillers and backyard pitmasters.
Typically not the first on mind when thinking about grill grates, cast aluminum have some surprising qualities to make them a contender for any grill. Aluminum grates are not commonplace in the consumer market (at least not yet).
Aluminum is a great conductor of heat. Grate makers have harnessed this quality to even out cold spots on the cooking surface. Other advantages of aluminum grates are: they don’t rust, are lightweight and easy to handle, and all around durable.
While aluminum grates have many advantages which seem to combine the benefits of cast iron and stainless steel, these grates come with a few disadvantages. Aluminum does require some careful maintenance and prep work. First, aluminum grates need to be seasoned with oil for a few uses to offer non-stick performance. Another unique item is that aluminum requires a specific grill brush to clean so you don’t damage the surface. Last, much like cast stainless steel, aluminum grates are expensive. If you can look past the price tag, the other cons are easily manageable for those looking for a high performance grate.
Aluminum grates come stock on: None known at this time.
For the best aluminum grill grates, check out the Grill Grates store on Amazon. Grill Grates has taken aluminum grill grates to a new level with innovative new design and grate sizes for all grills.
Non-Stick Coated or Similar
The technology of non-stick coatings was revolutionary and widely embraced by many in the cooking world. No more scrubbing pans or skillets (in this case grill grates) and food that just slides right from the stovetop to your plate. No wonder teflon was a hit!
However, it’s come to light that some non-stick chemicals could lead to adverse health problems. Some (not all!) non-stick cooking surfaces contain chemicals known as PFAS which are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” since they don’t break down easily and exist in the environment for, well, forever. PFAS have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and other ailments.
For this reason we personally don’t use grates with chemically-produced, non-stick coatings. With so many other great options listed above, there are better alternatives to non-stick coated grates.
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