Cooking grates are one of the most important features of your grill. They’re the part of your grill that gets closest to your food and they create those beautiful sear marks that we all love. But not all grill grates were created equal and it’s important to know what to expect from different types of rates. So here is our selection of the top three things to look for in grill grates.
1. The materials it’s made from
The first thing you should ask yourself when peering inside that shiny new grill in store is ‘What are those cooking grates made of?’. The materials that make up a cooking grate will determine both its performance and durability. Two important considerations when buying a new grill. At Broil King we have three different types of cooking grates: cast iron, rod stainless steel and cast stainless steel.
Cast Iron Grates
Rule number one when considering cast iron cookware: If you’re not going to take the time necessary to properly clean and season it, skip cast-iron all together. Cast iron is loved by the pros! Pros like your grandmother, who has kept that glossy black set of cast iron pans seasoned her entire life. Grandma spent years perfecting that black patina and she’d probably kick you out of the family if you put one of those well-loved pans in the dishwasher. So if you’re buying cast iron, be like grandma and maintain it.
That being said cast iron has some amazing qualities. First of all, it’s heavy which means it retains heat to deliver the best sear. If you take good care of your cast grates (like properly seasoning them) they will start to take on a polymerized oil patina and will begin to inherit non-stick qualities.
Rod Stainless Grates
The non-stick patina that develops on cast iron is what gives it the edge over a grate made from rod stainless steel. But what we like about stainless cooking grates is their durability and low maintenance.
Most stainless cooking grates are made of rods of stainless steel and the diameter of that rod can vary greatly in the grilling industry. Stainless grates can deliver a great sear, but they need a larger diameter to do so as it helps them retain heat. You’ll often hear stainless grates referred to as wire grates since many are made of 3 – 5 mm (or thinner) stainless wire. But to improve their performance as grill grates, Broil King’s stainless grates don’t fit the ‘wire’ description at 8 – 9 mm diameter. Performance-wise stainless steel can be pretty sticky if it’s not heated to the ideal temperature and oiled properly. I’m sure you’ve experienced hot, dry stainless steel grates shredding grilled chicken as it sticks on every single flip.
Cast Stainless Grates
Cast stainless steel cooking grates combine the best of both rod stainless steel and cast iron. They have the rough texture of cast iron (which is easy to season and easily builds up that non-stick patina) and the durability of rod stainless steel. Don’t expect them to stay shiny though, the rough texture wants to season like cast iron.
Cast stainless steel grates aren’t easy to manufacture and their premium level of performance comes at a premium price. That’s why they are only available standard with Broil King’s Imperial series of gas grills. But don’t worry, you can buy them separately for your Regal series gas or pellet grill since they’re built to fit all Imperial and Regal grill models.
2. Grilling Grate Designs
The size of the gap between grate rods
You may not think to put a lot of thought into the design and layout of a set of cooking grates, but there are some important elements to consider. Check is the gap between the grate rods. If you look inside a Broil King grill, you’ll notice that none of our grill grate rods are further than 1 cm apart (less than the diameter of your pinky finger). The reason for the tight spacing in our grids is to enable more searing power per square inch by increasing the amount of flavor vaporization at the grill surface.
That tighter gap also prevents food from falling into your grill. Watch out for big gaps when you’re grill shopping, your shrimp and chicken wings will thank you later.
Designed for versatility
Most grates are designed to deliver one type of sear since they only have one type of surface. Broil King cast iron and cast stainless steel grates on the other hand are reversible. Our grates have defined peaks on one side to deliver iconic sear marks. And when you flip them over, you’ll notice the other side is grooved, allowing the grate to perform like a griddle with built-in vaporization, delivering a fuller surface sear and better basting.
Picture a fresh burger, it doesn’t have a lot of structure, it’s kind of soft. If you grill it on the sharp peak side that soft meat sags between the peaks and your spatula shaves it off when you go to flip your burger. Flip those grates over and you’ve got twice as many contact points and less chance for the burger to lose its shape. Use the flip side for wings, vegetables, pretty much anything that doesn’t need a big defined sear.
3. The Weight of your Grill Grates
Unless your grill cooks with the intensity of the sun, your cooking grates should be heavy. Heavy cooking grates store energy and transfer conductive and radiant properly to your foods. This gives you defined consistent searing and a better surface texture.
The importance of weight can’t be overstated when it comes to grates. Heavy cooking grates are full of energy and have the searing intensity you need as close as possible to the meat. Your burners, although hot, are inches from the meat and they’re not the primary searing force.
How to Choose Between Cast Iron, Stainless Rod and Cast Stainless Grill Grates
With all of this in mind here’s how we recommend you choose your cooking grates.
Choose cast iron grates if …
Buy cast iron if you’re going to take care of them and want the ultimate in performance. We can’t overstate the necessity of cleaning and seasoning them nor the amazing performance of cast iron.
Choose rod stainless grates if …
Buy rod stainless steel if you know you’re not going to clean your grill as well as you’d clean the pots and pans in your kitchen. Be patient and learn to dial in the temperature precisely to prevent the chicken from sticking and don’t be afraid to use cooking oil thoroughly on the grates and your food. Don’t expect them to stay shiny, the outside of your grill is supposed to be eye-catching.
Choose cast stainless if …
Buy cast stainless steel grates because you want the best of both cast iron and rod stainless. They’re practically indestructible and perform like cast iron. The upfront cost will be worth the long-term investment. They’re a great upgrade in any Broil King Regal grill and come standard in Imperial grills. Don’t expect them to stay shiny though, these stainless grates should become glossy and black if you’re using them right.
Ben – Culinary Director, Broil King.