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difference in grilling grates

today i was looking at grills. i am drawn in by the beautiful stainless grates on some grills but wonder if the iron grates will cook and caramelize the food better as well as create more streamlined grill marks. does anyone have some info on the difference between the two?

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  1. My Weber Silver B came with cast iron grates. Due to the high heat you can never really keep them seasoned. Weber says you should leave old food on the grates and when you heat the next time this will help to keep the cast iron seasoned. I recently replaced my grates. When looking at the options I choose stainless steel over the porceline coated cast iron. I can brush the stainless very clean before cooking and a coat of oil keeps things from sticking. I get wonderful grill marks, granted the cast iron will hold heat longer. Another benefit of the stainless is the weight. The stainless is easier to lift when adding wood to my smoker box. Less chance of having it fall back on me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: scubadoo97

      i really like the clean look of the stainless better anyway. as long as it does produce nice clean grill marks thanks!

    2. Related to the seasoning issue: Cast iron also rusts, especially if you live in an area with a lot of moisture in the air. I read recently that rust is non-toxic, but still - yuck. The next grill I purchase will probably have stainless grates. If you are talking about a gas grill, holding heat should not be a problem.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Grubbjunkie

        The simple FACT is that the better grills from Weber and other top makers use SS because it is BETTER. This is not some wimpy little SS grate, nor it is some chromed/plated grid. It is heavy solid RODS of SS.

        Think about the metals involved here -- iron is less refined/worked than plain steel, and steel is less worked/refined than SS.

        And as to "cleaning" over time the brutal environment in grill (high heat, fats, temperature changes) make EVERYTHING including the finest grades of SS look terrible BUT the integrity (both mechanical & chemical) of top quality SS will be superior. That is why it is THE CHOICE for all tough industrial applications, not just looks...

        1. re: renov8r

          If we're talking metals here, I've got a point to make. Look at All-Clad. Look at Sitram. Look at any and all stainless steel cookware with the word "clad" in their name or description. Let's not confused people here... The good stuff is clad or sandwiched with OTHER METALS like aluminum or copper!!! Plain, solid stainless steel cookware is cheap and insignificant. Why? Because stainless steel is merely a "protector". I agree with you renov8r, it is used to make things look nice, non-reactive, long lasting, and in some sense dishwasher safe when we're talking about a skillet. When we're talking about grilling though, enameled cast iron is unmatchable. Ask any chef, cook, grilling enthusiast, etc. When it comes to performance, longevity, and heat retention, enameled cast iron it is...

          Weber does not simply offer stainless steel grates. They have realized the benefit and potential of cast iron and they have recently begun offering enameled cast iron grates.

          1. re: renov8r

            You overstate the superiority of stainless. And tough industrial applications have little bearing on consumer use. My weber gas grill came with stainless grates, and while I liked them, I went to Home Depot, which is licensed to sell enameled cast iron grates, and I find the replacement to be (for me here in the midwest) totally superior as regards heat retention in the grate. Cleanabilty is the same as stainless. And three years later, my grates are pristine.

            That said, I would not buy bare cast iron grates. Too much maintenance for me.

            1. re: renov8r

              The only simple fact that I see is that you have no idea what your talking about, it is about 50/50 as far as the more expensive grills that you claim use Stainless steel, The higher priced grills use Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates & Stainless steel, and its not only Weber that uses Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates many other top of the line grill makers use it as well, my best advice is you is you should check things out before you write some bull like this. As far as grates it is a personal preference they all have there good and bad points. Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates hold there heat much longer than stainless steel, I have had my Weber for a long long time and I would recommend Porcelain-enameled cast-iron cooking grates that Weber supplies to anyone I take care of mine and have never had any problems at all. THE END

              1. re: NFLNutt

                Well said Nutt, but nobody mentioned that SS oxidizes at high heat too , even if it's So highly refined

          2. I'm going to disagree wholeheartedly with the below posts. The above posts are missing a key point. Weber makes an enameled cast iron grate which is the creme de la creme of grill grates, IMO. Why anyone would be swayed into buying stainless steel just because it's shiny and pretty is beyond me. The key in grill marks and thus grilling is how long the grates stay hot when you drop the food on them. Stainless is probably the worst choice of the bunch - just think about it... thin stainless steel versus heavy cast iron... Go and get yourself a Weber or at the very least see if you can replace your stainless grates with enameled cast iron.

            7 Replies
            1. re: HaagenDazs

              Nice. You're entitled to disagree, but not to be condescending or disrespectful. There is more to the allure of stainless than just thinking it's "shiny and pretty."

              Yes, cast iron conducts heat better, but stainless works very well too, especially for a gas grill where you can adjust the heat easily. A lot of people make a grill decision by balancing a purist's desires with practicality. And thousands of people are pretty damn happy with their stainless grates.

              But perhaps you can answer a question: How does enamled cast iron hold up to years of cleaning with a wire brush? Or does cleaning your grill make it too pretty?

              1. re: Grubbjunkie

                Yeah, that's what I want to know!! I've posted this before, but I think I've heard not to use a wire brush on enameled cast iron, because it ruins the finish???

                1. re: aurora50

                  Incorrect. A simple brass brush will not harm the enameled finish.

                  As for the look of stainless steel; does it look better than cast iron? Sure. But it's a GRILL GRATE, as in the part you never really see. We're not talking about an external finish on a high end grill. Here's an analogy: It's like buying a car because you think the engine looks cool. Will the engine work? Yes. Is it the best choice to make? Probably not.

                  Enameled cast iron will not rust. Also a grill that is taken care of will not rust. (see below).

                2. re: Grubbjunkie

                  thank you Grubb for coming to my rescue. i am not really experienced in grilling. it was always left to my grandfather or father when i was growing up. so this is a new adventure for me. i just happened to think the stainless has a nicer look & wanted to know which was really better. i suppose its subjective. THANKS!!

                  1. re: Grubbjunkie

                    I loved my cast iron enamel grates my Weber came with from Home Depot, but over a period of about 4 years the enamel is wearing off. Pieces of it have ended up in food. For the longest time I didn't use a wire brush to clean my grates but this past year I have. All I can say is if you really want the enamel cast iron grates find a different kind of brush to scrub them with, do not use wire!!! For awhile I was using a boot scrubber brush I picked up a TJ Maxx, of course I couldn't use it when the grill was hot. I am thinking about switching to stainless steel to try it but a little hesitant because of how much I liked my enamel cast iron.

                    I noticed the stainless steel Weber grates at Home Depot are not solid bars of stainless steel but are upside down u-shaped. I am going to google it but does anyone know if Weber makes the solid round SS grates? Now those I might like. Not for pretty but for durability and being able to use a wire brush without having to be concerned with rubbing off the enamel.

                    1. re: chd1012

                      I'm a fan of those Weber enameled grates, too. As chance would have it, however, I finally encountered one problem with them: now on their fourth year, I recently opened up the gas grill for the first time since Fall and found that apparently I hadn't cleaned off the gunk from the last cooking. Exactly where a glob of chicken thigh or who knows what lay, I found that, underneath, the enamel had simply disappeared. Except for that one spot, the grates remain in perfect shape. But at least it's clear that leaving gunk on them for several months is not a good idea.

                      The brush I use, by the way, is the Grill Wizard, which is a wire-mesh scrubber sponge kind of thing attached to the end of a wooden handle. It's superb for getting into all the crucial places without exerting the brutal energy of a toothbrush-style wire brush.

                    2. re: Grubbjunkie

                      I had a weber enameled cast iron grill for at least 14 years, (used a wire brush on it all the time, never chipped) before I had to buy new ones.

                  2. I have cast iron grates on my Weber and I'm about to replace them for the second time. They rust and disintegrate and no, they don't hold the seasoning because it burns off. The original ones were cast iron, I replaced them with cast iron and I am now going to see if I can get stainless instead. The cast iron ones seem to last about 2 years for me. It's a mess right now.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Nyleve

                      I have a "2007 Closeout" Sears Kenmore grill. It's endured 3 years of use and a fair amount of user neglect (lack of keeping up on how to take care of it properly). And the only things wrong with it are that the grates are suffering a little rust and the "Grill@Night" handle is completely dead and broken (being replaced under warranty). The Kenmore grill I have is actually a bottom-class Char-Broil, made in China.

                      If you're gonna complain about poor quality cast iron grates (I assume they were at least porcelain-coated, right?), I'd figure my Kenmore would have the WORST. But they're still working fine after 3 yrs. So how do you figure your Weber grates are failing worse than my low-quality Kenmore grates? Rusting and disintegrating? You grill in the rain or something? Maybe hose down your grill with sea water and never clean it... ever? What kind of neglect makes a cast iron grate rust and DISINTEGRATE in two years? I imagine you'd have to, not only neglect, but utterly ABUSE your cast iron grates, to make them rust, to the point of disintegration!

                      I just thoroughly cleaned mine and except for a few areas where rust still shows through, the seasoning I'm applying is bringing them back to perfectly usable life. Same grates as when we bought it... 3 years later!

                      The vaporizer (flavorizer?) bars are in a LOT worse shape... the porcelain is blistered and flaked off in places and rust is slowly taking over... but even THEY aren't "disintegrating". Same ones the grill came with... 3 yrs. ago. Picture of the bars after I cleaned them up last night, included.

                    2. everyone seems to have different opinions here. actually it has started a little bit of a heated debate. so far the opposing opinions have really given me some good arguments for both sides. thanks

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: zoni521

                        Look folks, I'm sorry if my comments were ill-received but my first reaction to the comment about liking stainless steel grates simply because of the way they looked kind of irked me. When we're talking about grill grates, looks versus performance should not even be considered in my opinion: it's performance all the way. I can assure you that enameled cast iron grates are far superior in grilling situations and will also not be harmed by BRASS brushes. Brass is the key here, not hardened steel. Steel will certainly do more harm to the enamel. The other thing to think about is that grill grates are meant to be replaced. They should by no means be considered disposable, but after a few years of heavy grilling, it would be wise to replace them no matter what the material. In other words, will a brush harm the enamel? No. Will the enamel hold up as well as stainless steel when a metal brush is applied? No, it will scratch and over time it will wear out. In the end will you get better results from enameled cast iron versus stainless steel? Absolutely, 100% yes, yes, yes! Take care and I apologize if my words came across too harshly. But do, please go for the enameled cast iron ;-)

                        1. re: HaagenDazs

                          I live on an island on a salt marsh which is the most harsh eniroment you can subject a grill to. My last 2 grills had cast iron grates (weber & vt. Castings) and the bottom end of the grill failed before the grates wore out, approximately 4 yrs. each.

                          1. re: beteez

                            I have had some experts tell me to get some fatback from the meat dept. Before you grill, after preheating the grill, coat the cast iron w/ the fatback. Prevents sticking mostly, but is supposed to keep the CI seasoned.

                            1. re: HANKGRILL

                              i love the fatback seasoning tip!

                              i'm still grilling on a massive gas grill that my dad had….it has to be at least 35 years old. the cast iron grates are in fine shape -- and massive. they probably will outlast me. i guess the new cast iron just isn't made like it was in the old days.

                          2. re: HaagenDazs

                            I will double check but I was using a Brass brush and the enamel is now wearing off. I posted another comment up above saying more. I am still deciding of whether to get CIE as opposed to SS... I do so love my CIE grates and they are about 4-5 years old. And as we all know a Weber can get pretty hot. Now if you are looking for a grill and want a decent one that will last years go for a Weber of any kind. They are the best.

                            As far as grates go, it is a matter of preference and I do prefer the Cast Iron Enamel coated but then I have never tried the SS grates. I have a feeling I will end up getting the CIE. If I do get the SS grates I will be sure and try to come back to let you know how I like them over the CIE grates. Have a great day everyone!!!

                            1. re: chd1012

                              Ok, so I went to another CIE vs SS review website. A guy had used both the CIE and SS. He loved and hated them both. CIE stays hot longer but SS heats up quicker. The grill marks he said come from the heat source below and both give decent grill marks.

                              I found my CIE grates lasted about as long as they should have about 4-5 years. Though the SS grates will last longer.

                              The CIE grates are said to be easier to clean then the SS grates. I like the ease of getting them clean. I also really like my cast iron enamel frying pans. They are very easy to clean up. Just don't put cold water on them if they are still hot. The enamel will bubble right off of them. Wait for them to cool down first.

                              I would like to try the SS grates sometime but maybe on a friend's grill as for me I think my preference is still leaning towards the Cast Iron Enamel grates.

                              But one big thing the people on the other website were saying that it IS a matter of preference. Also, where you live and the climate can play a key role in what may be best.

                        2. Just my opinion. I wouldavoid stainless steel just based on appearance because it would soon not look new and shiny, while bare cast iron will corrode. I got the $300 Char-Broil, with enameled cast-iron grates because it was recommended by Consumer Reports and am very satisfied. After several years, the grates look fine.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mpalmer6c

                            Climate has a lot do with this too. My BIL in San Diego has zero luck with any enamel CI grates -- the air is just too corrosive. The super heavy SS rod style grates in the Summit do darken, buy they don't rust on him...

                          2. I see this is an old thread, but I will chime in.
                            I bought a weber last year at the home depot and it came with regular cast iron grates. I took great care in seasoning them all year long but made the mistake of leaving them on the grill over the winter. Opened the grill up a month ago to find a decent amount of rust, not enough to replace them, but enough that I was not happy. Scrubbed em down, removed the rust, re-seasoned them and they are fine.

                            I am thinking of getting one of these:
                            Has anybody tried it?

                            1. My Weber is about 15 years old, it came with bare cast iron grates that I seasoned per the instructions, it doesn't last. The grates are fine if you season them and then keep them inside, but that's not very practical, so they rust from the moisture in the outside air. Mine were rusty and chipping in no time. I continued to clean and use them until they rusted through in some places. I then replaced them with the enamel coated cast iron grates, no seasoning required. These were good for about 3 maybe 4 years, then the difference in the coeficient of linear thermal expansion between the cast iron and enemel coating started to cause some chiping. Then the rust starts. If you don't mind replacing the grates every so often, they do work very well, but they will not last as long as the grill. They guy in the office next to me had to replace his grates and was able to find 3/8" stainless steel rod grates on e-bay. These are extremely heavy duty and given the mass will definately hold heat far longer than the this stamped SS grates Weber sells for the Genisis.

                              I finally replaced my old Weber and now have very heavy duty SS rod grates on my new grill. I anticipate grill marks similar to what I got from the cast iron, without the rust.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: mikie

                                Mike for the same reasons I replaced my cast iron grates with the stamped SS grates. I never saw the heavy duty SS rods. I get good grill marks with the lighter weight SS grates so have not felt a need to change them out.

                              2. am i the only one who thinks this talk of heat retention is total non-sense?

                                you are cooking inches from flame! cast iron isn't contributing much to this experience.

                                is your broiler pan cast iron?

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: j8715

                                  No. I don't think it's irrelevant but not as important as it's made out to be. And yes the grill gets scorching hot no matter what grill grates are being used.

                                  1. re: j8715

                                    Adequate heat retention allows the cook to start the grill very hot to preheat the grate for a beautiful sear and appropriate cross hatch on the surface while reducing the heat to prevent overall scorching and overcooking of the exterior and leaving the center cold. Most grates in medium to high quality grills can do this. Extra heavy cast grates are a dream if you ever had the chance to try them on a grill capable of the necessary preheat.

                                    1. re: j8715

                                      broiler pan would be much easier to clear if it were CI. Besides, broilers cook mostly by direct radiant heat. Grills cook with a combination of radiant heat AND heated metal.

                                      1. re: j8715

                                        No, you are not. It's absurd. Any sort of grate on a Weber is going to give you grill marks. The notion that a cast iron grate is going to add an appreciable amount of flavor to your food over SS is a little ridiculous.

                                        1. re: j8715

                                          You are not the only one thinking this is just non sense.

                                        2. Much is being missed by contributors. The benefit of cast iron is weight or mass. Most of the coated cast iron grates are no heavier than their equivalent SS models. Some manufacturers even produce CI grates which are lighter than many standard wire grates. Initial high heating of the grate allows ample sear AND immediate reduction of heat in order to not burn the entire surface of the meat but still cook to the desired internal temperature. Weber USED to make a CI insert for their 22.5 kettle which was very heavy and performed beautifully. It worked so well they took it off the market. Mine has out lasted through 2 kettles and I still love it. Unfortunately the wire frame (also used to hold their griddle insert) is wearing thin after several thousand meals prepared winter and summer in NY weather. My large Brinkman (Sam's model) came with wimpy cast iron grates which were OK for a couple of years but not great grates as they were way too light to adequately hold heat. I am replacing them but have to weld my own to get the correct size and they will probably be 3/8" SS square stock.

                                          Cleaning is best accomplished when the grill is being warmed prior to cooking. Large chunks or sugary remains of BBQ sauce should be removed at the end of a session but as stated else where the remains help season the next session. Brass brushes are the best for ceramic coated grates but SS brushes are good for cast iron or chrome/ steel.

                                          The best treatment to season grates is a rolled piece of cloth soaked in vegetable oil which can be rubbed over the surface just prior to grilling. (use of tongs is advised) Fat back and trimmings from the meat can also be used but these call for an added expense at the butchers or attempts to hold small fat trimming. The oiled roll works well and can be kept in a bag or container in the refrigerator and used repeatedly. Happy grilling!

                                          1. I maintain a lot of grills on large property for a private family. From a standpoint of physics and my own cooking experience I can tell you with some assurance that searing meats is more a function of the mass of the grate than the material.

                                            From a longevity standpoint , again, the mass of the grate is more important than the materials. It is moot to discuss thin grates if you want longevity. With a normal brushing, stored outdoors, thin SS or porcelain cast have a life of about 2-4 years. Neither have longevity.

                                            If you are seious about longevity or the slight edge in sear-power, get a heavy grate in either material. SS rod grates cost twice as factory porcelain-cast grates. You can usually find someone selling them, or get them made up at a welding shop. Thick, heavy, naked (non-porcelain) cast grates are harder to find, and you cannot have them custom made. Both will last a lifetime. Both sear well.

                                            I got sick of replacing grates and burners every few years so I bought myself a Weber Q. A medium sized stove with a massive cast, non-porcelain grate and stainless burners. I have had it for about six years and have replaced NOTHING. I leave the food on the grate, brush it after a substantial pre-heat, and it looks like new. You will get what you pay for in a grate.

                                            I replace factory grates in my employer's grills with SS rod grates when the time comes (unless I can find heavy non-porcelain cast). I toss "flavor bars" and replace them with SS grates and porcelain briquettes. The replacements last forever.

                                            7 Replies
                                            1. re: CallMeChaz

                                              Where do you get your porcelain briquettes from? are they the square ones with about 250 holes in it?

                                              1. re: Dave5440

                                                @Dave5440, the ones we use are the size and shape of charcoal briquettes. I don't recall them having any holes or perforations. You can buy them most anywhere that sells grill supplies, or on eBay if you are in a remote area like we are. I like them because they stay clean looking and distribute the heat very evenly. Supported on a stainless rod rack, they last almost forever and don't rust away like "flavor bars".

                                                1. re: CallMeChaz

                                                  How would you use these porcelain briquettes on my 2009/2010 Weber Genesis E310? Word is that the "flavorizer bars" they employ, reduce flareups to next to nothing, compared to even porcelain briquettes or lava rocks. In personal experience, I have noticed they are significantly better than the bars in the Sears Kenmore grill I had a couple years ago. But I think the steepness of the pitch is the key difference.

                                                  1. re: Luposian

                                                    If you retrofit the grill with briquettes you need to make a rack for them. I adjust the height of the rack so the flames are just licking the bottom of the rack. Everything is a tradeoff. I like the briquettes and stainless rack bc I don't have to keep replacing parts on a bunch of grills. The briquettes distribute the heat very evenly, which is important when they are griling delicate things like salmon fillets. Lava rocks flare badly because they capture and pool up oils. The briquettes are not too bad. If they are preheated well they don't tend to build up much oil so flareups are minimal--usually just a quick "poof" of flame and smoke. No one system is perfect.

                                                  2. re: CallMeChaz

                                                    You must mean this type , i haven't seen them where I am for awhile
                                                    I was thinking about this type

                                                    1. re: Dave5440

                                                      Hmmm, interesting! Long lasting, should distribute heat well. Probably heat up quicker than briquettes bc of the surface-area-to-mass ratio. Less surface area to catch oil than briquettes. AND, you may not need a rack to hold them if they are sized right (not sure--do they need support?). Maybe there IS a perfect system :-)

                                                      1. re: CallMeChaz

                                                        Yes they need support , I work where they are made, these were designed specifically for gas grills, but we make 50 different styles for foundries. They do work quite well, but I switched back to charcoal a few years ago and don't use them anymore.

                                              2. On a slightly different note:
                                                I've just moved to an apartment complex that, due to the new fire laws, does not allow charcoal or gas grills, only electric ones.
                                                Does anyone have knowledge of these kinds of grills? I can guess that they don't really compare to a gas or charcoal grill, but are they even worth buying, IF that is my only option?

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: aurora50

                                                  You'd do better with a cast iron grill pan.

                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                    Realize this is an older thread which I have read probably three times in three years. I bought a weber e330 genesis a little over a year and a half ago. It's kept *mostly* covered in that from spring through fall we cook on the grill 4 nights a week and don't always cover it at night after cooking (and sipping too much wine). The grill was not cleaned last time so had some major buildup on the grates, which I believe are porcelain-enameled cast-iron grates. Anyway, I wanted to do a grill self-cleaning cycle and basically turned that bad boy up for about 30 minutes on high and well, it got super hot like 900 hot. When I uncovered it, the food was ash but I noticed rust on a lot of the bars. I scrubbed with my worn down grill brush, which looks like this, but is brass with all of the bristles smooshed.


                                                    However, there remains a lot of rust. The bad spots were in the middle, so after cleaning I turned them around so the darker red was on the edges/sides of the grill. Are they done? If it's rusted, then the enamel is gone, right? They didn't seem too enamelled to start anyway, more like powder coated CI?

                                                    This was supposed to be a reply to the original post. Sorry!

                                                    1. re: Dax

                                                      If your grill got up to 900 degrees, then you had a ton of fire burning on those grates (my grill will get up that high when a fire ignites on the grate from grease buildup). It is quite likely you damaged the grates with that amount of heat and wrecked the porcelain coating. I, fortunately, have never let my grates burn for very long, as I keep an eye on it and know a fire is under the lid when the heat goes way high, like that. If you live near the ocean, the salty air can affect grates like that, too.

                                                      If the rust ruins the taste of your food or otherwise seems unbearable, just hunker down and buy a new set of grates and watch your grill more closely next time. I never burn off the grease... I just let it add flavor to my food and non-stick to my grates. :-D

                                                      1. re: Luposian

                                                        There was leftover food/marinade crust, not just grease, which does not bother me. And 900 was an oversight but it was almost maxed out on the temp gauge, which only goes to 700.

                                                2. yes they do leave the grill marks, but they not easy to clean, which is why I chose this one. Not that happy with it so far, but just had it for couple a weeks, I wish I could return it.

                                                  1. Sears made the 50 to 100 year bbq grilling grate w/o a doubt.
                                                    All my friends who bought the Kenmore grill in the 90's still use it. Cooking grates are as good as new with heavy use and w/o covers. Weber never made anything to last this long. Sears did! Maybe this is why Sears died - as they made stuff to last a lifetime like Maytag appliances made in Iowa the right way. We are getting ripped off by overselling us junk made not to last a lifetime!

                                                    1 Reply