Stainless Steel vs Cast Iron Grill Grates – What’s the better choice?

If you are a big fan of grilling like me, you will know what a big difference the grill grate does to your meat. Even if you get a grill that is fuel-efficient, has multiple features, and is easy to use, you'll still want to consider what type of grate it offers. With the right grill grates, you will be able to have the perfect lines on your meats and create meals that are worth sharing with the world.

There are two main types of grill grates in the industry. They are stainless steel and cast iron grates. If you are wondering which one is the better choice between the stainless steel vs cast iron steel grates, you'll have the answer by reading this article. We will talk about both types of grill grates and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Off the bat, I can tell you that in all my many years of grilling, I have found out that cast-iron grates give the meat better-grilled marks and can stay hot for a longer time. On the other hand, stainless steel grill grates have never really disappointed me with their durability and lighter weight.

But let's move on to the main reason you are here. 

Is there a better choice between the two? If so, which one? Let's find out.

Stainless Steel vs Cast Iron Grill Grates Comparison

Both stainless steel grill grate and cast iron grill grates have their own set of advantages and disadvantages over each other. But before we get into the main comparison of their features, it will help you to know what they are and how they have come about.

The stainless steel grill grates 

Stainless steel grill grates have been in the market for so long thanks to its durability and need for minimal maintenance. Stainless steel is a much better option than regular steel or steel plated grill grates because the other two cannot stand the heat for a long time.

Stainless steel is corrosion and rust-free for the most part. However, it does not mean that the stainless steel grates will never corrode. You can expect it to last for years to come even after exposure to heat and moisture.

Cast iron grill grates 

People have used cast iron as the material for their grill grates even longer than the stainless steel grill grate. This type of grate can hold heat for a long time and are two types of this grate in the market. They are enamel coated cast iron grill grates and un-coated cast iron grill grates.

The enamel cast iron grill grates will have more non-stick properties than the other option. The thing about cast iron is that it is somewhat porous. Due to this, the oil may seep into the pores and make it naturally non-stick.

Now that you have a brief understanding of both types of grates lets jump into the comparison:

Composition of elements 

Both cast iron and stainless steel are alloys of iron. That means we combine iron with other substances and metals to get them. Alloys add more strength, durability, malleability, and the like to a type of metal.

With cast iron, it contains a minimum of 2% carbon. On the other hand, stainless steel contains 1.2% of carbon at most. The main difference between the compositions of the two iron alloys is that stainless steel has chromium, which cast iron does not.

Coating 

Cast iron is usually more likely to rust and wear down quickly when it is in its pure form. Therefore, most cast-iron pieces of equipment like grill grates have a coating of porcelain or enamel. This coating protects the material from erosion.

Unlike cast iron, stainless steel does not need any extra coating to protect it from rusting. Stainless steel grill grates are capable of staying clear of erosion all on its own.

Heat retention ability 

Here, it is apparent that cast iron grates will hold heat for a longer time as compared to stainless steel grill grates. However, it takes longer for cast iron to reach the desired temperature. Still, once it reaches the heat, it will maintain a specific degree of heat for a long time.

Stainless steel grill grates may reach the desired temperature almost instantly. But, it also loses the heat quickly if there is no constant source of heat.

The durability of the grill grates 

There is nothing that can compare to the durability and long-lasting ability of stainless steel grill grates. Stainless steel does not wear out or rust easily. On the other hand, cast iron steel grates do not last that long. Exposure to heat and moisture will tarnish cast iron and make them unusable.

Although stainless steel grill grates last for years, they are not entirely safe from corrosion. The only difference is that it does not rust easily even after long and frequent exposure to moisture.

Grill marks 

Although this point might not be a big deal for some of you, most people love the sears and grill marks that a grill puts on a piece of meat. It makes food look tastier and better for presentation. Cast iron grill grates can give your food this authentic grill mark.

It is difficult for stainless steel grates to provide the same look. However, if the cast iron has an enamel coating, there will be fewer sizzles and fewer grill marks.

Ease of cleaning 

The stainless steel grill grate is much easier to clean as compared to the cast iron variant. Everyone would like a piece of equipment that is easy to clean. After all, you may get tired after the long grilling session. This activity may make you want the cleaning to be over with as soon as possible.

With the cast iron steel grates, it takes a lot of effort to keep them clean. It also takes much longer to clean the grates up after use. You will have to do a lot of brushing and scraping once the grilling is over.

Cost of replacement 

There will come a time when you need to replace your grill grates. Even if you take very good care of your grates, they will need to replace them sooner or later. When the time comes, those who own the cast iron variant will have a few bucks.

Due to the durability and long-lasting ability of stainless steel grates, they are more likely to be costlier to replace. The good news is that you will not need to replace them anytime soon.

Weight of the grill grates 

A critical feature for any piece of equipment is whether it is light or not. Generally, we prefer tools that are lighter but have the same durability and function as other options. In this area, stainless steel grill grates will take the cake. 

They are lightweight and perform as well as cast iron steel grates. Removing and maintaining the grill may be difficult if you have iron grates because they are heavier and will need more effort to pick them up.

Even grilling surface

Some stainless steel grill grates may bend after multiple uses. This problem will happen if the equipment is not of good quality. With an uneven cooking surface, you will have trouble searing and grilling your meat correctly.

As for the cast iron steel grates, they are quite durable and will provide you with an even cooking surface for a long time.

Non-stick finish 

Your cast iron grill grate will need a non-stick coating so that your meat and other food items do not get stuck on them.  If you want to give your grate a non-stick finish yourself, you can add some oil on its surface and allow it to soak the oil in. You can also try adding salt and pepper on it.

On the other hand, stainless steel grill grates naturally have a non-stick surface. You do not have to add any oil or extra coating to keep your meat off the top.

What are the main differences between stainless steel grill grates vs cast iron steel grates?

Cast iron grill grates give you an authentic seared look on your meat and can retain the desired temperature for a longer period than the stainless steel option. At the same time, stainless steel grates will last for a long time and do not need a lot of maintenance and effort on cleaning.

While iron grates will not cost that much during replacement, the stainless steel grates may burn a hole in your pocket. But the thing with stainless steel is that it is lightweight and you do not have to add any non-stick coating.

Verdict

Both these grill grates are different in almost every way except that they have the same purpose and are both alloys of iron. As a result, there is no clear winner because they beat each other in one way or another.

You might want to see what you want from a grill grate and check if the cast iron option or the stainless steel option has them. If you wish for your grill grate to last long, you can go for the stainless steel variant. On the other hand, you may need to go for the cast iron option if you are on a tight budget.