Any barbeque is only as good as its grill grate, and replacing old, worn and rusty grates is essential. However, replacement grates are made from a variety of metals, no two of which perform exactly the same, so it's important to choose the metal that best suits your needs before dropping your hard earned cash on a replacement grate.
These grates are generally among the cheapest options available, but despite this they can perform surprisingly well, retaining heat well to provide good searing on your meats and vegetables. While steel is naturally vulnerable to rust and corrosion, the protective coatings applied to these grates provide effective protection against rust damage. It is important, however, to know what kind of coating you are buying. The vast majority of coated steel grills are coated with one of two materials:
- Chrome: This inexpensive option provides adequate rust protection, but wears away relatively quickly, especially if used frequently at very high cooking temperatures.
- Porcelain: A more expensive coating option, porcelain coatings are far more durable and add to the grate's heat retention properties. Unfortunately, they are prone to chipping, especially as they get older.
Whichever kind of coating you choose, you should be aware that coated steel grates have a limited usable life and are generally most suitable for occasional use. Storing grates indoors when not in use can increase their lifespan, but if you are a dedicated grillmaster you may wish to spend a little more on a more robust metal.
Manufactured from special rust-resistant steel, these grates combine excellent heat retention with enormous durability and are practically immune to rusting. They are also very easy to clean and do not suffer from problems with sticking like cast iron grates. As such, they are an excellent low-maintenance choice for frequent barbequing.
However, all of this convenience comes at a price, and stainless steel grates are generally quite costly compared to other options. Because of the high cost of the metal, stainless steel grates are often thinner than cast iron or coated steel counterparts and can become brittle and fragile with extended use.
Favoured by professional chefs and barbeque traditionalists, cast iron grates possess unmatched heat retention. This allows you to achieve fantastic searing (provided your gas or coals are hot enough), particularly on steaks and other red meats. They are also extremely robust, with thick bars that do not dent easily. If properly cared for they can last for years.
Unfortunately, bare cast iron is very vulnerable to rust, and a neglected cast iron grate will corrode beyond usability surprisingly quickly. Bare cast iron can also cause serious problems with sticking, especially when cooking fatty foods. As such, seasoning your grate with fats and/or oils is essential for long term maintenance, but this can be a time-consuming and laborious process. Alternatively, you can opt for a porcelain-coated cast iron grate that does not require seasoning, but these are very much top-of-the-line grates with prices to match.