Who doesn't love a good grilled meal?
They are easy to cook and amazingly delicious. When it comes to the cooking part though, you need a grill, and there is often a debate between the top contenders, the stainless steel grill grates and the cast iron grill grates.
They both have their flaws and benefits, and there is no clear answer on which is better. These two bring their unique set of conveniences and drawbacks, and you are to pick which one suits you more. I'll lay down the facts here as impartially as I can.
Cast iron is composed of about four percent carbon, and the rest is pure iron. It is quite easy to cut up and shape, so that makes it a suitable material to make grills out of. Cast iron is also quite brittle. This makes it difficult to bend, but it snaps easily.
In regard to being used as grill material, it has the following properties:
- This thing is very rigid. That makes it an excellent material to use for grills. No matter the pressure, it should hold up really well, at least up to a certain level. The carbon makes it really hard. It does snap if it exceeds its limits, though, so you should be careful.
- It can be coated with porcelain enamel. That has its own pros and cons. The pros being that the enamel protects the iron from rust and it gives the iron a non-stick property.
- The con is that enamel wears down. It can form giant cracks after successive cleaning sessions. The porcelain can also get on the food.
- The grill itself can have a non-stick property through absorbing oil. Cast iron has pores that can trap oil from the cooking food. With time, the oil becomes a thin layer over the grill. It is said to have become “seasoned”. This makes the surface non-stick.
Advantages of the Cast Iron Grill Grates
Here are some of the advantages of the cast iron grill.
- Good Heat Sink: Iron has a fairly high heat capacity. That means that it can store heat well. The heat does not dissipate as fast as with other metals. The heat lingers, and the grill cools slowly. This lets you lower the heat and cook the food at a more continuous yet lower temperature.
- Great Searing Property: Heat is directly transferred to the food. This can sear and leave burn marks on the food you’re cooking. It gives the food a smoky flavor and crusty texture on the outside, while the food remains tender on the inside.
- Long-Lasting: Despite what they say to you, iron can last for decades, especially if you coat it with the porcelain enamel I talked about earlier. The "non-stick" layer also helps to keep out air and water that are the main causes of rust. Also, the carbon component in the iron helps here as well.
Disadvantages of the Cast Iron Grill
Here are some of the disadvantages of the cast iron grill.
- Weight: Yes, the thing is heavy. It is as simple as that. Lugging it around and setting it up is bound to be difficult as a result. And not to mention it is a hazard if dropped.
- Vulnerable to Rust: Without the coat of porcelain, rust will eat away at your beloved grill at rapid speed. Your grill will turn into a flaky brown thing that snares any food you place on it, within no time. I suggest getting the enamel coating.
Cleaning and Re-Seasoning are Troublesome:
Every time you clean the grill
, it loses its non-stick "coat" of oil. So, you might have to oil it and then season it for the non-stick feature to be restored.
Stainless steel is a bit expensive, but it has its own set of benefits. It is composed of iron, a bit of carbon and chromium. This unique blend makes it extremely resistant to corrosion. Corrosion is something that all metals fear, so having this edge over other metals makes this a great option to consider.
It has the following general properties:
- First and foremost, stainless steel boasts the unique property of being very resistant to corrosion. Working with food involves a lot of moisture. And that means corrosion. This property lets stainless steel last for a long time.
The surface of stainless steel is smooth. So much so that it can perform as a non-stick material. That means the food won’t be sticking
to it and you can easily remove anything that you have grilled. So you could consider that too when you get this.
- Stainless steel is also a good conductor of electricity. The heat-up is very rapid, and it heats to near the temperature of the flame itself. That means there is very little waiting time between turning up the heat and actually starting up the grilling process.
Advantages of a Stainless Steel Grill Grates
Here are some of the advantages of having a stainless steel grill.
- Good Heat Conduction: Stainless steel is a great conductor of heat, and thus it heats up really fast when exposed to a heat source. You can start off right away with this. There is no need to preheat or wait for the grill to heat up or anything like that. Fast results.
- Extreme Corrosion Resistance: You don't need any protective coating or any conditioning. Stainless steel was made to be a massive pillar against all kinds of rust and tarnish. It stands the test of time and continues to provide you with your favorite grilled dishes while staying at peak performance.
- Ease of Maintenance: You need no seasoning. The steel surface is smooth and acts as a non-stick material anyway. That is how it's made. You can pluck food off of it effortlessly.
- Strong and Durable: This doesn't snap as cast iron does. The chromium in this steel makes it a very hard and robust material. So go ahead and use it as carelessly as you please. It'll more than just hold up.
Disadvantages of the Stainless Steel Grill
Here are some of the advantages of having a stainless steel grill.
- Heat Retention is Bad: Just like it gains heat really fast, it gives up the heat just as fast. It's sort of a give-and-take. The heat capacity of this is low, after all. You cannot turn the heat off for more than a few minutes as the grill cools off fast and the cooking stops.
- Expensive: Stainless steel is a pricey material as manufacturing it involves complicated and expensive steps. While you can opt for cheaper imitations that are simply electroplated iron grills, they usually are not very durable. The coating also wears away quite rapidly.
- The Tendency To Bend: While stainless steel doesn't snap, it does retain some properties of its core component, iron. It is bendable. This isn't noticeable as the degree of warping is very low, but over time, the grill can get garbled and end up being deformed.
Which One to Get
Honestly, that's entirely on you. However, I can provide some guidelines. Iron is better for thinner cuts of fish and meat. That's because they do a better job of slowly cooking the food. Turn the heat down and let the grill cool off a little. Then you place the thin cuts of food to cook slowly.
Steel heats up in a flash. This can easily burn anything that is thinner or smaller. So if you are cooking thicker pieces, try the steel one as it'll burn through and cook the inner part of the meat really fast. It is possible to cook smaller cuts of food on steel grills, but that is risky, and you need to be careful.
Iron grills also leave a better impression on the food, as in the sear marks. So if you're looking for aesthetics, pick the cast iron grill. They make the food come out looking great. Steel also leaves sears, but they don't look as magnificent.
The rest is your decision. At first, I want you to figure out what you want. Neither one is inferior to the other. They are just suited to different environments. Identify the environment that is yours and then make your choice. Happy hunting.