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What's the Best Grill Grate Material for Gas Grills?

In the market for new grill grates? Great! Looking for the best grill grate material for your upgrade? We got you covered.

Puns aside, your grill’s grates are perhaps the most important feature of your gas grill. After all, your grates are where the magic happens! If your current grates are grimy, rusty, or damaged, it’s not just a matter of aesthetics—it can impact your cooking and even pose a safety risk.

If you’re not sure where to start when looking at grill grates, we’re here to help. In this guide, we’ll break down the top three materials for gas grill grates — stainless steel, cast iron, and porcelain enameled — and walk you through which one is our top choice.

Of course, gas grill cooking grate material is a hot topic. Everyone has their favorites, and our favorite material may not be yours. That’s fine!

Throughout this article, we’ll give you things to consider and questions to ask yourself as you think about each grill grate material to help narrow down the option that’ll work best for you. We also take into consideration different cooking preferences, budgets, and even how much time you feel like dedicating to maintaining your grates.

Ready to find your perfect grill grate? Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • The choice of grill grate material should align with your cooking style, maintenance preferences, and budget considerations.

  • Each material has its unique advantages, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer; personal preference plays a significant role in determining the best option for you.

  • Stainless steel grates are our choice for the best grill grate material for gas grills because they are durable, easy to clean, and resist rust, making them ideal for low-maintenance grilling.

Which Is the Best Grill Grate Material for Gas Grills?

Ask a group of grillers what the best grate material for gas grills is, and you’ll likely get a few different answers.

The best grill grate material for gas grills depends on your cooking style, maintenance preferences, and desired durability.

Some prefer stainless steel because it can withstand cooking at searing hot temperatures, offers excellent corrosion resistance, and is easy to clean.

Others opt for cast iron because of its fantastic heat retention providing superior sear marks on food, but require more maintenance to prevent rust.

Porcelain-enameled grates combine the benefits of both, with easy cleaning and good heat retention, but can chip and degrade more quickly over time.

Each material has its own pros and cons, so the best choice varies based on individual needs and priorities.

Let’s get into it.

The Most Common Grill Grate Materials – PROs and CONs

Stainless Steel Grill Grates | Cast Iron Grill Grates | Porcelain-Coated Grill Grates

The most common materials you’ll find grill grates made from these days are stainless steel, cast iron, and porcelain-enameled.

As mentioned, each has its own set of pros and cons. We break those pros and cons down for you with a deep dive into each below.

Stainless Steel Grill Grates

Stainless steel is one of the most popular choices for gas grill grates and for good reason.

They’re durable and long-lasting and don’t require as much maintenance as other grill grate types.

Stainless steel grates are easy to clean and maintain, making them a convenient choice for frequent grillers.

Types of Stainless Steel Grill Grates

Stainless steel grill grates are available in three different shapes: rod, cast, or hexagonal.

  • Rod-shaped stainless steel grates: These are the most common that you’ll find on standard gas grills. They’re made from rows of tube-shaped rods that run vertically over the burners.
  • Cast stainless steel grates: These are a bit more heavy-duty than rod grates. They’re created by pouring stainless steel into a cast in the shape of a grate. Cast stainless grates are heavier and can retain heat better than traditional rods, but they can also flake over time, like cast iron.
  • Hexagonal-shaped stainless steel grates: Some manufacturers offer different shapes of stainless steel grates to improve the grilling experience. The most common of these shaped grates are hexagonal, which provide a flat surface for the food to sit on to create more even cooking and less food stickage.

You may also find diamond-shaped grates from some manufacturers, which offer similar benefits as hexagonal grates, but they’re less common.

Stainless Steel Grill Grate PROs

Stainless steel grill grates are so common because they offer several benefits to grillers, including:

  • Long-lasting durability
  • Highly resistant to rust and corrosion
  • Easy to clean
  • Require little maintenance
  • Lightweight and easy to move
  • Affordable
  • Heats up quickly and provides consistent heat
  • Non-porous surface limits bacterial growth

Stainless Steel Grill Grate CONs

While good at distributing heat, they don’t retain heat as well as cast iron, potentially affecting sear marks.

High-quality stainless steel grates can be more expensive than other materials. Cheaper stainless steel can discolor and degrade with intense heat and frequent use.

Of course, when you put a material that’s thin and lightweight over a flame, there are bound to be some drawbacks.

Other cons of stainless steel grill grates include:

  • The cooking surface can degrade over time
  • Food likely to stick as surface degrades
  • Must be cleaned regularly to remove grease build-up

Stainless Steel Grill Grate Maintenance

While stainless steel grill grates are easy to clean, regular cleaning is a must to make sure they last and stay safe to cook on.

To maintain stainless steel grill grates, let them cool down after cooking, then wipe them down with a damp rag or sponge. If any stubborn food is stuck to the surface, grab a scraper or a wire-free grill brush to remove it.

Additional Considerations

When shopping for stainless steel grill grates, remember that not all stainless steel is created with the same quality.

Some manufacturers wrap traditional, cheaper steel rods with a layer of stainless steel in an attempt to market them as stainless steel grill grates. As these knock-off grates are exposed to heat, the stainless wrapping can warp and even pop open, exposing the metal inside and rendering the grates unsuitable for safe cooking.

Read the grate specifications closely when shopping to make sure you’re avoiding these wrapped grates.

Cast Iron Grill Grates

Cast iron grill grates are created when iron is poured into a cast of the grate shape, then typically coated with porcelain enamel to give them an easy-to-maintain surface. Some purists prefer their grates uncoated so they can oil them and build up a seasoning like a great cast iron pan.

They are celebrated for their superior heat retention and ability to produce prominent grill marks. Be aware that cast iron grates require regular seasoning to maintain their non-stick properties and prevent rust.

They’re a favorite of many grillers and manufacturers alike for a few key reasons.

Cast Iron Grill Grate PROs

There’s something about the ability to season cast iron grates that contributes to a non-stick surface and adds a distinctive flavor to grilled foods.

Cast iron grill grates offer many benefits that stainless steel cannot, including:

  • Fantastic heat retention
  • Cost-effective, generally more affordable than high-end stainless steel
  • Long-lasting when properly maintained
  • Creates restaurant-quality sear marks
  • Enameled coating or oil seasoning can prevent sticking food

Cast Iron Grill Grate CONs

Cast iron cooking grates are significantly heavier than other materials, making them more cumbersome to remove and clean. They can also take longer to reach the desired cooking temperature compared to stainless steel grates.

Along with its heavy-duty pedigree come a few additional drawbacks to cast iron grill grates, including:

  • Heavy and hard to move
  • Fragile — will break if dropped
  • Requires constant maintenance
  • Can rust and corrode quickly if not maintained
  • If sold without an enamel coating, the grates need seasoning to be non-stick

Cast Iron Grill Grate Maintenance

Cast iron grill grates can last for years, but that lifespan requires consistent, hands-on maintenance.

To clean cast iron grill grates that have a porcelain enamel coating, wait until they’re completely cool, then spray them down with a degreaser and let that sit for a few minutes.

Use a grill brush or scrubber to clean the grates, but do not use a grill scraper, as it can damage the porcelain coating and leave the grates vulnerable to rust.

If your grates aren’t coated, after cleaning, you’ll need to use a paper towel or cloth to rub a bit of cooking oil onto them to help prevent them from becoming dry and brittle, or rusty.

Additional Considerations

Before you cook on cast iron grates that don’t have a porcelain coating, you’ll need to season them with cooking oil to make sure food doesn’t stick.

In addition to creating a non-stick surface, the seasoning process also helps provide flavoring for the food and prevents the cast iron from drying out and rusting.

Porcelain-Coated Grill Grates

Porcelain-coated grill grates are most commonly stainless steel or cast iron coated in a smooth enamel that both protects the metal surface from corrosion and creates a non-stick layer for food to cook on.

They combine ease of cleaning with good heat retention. However, they can chip if mishandled, exposing the underlying metal to rust quickly.

Porcelain Enameled Grill Grate PROs

The smooth, non-stick porcelain coating simplifies cleanup, requiring less effort to remove food residues. However, you need to do so more carefully to avoid chipping. Wire grill brushes are a no-go!

Porcelain-enameled grates solve many of the issues people encounter with standard stainless steel or cast iron grates and deliver benefits including:

  • Moderately priced
  • Non-stick surface for food
  • Corrosion-resistant as long as the coating is intact

Porcelain Enameled Grill Grate CONs

As excellent as porcelain enameled grill grates are at preventing food from sticking, there are some major cons to their design.

Sudden temperature changes can cause the porcelain to crack, requiring careful preheating and cooling.

Other cons include:

  • Enamel coating is prone to chipping if dropped or not cleaned properly
  • Using metal tools or abrasive cleaners can scratch the surface
  • Damaged coating exposes the grates to rust and corrosion
  • Poor heat retention
  • Careful maintenance required

Porcelain Enameled Grill Grate Maintenance

To maintain porcelain-enameled grill grates, you cannot use the blade or scraper found at the end of most grill brushes. Using this tool can easily chip or scratch the porcelain, exposing the steel or cast iron underneath and causing it to quickly rust.

A brass bristle brush is the best choice for these because it’s a soft metal that won’t damage the coating. However, to use one of these, you need to wait for the grill to cool completely otherwise the bristles can melt.

Additional Considerations

Many budget-friendly grills will feature porcelain enameled grates since they can be more cost-effective to manufacture than stainless steel or cast iron.

If you feel up to the task of maintaining the porcelain coating and making sure it doesn’t get damaged, then choosing a grill with these grates can be a smart move for your wallet.

Our Choice for Best Type of Gas Grill Cooking Grates: Stainless Steel

At the end of the day, there can really only be one “best” grill grate material for gas grills.

Our choice for the best type of gas grill cooking grates is stainless steel, due to its impressive blend of durability, ease of maintenance, and hygienic properties.

Stainless steel delivers many more advantages compared to cast iron or porcelain-coated grill grates, like longevity, and a choice of performance shapes like hexagonal or diamond rods.

While they may not retain heat as well as cast iron grates, their consistent heat distribution supports even cooking. For grillers seeking a low-maintenance and long-lasting option, stainless steel grates are an excellent choice.

Which Grill Grate Material Is Best for You?

Of course, the grill grate material we consider to be the best may not be the best for you! Everyone’s cooking preferences, tolerance for cleaning and maintenance, and budget are different.

Even your location can impact which grill grates will be the best option for you since living near water can cause even high-quality stainless steel to rust over time.

Before you choose which grill grate material will be the best fit for your grill, ask yourself these questions:

Do You Like to Cook With Low Heat or High Heat?

If you typically stick to low-heat cooking and cook things like fish or vegetables, then porcelain enameled grates are a fantastic choice.

If you prefer to get things roaring hot before cooking, you’ll want grates that offer high heat retention, like cast iron.

Do You Like to Season Your Grill?

Taking care of cast iron cooking equipment is a labor of love, and many people just don’t feel up to it.

However, if you enjoy the seasoning process, consider non-coated cast iron grates since they’ll allow you to season the surface without worrying about chipping the coating.

How Long Would You Like Your Grates to Last?

This may seem like a trick question (of course, you want your grates to last as long as possible!), but it is one to consider.

Cast iron grates can last for decades with proper handling, but one accidental drop onto your patio can break them apart.

Stainless steel, on the other hand, is incredibly durable and often comes with a lifetime warranty. Drop them on the patio and all you’ll have to deal with is a minor annoyance, not a broken grate.

Do You Have the Time and Patience to Handle Maintenance?

Both cast iron and porcelain-enameled grill grates are incredibly high maintenance.

Regular cleaning is important for any grill grate material, of course, but these two require a little extra TLC.

If you rather just wipe your grates down after cooking and call it a day, stick to stainless steel.

What Is Your Budget?

More expensive grill grates can give you years of quality cooking, and peace of mind that they won’t fall prey to corrosion.

But even if your budget is a little tighter, with regular maintenance you can help your grill grates last for a long time.

What Are the Characteristics You Should Look for in a Grill Grate?

You should look for three key characteristics in a good grill grate.

First, a grill grate needs to provide excellent heat transfer to evenly cook food and produce the sear marks many people look for from grilled food.

A quality grate should also be non-stick or easy to clean since spending more time cleaning up the mess from grilling your food than you do actually eating it is no fun.

Finally, high-performing grates should be strong and durable so they can withstand the test of time. After all, they’re subjected to incredibly high heat, so a flimsy, low-quality rate that’ll wear down over time isn’t your best bet.

How to Clean and Take Care of Your Grill Grates

No matter what material you choose, there are a few rules of thumb to follow to make sure you’re protecting your investment and helping your grates perform at the highest level.

First rule: clean your grates before and after every cooking session. If there’s any debris or gunk left over from your last time using the grill, or if Mother Nature has left any surprises on the grates since you last opened your grill up, you’ll want to remove that before you cook.

Always let your grill cool off somewhat after cooking. Cleaning the grates improperly while hot can cause damage to the grate surface or coating if it has one. You can gently scrape away food while the grill is still warm to save yourself some elbow grease but save the heavy-duty cleaning for when it’s cool.

Spray a degreaser to help loosen up any stuck-on debris, then scrub them down with a wire-free brush or scrubber. (The one place we let our wire-free brush rule slip a bit is with porcelain enameled grates since brass bristles are the most effective and safe way to clean them).

Porcelain Coating Warning

If your grill grates have a porcelain coating, avoid using a scraper or any tool with a sharp edge to pry food off, as it can chip the coating and require replacing the entire grate.

Once you’ve removed the stuck-on food and grease, a simple cleaning with warm water and dish soap should suffice.

Uncoated Cast Iron Grate Maintenance

If you have uncoated cast iron grates, rub them down with oil to prevent drying out or rusting. You can do this both before and after cooking to keep up that non-stick surface and tasty seasoning.

For more tips on cleaning grill grates, see our guide: The Ultimate Guide on How to Clean Grill Grates

Best Grill Grate Material – FAQs

Have some additional questions about the best grill grate material for gas grills? We’ve got you covered! Find answers in the FAQs below!

What Are Grill Grates and What Are They Used For?

Grill grates are the slotted metal plates that you cook your food on while grilling. These grates act as a surface to hold your food over the heat source while assisting in heat transfer and even cooking, keeping food from scorching or sticking, preventing flare-ups, and creating signature grill marks.

What Are the Advantages of Stainless Steel Grill Grates?

The advantages of stainless steel grill grates include durability, resistance to rust and corrosion, ease of cleaning, and they provide consistent heat distribution. They are low maintenance and offer a hygienic cooking surface, making them a popular choice for gas grills.

Why Might Someone Choose Cast Iron Grill Grates?

Someone might choose cast iron grill grates for their superior heat retention, which ensures even cooking and excellent sear marks. Cast iron also enhances the flavor of grilled foods over time and, with proper seasoning, can develop a natural non-stick surface.

What Are the Benefits of Porcelain-Enameled Grill Grates?

The benefits of porcelain-enameled grill grates include easy cleaning, good heat retention, and resistance to rust and corrosion. The smooth porcelain coating provides a non-stick surface, reducing the likelihood of food sticking and making them a practical choice for hassle-free grilling.

How Do I Decide Which Grill Grate Material Is Best for Me?

Decide on a grill grate material based on your cooking style, maintenance preferences, and budget. If you prioritize low maintenance and longevity, go for stainless steel. For superior heat retention and flavor, choose cast iron. Porcelain-enameled grates offer a balance of easy cleaning and good heat retention.

Best Grill Grate Material for Gas Grills Guide: Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has helped shed some light on why stainless steel is our grill grate material of choice!

Of course, our choice doesn’t necessarily have to be yours. With the information covered in this guide, feel free to make the choice that makes the most sense for your grilling habits, budget, and willingness to get your hands dirty with a bit of maintenance.

Whichever material you choose, be sure to clean your grates well before and after each cooking session. If you treat your grates right, they’ll return the favor with even cooking, minimal food sticking, and food magazine-worthy grill marks.

Cheers,

Emily

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DisclosureAt The Grilling Life, I am committed to researching and writing thoughtful, informative and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your outdoor cooking needs.  If you like what I do, you can support me through my chosen links, which earn me a commission.  This allows me to continue sharing with you my love for all things barbecue.  Your support is truly appreciated.

Emily Lord

I’m a Wisconsin-based freelance writer and home cook who loves hosting parties and expressing my love for my family and friends through homemade meals and baked goods.

I blame Iron Chef and Chopped for my competitiveness in the kitchen.

In my free time, I occasionally run marathons as an excuse to eat more good food.