Whether you are shopping for a new Weber grill or it is time to do some repairs on your classic ten year old Genesis then you have a choice between stainless steel and cast iron cooking grates. There are pros and cons to each material and I struggled for a few years to figure out which was the best option.
However, I am now pretty comfortable saying that in the stainless steel vs cast iron grill grate debate that I am solidly if favor of stainless steel.
Why Stainless Steel Grates are Better than Cast Iron
Even though I prefer stainless steel, I really do love cast iron. I love the look, feel and weight of cast iron. Cast iron is rugged and is a great throwback to old school cooking. That being said, here are the four reasons why I don’t use cast iron grill grates.
- Grill Marks
Cast Iron Rusts More than Stainless
The cast iron grates that came with Weber gas grills in the 1990’s were raw cast iron. The grates had to be kept “seasoned” or else they would rust like the dickens. In reality it was impossible to keep both sides of the grate properly seasoned and folks got tired of looking at buckets of rust every time they opened their grill.
Modern cast iron grates from Weber are now coated with a clear porcelain enamel. This is essentially a thin, hardened glass surface that protects the cast iron from rusting. While the porcelain enamel is a great addition to the great it does eventually develop hairline cracks and chips which will enable the rusting to begin.
Stainless Grates Weigh Less than Cast Iron
The weight of cast iron grates is an advantage in a skillet and a disadvantage in a grill grate. The physical properties of cast iron make it slow to heat up but exceptional at retaining heat. This heat retention of cast iron the perfect for frying chicken in a skillet where you want the temperature to be as stable as possible but serves little purpose on an open grill grate. As far as I am concerned you have to wait longer for your grill to preheat with no tangible benefit in return.
And that brings us to grill marks.
Stainless Grates Give Better Grill Marks than Cast Iron
I have never been able to get great grill marks with cast iron grates. I can get okay grill marks but nothing sexy. This goes back to the fact that cast iron is great at retaining heat, not transferring heat. The modern Weber cast iron grates have a flat side and a “pointy side” and Weber says that you should grill with the flat side up. I have tried the grates in both directions and get better grill marks with the pointy side but they are nothing to write home about.
Here is a video showing a head to head comparison of grill marks between the two types of grates.
Stainless Grates are Easier to Clean than Cast Iron
I am always nervous when I clean cast iron grates with a grill brush. I want to get in there and scrub the grate hard. I want the grate nice and clean so I can at least try to get some decent grill marks. But I am afraid that if I scrub too hard I am going to chip the enamel coating and the grates will start rusting on me.
Grates for Weber Kettles
Everything in the stainless vs cast iron grate comparison applies to charcoal grills as well as gas grills.
A couple of years ago I wrote a review for Craycort cast iron grates that I was using on my kettle.
I love my Craycort and I am delighted to own a set. I stand by my original assessment that they are a serious kettle upgrade, especially when you factor in all of the different inserts that are available.
I have two 22.5 inch kettles on my deck. One has the Craycort grates and the other has a stainless steel hinged grate. Over the past year I have used my kettle with the stainless steel grate exclusively.
Every now and then I think about using my other kettle but then I lift the lid, look at the rust on my Craycorts and switch back over to my other kettle.
Stainless Steel Grill Grates Are Better
Stainless steel grates are a breeze to clean, will last forever and lay down beautiful grill marks.
The stainless steel grates for most Weber gas grills are 7mm in diameter for most grill but 9mm on some models. Both versions are extremely solid and should last at least 10 years. I do not see an advantage of the 9mm rods over the 7mm rods as the 9mm rods will take longer to heat up.
I have consistently found that stainless grates are really easy to clean compared to cast iron. It seems like grill crud will just slide right off of stainless.
I really wish the cast iron grates won out in this comparison.
I love cast iron. In practice though, stainless steel is the better option.