Choosing the best grill grates for your barbecue
A grill grate buying guide
A grill grate is a key ingredient for a successful outdoor barbecue, so knowing how to choose the best grill grates for your style of grilling is essential. There's a surprising variety of new grill grates available, with materials ranging from cast iron to aluminum. Some types of grill grates are basic grilling surfaces, exclusively designed as charcoal grill grates, while others are designed for more complex use.
>> Consider the different materials
Start your search by considering the grill grate material. The best grill grates are made of porcelain, steel, stainless steel, cast iron and aluminum. Because certain types of grill grates work better under certain grilling conditions, the right material for you depends on your personal grilling habits. Most grill grate brands carry grates made of different materials. To determine the best grill grates for you, think about how much time you want to spend prepping, cooking and cleaning.
Porcelain is a strong base, and it holds heat well. Steel grates are lightweight and easy to use. Cast iron is sturdy and absorbs flavor. With proper maintenance, it can become well-seasoned. Aluminum captures heat the best, and, like steel grates, is easy to clean.
Buying new grill grates helps ensure a non-stick surface from the start. Sticky marinades will complement aluminum grates with depressed rows that hold the marinade. Juices from the meat and the marinade get trapped in rows just below the grilling surface, where they spray upward to consistently flavor the meat as it's cooking. Cast iron will also reinforce the flavor of a strong marinade.
>> Consider how often you'll be grilling
Thinking about how often you grill will help you determine which grate to buy. If you grill regularly, certain materials will better suit your needs. Go with stronger, sturdier grates like cast iron or porcelain that won't warp under the stress of repeated use. If you're looking to perfect a certain recipe, buy grill grates that will make your cooking efforts more worthwhile. Cast iron will reinforce marinades, and once the grate warms, heat will distribute evenly across the grate. Well-maintained porcelain will create a non-stick surface, in case a particular meal requires constant flipping.
If you grill infrequently, buy grill grates that are more affordable. Steel cooking grates are simple, easy to install and inexpensive. Anticipating how often you'll grill and the degree of difficulty your meals will require will help you choose the right grill grate.
>> What kinds of food do you like to grill?
Ask yourself what you'll be grilling primarily. Thicker cuts of meat require more grilling time and lower heat. In this context, use cast iron, which distributes heat evenly and maintains a constant temperature. Because hot dogs and hamburgers thrive with high heat, simple steel grates or aluminum panel grates will work best. Ultimately, you want to buy grill grates that best accommodate your taste buds. If you're a vegetarian, consider using aluminum foil, which helps prevent vegetables from charring and allows them to cook at higher temperatures. If you barbecue foil free, consider a grill grate made of cast iron that can be primed to slow cook.
Remember to think about space and grill grate sizes. Size considerations include thickness of the grill grate as well as the distance between the grate and the charcoal. The best grill grates cover 100 percent of the surface area of the grill. You may want to consider grill grates with stacks, which are basically two grill grates held together by steel pillars. By utilizing both levels of the grill surface, you can cook twice the amount of food in the same amount of time.
>> Think about maintenance
For even the best grill grates, you'll need grill tools and accessories to properly use and maintain your new grill grates. Compatible grills and outdoor cooking products are often packaged together.
Think about how committed you are to regular clean up. If you want easy maintenance, consider a grill grate material like stainless steel or porcelain that cleans easily. Once you decide on the grill grate material, buy grill grate brushes and spatulas that are specifically designed for that material. This will prevent accidental chipping, and cleaning up will be a lot easier.
Grill grate collections often include useful innovations like a grill lifter. Not only do grill lifters allow you to re-arrange coals on the fly, but they expedite the maintenance process because they allow you to start cleaning before a sticky mess forms. Although these aren't essential to a basic grill operation, the right combination of a grill, a grate and accessories will enhance the overall quality of your grilling experience.
>> Alternative grilling
Although conventional grill grates are popular, alternative new grill grates have carved out a niche in the grill market. Several companies make fire pit cooking grates. Hot dogs, shish kabobs and chestnuts all can be roasted on an open fire. These grates are usually made from cast iron, and they're designed with a one foot-tall base that sits in the pit. If you spend a lot of time camping, you'll want to buy grill grates like these.
As mentioned above, consider grill grates with two levels - not only do they give you more surface area, but some are reversible. Because the two grill grates are of a different circumference, flipping this kind of grill grate over will put the food closer to your coals.
Consider starting a grill grate collection. Depending on the size and scope of the barbecue, select the appropriate grate and keep others on standby in case you have a plethora of different foods that you want to grill.
The effectiveness of any grill grate depends on how often you'll use it. The best grill grates will complement your other grilling implements.