On the surface, it might not seem like there’s a big difference between the two but if you’re planning to do some serious grilling, it’s in your best interest to know how one stacks up against the other.
3 FACTORS IN DETERMINING WHICH GRILL IS BEST FOR YOU
What will help you determine which is the best option for you comes down to three factors:
- Performance (how you’ll use your grill and for what purposes);
- Placement (will it be out in the open, exposed to the elements, or will it be protected when not in use);
- Price (what are you prepared to pay).
When it comes to grilling, performance can mean different things to different people. It all depends on what you’re looking for. Is there a certain look you’re after? What conducts heat better and under which cooking conditions? Do you want your grill to last? Do you mind cleaning it every time you use it, especially the grates?
Most grill bodies are made from cast aluminum, sheet metal, cast iron or stainless steel. Be careful on this last one since not all stainless steel is created equal. For durability and performance, you want both the grill body and the frame to be made from stainless steel. And check to see if stainless steel parts were used during construction. It’s not uncommon for some grill manufacturers to use alternate metal parts.
When it comes to placement, keep in mind that most grills don’t stand up well to the elements for extended periods of time. If, however, you’re planning to keep your grill protected, that opens up a few options for you.
As a general rule, higher quality BBQs have either steel, cast iron or a combination of both. These grills are easily maintained and are very durable, typically lasting for many years. And if it’s heat you’re looking for, either cast iron and stainless steel are your best choice here.
What you need to know about cast iron:
Cast iron retains a large amount of heat. Pure cast iron is corrosive, so the grates are usually coated with either porcelain or enamel. These coatings help to ensure the grates don’t rust while eliminating the need to season the metal (curing). They also make clean up easier. While you won’t get that sizzling sound the meat makes when it hits the grill, you also won’t get those dark sear marks either. The porcelain or enamel can be prone to cracks and chips, particularly if the grates are mishandled or dropped on cement patios. These cracks and chips will impact the grate’s ability to retain heat and will eventually cause the grate to rust through. Non coated, or bare, cast iron offers greater benefits like its ability to withstand searing heat and is also more resistant to sticking.
Pros and Cons
- Retain heat well and for a longer period of time
- Last a long time but not as long as steel
- Will rust and corrode over time
- Take more time and work to clean
- Must be cleaned when grates are still warm to take off residue
- Require more maintenance such as lightly oiling the grates after use
What you need to know about stainless steel:
Cooking with stainless steel generally means you might not get the high heat of a cast iron grill but you gain that back with heat retention. Stainless steel is also much more durable and resilient, able to withstand harsher elements like sun, wind, rain and salt. While the stainless steel grates will darken with use, this is considered normal (a simple wipe with a grill brush will remove it if desired) and there’s virtually no clean up since the steel needs no oiling. Maintenance is also easier. The cooking surfaces on stainless steel grills tend to be larger than those of cast iron grills but this is for good reason: they need to be able to retain enough heat to effectively sear/cook the food. For those looking for long-lasting, low maintenance, high-performing grills, consider going with stainless steel.
Pros and Cons
- Will not get as hot as cast iron grills but will hold heat better
- Easy to clean
- Minimal maintenance
- Very durable – will perform for years
- Won’t corrode or rust (tempered steel and chrome plated grills will)
- Will darken over time but this does not affect cooking or taste
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing a grill, it helps to know the pros and cons associated with both cast iron and stainless steel. Once you’ve determined how important grill performance, placement and price are, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision about which grill is best for you.