Cast Iron vs Stainless Steel Grill: Which is the Best for Your BBQ?

TheGrillingDad Answer: Cast iron and stainless steel are two popular materials used to make grills. Cast iron is known for its heat retention abilities but can be difficult to care for. Stainless steel grates are their lighter counterpart, but they don’t heat well and can create a grill with hot spots. We recommend going with a grill that has cast-iron grates.

Can’t decide between a cast iron and a stainless-steel grill? We are here to help!

Not sure which one is for you? Let’s look at all the facts so you can decide whether cast iron on stainless steel is a better choice for your grill grates.

Grill Grates

When it comes to grill grates, there are a few different materials to choose from. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to consider what you’re looking for in a grill grate before making a decision.

Cast Iron Grates

Cast iron grates are a popular choice for many grillers. They are known for their ability to retain heat and create excellent grill marks on your food. Cast iron grates also have non-stick properties when properly seasoned.

However, they can be prone to rust and corrosion if not properly cared for. Cast iron grates can also warp over time if exposed to high temperatures repeatedly.

Stainless Steel Grates

Stainless steel grates are another popular option. They are lighter than cast iron and often have thinner grilling surfaces, which allow for greater radiant heat. This results in even browning and an overall golden crust on food.

Stainless steel grates are also relatively low-maintenance and rust-resistant. However, they do not retain heat as well as cast iron and can create hot spots on the grilling surface.

Porcelain-Coated Cast Iron Grate

Porcelain-coated cast iron grates offer the best of both worlds. They have the heat retention and non-stick properties of cast iron but with the added benefit of a porcelain coating that protects against rust and corrosion.

Porcelain-coated cast iron grates also create excellent grill marks and are easy to clean. However, they can be more expensive and may require more maintenance than other types of grates.

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Cleaning and Maintenance of Different Types of Grill Grates

In considering cleaning and maintenance, both cast iron and stainless-steel grills have their pros and cons. Here are some things to consider:

Which is Easier to Maintain?

Stainless steel grills are generally easier to maintain than cast iron grills. They do not require seasoning or special care, and they can be cleaned with soap and water. Cast iron grills, on the other hand, require regular seasoning to prevent rust and maintain their non-stick surface.

Which is Easier to Clean?

Stainless steel grills are also easier to clean than cast iron grills. They do not require as much scrubbing, and they do not chip or flake as cast iron grills can. Cast iron grills require more elbow grease to clean, and if they are not seasoned properly, food can stick to the surface, making it even harder to clean.

What Type of Grill Grates Last the Longest?

Cast iron grills are known for their longevity. They can last for decades if properly cared for. Stainless steel grills, while durable, may not last as long as cast iron grills. However, stainless steel grills are less likely to rust or corrode, which can prolong their lifespan.

Need help removing rust from your grill? Check out our guide How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron for some helpful tips.


Cast iron grills can chip or flake if they are not seasoned properly or if they are dropped or mishandled. Stainless steel grills are less likely to chip or flake, but they can still be damaged if they are not cared for.

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What Type of Grill Grate Performs the Best?

Speaking about performance, both cast iron and stainless steel grills have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s what you need to know:


Cast iron grills are known for their ability to impart a smoky flavor to food, thanks to their porous surface that absorbs and retains oils and flavors. Stainless steel grills, on the other hand, don’t have this same porous surface and may not impart as much of a smoky flavor.


Cast iron grills are great for searing steaks and other meats, as they can get extremely hot and retain heat well. Stainless steel grills can also get hot, but they don’t retain heat as well as cast iron, which can make it harder to get a good sear.

Heat Up Quickly

Stainless steel grills tend to heat up more quickly than cast iron grills, which can be an advantage if you’re short on time. Cast iron grills take longer to heat up, but once they do, they retain heat better.


Stainless steel grills are generally lighter than cast iron grills, which can be an advantage if you need to move your grill around frequently. Cast iron grills are heavier and may be more difficult to move.

Carbon Content

Cast iron grills are made from iron that contains a high amount of carbon, which makes them more brittle and prone to cracking than stainless steel grills. Stainless steel grills contain little to no carbon, which makes them more durable.


Stainless steel grills contain chromium, which makes them more corrosion-resistant than cast iron grills. Cast iron grills can rust, while stainless steel grills are less likely to rust because of their chromium content.

Pros and Cons of Cast Iron Versus Stainless Steel

Everyone knows the best way to make a decision is to do the pros and cons. We’ve done just that and have compared them below. 

Cast Iron


  • Good heat retention
  • Adds grill marks to food (can sear meat)
  • Non-stick when seasoned
  • Lasts a long time
  • Porcelain coated cast iron grates won’t rust or corrode
  • Adds amazing flavor to food


  • Prone to rust and corrosion
  • More difficult to maintain
  • Can warp
  • Harder to move

Stainless Steel


  • Lighter/easier to move
  • Better radiant heat
  • Adds a good crust to food
  • Low maintenance, no special care needed
  • Rust resistant
  • No need to worry about chipping or flaking
  • Heats more quickly than cast iron


  • Doesn’t retain heat well
  • Creates hot spots on the grill
  • Won’t last as long as cast iron

Which is Better? Cast Iron or Stainless Steel?

The decision between these two materials ultimately depends on your personal preferences and needs. Both materials have their advantages and disadvantages.

However, here at TheGrillingDad, we are a fan of porcelain-coated cast-iron grates. These grates make it a breeze to cook all kinds of food, no matter what type of grill you may be using. We love a good sear, and this just isn’t possible with stainless steel.

Sure, these grates take a little more cleaning, but we find it to be worth it. Just make sure you season your grill regularly (once per season) to keep your cast iron grates in their best condition.

For more information about seasoning your grill, head over to our guide How to Season Your Pellet Grill (10 Easy Steps).

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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