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Grate Expectations - Grilling Tip

One of things people look for in a grilled meal is the grill marks on the food. Many folks have heavy duty cast-iron or enameled cast iron grill grates that can lay on some great grill marks. But I’ve found that many folks do not know that these grill grates are often two different grates in one. They can be used on both sides and the side you chose allows you to deal with different types of grilled foods.

How do you know you have a cast iron or enameled cast iron grill grate? Easy, a regular metal grill grate is constructed of thin, solid stainless steel rods. Others use larger hollow stainless steel tubes with open bottoms. Both of these types are often a brushed or shiny silver color. Lastly they are much lighter than a cast iron grill grate. A cast iron grill grate is a dark, dark grey almost black color with wide metal bars that help give you wide grill marks. An enameled cast iron grill grate is similar to the cast iron grill grate but a smooth coating has been applied to the cast iron. This coating is used to help protect the metal from the elements and help keep the food from sticking.

“Second“Third

My gas grill has enameled cast iron grill grates. Here the grill is turned so the wide side of the grill is facing up. The flat sides are actually slightly rounded to help with food stickage. (left) In this picture the grates are installed tip side up. The corner tip has been rounded over to help with stickage (right).

So if you have a cast iron or enameled cast iron grill grate here is where the tip comes in: Did you know that these grill grates are often two-sided and the two sides are intended for different uses? Sadly this is often not made clear in the directions or if bought as an accessory you just get the grate and no directions at all. Now a regular metal grill grate can usually only one way. The main bars sit on top of the cross braces and you want these on top. Or the hollow bars are closed on the top side and open on the bottom, you want the closed side facing up. But the cast iron grill grates often have bars that are triangular in cross section. One side of the grill grate has one of the flat sides of the triangle facing up. The reverse side has one of the tips of the triangle facing up. The tip is usually rounded over with an eased edge so you don’t have a sharp point.

“Fourth“Fifth

The optional cast iron grill grates for the Big Green Egg have a similar triangular bar profile to the grates for my gas grill. Here the grate is installed flat side up (left) n this picture the grates are installed tip side up. The corner tip has been clipped off so it doesn’t come to a point and thus help with stickage issues (right).

You install the grill grate flat side up to get the maximum width grill marks on things like steaks, pork chops etc. You install the grill grate with the narrower more pointed side up when you are grilling delicate or fragile foods like fish, where you are worried about the food sticking to the grill grate. By minimizing the surface contact area you lesson the chances of sticking. When using the point side of the grill grate I also make sure the grill grate is clean and extra well oiled.

“Sixth

The Big Green Egg comes with a stock stainless steel grill grate which you can use when you don’t need or want grill marks.

The Big Green Egg’s cast iron grill grate is similar to my gas grill grates, with triangular shaped bars, but instead of rounding over the tip of the triangle on the other side the tip is clipped off to give you a much smaller flat area on the second side, The same principle applies here: use the wide flat side for maximum grill marks and the narrow flat side for foods you are worried about sticking. You have a third option with the BGE. The cast iron grate is an Eggcessory, the grill comes with a stock stainless steel grill grate. I use the stainless steel grill grate whenever I am not looking for grill marks. This would be when I am doing low and slow cooks, inditrect cooks or baking. The stainless steel grill grate is easier to clean and the narrower bars mean less stickage. Therefor when you don’t need grill marks just use the stock stainless steel grill grate.

So if you have a heavy cast iron or enameled cast iron grill grate take a closer look at it. See if the bars don’t have a triangular like shape. If so you can improved your grilling results by tailoring the side of the grill grate you use to the type of food you are grilling.

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