Have you ever wondered why porcelain-enamel cast iron charcoal grill (with cast iron grate or burner) is generally more expensive than ordinary stainless steel versions?
And what's the difference between simply cast-iron and ceramic coated cast iron?
Let's talk about some of the benefits of iron-cast and stainless steel charcoal grill models so you can see major advantages and disadvantages of each type, and make better purchase decision.
You might have heard that cast iron distributes the heat better than stainless steel and provides more even cooking temperature across the whole grilling surface. It also minimizes flare-ups and burnings of food.
Weber Cast Iron Cooking Grate
However, the gap between fully cast iron charcoal grill's price and lower end smokers are so huge (often 1.5 or 2 times more expensive) that many beginners often choose over budget options. What they don't realize, is that stainless steel grates cost more in the long run because they are less efficient than thick cast iron grates. And if you have been grilling barbecues for some time or ask someone who has experience, they will tell you that charcoals are not cheap, a typical cook for large family may cost $5 in buying charcoal lumps or wood burners.
Another advantage of cast-iron over stainless charcoal grill is that it prevents sticking of food, especially when you grill bbqs such as chicken fillets, turkeys, bratwurst and other meat that has fatty skin on the outside.
Stainless steel grate and burner, on the other hand, have the advantage of being light and easy to transport or move around your house. So apart from being economical investment, they also provide more mobility.
This is less widespread information, but did you know that grilling in cast-iron metal grate (also referred to as a gridiron) also potentially increases the iron dietary intake? This phenomenon takes place when you cook food with high level of acidity, such as lentils, tomatoes, or steaks and meat cooked with rich acid sauces or marinades.
It's been estimated that 2/3 of American don't get enough iron in their daily intake. This is especially true for women who are more prone to lack of iron because of blood loss through menstruation (iron is important for healthy blood circulation and efficient oxygen distribution to our brain).
The longer you grill and hotter the cooking temperature, the higher chance of the barbecue picking up the iron from the grate. Note: this only happens when you have bare cast iron grill grate, not those with ceramic coating (porcelain-enamel grates).
As explained above, if the grate is ceramic coated, it won't give you the health advantage of cooking with cast iron. On the other side, porcelain enamel cast-iron grate and burners are much more durable and solid than their stainless steel counterparts. This is due to protective coating that eliminates rusting and corrosion from leaking fat grease that drips from the food.
If you keep the charcoal grill outdoor most of the time, it also subjects to harsh weather conditions, such as steep temperature change, moisture and acidity from the rain, heating form direct sunlight and many more. This is when porcelain layer comes really handy and useful, prolonging your grill's lifetime and improve grilling performance. Many stainless steel charcoal burners degrade very quickly after few month of use and become less efficient at retaining inside temperature because of damages caused by external atmosphere.
It's very clear that cast iron charcoal grills are more beneficial then stainless steel models. However, there is a huge price gap between the two. If you already own a charcoal grill or smoker, but it does not come with cast-iron grate, you can always buy a separate one from major manufacturers such as Weber or Lodge cast iron grates. Both brand names provide high quality charcoal grill parts in variety of shapes and sizes to fit you particular grill model.
Looking to buy a very good value cast iron grill at a reasonable price? Try the Lodge Logic L410 Pre-Seasoned Sportsman's Charcoal Grill as pictured above, it sells for about $100 with free super saver shipping if you live in the US.