There is nothing quite so fine on a cold November’s eve, than the sound of a thick porterhouse steak sizzling prostrate over a beautiful bed of coals. It’s ample portions of a cow well-pampered, searing to perfection on a hot cast iron grate. We often praise the method of in-direct cooking here, putting your meat opposite the hot coals for to cook there out of harms way. It is a good and reliable technique. But there are also times in the BBQ arts where it is appropriate to throw caution to the cowards, and plunk your plunder straight over the inferno. The char mark is just such an occasion.
It’s pretty much for cosmetic flare alone, tho there is some flavor in char I suppose. Nay, this is more like chrome on your bumper rather than a finely tuned transmission. You don’t need it to get where you’re going, but it sure looks good when you pull into your destination. A lovingly seared steak, branded with a crisp diamond hatch pattern, is one of the higher pleasures to grace our dinner plates, and men and women folk alike and around the world will openly weep in its presence. It’s pretty easy to do too, and just takes a few minutes over direct heat.
Now a char mark is rather simple to achieve if you have a good cast iron grate to work with. The standard steel grates that come with a Weber kettle can do an OK job, but it’s a whole lot easier, better, and a might more fun, with grates from the likes of Craycort Cast Iron Grates. We got our Craycort grate last year, and it has been a love affair ever since. If you haven’t bothered to get yourself one of these yet for your Weber Kettle grill, well, you’re missing out!
Anyways, a good way to get a perfect char mark every time is to first oil the grate. Use an oil with a high flash point, such as peanut oil, and paint it on good and liberal. Let the grate get piping hot. Now if you’re so inclined, and really want to swing for the fences, brush some oil over your steak too. This will all but guarantee you some killer grill marks. When everything is good and hot and oily, plunk your meat right down over ground zero, and listen to it sizzle and sing. Flames will shoot up, and seemingly appear to savage your steak, but fear not. You have things well under control. After 90 seconds or so, and with tongs in hand, adeptly clasp your beloved protein and rotate it a minimum of 45 degrees or so, for the oft coveted diamond hatch pattern. Let your pit master instincts be your guide here.
Flip steak. Oil grate again if you like, and repeat the process. The perfect char marks are yours for the taking. After a fashion, tuck the steaks in-direct now, to finish cooking with a little mesquite wood added to the coals for good measure. Season as you see fit, and serve alongside a good potato. Man! Good eating at the pit. And shoot, kinda looks pretty too!
Grill on, people!
Well it happened. We have grilled so much meat that our humble steel cooking grate has finally burned through. Except those portions of the grate which have narrowed significantly, but still hang on, courtesy of the many fiery sorties and the great thermal traumas inflicted there. It was a good grate, by and by, but not a great grate. It had a couple of short comings – but at the end of the day, I guess we all do. For one, it didn’t last more than a few years. A larger gauge steel would have helped there. However, secondly, it was a steel grate, and meat tends to stick to steel unless they are oiled down before hand. And lastly, tho not that important I suppose, steel grates are challenged when it comes to making those aesthetically pleasing grill marks on your meat. It doesn’t really rank all that important I guess, but every pit keeper in the back of their mind is quietly hoping for a killer diamond hatch pattern on his steak. It just makes him feel good. At any rate, it was time for a new grate. And thanks to a fellow named Rolf Buerkle and a good idea he had once, I got one.
Enter Craycort Grills Cast-Iron Grates. These are some of the very best grates you will find on the market today. We absolutely love them! The modular grate we went with was designed by the aforementioned Rolf Buerkle of Craycort Grills, and is specially constructed for the 18 1/2 inch weber kettle grill. They come in any size Weber you have tho, so fear not. They also are excellent, they say, for big green eggs, and kamados joes. At any rate, it has been a grand experience thus far. Let me tell you about it.
The Craycort customer service was pretty awesome right from the get go. Rolf himself contacted us, making sure we got everything we needed. And we did. Rolf seemed a pleasant, meat-eating fellow, in good humor, who at once appreciated not only our premeditated love for cast iron, but also our proclivity for winter grilling. He took care of us, for sure! He sent us one of his 18.5 inch cast iron grates as seen below.
The grate that came in the mail was heavy. Like almost 12 pounds kind of heavy. A manly grate weight if ever there was one. It was well packaged too, not that it needed much protection, as the thing is built rather like a Sherman tank, but it was good to see it was pampered right from the factory. What we also appreciated is that it came already seasoned in soy oil. So it’s ready to start cooking with right out of the box. Even so, we let it cook a while on the pit, just in case, to burn off any residue that might have accidentally conspired there. The grate is also modular in design. Three pie pieces, if you will, which slip into the main cast iron ring. They are thick and heavy, and mean business right out of the box. You will be impressed.
Of course the slick part, and the reason for going modular in the first place, is you can easily pluck out any section of the grate. This is a key feature for we patrons of the pit, who are forever and always tinkering with the coals; dumping more in along with varied chunks of smoke wood. There is a cast iron handle also sold separately for manipulating the hot grates, which we found quite handy. Or you could conceive your own tool, perhaps, to do the same job. Regardless, we instantly fell in love with the modular design of these grates. It’s the same sort of setup for the 22.5 inch kettle grills, except those grates come with four sections, instead of three. First impressions of the grate appealed to every manly fiber of our being. And if that were it, we probably would have been satisfied right there. But that wasn’t it. It got even better. One word – accessories!
Rolf was also kind enough to send us a cast iron hot plate/griddle insert. Buddy, now you’re speaking my love language! Simply pull out one of the grate sections and plunk this griddle in its place, and you’re off to the culinary races with such comestibles as: eggs, bacon, sausage, sandwiches, vegetables, and well, just about anything you would do on a griddle over the stove top. It gets even better still. These griddle inserts, we discovered, are also reversible. On the other side we found a series of raised, parallel edges, or ribs, suitable for steaks or a panini or where ever your pit master instincts bring you. Very cool! Craycort sells other accessories too, we found out, such as a vegetable wok, which is also modular and will slip right into place. There is a pizza stone too, which we might have to try some day. Some good stuff – all of it made of durable cast iron. And we like that a lot. Back to these grates.
The pros keep chugging right along. And this next one falls into the aesthetic category – of what is pleasing to the eye. If the grates are good and hot, cleaned and oiled down, you can amaze your friends and astound your family with the timeless pit keeper stamp of excellence – the sear mark. And cast iron grates excel at it. To assure the perfect sear mark, butter or oil your meat before you plunk it on the grate.
Remember those old black iron frying pans your grandma used to use? There is a reason grand mothers are always the best cooks in the family. They knew what to cook with! Cast iron well-cared for is not only something you can pass down to your children’s children, it is also supremely adept at evenly spreading heat and then retaining it there. Better yet, cast iron is one of the few things in the human condition that seems to get better with use. These grates will become more and more non-stick with each grilling session, just like grandma’s old cast iron frying pan. It’s not just something you cook with, it’s something, that with time, you are proud of. Something to last the ages. Say what you will, but that is no small thing.
For as great as these grates are, they are not without a downside. The dreaded beast of compromise surfaces once again. We found them to be a little pricey at around 70 to 80 bucks for a grate. But the bright side is it should be the last grate you’ll ever need to buy, so, in the long run, you’re probably saving money. You will be hard pressed to burn through one of these grates. The other down side, and the only thing we can really knock on these grates is, being made of cast iron, they do and will have a tendency to rust if not cared for. But it is controllable with a wee bit of maintenance. If your cast iron grate is rusty, rest assured you have no one to blame but the pit master in the mirror. Craycort recommends you wipe the grate down in cooking oil before and after each cooking session. A good coating of oil is key to protecting cast iron, and especially these grates, which spend most of their lives out-of-doors. Thus, let it be your habit, if you get one of these grates, to keep a bottle of peanut oil or the like handy, and simply make it part of your grilling process to keep the grate clean and wiped down in oil. It will take all of a minute out of your day and go a very long ways towards keeping this cast iron grate beautiful for a life time come.
We found the Craycort Grills 18.5 cast iron grate to be supremely rugged and well built. We cannot divine ever wearing this thing out, and we grill a lot! The hot plate/griddle accessory looks to be equally as well- built, and we liked how it fit right in with the modular design of this grate. At first blush, the price point of the grate seemed a bit steep, but after considering how long it will last, which is basically for ever, well, the price seemed a trivial non-factor. We also loved its non-stick surface and heat retaining qualities of the cast iron, the latter which promotes better char marks. The only downside we found was its tendency to rust. They will require a little maintenance each cook. And that is no big deal really, for supreme grilling satisfaction. And the Craycourt customer service was amiable, friendly and prompt. Looks to be a good company sharing with the world an excellent product. That’s our review of it anyways.
So if you’re looking to upgrade your kettle grill, or searching for a worthy birthday gift for your man, or resident pit keeper, he will be all smiles with one of these beautiful cast iron grates. You may even eat well that night too! Man!
Check them out along with other cast iron grilling products at: Craycort Grills
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