I recently wrote a post on the best pellet grills for under $500. Within that post, I discussed how budget pellet grills while excellent smokers will generally struggle with high temp grilling/searing due to their inability to exceed 450 degrees. However, there is an accessory which can improve the grilling/searing performance of any pellet grill by between 100 and 200 degrees, and its called GrillGrate. These hard-anodized aluminium panels sit on top of the pellet grills existing cooking surface, absorbing the heat more effectively. GrillGrates can therefore dramatically improve the grilling/searing performance of budget pellet grills, in fact, any wood pellet grill.
GrillGrates can dramatically improve the grilling/searing performance on budget pellet grills: Image – Amazon.com
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
While I think anyone considering the purchase of a budget pellet grill based on an old time-based controller (not a PID controller) should seriously consider GrillGrates, they should also be considered for any pellet grill. As I discuss below, the benefits of GrillGrates are not only limited to their ability the offer a higher temp cooking surface, they also offer additional benefits.
Introduction To GrillGrate For Pellet Grills
GrillGrate LLC was founded by Brad Barrett of Cartersville, Georgia in 2007. Like many good inventions, the inspiration for GrillGrate came from Brad’s personal frustrations at an uneven temperature cooking surface on his grill which also dried out his food.
What Brad came up with is a raised rail design sitting over a bottom plate that is perforated with holes. GrillsGrates are multifunctional offering several improvements to the cooking performance of your pellet grill. First off, let’s discuss higher temperature grilling/searing.
As is shown in the video above, with GrillGrates fitted a pellet grill will typically benefit from a cooking surface 100-200 degrees hotter than standard. For instance, on a Z Grill pellet grill with a maximum temperature setting of 450 degrees and thin wire racks you would see a dramatic improvement in grilling/searing performance with a set of GrillGrates. On the lowest specification pellet grills, you may get close to that 200-degree increase in cooking surface temperature.
Some Budget Class pellet grills such as those from Pit Boss and some higher-spec Practical Class pellet grills from Cuisinart and Broil King feature cast-iron grates. Pellet grills with cast-iron grates will likely see a less dramatic improvement in cooking surface temperatures. However, as shown below, the benefits of GrillGrates are not limited to providing higher cooking surface temperatures.
The Vaporiser Effect and ‘DRIP-ology’
So we have established that the raised rails of GrillGrates and the fact they are made from hard-anodized aluminium help them to gain and hold heat for improved searing/grill performance. However, the bottom plate with perforated holes serves more of a purpose than simply the foundation for the raised rails, its a flavour enhancer.
Grease/fat and juices from food cooking above on the raised rails of the GrillGrates falls onto the bottom plate below. Though it doesnt instantly fall through the holes in the bottom plate, it will sit there and vaporise, pushing moisture and flavour back up into the food cooking above. This actually provides a second benefit, as less fat and grease is instantly dropping into the fire below, you get fewer flare-ups so its also safer.
GrillGates and Direct Flame Broiling
Granted, most pellet grills do not offer direct flame searing/broiling, Traeger being a typical example. One of the reasons is the manufacturers are concerned about offering direct flame access over the cooking surface for users who are not experienced, leading to flare-ups.
For instance, GMG pellet grills all have the option of a direct flame grease tray, but it’s not provided as standard by GMG for the reason stated above. You also have the option of direct flame grilling on certain Camp Chef, Pit Boss, Weber and all of the Luxury Class pellet grills from Cookshack, Coyote, Memphis and Twin Eagles.
While direct flame broiling from the pellet fire can enable a pellet grill to sear at higher temperatures, the problem is you also run a higher risk of burning/drying out your food. Hence, this is where a set of GrillGrates can help. Hence, on a wood pellet grill that enables direct flame kiss using GrillGrates, you are able to keep the food moist while achieving high temp grilling/searing performance without burning/drying out the food.
Measuring Up For GrillGrates
If you want to get a set of GrillGrates for your pellet grill you need to make sure you get the right size for two reasons. First, you want to make sure they are covering enough of the cooking area on your pellet grill to provide you with enough area to grill on.
Secondly, you shouldn’t cover the whole cooking area of the pellet grill with GrillGrates as it could choke the fire which would reduce heat/smoke output. If you check out the GrillGrates Amazon Store they have various sizes of interlocking GrillGrates to suit any pellet grill on the market. The diagram below shows how to measure up your pellet grill for GrillGrates.
First, you measure the depth of your pellet grill, remembering to leave a couple of inches for exhaust gases/smoke to properly rise up through the grill. You then need to work out the number of GrillGrates to create a cooking surface of sufficient width. The GrillGrates lock together to create a consistent/stable cooking surface.
Seasoning and Cleaning Grill Grates
New GrillGrates have a bright metallic appearance. However, that’s the last time they should ever really look like that. When using GrillGrates for the first time you need to season them with cooking oil. Otherwise when grilling food may stick to the surface of the raised rails.
In terms of cleaning GrillGrates in most instances, you will just brush off the food debris from between the rails and you’re done. Every now and again you may want to give them a more significant clean as shown in the video below. However, you won’t (and shouldn’t) try and get them back to their bright metallic appearance.
All of the cleaning accessories seen in the video above can be purchased through the GrillGrate Amazon Store. That includes the thick bristled brush, detailing/scraper tool and double helix stainless steel grill brush. They also offer an IR heat gun to measure the temperature across the GrillGrates before cooking, a useful tool to have when also cooking pizza.
GrillGrate Wood Pellet Grill Reviews
I thought I would search for some impressions/feedback on the performance of GrillGrates on wood pellet grills. The first video is actually from GrillGrates and is an interview they did at a BBQ event with Sterling Smith of Loot N’ Booty BBQ.
As Sterling discusses in the video above, its important to note that GrillGrates can also be used upside down to create a flat cooking surface perfect for burgers. On the GMG pellet grills which have a very reasonable max temp setting of 550 degrees as Sterling states the GrillGrates are taking that cooking surface up to around 650-700 degrees for true searing/grilling performance. The second feedback/review video I wanted to include is from 501 BBQ, coincidentally also on a GMG pellet grill the Davvy Crocket which is one of the best portable pellet grills currently on the market.
In the video above the Davy Crocket is set to 450 degrees which got the GrillGrates up to 600 degrees using pecan BBQ wood pellets as the chosen fuel. What you should note from the video above though is this is not a custom-fitted set of GrillGrates. Hence, the GrillGrates are sat with the raised rails horizontally.
While this will not impact their cooking performance with regards to heat as shown in the video it does make it harder to move food around on the GrillGrate. Hence, its always better to measure up and get a set of GrillGrates that sit in a vertical orientation.
Conclusions On GrillGrates For Wood Pellet Grills
It has been commented that wood pellet grills, particularly older generation and budget pellet grills are not really grills at all, and are only suitable as smokers due to their limited ability to high heat sear. In certain instances, this was and is still true. However higher specification/modern pellet grills can now achieve between 500-725 degrees at max temp for searing.
Furthermore, when a direct flame is available on a pellet grill you will be getting 750-1000 degree temperatures hitting the food. However, as I stated above, direct flame grilling does carry the risk of flare-ups and burning/drying out the food. Therefore, while I think anyone considering the purchase of a budget/economy pellet grill should consider a set of GrillGrates I actually think they can improve the cooking performance of any pellet grill on the market today.
That’s its! Thanks for reading. If you have found that your pellet grill is not achieving the high heat searing temperatures you need I hope you found this post on GrillGrates interesting/useful. If you would like to read more of my posts please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.