Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Equipment Review: St Louis Charcoal Company Fire Grate for Kamado Grills

I recently bought an improved lower fire grate from the St Louis Charcoal Company for my Big Green Egg.   The fire grate for a kamado grill is the metal piece at the bottom and it has two functions
  1. Hold the burning coals
  2. Allow ash to drop through and air to flow into the fire box/chamber
 There are two issues that I have found with the original manufacturer's (OEM)  fire grates.  First, many of the kamado manufacturers use cast iron.  The frequent extreme temperature changes can cause the grates to crack wide open like mine on the left below did.  It still works like that and I have used this one in this condition for 3-4 years. Mine kind of looks like Pac-Man trying to eat Alexis' fire grate, doesn't it? 

Clockwise from upper left:  cracked Big Green Egg grate, intact Big Green Egg grate, and the improved lower fire grate from St Louis Charcoal Company.

The second issue is clogged air holes.  During long, slow cooks like BBQ, the burning lump coal gets smaller and the small pieces and ash can clog the holes, restricting air flow to the fire.  This can cause temps to drop or snuff out the fire altogether.

Until now, I have just dealt with having a cracked fire grate.  If the holes got clogged and I happened to catch that before the fire goes out, I would clear the obstructed holes using a wiggle rod.  That is a metal skewer with the tip bent 90 degrees. I would stick the rod into the lower vent and manually clear the blockages.

When I saw the new St Louis Charcoal fire grate, I bought one for $29.95 (free shipping) right away because I thought it would give faster start up times and fewer blockages.   I ran a simple side by side test last weekend to compare start up times.   
  • Used our two large BGE which were both cleaned out.
  • Put the intact BGE (OEM) fire grate in one and the SLCC fire grate in the other
  • loaded them both with equal amounts of new and used lump coal from the St Louis Charcoal Company
  • Started both using the paper towel & vegetable oil method (only because my MAPpro torch was running out)
  • recorded the times it took for each to reach 250f, 300f, and 350f.

Time to reach BGE OEM Fire Grate SLCC Fire Grate
250f 19:38 min 11:34 min
300f 22:04 min 15:02 min
350f 30:26 min 16:25 min

The St Louis Charcoal Company fire grate definitely scorched the OEM grate in getting to temp.  I also haven't had any issues with a clogged fire grate.  The only unanswered question that I have at this point is how durable the SLC fire grate will be.   It is made from thick heat treated SS304 0.12" flattened stainless steel so warping and corrosion should not be a problem, but I'll let time be the test of that. So far, I'm pleased with mine. 

St. Louis Charcoal Company isn't interested in getting into the equipment business, they are about lump charcoal.  But they are making these grates because they knew that there was a demand for them.   If you are interested in buying one, you can get them on E-Bay or contact them directly through their website.   They are $29.95 for a large, $26.95 for a medium, and $24.95 for a small. 

Other replacement options include using a Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Trivet or a Hi-Que Stainless Steel Grate.  My neighbor has the Hi-Que for his BGE and he has been happy with his.

While I had the grills running at 350f for the test, I didn't want to waste it, so I grilled some quick cheeseburgers.  I mixed together a little over a pound of ground round and Grill Mates Steakhouse Onion Burger seasoning
I should have weighed them out.....

Grilled them for 4 minutes a side....

Topped them with jalapeno and white cheddar cheese, a slather of spicy chile mayo, some veggies and a toasted bun.  

I should "science" more often, it tastes good.  

McCormick Celebrates 125 Years 
Speaking of McCormick (Grill Mates), they are celebrating their 125th Anniversary by fighting hunger.  For each person that submits their Flavor Story, McCormick will donate $1 up to $1.25 million to aid in the fight against world hunger.   I checked it out and immediately recognized some of the people who have shared their story, such as TV celebrities and well known chefs.

I've done it and you can read my personal Flavor Story hereSo hop on over to www.flavoroftogether.com and share your Flavor Story!

[Standard Disclaimer]  I received no compensation from St Louis Charcoal Company and paid full price for the fire grate.  I did not receive compensation from McCormick or their representatives for this post.