Michael's Custom Grill Works contacted us with an offer of a grid to test for a product review. As we so far have been unable to get our hands on a quality 15" stainless steel grid for our medium Big Green Egg cooker, we took them up on the offer. Michael's Custom Grill Works is run by, well, Michael. He is a welder by trade and makes custom grids of any shape or size for cookers. He assembles them from ¼-inch solid 304 stainless steel rod and then hand welds them. He can also make grids from ⅜-inch rod if you really want a beast of a grid. The two photos below are closeups of the grid, showing the rod size and spacing:
This 15" grid weighs 1.85 kilograms or 4.1 pounds. It looks and feels as solid as a rock. The next photos show some closeups of the rod ends and some of the welds. As you can see, the rod ends are ground to provide a nice smooth finished look. The other two photos show closeups of some of the welds. We would have provided a photo of where the two ends of the outer frame are joined together, but we couldn't find where they were joined!
Michael challenged us to abuse the grid in any way we chose, so we did a couple of things. First, as you can see in the following photo, we put the grid in our medium Big Green Egg cooker while we did the maximum temperature test of some charcoal we were reviewing. The air in the cooker got to nearly 1000° but where the flames were engulfing the grid, the temperature was closer to 2000°. During the test, we had the dome closed and let the cooker rage away for about 15 minutes.
Needless to say, the grid came through unscathed with no damage to any of the welds and no sagging. We should have taken a photo to prove it, but unfortunately we moved on to the next phase of destructive testing before we thought to do so. Trust us, the grid was perfect after being in the flames.
So what was next? What was next was to abuse the grid physically. We placed it on a hard surface and walked on it and jumped on it. No problems. We dropped it from waist high onto a hard surface and again, no damage. We were finally able to break one weld by dropping the grid from about 10 feet up onto a hard surface oriented with the grid bars parallel to the ground. (This orientation produced a large torque or twisting force on the end welds of the shortest cross rod.) Even with the one broken weld, the grid overall, and that last cross rod in particular, is still rock solid and able to do its job. We trust no one will be attempting this kind of abuse in normal usage, so we think the grid passed the torture test with flying colors.
Finally, we thought we'd see what kind of sear marks we could put on some beef, so we cooked some skirt steak and then some beef tenderloin steaks:
UPDATE: We just purchased some more products from Michael's Custom Grill Works and we thought you'd like to see them. Here are firegrates for small and medium cookers. You can see the standard 1/2" spacing and then the version with the 1/4" spacing. The smaller spacing cuts down on airflow but it does keep smaller pieces of charcoal from falling through.
We also purchased an 18" grid for our large Big Green Egg cooker with 3/8" rods. This grid is a beast. It weighs a little over 11 pounds and those thick rods will leave grid marks like cast iron. The last photo shows the marks we obtained on a cheap piece of beef. The grid was insanely hot, and yes, we know that no one wants their steak burnt like that, but we were going for marks to show that cast iron has nothing on stainless steel in this category. Here are some photos:
Michael's Custom Grill Works' web site is in need of a lot of work and not all the products they have for sale are listed. Here is a list of prices they provided (as of May, 2013) for the various size Big Green Egg cookers. Obviously, prices would be the same or similar for other brands of cookers using the same or similar sized grids:
You can contact Michael's Custom Grill Works by either calling 479-313-1600 or using their email: firstname.lastname@example.org