Don’t spoil your appetite with rusty grill grates. Here’s how to clean them the easy way and prevent future problems. There are many all-natural options for getting your grill sparkling clean and keeping it that way.
Whether your grill grating is made of stainless steel, cast iron, or is porcelain-coated, maintaining them should be a priority. Many commercial rust removal products are available, but there are several natural cleaners, as well as a few unexpected ways to remove rust and keep your grill rust-free.
Warmer weather means one thing: It’s time for a cookout! Ensure that your barbecue grill is clean and ready when you are with these easy methods of restoring the shine on those neglected grates and put an end to the disappointment and hassle of having to clean your grill before you can start cooking.
No matter if you’re grilling steaks or putting a few shrimp on the “Barbie”, you’ll want to start clean. The best way to achieve this, of course, is to clean after each use.
You wouldn’t put your dishes and pans away dirty, so don’t put your grill away until you’ve removed the grease and gunk that leads to rust and deterioration of the grill material.
How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates
Moisture is the number one cause of rust on grills. This can come from humidity in the air as well as liquid from foods. Wipe your grates while still slightly warm to remove bits of burned on particles quickly.
Never put your grill away dirty. After scrubbing, stainless steel should be coated lightly with vegetable oil. Cast iron and porcelain coatings should be seasoned by wiping them with a paper towel and a little solid shortening before storing them.
Many products are available to aid in achieving clean grill grates. Products range from simple soap and water, salt and vinegar, or baking soda to commercial rust removers. We’ll examine the different options for your grill depending on the material your grates are made from and the extent of the mess.
Cleaning Rusty Grill Grates with Vinegar and Salt
Vinegar and salt are good for corroded cast iron grill grates. This cleaning procedure should be carried out outdoors or in the garage to reduce the mess.
- Add one cup of salt to two cups of white vinegar, stir to blend.
- Place a cold grate inside a large trash bag. (If heavy-duty bags aren’t available, you can use two regular bags.)
- Pour the salt and vinegar mixture over the entire grate.
- Tie securely and then slosh it around a bit to completely cover the item. Lay flat and leave overnight. The next day, wipe the grill with an old rag or a sponge.
Most of the rust should loosen enough to remove easily, but a severe case may require a second application to get the job done. Salt can also be applied with a moistened sponge to remove baked-on corrosion.
Rinse quickly and let dry thoroughly before seasoning and storing. Vinegar is an acid that dissolves oxidation, so it works well on badly rusted grills. It can erode cast iron and cause potting, so limit the amount of soaking time to overnight.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
This method is especially useful on hard to reach spots, like the corners. Make a thick paste with ½ cup of baking soda to ¼ cup of white vinegar. It will foam up, so immediately apply with a sponge or cloth.
The foaming reaction gets into all the nooks and crannies. Let sit for about 20 minutes, then wipe with a sponge and warm water. Baking soda is recommended for porcelain coatings and stainless steel because it is slightly abrasive without scratching.
Commercial Rust Remover- The Good & The Bad
Acidic cleaners break down rust and oxidation, while water-based non-acidic cleaners work by lifting the metal’s rust. Look for non-toxic, biodegradable, and environmentally friendly products. Your grill is like your cooking surface, so you’ll want to use safer alternatives without fumes and adverse effects.
Petroleum-based cleaners, such as WD-40™, are great for rusty tools and equipment but are flammable and absolutely should never be used on your outdoor grill. Hydrochloric acid, or Muriatic acid, as it’s known when diluted, is highly corrosive and emits noxious fumes. They are effective but should probably be the last resort when it comes to cleaning rusty grill grates.
Spray oven cleaners can be used to clean filthy grill grates with good results. There is even a product specially designed for barbecue grills. Put down several newspaper layers, or place them in a trash bag before applying oven cleaner, and always wear gloves. Let sit for several hours or overnight, and wipe with a wet cloth and warm water. Rinse thoroughly and let dry before storing.
Using Abrasives to Clean Rusty Grates
Cast iron can be scrubbed with a wire brush and steel wool using the salt and vinegar mixture. Sandpaper and sandblasting are often used on cast iron skillets and cookware to even surface from slight irregularities. They should not be used on cast iron grills because they cause pitting and shouldn’t be necessary, particularly when appropriately seasoned.
Using abrasives on stainless steel is not advisable. Anything that scratches can cause deterioration of the metal and reduces the life of your grill. The vinegar and baking soda paste should be adequate for most stainless grills crusted with grease or surface rust. Never soak stainless steel in vinegar, as it can cause damage to the material. After cleaning, rinse and dry well.
Porcelain-coated grates should never be scoured with a wire brush or steel wool soap pads. Use a soft brush with nylon bristles to protect the surface. Soap and water on a slightly warm grill will go a long way in preventing build-up. Always rinse and dry carefully.
Grill Cleaning Tips that Actually Work
An onion. Readily available, all-natural, a half of an onion can be used to clean the grill while it is still reasonably hot. Use a long fork and use the onion as you would a scrub brush to whisk away debris and bits of cooked-on food. Please discard the onion when you’re finished.
Also, a potato cut in half and dipped in a saucer of baking soda makes a great disposable scrubber from the pantry. When it gets soiled, simply slice off the dirty part and keep going. Please throw away the potato after you have finished cleaning with it.
An old kitchen sponge is excellent for keeping your grill tidy. Sprinkle some baking soda on a wet sponge and wipe away the grease and grime.
Aluminum foil can help clean stainless steel grills. Line the grill surfaces with sheets of aluminum foil and turn on the heat. Close the lid and let it bake for ten or fifteen minutes. Remove foil and crumple it into a ball and use it to clean up after dinner messes.
Preventing Rusty Grill Grates
Keeping your grill clean and dry will prevent nearly all rusting problems. Wipe up any spills before they dry. A roll of paper towels kept near your barbecuing area will help you quickly deal with drips.
Clean your grill as soon after using it as possible. It will not only be easier to clean, but the next time you’re ready for a cookout, your grill will be prepared, too.
Season your grill grates! Use solid shorting on porcelain grills. A thin layer applied with a cloth will prevent rust and corrosion. Cast iron grills need to be seasoned just like their skillet cousins. Heat up the grill and wipe down with vegetable oil. Be careful; it will be hot.
Wear old gloves or use a potholder when handling warm grill grates. A light coating of vegetable oil will keep your food from sticking and prevent rusting for stainless steel.
A Few Do’s and Don’ts to Remember
Do keep grill grates clean and dry. They will last longer and give you years of enjoyment with a minimum amount of effort. It would be best if you cover your grill when not in use.
If you store it for the season, try to put it indoors, in a garage or shed. Doing so will reduce exposure to the elements and help keep the grill dry.
Don’t put the grates in the dishwasher. Aside from the fact that it can make a mess in your dishwasher with all the grease and rusty particles, the abrasive nature of dishwashing detergent can cause pitting and erosion.
Rust won’t kill you, but it sure can kill your appetite. Prolonged ingestion can lead to stomach irritation. Avoid food contact with rust, which can flake off and cling to your hamburgers and hot dogs. Yuck!
Grill grates need to be cleaned promptly. It will be easier each time and eliminate the dreaded chore of scouring corroded cooking grates.
Tips and Tricks
Effective and fragrant and usually on hand, lemons are useful for so many things. A half of a lemon on a hot grill will make short work of an arduous task.
Cut a lemon in half and dip the cut side into a shallow dish containing salt. Scrub to remove grease and baked-on particles. The juice will cut the grease, is gentle on your hands, and smells good, too.
Use Coca Cola™ to remove rust from corroded grills. Just pour some on a cloth or scrubber and wipe it on. Rinse well because it could get sticky.
Cooking spray can reduce the amount of cleanup required. Apply a light layer on a cold grill to prevent your food from sticking and make cleanup a breeze.