Rusty grill grates both look unappealing to cook on and can cause lots of foods to stick. You should always try to prevent grill grates from getting rusty, but if they do, you’ll want to follow a few tips to get them back into good shape.
Is it OK to Grill on Rusted Grates?
Theoretically, cooking on a rusty grill grate won’t harm you. It might make your meat taste like a rusty nail, though. It’s best to remove rust from grill grates before cooking on them.
Why Are My Grill Grates Rusting?
Most grill grates have some type of a finish on them that prevents the metal from rusting. With time and use, the finish begins to fail. You’ll find that even stainless steel grill grates eventually rust. Rust forms when condensation collects on the metal, typically at night when temperatures are cool. A tight-fitting cover can help to reduce the formation of rust, but eventually your grill grates will rust if not properly cared for.
How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates
The first step to cleaning rusty barbecue grill grates is determining the type of material they are made from. Cast iron grates are the easiest to remove rust from, while stainless steel grates may take a little more effort. The important thing is to understand how to avoid damaging the grates when removing rust.
Things You’ll Need
You’ll need to grab a few supplies to remove rust from your grill grates. If you are cleaning stainless steel or porcelain-coated grill grates, you need to have a soft brush. Don’t use a wire brush on these materials because it can cause scratches that lead to more rust in the future. Cast iron grates are best cleaned with a wire brush. You can even use a wire wheel on a grinder to quickly remove rust from cast iron.
There are lots of commercial rust remover products out there. Some work well, others don’t. We’ve found that a couple household ingredients do an excellent job of removing rust. If you’ve got baking soda, white vinegar, or lemon juice, you’ve got everything you need. A few small sheets of aluminum foil make an excellent scrubber that won’t damage stainless steel or porcelain grill grates.
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Option #1: Baking Soda Paste
Simply mix baking soda and water until you have a thick paste. Rub the paste onto the rusty grill grates and let it soak for 10-15 minutes. Use a wad of aluminum foil or a non-metallic brush to scrub the paste from the grates, taking the rust along with it. This tends to work best for mildly rusty grates, but might not be effective on heavier rust. Rinse with water and allow to dry.
Option #2: Baking Soda and Vinegar
This works using the chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda. First, you’ll spray or wipe vinegar onto the rusty grates, then sprinkle with baking soda. The soda will fizz up and release the rust. Vinegar can be reapplied to more stubborn areas and scrubbed with aluminum foil. Rinse it off when you are done.
Grill grates can also be soaked overnight in vinegar to remove heavy rust. Use a shallow pan so that the grill grates are fully submerged.
Option #3: Lemon Juice and Baking Soda
Lemon juice is an acid that will release rust from metal like vinegar does. The addition of baking soda sprinkled on the lemon juice will aid in the removal of rust. Rinse it clean when done.
How to Keep Your BBQ Grill Grates Rust Free
Once you’ve put the time and effort into removing rust from your grill grates, you’ll want to prevent rust from forming. The easiest way to do this is to clean the grates after use and wipe them down with a little vegetable oil before putting them away. This prevents rust from forming in between uses.
If your grill grates are rusty, there is a good chance the rest of your grill is in need of a good cleaning also. We’ve got detailed guides for cleaning grills, cleaning pellet smokers, and even cleaning the Big Green Egg.
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If your grill grates are flaky with rust, they might be beyond saving. It might be worth looking at replacing the grill grates rather than cleaning them if rust has began eating into the surface. By spending a little time in between cooking sessions, you will avoid having rust growing on your grill that makes it look nasty and taste funny. We know that removing rust from grill grates is not the most enjoyable chore, but it is essential to getting the kind of results you want from your grill or barbecue.
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