Cast Iron grill grates: How to prevent your outdoor barbecue grill grates from rusting?
I clean BBQ grills and come across many types of barbecue grill grates, stainless steel, porcelain coated, porcelain-coated cast iron and cast iron. A majority of the grates I see, especially the cast iron are rusted and probably should be thrown away. I don’t know about you but eating off of a rusted grill grate is not very appetizing and not very healthy.
Now that your BBQ has been professionally cleaned, how do you care for your cast iron grates?
One of the first questions I get from my customers after they see how clean their grates are is “How do I keep them this clean after your gone?” This is what I tell everyone after I clean their grill. “Now that I’ve cleaned your grates I’ve taken away that layer of seasoning that was built up on them. If you were not accustomed to spraying PAM, you might want to use it because your food might want to stick a little bit more now that they are clean. What you need to do is season the grates by applying a thin layer of vegetable oil or olive oil with a paper towel prior to putting your food down, this will help keep your food from sticking till that seasoning layer is built back up.”
While stainless steel and porcelain coated grates tend to be easier to keep clean, cast iron grates are much more difficult to maintain especially if they are already rusted.
Why use cast iron grill grates?
The cooking grate of your BBQ grill is one of the most important aspects of the grill that you can immediately see. The grate should be strong, resilient and able to hold up to the daily rigors of grilling. It should provide good heat transfer, be durable, and help keep food from sticking. Cast iron is an ideal heat conductor, heats evenly and consistently and will last a lifetime (actually several lifetimes) with the proper care.
Cast iron is porous, and as meat cooks, its fats and oils soak into the pores where they harden. This provides a smooth, non-stick surface requiring no additional oil on the grates before cooking. Cast iron grill grates conduct heat quickly and evenly, cooking and searing the meat. This type of material does not have a smooth surface though and can quickly rust if not properly treated. Rusting is a problem and will continue to be a problem if you are not diligent with your care – this care must be constant to keep your grates lasting as long as you own your grill!
If you have purchased a new grill with cast iron grates or even purchased replacement cast iron grates for your gas grill because the old ones were rusty and chipping off into the food; do you know how to prevent the cast iron from rusting? To maintain the wonderful searing/grilling performance of your cast iron grates, as well as their longevity, some special care is required. As with any cast iron cooking tool, proper seasoning is most important.
Cleaning the Grates
Before your first use, wash the grates thoroughly with dish-washing liquid to remove the protective wax coating usually applied by most manufacturers to protect the iron during shipping. Rinse the grates in hot water and dry completely with a paper towel. The next step is to season the grates so they are protected…
To do this, use vegetable oils (canola, sunflower, etc.), shortening (like Crisco shortening) or lard for seasoning your cast iron and spread a very thin coating of it over the entire surface of the grate, including the corners, edges, and bottom with a paper towel.
While your applying the oil to the grate, preheat your grill to 450-500 degrees F. Place your grates in the grill for up to 1 to 1-1/2 hrs allowing the oil to completely dry. Turn off the heat and let the grill cool down to a normal outdoor temperature. Repeating the process several times will help create a stronger seasoning bond – I would recommend doing this process 2-3 times.
According to Weber Grill FAQ’s http://help.weber.com/faqs.aspx. How do I care for my cast iron cooking grates/ griddle? They have rust on them: “Maintenance (every time you grill): Don’t do a burn-off after you grill, but rather leave the cooking residues on the grates/griddle to keep a protective coating on the cast iron. Then do a burn-off just before you grill. Brush off charred residues with a steel brush rather than a brass brush.” Don’t perform the burn-off too long otherwise you can burn off the seasoning you’ve already applied.
If rust appears it is an indication the grates were not seasoned properly enough or are no longer seasoned well, which means that the grates need to be re-seasoned. Simply brush the rust away with a steel brush or sandpaper, follow the steps mentioned earlier and you are good to go again!
The more you use your cast iron grates, the better seasoned they will become, which means easier maintenance for you. If you store them for periods of time such as during the winter, grease very lightly with vegetable oil or shortening, then wipe dry with a paper or lint-free towel, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and store them in a dry place.