Cast iron grill grates are one of the most durable grill materials in the market today. But while this cooker is bound to upgrade the quality of your grills, how well you care for it is crucial. It boils down to proper maintenance otherwise a durable grill such as this might as well get beat up in just a matter of time.
So as a brief, we’ll be looking at how to well season and clean up your grill as part of preventive maintenance. All the pro tips, products, and tools needed are listed down below for you. Plus a step-by-step guide on how to conduct alike procedures successfully. If that sounds good to you, then let’s dive in!
New Cast Iron Grill Grates
You’ve just bought your first grill and want to take it out for a test. It’s probably in excellent shape and you’re thinking to overlook the seasoning and get right into barbecuing. Bad idea. No matter how shiny those rods look, it pays to prepare them first before anything is mounted. This is what is referred to as the first seasoning and as you can imagine, it’s not as detailed compared to if you were using an older grill.
Nonetheless, here’s how to go about it.
- Dust off any preexisting dirt that might have accumulated while in the store
- Go ahead to rinse with warm water just to ensure any lurking debris is washed away. Soapy water is not needed in this case
- Proceed to pat dry with a towel thoroughly
- Take out your cooking oil (or whatever other oil you prefer) and lather it on lightly with a bristle brush
- Light up your coals, turn your burner to a high preferably 350-400°F, and leave the lid on for at least half an hour
- Once done, let the coals cool off together with the cast iron grates
Being the first time use, you need not repeat the coating stage unnecessarily. One round is enough to get you set.
Something worth noting: peanut oil is recommended by experts due to its high smoke velocity so you may want to keep ajar of this. Again, go for a non-shedding bristle brush to avoid a situation whereby it melts onto the rods.
Removing Build Up and Rust
When you’ve used it for a couple of rounds, it’s no surprise if your grill begins to take on a dull appearance. Even without rust in the picture, the day-to-day use necessitates a deep clean now and then. This is often a result of all the sauces, seasonings that go into our foods and somehow spill onto the bare metal.
It’s recommended that you get into a habit of cleaning up before and after every use. The faster you do it, the easier the dirt comes off as opposed to if you let the grim sit overnight or longer. When you’re contending with tough, sticky, buildup, here are the basics to getting your cooker sparkly again.
First things first, scrap off the stubborn grime. To do so;
- Create a solution with water and apple cider vinegar. Dilute in the ratio 4:1 respectively.
- Pull out your wire brush and begin to dig into the sticky surfaces.
- Repeat this as many rounds as necessary till the backlog disappears.
- Wipe off the product residue and dirt with a dry piece of cloth.
At this point, it is safe to re-season your grill. Keep in mind that re-coating takes a bit longer because you have to strip your plates off the previous oils before you can layer a fresh coat. The idea is to always maintain an oil seal at all times to avoid rusting.
In that case, after your rods are rid of stick,
- Preheat your grill and leave it on for a few minutes before arranging the plates in position.
- With a suitable grill brush, smooth over a layer of oil onto the grates evenly.
- Remember to lubricate even the edges that hold the grates in place so that everything is adequately covered.
- The coat ought to be thin so go over the lathered oil with a piece of cloth to wipe off any excess.
- Put your lid back on and let it cook for roughly 30 minutes (or more).
- After some time, repeat the coating process and again replace the lid for another round.
This should go on for roughly an additional 4 rounds or so. You know your grates are grill-ready when they appear shiny black. It’s going to take you some time to get this part done, but the results are surely worth it in the long run.
How to Deal with Rust
The narrative changes when rust has crept in. Cast iron despite being a premium grill is easily susceptible to rust so that tells you moisture or water is a huge enemy. The good news though is that you can scrape off the rust down to bare metal with the right products and some patience.
There are different ways to go about it when a wire brush doesn’t cut it. For instance;
- A sandpaper scrubber. Use it to go all over the rods while applying some amount of pressure. Being that it’s surface aggressive, it will most likely get the job done.
- If your rust is the stubborn kind then consider getting a grate scraper instead. The U shape design allows the tool to permeate all sides of the rods with ease.
- Anti-rust products are not such a bad idea if you don’t want to spend the whole afternoon trying to declutter your grates. There are both light and heavy-duty options so it all depends on preference and just how much rust you’ll be cutting through.
- Once off, you can proceed to re-season.
It’s great when you can restore your grates to their original condition, but what if you could avoid the rusting altogether? Not only does it prolong the life you get from your cookware, but at the same time liberates you from cumbersome clean-ups.
If you’re wondering how to keep the rust off, the trick is simple. Just ventilate the top and bottom vents when you’re done cooking. Moisture builds up from the hot coals and if there’s not an escape route, it goes ahead to collect on different metal parts. The results will soon show. If you’re not going to be using your grill for a while, you might as well empty out the kettle ash completely. Leave it dry and you’ll eliminate the possibility of humid air.
Although preventive measures are a reliable way to avoid metal deterioration, weather can be problematic especially if you live in chilly regions.
Frequent rains and cool temperatures induce buildup quite easily. For grillers in such locations, storing your cookware away in a dry place after use is probably best. You never know when the rains could come.
On a side note, be extra diligent with the lubrication, and once done, wrap up your grill grates in a plastic bag or aluminum foil before putting them away. Storing them inside your grill is a great idea.
Find out what’s the best types of grill grate material!
Pro Seasoning Tips
While seasoning may sound pretty straightforward, if not executed precisely, the outcome can be disappointing. To ensure you’re on track, here are a couple of dos and don’ts that you should have in mind.
- Use the size of your grill to determine how much charcoal goes in
The larger the cooker, the more the charcoal is required to burn the oils. Around 50 lumps of charcoal for instance suffice for seasoning a 22 inch Weber, but this may not be the case for smaller or bigger models.
Again, ensure that the charcoal is fairly spread across the base to promote even heating. Too much or little on either side and some grates may not be seasoned adequately.
- Use medium to high temperatures when heating the oil
You may not be smoking steak but hot degrees ensure that the oil soaks deep into the metal surfaces. So whatever you do, ensure that your burner is set on a high whenever this process is ongoing. Another thing, low viscous oils should be your go-to. It’s not unusual to work with non-stick spray, but some have been reported to propagate sticky buildup. If you need an alternative, target products without an ingredient called lecithin.
- Annual or semiannual deep cleanse
Regular cleaning will suffice most of the time, but when your grill is clocking a year plus, it’s wise to slide in a deep clean at least once a year. Steamers work exceptionally in this case and will leave your unit smelling fresh and clean.
- Examine for any shed bristles
Nylon bristle brushes have a reputation for falling off. Pitmasters, therefore, advertise for natural brushes made from bamboo for instance.
Even so, as a precautionary measure, get into a habit of checking for small brush hairs either on your food or cookware. They are potentially risky when swallowed.
- Never pour water onto your grill
The most contact should be when wiping off the excess dirt or grease, and even this must be dried well. Should a grease fire ever occur, act by turning off the burners and replacing the lid until it goes out?
- Avoid seasoning in your oven
Unless you do not mind the smoke effects thereafter, in-house seasoning is never a good idea. Stick to an open environment where airflow is maintained.
Here’s a bonus tip you may not have heard of- onion seasoning. That’s right. It works just as well but with the added advantage of biodegradability. The science behind it originates from the sulfur compound naturally found in these vegetables. Once rubbed onto the hot rails, it reacts to form an impenetrable, nonstick sulfide layer.
The application process is more or less the same as with cooking oils. Preheat the rails up until they are steaming hot and then go ahead to rub the onion on them. Don’t mind going over it time and again until you notice a dark appearance form. This is an indicator that indeed your carbon iron grates are ready to go. Remember to have on your protective gloves or tongs while at it to avoid getting burnt.
Must I season my Cast Iron Grill Grates in the First Place?
You may have heard the proposal that cast iron grill grates in newer models come ready to use and can do without seasoning. Well, this may be the case but arguably not sustainable either. To be on the safe side confirm with your manufacturer and/or user manual what proper care entails.
Either way, at some point, your grill is bound to start flaking the older it gets. Other times careless handling could cause the porcelain coating to chip off. Unlike stainless steel which is built to be rust-resistant, the former performs average. This suggests that the coating can hardly remain full proof over time. So if you’re really about keeping your grill in the best shape, a couple of bucks for preventive maintenance shouldn’t be a big deal.
Yet, even if you skip the seasoning and your grill is a bit rusty, do not worry! Just follow our step-by-step guide on how to clean a rusty grill.
Speaking of top shape, here is a list of products available on Amazon to help ease with cleaning and seasoning;
- Bristle –free
- Dual cleaning heads
- Heavy-duty brush
- Suitable for all types of surfaces including cast iron, porcelain enamel, aluminum, stainless steel
- Ergonomic handle
- Ideal for gas and charcoal grills
- Cleans out burnt foods and stubborn grease
- Microfiber surface for heavy scrubbing
- Long-lasting and reusable
- Lightweight (0.18 pounds)
- Great for BBQ tools, charcoal, and gas grills
- Wood grill scraper
- Wooden grilling tongs
- Silicone basting brush
- Comes in a recyclable gift box package