How to Clean BBQ Grill Grates – Porcelain, Cast Iron & Stainless Steel

Cleaning grill grates is definitely not among the things we love to do, but it is surely a thing that you have to do if you’re planning to cook on a grill. The condition of grill grates has a large impact on the flavor and comfort of cooking on a grill which is why I suggest to clean it regularly ( preferably before or after each cooking ).

After each cooking, warm up the grill for 15 minutes, then scrub the food remains using a brush, and once in a while ( several times in a season ) thoroughly wash the entire grates.

Below you’ll find several methods that you can use for cleaning all types of grill grates, for the sake of convenience I placed it all in the table of contents.

How to Clean Grill Grates

how often clean a grill

There are several types of grill grates and the truth is that not many people know how to properly clean them. It is not a difficult or bothersome thing to do, yet depending on the type of your grates it is better to know how to properly clean them in order to be careful and not damage their surface.

As I already mentioned, the best way to clean grates depends on their type. For example, cast-iron grates or stainless steel ones require different types of care from porcelain grates.

Types of porcelain grates

  • Stainless Steel
  • Cast-iron
  • Porcelain or porcelain coated

Why is it a good idea to clean grill grates?

clean cooking grates benefits

Dirty grill grates have a negative impact on the flavor of food and on functioning of the grill, grease and food remains often cause unwanted flare-ups.

You have to take it into account that there are two types of cleaning grill grates. Simple quick cleaning and thorough cleaning.

Simple cleaning consists of warming up the grill to the temperature of at least 250 degrees (F) for about 15 minutes, and then cleaning with the right type of brush so that the surface of the grates doesn’t get damaged. Such cleaning has to be performed after each cooking.

Thorough cleaning partially consists of the same things as with simple cleaning plus using different agents combined with warm water in order to remove though stains. This type of stains appears as a result of not cleaning the grill after each cooking.

Thorough cleaning takes much more time than the simple type, which is why I suggest performing simple cleaning after each use of the grill. That way you will keep the grates in great condition without much effort.

How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates 

clean cast iron grill grates

Cast-iron grates are characterized by good durability and heat holding. Cast-iron grates are hard and durable, which is why you can use a wire or nylon brush to remove food remains from them ( preferably a nylon one ).

Remember that regular cleaning of cast-iron grates and maintenance effectively prevent rust from appearing and keep your grill grates in a great condition.

If you’ve just bought a grill with cast-iron grates, you should definitely read the manufacturer’s instructions, where you’ll find info on how to season cast-iron grates.

Maintenance of cast-iron grates has to be performed once in a while, obligatorily if you find any traces of rust.

First use

When it comes to the first use, the key initial step is to properly season cast-iron grates before you use them. An exception is porcelain coated cast-iron grates, which don’t have to be seasoned thanks to their porcelain coating.

 

How to do it? You should definitely read the user’s manual, where you will surely find info on what to do during the first use of the grates and the entire grill. If you don’t find such info, below you can read how to preserve cast-iron grates.

Deep Cleaning cast iron grill grates step by step

If you rarely cook on the grill or your grates are very dirty, you should perform all the below steps. You should especially focus on seasoning cast-iron grates, it prevents rust from appearing and creates a layer that prevents food from sticking excessively.

  • Step 1 – Clean right after use. After you’re done cooking, allow the grates to cool down a little, so that they’re warm ( not hot ! ). It is much easier to remove food remains out of the grates when they are warm, which is why it’s the best to do right after finishing cooking. You may do it another day, but make sure to warm up the grill before cleaning so that the grates are warm.
  • Step 2 – Use a wire or nylon brush to scrub food remains from the grates. Cast-iron grates are hard, so you can use any type of brush you want.
  • Step 3 – Then put a soap on a sponge and clean the grates in order to get rid of a large amount of grease ( use as little soap as possible ). Rinse the grates thoroughly using warm water to get the soap out completely.
  • Step 4 – Wipe the grates with a dry cloth and make sure that they really aren’t wet. Water makes cast iron rust, which is not something we want.
  • Step 5 - Season the Grates. Coat the entire surface of the grates with oil (olive oil , vegetable oil or vegetable shortening ). Preferably soak a clean cloth or paper towel with oil and spread it thoroughly over the entire area. You may also use a special spray that
  • Step 6 - Warm up the grill in order to finish the grates maintenance process and effectively protect them from rust and food sticking. To accomplish that, leave the grates on a warmed-up grill for at least 10 minutes.

Regular Use

In the event that you’re already through with full cleaning of the grates together with the maintenance, the situation is much simpler. The more often and longer you use a product made of cast iron, the easier it is to keep it clean.

Why ? Because you don’t have to perform a full cleaning too often, all you need is simple actions after each cooking to keep the grates in a good shape.

  • Step 1 – First warm up your grill over 10-15 minutes, it will allow the remains of the previous cooking to burn away. Then make sure that the grates are warm ( not hot ! ) and move on to the next step.
  • Step 2 – Clean the grates from the food remains. Use a brush, a wire or nylon one will do, cast iron is durable and requires regular maintenance so you don’t have to worry too much about scratches.
  • Step 3 – Coat the grates with oil. You may spread the oil over the entire surface of the grill grates using a paper towel or a regular cloth.

That’s it, as you can see, regular use of cast-iron grates significantly lowers the amount of chores you have to do to keep it clean.

Storage

If you know that you won’t be using your cast-iron grates for a long time, remember to coat the grates with oil. Try to spread the oil over the entire surface, and then hide the grates in a dry place. Such procedure will protect the grates from corrosion.

How to Clean Rust off Cast Iron Grill Grates

If you see a little rust on your grates don’t panic, it means that the grates need to be cleaned and thoroughly preserved.

No matter if there’s a little or a lot of rust, you have to thoroughly clean it off the grates so that you can then perform the maintenance. A properly performed maintenance prevents rust from appearing in the future.

Of course I do understand that one can forget about the grates out of the season which may result in a large amount of rust on poorly stored cast-iron grates. Which is why below you’ll find a solution to the problem.

If there’s not much of rust, all you have to do is thoroughly clean the grates using the method described above step by step, which is brushing, cleaning, drying and maintenance.

If there is much more rust on the grates or they are entirely rusty then you’ll have to use different measures. A little below I described several different methods you can use to remove rust.

How to Clean Stainless Steel Grill Grates 

clean grill grates benefits

Stainless steel grates are resistant to rust which is why they don’t require maintenance like cast-iron grates do. What is the best way to clean grill grates stainless steel ? I present two methods.

Method 1# Little Dirty / simple cleaning

  • Step 1 – Warm up your grill grates over 10-15 minutes so that they’re warm ( not hot ! ).
  • Step 2 – Then use a stainless steel grill brush with gentle bristle to clean the grates from the food remains left after the previous cooking.
  • Step 3 – Coat the grates with oil. You may spread the oil over the entire surface of the grill grates using a paper towel or a regular cloth.

Method 2# A Lot Dirty / more thorough cleaning

  • Step 1 – Warm up your grill grates over 10-15 minutes, make sure they are warm not hot ! 
  • Step 2 – Just like in the previous method, clean the grates with a brush to get rid of the food remains.
  • Step 3 – Put soap on a sponge with warm water and thoroughly clean the grill grates.
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    Step 4 - Rinse everything thoroughly, and then dry it.

How to Clean Porcelain Grill Grates 

clean porcelain grill grates

When cleaning porcelain grates, you can’t use wire or metal brushes. Any scratches on the porcelain will expose bare metal which might get water on it. If this happens, your grates might get covered with rust very fast.

The best tool for cleaning porcelain grates is using a soft bristle or nylon brush for grills. Such tools are gentle and won’t damage the surface of the grates. It is very important for the brush bristle not to have pointy tips, it has to be gentle so that it doesn’t damage the delicate surface of porcelain grates.

The same method should be used to clean porcelain coated cast iron or steel grill grates

The best way to clean porcelain grill grates ?

  • Step 1 – Warm up the grill over 10-15 minutes to burn off the food remains, then let the grill grates cool down a little. It is the best for it to be warm ( never hot ! ). 
  • Step 2 – Then grab a brush with your hand ( preferably a nylon one so that you don’t scratch the porcelain ) and clean the grates in smooth movements from top to bottom and along the diagonal.
  • Step 3  ( not obligatory ) – In the end, you can apply a very small amount of oil using a paper towel. Due to the porcelain surface it is not necessary.

The key to keeping porcelain grates clean is to regularly clean the grill after each use. That way you can be sure that dirt won’t accumulate to the point of being hard to remove.

However, if for any reason your grill is really seriously dirty, check out my other methods I have already described. If home methods are not enough then you will have to use special agents, make sure they are porcelain friendly.

During cooking, remember to gently use metal cooking accessories so that you don’t scratch the surface of the porcelain.

How to Season Grill Grates

seasoning grill grates

You need to know that cast-iron grill grates love oil. The more you cook on them, the more you prevent rust and food sticking. After each cooking you should clean the grates, and then rub them with plant-based oil. Such measure protects your grates from rust, it is effective when performed regularly.

Maintenance using oil is required for all grates on which rust has appeared. If there is rust, perform a complete maintenance in the way I described below.

Rub the cleaned grates with oil ( spread the oil using a cloth or a paper towel ) then warm up the grill and allow the oil to „burn away”. Repeat this action one time and you’re done, your grates are preserved again.

What type of grates doesn’t need seasoning ?

Porcelain grates don’t require seasoning. The same goes for Porcelain-enameled cast iron grate and Porcelain-enameled steel cooking grates. Their surface effectively protects them from rust which means they don’t have to be coated with oil. All you have to do is warm them up over 10-15 minutes before cooking, and then coat your food with a brush soaked with oil.

How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates Several Methods

rusty grill grates

Below you’ll find several different other methods of cleaning grates that you can also use. Use them depending on how dirty your grill is. All those methods can also be used for rust removal.

Grill grates are very exposed to corrosion which is why it is better to know how to get rid of it once it does appear. For that purpose, I have prepared several methods that you can use to remove rust.

Of course, it is the best to prevent rust from appearing on grates through proper maintenance, but once it does appear, remove it using one of the below methods.

You have natural methods at your disposal as well as those that require toxic agents. The best solution is to pick non-toxic methods. Trust me, you don’t want to cook food on grates that were cleaned using heavily toxic substances.

Of course, what method you use largely depends on the degree of your rust. If the rust is shallow and there isn’t much of it, then you can easily get rid of it using natural methods. If the rust is deep, though, you’re going to need special agents to handle the problem.

Remember ! After each thorough cleaning of grates that were covered with rust, you have to preserve your grates one more time in order to effectively protect them from rust appearing again. How to preserve grill grates? I wrote about it a little above.

  • Vinegar and Salt – These are environment-friendly products, are edible and make a good combo in rust removal. Mix a cup of salt and two glasses of vinegar in a small vessel. Then put the grates in a durable sack ( a garbage bag will be good ) and pour the vinegar and salt mix inside. Put the bag with grates somewhere on a flat surface for the whole night. Next day remove the grates from the bag and scrub them with warm water using a soft cloth or a sponge. Finally, rinse it with warm water, dry it thoroughly and preserve with oil.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda – Another environment-friendly way to clean grill grates. Pour baking soda into a container, then gradually add wine vinegar until a consistent cream is formed. Then use a sponge to apply the mix on the grates and wait for at least 30 minutes. After that time, take a soft brush ( preferably with nice bristle ) and clean the grates from rust. Now all you have to do is clean the grates from leftover dirt using water, dry it, and then preserve it.
  • Water and Soap – Use warm water and a soft cleaning agent ( soap ) to clean the first tiny signs of rust. If the rust has just started gently appearing, that’s the easiest way to get rid of it. Then of course dry the grates thoroughly and preserve with oil.
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    Wire Brush - You can use this method if the rust appeared to a small degree. Just use a wire brush to scrub the rust. It will be the most convenient to place the grates on something like concrete floor and scrub the rust off the surface. Help yourself by cleaning rust remains with an old, soft cloth. This method has one significant downside, it causes big scratches on the surface of the grates. That’s why you should preserve the grates with oil right after you’re done cleaning. Another downside is the fact that a brush won’t clean perfectly in all spots.
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    Commercial Rust Remover - It’s a solution for much more serious signs of rust on your grates. Most of these types of agents are made of substances that are toxic. That’s why when you’re at the store, you should ask for a professional product dedicated to grill grates. How to use it? There are plenty of products so I can’t give a clear-cut answer to this question. It is the best to read the instructions that the product will surely come with.Don’t forget to preserve it again after you’re done cleaning.

Protecting grill grates from corrosion

Of course the first most important thing is full maintenance. Then regular cleaning and rubbing the grates with oil ( the exception are porcelain coated grates, which are resistant to corrosion ). See how to keep grill from rusting, where you will find information on things like how to protect grill grates from corrosion.

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