How to Care for Your Cast Iron Grill Grates

Jason Webster
Written by
Last update:

First Time Use

Before grilling your first item, make sure that your cast iron grill grates and cast iron pans are seasoned. It’s an all-natural seasoning process that can’t be done incorrectly and ensures the grates are well protected, well seasoned, and nonstick.

And since you can’t go to a restaurant to eat, you’d do just that if you had some cooking skills. But there’s another part of cast iron grilling that you’ve got to know. Of course, you’re a master at cooking but you can’t exactly do grilling as well. So it’s always a good idea to follow the instructions to a T.

Preheat your grill. Handle your cast iron grill grates with heavy gloves. Place it on the preheated grill for around 10 seconds for a quick preheating. Now it’s ready for searing.

Porcelain vs Stainless Steel Grill Grates

The two most popular types of grill grate are porcelain coated steel and stainless steel.

Stainless steel has a very high melting point and is difficult to warp, meaning it will keep its shape and not warp during the course of a grilling session.

You can use stainless steel grates on direct or indirect heat. However, since the steel grates have less of a cooking surface than cast iron grills, they may take a longer time to reach high cooking temperatures and grill food.

Porcelain coated grates have a smaller surface area than their stainless steel counterparts, and they are manufactured in a way that doesn’t allow them to retain a lot of heat.

This means they generally cook food quickly and are perfect for quick, high-heat grilling.

Porcelain coated grates are versatile, and they can withstand higher temperatures and are therefore ideal for grilling food on both direct and indirect heat.

You should dry them well after washing your grates. Rubbing them with a towel after a thorough rinsing and drying is the best way to remove any remaining water. This will help prevent rust or corrosion of the metal grates.

If you want to know more about cast iron grill grates, read our blog post on the subject here.

Maintaining Your Grill Grates – Step By Step Instructions

Caring for brushed or cast iron grill grates is simple provided they are cleaned after each use. There are two ways to clean cast iron grill grates. The first is using a soap and water and the second is using a firm bristle wire brush.

Cleaning Method One: Soap and Water – With this method, you first scrape the excess stuff off the grates. Use a grill brush for this, then fill your sink with hot soapy water. Scrub the grates well with fresh water and a little soap. Dry the grates with a soft dishcloth and apply a thin coat of vegetable shortening spray or other oil, like canola or vegetable oil.

Cleaning Method Two: Firm Bristle Wire Brush – This is my preferred method for cleaning cast iron grill grates. For this method, spray the grates with full strength white vinegar, let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub with a firm wire brush. Wipe off the grates with a hot, soapy cloth and spray with vegetable oil to prevent rusting.

Always store your cast iron grill grates when you are not using them to avoid caking them with grease and oxidation. Consider wrapping the grates in plastic wrap with a cloth, or a grill cover, and storing them in a dry place. This will also prolong the life of your grate.

Re-seasoning grill plates

To restore the flavor to your cast iron grill plates, you’ll need to hit it up with a little bit of oil. Before you do, however, you need to deconstruct your plates. There are many videos online that will help guide you through the deconstruction.

Here is a quick demonstration from my channel.

Wrap the cast iron plates in some tin foil, and then place them right above your grill’s fire.

This will heat it up to around 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

At this point, you’ll want to pour some vegetable oil on the plate and let it sit for a few minutes. Then you can scrub off the leftover remains with a paper towel. Then you’ll want to repeat the process 3-5 times.

Next, you’ll want to heat them back up to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit and allow them to cool.

Dealing with Rust and Mold

The cast iron grills is a traditional style grilling equipment with the benefits of a non-stick cooking surface. But rusting or mold growth are common issues to cast iron grills.

The main cause of rusting is due to neglecting cleaning maintenance or improper cleaning. Some people clean their cast iron grills with soap and water or rub the surface with sandpaper. However, this will create rust on your cast iron grills. And if the rust is not cleaned off, the rust will turn into a kind of mold on your cast iron grill.

The best cleaning method is to use boiling water and salt. All you have to do is to boil water in a large pot. Add salt into the boiling water and then connect the cast iron grills to the pot. Make sure that the cast iron grills are submerged in the boiling water. Then leave it over night.

The following morning, wipe out the cast iron grills with a wet sponge. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any stray rust, dirt or residue that you may have missed.

Handy Tools for Cleaning Your Grill Plates

If your grill plates have lost their luster, they’re not dead. It’s possible to revive the grill plates by cleaning them thoroughly. You’ll need to use some heavy duty solvents to remove the burnt, cooked-on grease and fat so your plates are as good as new.

I’ve always had problems with cast iron grates. They become so dirty, I swear there are colonies of little Blobs living on them.

I’ve tried to clean them using all sorts of solutions: soap, water, wine, vinegar, scouring pads, and scrapers. All these failed to remove the hard baked on crusty carbon residue, leaving me with a barely usable grill.

I’ve discovered the solution to keeping cast iron cookware clean.

Take a deep breath, open a beer, and iron out that cast iron grill grate.

It’s not hard, and you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. You can get everything you’ll need at home. This will not only save you from making a mess, but it will protect your lungs from the toxic fumes produced by other products.

A block of hardwood:

Cast iron grill grates are cleanable and last forever, however, it’s also important to know how to care for them properly.

Over time, a layer of carbon will build up on your grates. Some cast iron grill manufacturers suggest sanding the grates after each use. However, I don’t recommend it because it wears out the wooden handle of the sanding block and creates a big mess.

My personal preference is to keep a vinegar and water solution in a spray bottle and use it following each time you cook on your cast iron grill. If you have some time in between use, you can also leave the vinegar mixture sitting on the grates and use it later to easily wipe them clean.

Alternatively, you can use a block of hardwood to scrub your grates clean. I prefer to use a block of solid hardwood. Many grill manufacturers will give you a piece when you buy a cast iron grill from them. Others may provide a source to purchase one from. If you don’t have one, an old sanding block is another good option.

When using the block of wood, you can hold it with a dish towel or wear gloves to keep your hands from getting burned by stray hot embers from the fire.

Aluminum foil:

Let the grate cool and then season it. Here's how: Put a sheet of aluminum foil (or silicone mat) on top, then sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons kosher salt and pat it down in an even layer. Place a heavy baking sheet on top, then pour about two quarts of ice cubes over. (Don't cram the cubes on top of one another – spread the cubes fairly evenly over the baking sheet.)

Let the grates cool, then wipe them down. The ice will help cake on a layer of rust (aka sacrificial oxidation), which will keep your grates in use for years.

Grill brushes:

Before the invention of the grill brush, cleaning a grill was a laborious hand polishing job.

The solid cast iron grates collected layers of carbon during cooking that, once cooled down, would make the grill black and dirty.

Even if you soaked the greasy parts in water, the water would not penetrate the grill…at all!

Grill brushes were first introduced 100 years ago to solve this problem and bring comfort and ease to the griller’s life.

While this new invention made things easier, the grill brushes of old were high maintenance torture instruments. They would shed their felt bristles just like cat’s claws. They gathered themselves in a messy pile in the corner of the garage where they would sit until you threw them out, and then you would go buy a new one.

Sometimes, the screw that holds these brushes together on the handle would loosen or unscrew itself, and the brush would fall apart in your hands.

But this was the past.

There is a new kind of grill brush today …they even call them brushless!

You can either choose to buy this kind or simply make one on your own.

Grate scrapers:

One of the biggest annoyances about cast iron grates is keeping them clean. They do a pretty good job of cooking your food, but only if they are clean.

If you’re the type that likes to sear meat or fry food, you’ll need to scrub them regularly to keep them in tip-top shape.

You can use a steel brush and go after them, but it is sooooo not fun.

I recommend a grate scraper. They are super cheap and slide right in between the grates to scrape off anything stuck on. Grab one and always keep it by your side when you grill. They can be found in any kitchen department and will get your grates squeaky clean in no time.

Steam cleaners:

A clean and efficient way to clean your grill!

When cleaning your cast iron grates, there are a couple of things to take into consideration to avoid damaging them.

The cast iron material is extremely durable and will last a lifetime if properly maintained and cleaned.

However, cast iron can be extremely abrasive and easily damage tools and your hands. Make sure you are wearing gloves, preferably leather when in contact with the grates.

Stainless steel tools are not a good choice either as they will quickly wear down and will end up effectively being useless. Cast iron grates are very hard to clean and can make you want to just give up and throw them away instead.

To make sure that your cast iron grates are always clean and in top shape, here are a few simple tips to take into consideration:

It’s very important to keep a good amount of fat and acid consumption in your diet.

Proteins are mostly acid forms, as they can be broken down to provide you with energy, whereas fats are more alkaline and used for metabolism.

If you eat a balanced diet from plant and animal sources you will avoid most health problems.

One of the most important methods to keep your body functioning properly is to maintain a pH balance.

In order to stay healthy, your body needs a normal pH balance.

Are Infrared Grills Worth the Cost?

If you want to get rid of the smoke and the grease smell from your grilled meat between meals and you aren’t really happy with your gas or charcoal grills, an infrared grill might just be worth considering.

The controversy surrounding infrared grilling is whether it provides the same flavor and feels as with a real charcoal grill or not. Even though the debate exists, if you want a hassle-free grill, this is a smart option to consider.

The grease and smoke from your foods will not be capable of making your favorite outdoor space smell bad. The infrared grill, which functions by using an electrical wave from between 6K to 12K, will cook your foods at a temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit. This will result in a nice crisp and golden grilled crust, but will not burn up your food like the high temperatures of charcoal or gas grills.

Don’t think that this grill is just limited to meats. By using indirect cooking, you will be able to incorporate some of your favorite vegetables into your meal as well.