Gas grills are a great way to cook up an alfresco summer meal, but they also require proper care and attention. While these durable appliances are built to last, they're still made of metal and are therefore susceptible to rust, particularly on the grates. Luckily, there are some preventative measures you can take to avoid it, as well as some valuable tricks to restore grates that have seen better days.
Your grill's grates go through a lot. Of all the different elements of your gas barbecue, this slatted surface sees the most use. They undergo intense heat, char your food, and are prone to a build-up of greasy residue. It's no wonder then that rust can often pose a problem, even for the best gas grills. Here, we asked some grilling experts for their best tips on how to stay on top of it.
Jakob is a retired health professional who became a pitmaster in his golden years. He and his wife founded Barbecue pals, an online blog where they share informative grilling guidelines, delicious recipes, and humorous takes on the world of BBQ.
How to stop a gas grill's grates from rusting
Whether you want to learn some preventative measures or you need to restore an already rusted grate, here's what you need to know to keep yours in tip-top condition.
1. Clean your grill after every use
It might seem tedious, but knowing how to clean your grill properly is one of the best ways to keep rust at bay. That doesn't just mean a seasonal deep clean, either. To prevent the build-up of grease and grime that can cause rust, it's advised your clean your grill after every use.
'After each use, clean the grill grates with a long-handled, stiff-wire brush,' says Joe Downey, Senior Merchant of Grills at The Home Depot. 'Once the surface has cooled, wipe the grate with a damp cloth to remove residue or brush bristles, then use a rag or folded paper towels to apply a light coating vegetable oil to the clean grill grates. This will help prevent rust and food build-up.'
Joe also advises checking your manual to check for any particular materials that might be sensitive to harsh cleaning agents. 'For a stainless-steel grill, use a specially formulated stainless-steel BBQ grill cleaner and microfiber cloth,' he says. 'Ceramic, porcelain, and painted steel surfaces can be cleaned using soap and water.'
2. Always preheat your grill
We all know that pre-heating your grates is the best cooking practice, but what you probably didn't realize is that it can also help prevent rust in the long-term, too. 'Preheating your grill before cooking can help burn off any excess moisture or residue on the grates, helping to prevent rust from forming,' explains Jakob Miller, pitmaster and founder of Barbecue Pals.
Preheating your grill beforehand will also prevent foods from sticking to your grates, reducing the build-up of food particles. When it comes to cooking temperatures, this will depend on what you're cooking. You can find out more in our guide on what temperature a gas grill should be.
3. Season your grates
Seasoning a grill is the sort of job you might be tempted to skip to save some time, but it's actually a crucial step to prepare your grates for cooking and protect them in the long term.
It's also easier than you might think - all it involves is applying a small amount of oil with a high smoke point, such as canola and peanut oil, to the grates while they're hot. 'Seasoning your grates with oil or other high-heat cooking sprays can help create a protective layer that prevents moisture from penetrating the metal,' says Jakob. It will also make your food taste better, too!
4. Consider a grill mat
A grill mat is a type of non-stick material with a heat-resistant coating that sits on top of your grates during cooking. Not only do they help your food grill more evenly and make the tasking of cleaning up far easier, but they also help stop smaller pieces of food from falling through the grates.
According to Jakob, this makes them an excellent choice if you want to extend the life of your grill by preventing rust from dirt and grease build-up. 'Consider using a grill mat or cooking sheet on top of your grates to prevent food from sticking and to protect them from grease and marinade,' he says. We like these grill mats from Amazon which are thin enough to leave grill marks and flavor intact, yet thick enough to offer great heat resistance and durability.
5. Use a grill cover to protect your barbecue
While designed for use outside, your outdoor barbecue will inevitably rust if it's left to the perils of damp conditions. 'Consider using a high-quality grill cover to protect your grill from the elements when it's not in use,' notes Jakob. 'This will help prevent moisture from accumulating on the grates, which can cause rust.'
When shopping for a grill cover, Joe suggests looking for all-weather, mildew-resistant ones made of durable materials such as polyester or PVC. During the colder months of the year, it's also a good idea to store your gas grill in a garage, shed, or under a porch if you have one ( always ensuring the gas supply is disconnected first).
6. Restore grates with a wire brush
If rust has already made itself known on your grates, there are a few methods you can take to restore them. 'One common method is to use a wire brush or steel wool - some of the best grilling accessories you can buy - to remove the rust, followed by seasoning the grates with oil,' Jakob says. 'This will also help protect the grates from further rusting.'
Joe suggests burning off any lingering bits of food first. 'Once the grates have cooled, use a soft bristle brush to scrub any remaining debris, using minimal water to prevent rust buildup from returning,' he says. 'Finish them off with a light coating of vegetable oil.'
7. Apply a rust inhibitor
You might also want to consider investing in some products that act as rust inhibitors if you want your grates to last as long as possible. However, as Jakob points out, it's important to note that these products may affect the flavor of your food, so it's best to use them sparingly.
'Two handy products we recommend to prevent rust on your grills and to remove tough stains are the Traeger All Natural Grill Cleaner and the ECOLAB 32Heavy-Duty Citrus Degreaser and Cleaner,' says Joe. 'ECOLAB works quickly to remove stains and can be used for indoor and outdoor purposes. This formula will save you time from scrubbing stains that won’t go away, and prevent rust from occurring in the future.'
8. Invest in higher quality grates
When it comes to grilling, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. If rusted grates are proving a persistent problem, it might be because you're buying poor-quality grates.
If you're shopping for new grates or hoping to pick the best grill, it's important to pay attention to the material. 'Steel and stainless-steel grates tend to be the least expensive but also the least durable,' explains Joe. 'Porcelain-coated grates have a mid-range price but tend to chip and should not be cleaned with metal scrapers.'
For longer-lasting grates, cast iron is probably your best bet. As Joe explains: 'Cast iron grates are the heaviest, most durable, and most efficient at heat distribution and retention. They can cook more quickly but tend to be the most expensive and require more maintenance than other grates.'
Thanks to these few simple steps, you can now rest assured your grates will last a lifetime - well, a few long summers of tasty barbecues, at least. With grilling season nearly upon us, you can keep your grates going through a whole season of alfresco meals without a speck of rust in sight!
3 grill cleaning essentials for preventing rust
Save yourself some pennies with this two-in-one grill brush and scraper from GrillArt, available at Amazon. This multifunctional tool is your ultimate weapon against dirty grates, bad-tasting meat, and an unhealthy barbecue. It makes your cleaning job twice as fast too!
Keep your grates in check with this all natural grill cleaner, from Traeger. Made from a grease-cutting formula that takes on big messes without any heavy duty chemicals, it's the best option for regular maintenance of your grill to help you stay on top of rust.
By far the best preventative measure to ensure your grill lasts is to keep it covered when not in use. This premium grill cover from Dyna-Glo, available at The Home Depot, is made with a water-resistant, heavy-duty PVC shell and 900 denier polyester lining to withstand harsh elements.
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Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.
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