Learn how to keep a grill from rusting using 7 of our FAVORITE products and methods. that
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Even the best made grills, with the best made covers, are subject to rusting over time when left exposed to wind, rain, snow, and humidity, day in and day out.
So if rust is inevitable, what can you do about it?
Well, quite a bit more than you might think.
Keep reading to learn 7 of our favorite products and method to keep your grill from rusting.
Before we jump in, here’s a great overview video from Cooking with Ry on how he keeps his grills from rusting:
What’s Wrong with a Rusty Grill?
There’s nothing wrong with some texture in your meat – unless, of course, that texture is coming from rust.
When the grate of a grill is rusty, that rust can transfer directly to the food you’re cooking on it. That might mean taking a bite of rusty metal.
Not only is the taste and crunch alarming, but it can lead to negative health implications.
And rust is only the first step of deterioration.
If you go too long without correcting a rust problem on your grill, it might suffer structural damages and wind up breaking down .
The good news is that the process to keep your grill rust-free is pretty simple.
The Right Products to Prevent Rust
First, you are going to need the right products will help you keep your grill rust-free.
- Food grade grill rust remover
- Soft grill brush
- To remove rust: vinegar, salt, rags, and water
- Vegetable oil and a rag
- A good nylon or vinyl cover (preferably with a cloth lining)
- Dish soap, baking soda, and hot water
Safety Tip About Using Chemicals to Remove Rust
Always read the labels very carefully to make sure that ANY product you choose can be used on grills.
Some chemicals leave nasty invisible residues that are not stable when heated, and should also never be in contact with food surfaces.
Using a generic rust remover will coat your grill in harmful chemicals that will transfer to your food.
This is toxic and dangerous.
While you can make your own safe, overnight rust removing solution as described below, another option for MUCH FASTER results we like to use to remove existing rust is Evapo-Rust.
How to Remove Rust from Grill Grates
Before preventing rust, you need to make sure you get rid of the rust you currently have. If you aren’t sing a safe chemical like Evapo-Rust, then you can make a homemade solution of Salt and Vinegar.
- Create a mixture of 1 cup table salt and 2 cups of white vinegar.
- Put the grates from your grill in a large tray or trash bag. Dump the mixture in the container and move it around to ensure it coats the grates. Lay it flat on the ground and leave it overnight.
- In the morning, take the grates out of the container and use some old rags to wipe off the excess rust that didn’t fall off.
Fun Fact: a Salt and Vinegar solution works wonders around the house for all sorts of things from safely killing weeds to keeping frogs away from your swimming pool.
So it doesn’t hurt to mix up a batch and keep a bottle of it on hand.
For Heavy Duty Rust Removal: Make a paste out of vinegar and baking soda. Rub the paste on the spots that are rusty and let it sit for 30 minutes before rinsing it with warm water.
How to Keep a Grill from Rusting
If your grill is currently rust-free, these tips will keep rust away from your grill. These are the secret things to do and avoid in order to get the longest life out of your grill.
1. Don’t Leave the Grill Grates Wet
It’s hard to grill or smoke a great meal without getting the grill grates wet.
Here at Mad Backyard we are always using some sort of marinade, glaze, or sauce. Heck, even the juices from your meat will get the grill grates wet while they are cooking.
The trick is not to LEAVE them wet when you are done.
When you take the meat off, turn the burners up or open the vents all the way open and let the temperature rise as high as you can get it for a good 10 minutes.
You should see the grates begin to dry out and turn ashy and at this point you can cut the heat and scrape the grates with a good quality bristle free brush.
(If you don’t own a good bristle free brush, here are some of our favorites and you can also read about why they are the best type of grill brush to own.)
Then close the lid, let the grill cool, and put the cover back on.
2. Act Fast
When you notice signs of rusting, there’s no time to waste. You should immediately remove the rust (once it’s cool enough).
The longer you wait, the bigger the problem will be. Rust spreads a lot faster than you might think.
3. Oil it Up
If you want your grill to run like a well-oiled machine you need to – well, oil it!
Much like when you first season a new grill or smoker, professionals always suggest that you should rub vegetable oil on your grates after a good cleaning.
Why vegetable oil?
It’s food-safe, environmentally friendly, affordable, and it does its job really well. It will coat your grates with a protective layer that keeps rust away while remaining a safe place to cook food.
Grab a rag and some vegetable oil.
You want to apply an even, thin layer, nothing too serious.
You could also use a gentle brush to work the oil into your grate.
Note: Do not use aerosol vegetable oil. Veggie oil that you spray from a can has an explosive and flammable mixture inside that can lead to disaster.
4. Cover it and Store it
Anything you do to prevent rust will mean nothing if your grill is not properly covered and stored.
Moisture from the environment will wreak havoc on your grill. This could mean rain, snow, or even a humid day.
This is especially useful for people who live near bodies of water or in humid geographies.
A lot of grills have a lid, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
You should opt for a nice vinyl or nylon cover that fits tightly around your grill.
Bonus points if the cover has a cloth lining for extra strength and durability.
We are big fans of this line of covers from Grillman that check all those boxes and fit all the most popular grill brands:
Read more: Potato wedges on the grill
If at all possible, bring your grill into a garage or storage shed in between uses.
If that’s too much hassle, if you don’t plan to grill for a long stretch of time like during a vacation or over the winter months, at least bring it in during those times.
You can try to store it under a deck or awning as well to keep it out of direct rain and snow.
The longer you keep your grill away from the weather, the longer it will last.
5. Drain the Drip Tray
Hopefully, you realize that your grill has a drip tray to catch greasy meat drippings underneath.
This is something that you should check regularly before and after every cook. When it gets too full of water, grease, and debris, it’s time to drain it.
After you get any rain, you should double-check your drip tray.
If this fills with water and sits, it will quickly start rusting your grill.
6. Don’t Forget to Clean it
A surefire way to keep rust away is to stay on top of your routine cleanings.
Your grill should get a minor cleaning after every single use.
Use a gentle grill brush to get rid of the particles stuck on your grates. Be warned – a firm metal brush can actually scratch the grates and lead to faster rusting of your grill.
We always prefer soft bristle free brushes like this one from Kona
If you’re using a charcoal grill or smoker, clean the grill grates while the coals are still hot. Use a little bit of water to create steam along with your brush.
Every 15 uses or so, you should perform a deeper clean.
In this instance, you want to combine:
- A cup of dish soap
- A quarter cup of baking soda
- A cup of hot water
Take the grates off the grill and soak them in this mixture for about an hour. Afterwards, use the brush on the grates and wipe down the grates with a cloth to finish the clean.
Click here to check out our full deep dive into How to Clean an Electric Smoker as well.
7. Optional: Swap Out the Grates
Most likely your grates are going to start to rust before any other part of the grill.
And if the rust on them gets out of hand it can spread rapidly to other parts of the grill that are more difficult to replace.
Sometimes the best option is just to bite the bullet and buy some new grates, especially if they are not looking better after you clean them or starting to corrode and deteriorate.
Make sure to measure twice and buy one before you purchase new grates to make sure they will perfectly fit your grill/
The best options in the industry are porcelain-coated cast-iron grates or stainless steel grates.
These are the best materials at preventing rust as well as cleaning rust once it shows up.
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