You haven’t used your grill for a few months or even a few seasons. You go to take the grill out of your shed, garage, or from under its cover. Sadly, there’s a problem.
The cooking grates have rusted over, and they need some serious attention. Is it time to go out and find a replacement, or is it OK to give your grill a clean and then start cooking?
Let’s take a look and find out if it’s safe to cook on a rusted grill.
Rust in Itself Isn’t Harmful
When you see rust on your grill, it’s because the iron in the cooking grates has oxidized. Iron oxide can be consumed by people. Obviously, it’s not a food and doesn’t provide nutrition, but small fragments of it can pass through your digestive tract without causing health concerns.
Now, you wouldn’t want to eat great amounts of this corroded metal. That would be harmful and it wouldn’t taste particularly good either.
So, while you shouldn’t aim to cook on a rusty grill, you can have confidence knowing that it’s not going to harm you if you’re consuming less than 40mg per kilogram of your body weight.
Even better than cooking on those rusty grates, you can clean and restore them, and then prepare fresh grilled ingredients without a trace of iron.
How to Clean Rusty Cooking Grates
Let’s agree that eating rust isn’t really the most pleasant thing for you, your family, or any of your guests. The good news is that rusty cast iron grilling grates can be restored. All you need is some time and a few simple things that you already have around the house.
Set down some newspaper or a drop cloth that you don’t mind getting dirty.
Take the rusty grates off your grill and set them down atop your work surface.
Use a metal grill scraping tool to scrape all of the surface rust and debris from the surface of the grates. If you don’t have a metal brush, use a paint scraper or heavy-gauge wire wool.
Turn the grates and clean the reverse. Continue turning and cleaning until you have removed visible surface rust and debris.
In a large basin or bucket, mix warm water with dish soap. Using a scotch pad or similar abrasive sponge, use the soapy water to clean every surface of your cooking grates. You’ll need to be quite forceful to remove the remainder of the rust. Wear some thick rubber gloves to protect your hands during this process.
Remove the water, and refill your bucket or basin with clean water and a generous amount of white vinegar. Using a standard kitchen sponge or cloth, wipe this water-vinegar solution on the cooking grates. Now you can set the grates aside to dry, preferably in the sun where there’s plenty of airflow.
Place the grates back on the grill when they’re dry, and turn the grill on. Warm the grates and then turn the grill off again. Using grilling tongs and a paper towel, completely coat the grates with a high smoke point cooking oil (canola works well). When applied, turn the grill back on and let it burn at a high to moderate temperature for 15 minutes.
Turn off the grill again, and use clean paper towels to wipe off any excess oil. You’ve just cleaned and seasoned your rusty cooking grates.
Cleaning and Seasoning is Better Than Cooking on Rust
You don’t need to cook on rusty iron cooking grates. Follow our steps, and your grates will be safe, hygienic, and ready for your favorite recipes.
Clean and season your grates before storing your grill for long periods and you won’t have to worry about rust again.