Cleaning a BBQ – How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates

With the BBQ season almost upon us, it’s time to remove the cover from your barbeque and getting ready to clean it up and start cooking. With our handy tips and guidelines you can keep your barbeque looking it’s best and avoiding rusty grill grates all year long.

Cleaning a BBQ after Winter

At the start of the BBQ season, it’s always a good idea to give your BBQ a thorough clean after it has been unused throughout the winter.

Begin by giving your barbeque a visual check over. Check for any areas of rust or damage and remove any insects that have made your BBQ a home, like snails and spiders. Check all handles, wheels, knobs and hinges for damage and ensure everything is in working order.

Clean out any old coals or ash present in the collection tray and wipe everything over.

The best way to clean cast iron grill grates on your BBQ is when it is hot. So begin by lighting up your BBQ.

Once your BBQ has been lit and has reached a high temperature, it will begin to burn off any residue left on the cast iron grills from the previous year. Be aware that if the grills are dirty, they will smoke a lot until the residue has burnt away.

If, after 30 minutes, there is still a lot of residue present, keep the temperature high and close the lid. Leave the barbeque closed for about 5-10 minutes, then open the lid and using a wire brush, scrape and clean the residue away.

Once the grates are clean, wipe them over and leave the BBQ to cool completely. Once it has cooled, coat the grill grates with a little cooking oil. This will help keep the grates from rusting and prevent food from sticking to them during the following use.

How to Get Rust Off of Cast Iron Grill Grates

If you find that your cast iron grill grates have formed rust, don’t panic, all is not lost.

Rust builds up on cast iron when it isn’t properly maintained. Once you have removed the rust, be sure to care for your cast iron BBQ properly in the future. This will help to save you a lot of time in the future.

To remove the rust from the cast iron grill, begin by removing the grates and wash them thoroughly in some warm soapy water and scrub with steel wool.

If there is still rust present on the grills, create a soaking solution using one part distilled white vinegar and one part warm water. Immerse the grills in the solution and leave them to soak for about 30 minutes to an hour. Leave it for a little longer if needed but keep an eye on it, vinegar is corrosive and will begin to destroy the surface of the cast iron if you leave it too long. You want to remove the grill grates as soon as the rust begins to come away.

After soaking, remove the grills from the solution and begin to scrub the grills again with some steel wool. Rinse the grills with some fresh water and replace on the BBQ.

It’s important to thoroughly dry the grills after removing the rust build up. Otherwise, they will immediately begin to rust again. So, light a fire on the BBQ and allow the grills to dry out completely.

Once dry, season your cast iron grill grates with a little neutral flavoured oil and continue to heat the grills over a lower heat for about 45 minutes. This will protect them and prevent food from sticking to them next time.

To prevent a build up of rust, always ensure the grills are kept dry and clean after each use. Store your BBQ in a shed if it’s left unused for a long period and during winter and invest in a waterproof BBQ cover if you keep it outside.

Cleaning a BBQ without Chemicals

It’s important to clean your BBQ after each use and can easily be done without the use of chemicals. In fact, it is better not to use chemicals on your cast iron grill grates if you can. Ideally, just use the heat from the BBQ and some cleaning tools to remove any food residue present.

If you need to give your BBQ a more thorough clean, you can use lemon juice, ketchup or even beer. Pour these on to any problem areas, while the bbq is still hot.

You can also use a screwed piece of foil (reusing any that has been used to cover food is fine) and rub it over the hot grates.

Another natural method to clean cast iron grates is with an onion. Cut the onion in half and stick it on a fork with the flat side pointing away. Rub the onion over the hot grills.

Alternatively, you can use the soak solution of vinegar and water if needed.

Cleaning a BBQ After Use

If you maintain your BBQ and clean it after every use, the process should be quick and easy. Once all the food has been cooked, maintain the BBQ on a high heat and close the lid. Leave it closed for 5-10 minutes and then open it. Scrub any residue still present with you BBQ cleaning tools. Rub the grates and the inside of the lid with a cloth, close the lid and allow the BBQ to cool completely before emptying the coal tray and covering it with a waterproof cover.

Never put your cast iron grill grates in the dishwasher, this will cause them to rust.

You should also re-season your grill grates every so often, to keep them in tip top condition.

burgers cooking on a cast iron bbq

Recipes as a BBQ Side Dish

Once you get your newly cleaned BBQ up and running try these delicious side to serve with your BBQ food:


Do you need to clean a bbq after every use?

Yes. It will save you a lot of time and effort if you clean your BBQ after every use.

Are rusty grill grates safe to use?

A little rust on cast iron grill grates is still safe to use, but it is best to remove it before cooking if possible.

How can I keep my BBQ grills from rusting?

Always store them clean and dry. Do not leave food residue on the grill grates after use and always cover your BBQ with a waterproof cover or inside a shed.

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