How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates – (After Grilling or If They’re Just Rusty)

Cast iron grill grates can last for a lifetime if they’re well maintained.

Routine maintenance does take time and effort. But the benefits of cleaning after each use are well worth it!

After all, nothing beats the taste of food that has been cooking on cast iron grill grates.

But how do you properly wash and care for cast iron grill grates?

What do you do if you’ve been scrubbing for hours and you still can’t remove any of the mold or leftover food residue? What do you do then?

Don’t worry. This is a comprehensive guide on how to clean and care for your cast iron grill grates like a pro grill master!.

How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates

There are many different ways to clean your cast iron grill grates however the best is cleaning it after each use. Some other good ways to ensure your grill grates are kept clean are;

1. You can soak in vinegar
2. Wash in a detergent solution
3. Scrub it with a steel bristle brush
3.Dissolve all residue with a baking soda paste
4. Place it in a self-cleaning oven, or even burn everything off with extremely high heat.

Keeping your cast iron grill grates clean is half the battle. This kind of grill grate is prone to getting rusty, so how do you keep them clean and free of any rust? Much like everything else, the number one way to do this is to clean your cast iron grill grates soon after each use.

We have some more information on removing rust from your cast iron grill further down the page

It’s easy to forget about it and abandon all cleaning duties after enjoying the food. Without proper maintenance, your grill grates will rust, and you might have to buy new grates.

Here are 4 method for cleaning your cast iron grill

1. Vinegar Soak

White vinegar is a remarkably popular cleaning agent that can be found in any household. It is a solvent that does many different things.

It helps to get rid of smells
It’s an effective disinfectant
It doesn’t leave any residue
You can wash it away with water
It’s very cost-effective!

Cleaning cast iron grill grates with vinegar is a simple process. Much like how you can use it to wash clothes, dirty surfaces, and grimy dishes, white vinegar is also great for cleaning cast iron grill grates.
If you have a large and deep enough kitchen sink, fill it up with equal parts of water and white vinegar. Once you’ve done that, plonk your cast iron grill grates into the sink to soak, its that easy!

Vinegar has acidic properties. The simple mixture of water and vinegar will work away and dissolve any stubborn and heavy buildup from your cooking. If you’d like to be more involved in the cleaning process, you can also grab a scrubber and work away at any super stubborn spots.

If you don’t have any white vinegar lying about at home, apple cider vinegar works just as well. Compared to white vinegar, apple cider vinegar is a litle more pricey and we wouldn’t recommend it over cheaper options — that also do the job!

2. Self-Cleaning Oven or High Heat on the Grill

If you happen to have a self-cleaning oven, then feel free to place your cast iron grill grates in there. What’s a self-cleaning oven? Well, it’s also known as a pyrolytic oven, and it uses extremely high heat to burn any stubborn remnants left from baking.

Placing your used cast iron grill grates in a self-cleaning oven will ‘burn off’ any hard-to-scrub bits.  If you don’t have a pyrolytic oven, you can easily accomplish a similar outcome by letting your cast iron grill grates sit in a really hot grill for around an hour.

Remember, for this to work the overall temperature of your entire grill has to be capable of completely burning off everything. This cleaning method doesn’t just apply to grates. It will also work with any other cast iron cookware. We only recommend that you resort to this extreme method when all else fails.

3. Oven Cleaner

So your wondering if you can you use oven cleaner on cast iron grill grates? If you’re not into resorting to household cleaning remedies, then you might want to look into purchasing an oven cleaner. Oven cleaners are incredibly strong and powerful, hence, they’re often used as a deep cleaning solution.

There are two ways to clean cast iron grill grates with oven cleaner. Both of them begin with spraying your grill grates thoroughly with oven cleaner.

For the first method, you’ll want to let everything sit for around 20 minutes to half an hour. After the spray has begun to loosen any stuck-on food residue, you can use paper towels to wipe the grime off. It’s not recommended to use something like a cloth or towel for this task  —unless you want to ruin them forever.

The second method is to place your grill grates in a garbage bag after you’re done spraying it with oven cleaner. After that, you’ll want to leave it for a few days to thoroughly let the over cleaner do its job. This method requires less ‘scrubbing’ or ‘wiping’ and it’s more effective if you’re looking to remove rust as well as food residue.

It is crucial to keep in mind that oven cleaners are still full of chemicals that should not be ingested. After using it to clean your cast iron grill grates, you’ll want to run them under water to get rid of any remaining oven cleaner.

4. Steel Wool & Soapy Water

If your cast iron grill grates are new and you’re looking to preserve rather than salvage them, then it’s a smart idea to clean them after every use — starting from day one.

An easy way to do this is to wash them with soapy water and work away at any stick-on food bits with steel wool. The easiest way to do this is to fill any sizable sink with warm to hot soapy water before placing your grill grates in to be scrubbed.

Some may advise against doing this because it could lead to rusting. This exposure to water during the cleaning process is essential, because it makes it a lot easier to get rid of remaining food. So, how do you clean your grill grates without it developing rust in the process?

Be quick! Try to cut your cast iron grill grates’ contact time with water. After you’re done cleaning them, do not just leave them to soak or even drip dry.
Grab some paper towels and thoroughly dry your grill grates. This way, you can clean them and stop the rusting process.

How to Remove Rust From Cast Iron Grates

Grilling with rusty cast iron grates is never safe. The loose rust from these grates can stick food surface and it is not okay to consume any given amount of rust.
Cast iron grill grates can begin to form rust for a multitude of different reasons.

For example: not drying your grates or leaving the grill cover off of the grill when it’s not in use. Rust can also form due to the cooking process. High heat and exposure to moisture can contribute to rust build-up too.

As long as the rust damage on your cast iron grill grates isn’t too extreme, you can remove it through the methods mentioned above.
These cleaning methods don’t only apply to stubborn food residue. They’ll work to remove stubborn rust too!

How to Restore Cast Iron Grill Grates

Let’s say that your cast iron grill grates are getting rather old. You’ve been using it for years and it’s starting to look pretty awful. Once you’ve cleaned it up from all the dirt and rust with the methods mentioned above, how else can you restore it to its former glory?

What if you’ve noticed that it’s begun to lose its non-stick properties? What do you do then? In this case, we recommend that you rub vegetable oil onto the grates. There is a step-by-step process to doing below

Season Your Grates After Cleaning – This is Essential!

First, apply a coat of vegetable oil onto your cast iron grill grates and bake them in the oven. This coat of oil should not be too thick, as you do not want it to drip or catch on fire in the oven.

As soon as you see the oil drying up, remove it from the oven, reapply the vegetable oil and place it back in. Make sure to do this two to three times for around an hour or so.

After this seasoning process is complete, turn off your oven and let the cast iron grill grates cool down.

Once cooled, the seasoning process is complete! But that’s not all. Storing your grates correctly is equally essential.

Only store your grates in a dry environment, where it isn’t prone to collecting dust. This seasoning process is just as important as cleaning your cast iron grill grates, and you should strive to do it after each use!

Wrapping Up

Do you cook with cast iron grill grate in your yard? or maybe you have some tips for the rest of our pit masters and grilles that we didn’t cover!

Leave us a comment below and let us know what sort of grill grates you have, how often you clean them


Author: Charlie Reeves
Hi, I’m Charlie, I am head taste tester at Simply Meat Smoking! I love it grilling, smoking, and getting out in the yard with the kids! The family also love to test all my recipes (especially my EXTRA CRISPY pulled pork, smoky pork loin, and ANY SEAFOOD I grill)

You will usually find me playing with the kids, perfecting my brisket bark, or sipping beers with boys around the fire. Can’t wait to share all my delicious smoking and grilling adventures with you!

You can read more on our About Us page.

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