How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates & Rust Removal Tips

What We Need to Know About Cast Iron Grates

Cast iron grills are known for their durability, and when properly cared for, they can even outlive most of the other sturdy appliances we have.

When used continually, they can become non-stick like our cast iron pans.

They leave beautiful grill marks on our meat, and they can retain high heat.

Unlike stainless steel, cast iron grates are very resilient.

We can brush, scrape, and also use different chemical substances, and it won’t even budge.

However, they require regular cleaning, oiling, and general maintenance so that they can retain their quality.

If a cast iron grate is not properly cleaned and stored with moisture inside, it will rust.

So, the best way to avoid the forming of rust is to prevent it.

Read More: Best Flat Top Grills (2022 Review)

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Tips When Cleaning a Cast Iron Skillet Pan

Before you clean a skillet using vinegar the right way, you have to be aware of a few helpful things:

How to Remove Old Seasoning from a Cast Iron Skillet

The seasoning on a cast iron cooking component often features polymerized oil. The oil helps ensure the meals you like preparing don’t impart a bad taste on the skillet surface. 

The coating develops when you heat the pan and helps protect your meals from unusual flavors from the metal.

Lye is a popular term people use for sodium hydroxide, which works well for removing polymerized oil.

It’s a common product for various procedures, including soap preparation. 

However, such properties mean that you have to be cautious when using Lye for cookware. 

Some Lye products are strong and can cause severe chemical burns. So, find ways to handle it just like you would with a hot pan. 

While it’s a delicate substance, it works well for removing seasoning on a cast iron pan. In addition, it’s less likely to damage the pan structure or lead to pitting issues.

Heavy-duty gloves will also be helpful for this process. That is because they protect your hands from the Lye you plan on using for the cleaning.

Tips for Preventing Rust

Once you are through cleaning your pan, realize that it might be prone to rusting again. A few helpful tips to stop such issues might include:

  • Ensure you keep the pan dry thoroughly after cleaning. A good recommendation is to clean the pan after use or pat it dry with a towel.
  • Store the pan in a cool and dry place after cooking.
  • Avoid using abrasive scrubbers on your pan. A better alternative is to soak it in some warm water and then clean it using a brush with soft bristles. 
  • Avoid cleaning your cast iron cookware in dishwashers. Instead, do the cleaning process manually so that you won’t compromise the pan’s materials.
  • Avoid leaving stubborn stains from meals on your pan for long durations. Such issues can compromise the quality of the cast iron and seasoning. 

How To Get Rust Off Cast Iron Skillet With Vinegar?

Vinegar is acidic by nature, which has corrosion power. Vinegar soak is an effective solution for heavy de-rusting.

There are plenty of vinegar available in the market like apple cider vinegar, plain colourless vinegar. Don’t need to use the apple cider it will cost you much higher.

Take a bucket mixed 1:1 vinegar-water solution. Immerse the cast iron skillet under the vinegar soak & keep it for at least 1 hour.

If it’s heavily rusted then you can keep it for 2-3 hour. The vinegar will slowly loosen up the rust from the iron surface.

After pulling out the skillet from the vinegar soak, sprinkle some baking soda to neutralize the acid iron reaction.

Use any metallic scrubber & scrub on the skillet surface. It will remove the excess rust elements from the pan surface. Alternatively you can you use sea salt instead of baking soda. Now clean the pan with plain water & use a paper towel to remove the excess water.

Do you know? pure raw vinegar is very strong it hurt your cast iron kitchenware. So never submerge your cast iron under pure vinegar.

Why Vinegar Used As A Rust Removal?

The vinegar contains Hypochlorous acid which is also called an oxidizing agent. When vinegar comes to contact with the cast iron, it passivating the iron surface.

The passivating layer also protects the iron from further reaction with the vinegar soak.

Automatically the topmost rust surface will loosen up their attachment with the cast iron. As a result, the rust’s are dissolved into the vinegar soak. finally, we get rust-free iron skillet.

How long should I soak cast iron in vinegar?

  1. The maximum amount of time you should leave your cast iron soaking in vinegar is 8 hours. Any longer than this could be detrimental to the long-term health of the cast iron.
  2. You should keep checking back on your cast iron as it soaks, though, because the length of time you need it submerged in vinegar will vary. It depends on how much rust there is to clean. The more rust there is, the longer the soaking time.
  3. A minimum of 1 hour is typically needed for an average rusty pan, and you should see the rust starting to fall away from the iron surface after this.
  4. Once you take the pan out of the vinegar solution, give it a good scrub with a nylon brush. This will remove any leftover flakes of rust that have been loosened by the vinegar. If large chunks of rust continue to cling to the iron, you will need to soak the pan in vinegar for longer.

The Scrub

After the soak, the scrub is the second most important step. There a few ways to do this and will all depend on what you either have on hand or are able to buy. Once the pan has been rid of all of its rust and its seasoning, you need to give it a wash and a scrub.

While you normally shouldn’t use any sort of soap with a seasoned pan, you can today because you have removed all of the seasonings from your pan. Furthermore, you should only use a mild or natural soap and warm water. Never use a dishwasher under any circumstances.

To start this process, simply submerge the skillet in warm water or a combination of warm water and mild soap. Scrub all of the leftover rust particles and debris with a semi-abrasive sponge or scrubber.

You can use a nylon brush, plastic brush, semi-abrasive sponge, steel wool, or salt scrub. Additionally, there are many cast iron specific scrubbers out there that would work just fine. It’s just important to not use anything that is really abrasive.

However, the salt scrub is a trusty method that has been used to clean cast iron skillets for years. It can even remove rust debris, making it one of the top choices in rust removal. Once it has been cleaned, you should wipe it down immediately with a towel.

This ensures that it doesn’t start to form any rust again. Additionally, you can put it in the oven to ensure that it is totally dry. Never leave it out to drip dry in the sink, that is a recipe for disaster.

See also:How to clean Stainless Steel Cookware

How Do You Keep Cast Iron Trivets from Rusting?

To prevent your trivet from rusting, you should follow these tips for proper maintenance.

  1. It’s best to store your trivets when clean and dry. Please keep them in a clean, cool, and dry location with low humidity. Any excess moisture that may get into contact with the stand can cause rust.  
  2. Use your trivet often; storing it for long periods with less air circulation can cause rust.
  3. Season the trivet before initial and re-season before storage. The seasoning procedure is as follows;
  4. Heat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  5. Apply some thin layer of oil on the trivet surfaces. Ensure the trivet is clean before applying and it’s dry.
  6. Let the oil stay on the trivet for 15 minutes, then wipe off the excess.
  7. Ensure enough air circulation in the room as there may be a baking odor from the trivet.
  8. Remember to cover the oven racks with an aluminum foil or baking sheet. Then, place the cast iron trivet in the oven.
  9. Bake for one hour.
  10. Remove the trivet and let it cool on a baking rack.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Restore Cast Iron Grill Grates?

When your grill grates are looking a little worse for wear, there are several ways you can give them a thorough spring cleaning without breaking the bank or calling in a professional:

Steel wool:

Using a big old bowl of soapy water and some good old fashioned steel wool, you can scrub away any surface rust and burnt on food – it’s important to make sure that you thoroughly rinse and completely dry them afterwards, however, as any lingering moisture will cause rust production pretty quickly. Bear in mind that you’ll need to re-season the grates before you use them again.

Self cleaning oven:

If you’re lucky to have an oven with a cleaning cycle, running your grates through it for the entire period, possibly twice, is a surefire way to get them looking good again.

The same effect can be achieved by leaving them in a piping hot grill (at least 600 degrees, if not more) for an hour or two. You might still want to give them a rinse and a scrub with water, just in case there’s any lingering carbon.

Oven/grill cleaner:

Struggling to get the worst of the burnt-on food and rust off? You might need to opt for the store bought oven cleaner/specialized grill cleaner in order to successfully finish the job.

Be aware that unlike your oven which can be cleaned in a few hours, you’ll need to leave your grill grates soaking in the cleaner for a good few days, in a warm dry place, then rinse and wash. This is a lengthy process, but very much worth the effort!

Proper maintenance afterwards:

Now that your grates are back to their former glory, it’s important to keep them clean! After every cooking session, allow the grill to cool down until it’s safe to touch, then give those grates a thorough scraping with your favorite grill brush.

You might also want to season them with a tiny coating of vegetable oil – rubbing them down with a lightly soaked paper towel is easiest – as this will help to prevent future rust formation.

What Do You Soak Grill Grates in to Clean Them?

There are several tried and true methods for grill grate cleaning, but the most common liquids used for soaking are hot soapy water (dish soap is fine), a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, or straight up oven cleaner.

Is It Okay to Grill on Rusted Grates?

If you don’t have any options, then yes, but it’s best not to. Ingesting rust (iron oxide) in small amounts will not harm you, but over time it’s going to have adverse effects on your digestive system and the rest of your body for sure.

Should you find yourself in a pinch, then it’s probably alright to grill on rusty grates just once, even twice at a push, but next time you should make sure everything is cleaned up properly before you break out the grill.

Can I Use Vinegar to Clean My Grill?

Absolutely you can! In fact, it’s one of the most commonly recommended methods of cleaning grill grates – a good long soak in vinegar and baking soda will deoxidise the rust present and leave everything nice and shiny afterwards.

Most would recommend leaving them overnight or for a couple of days if you have the time to spare, and then you’ll want to rinse them off with some warm water and dish soap before drying thoroughly, just to remove any excess dirt and grime.

Can I Use Steel Wool to Clean Cast Iron?

Yes indeed, but only certain kinds of cast iron products. For instance, if you’ve got yourself a non-stick pan you probably don’t want to use steel wool on it, as you’re more likely to scrape away the protective coating than remove any burnt-on food or rust.

However, if it’s cast iron grill grates you’re looking to scrub, then go right ahead! Steel wool works wonders, and since a couple of cosmetic scratches aren’t going to stop you from grilling, it doesn’t matter if you need to press down hard in order to scrape away the grime.

If you’re worried about using steel wool on a particular kind of cast iron, see manufacturer’s guidelines or do a quick Google search for the exact product, so as to get some more specific guidance on your product of choice.

How Do You Clean Grill Grates with Lemons?

Very easily indeed! The bigger the lemon, the better, too – it gives you more surface area for scrubbing to work with. First things first, you want to heat your grill up until it’s piping, then let it sit for a couple of minutes. Cut your lemon in half and pierce the flesh several times with a fork.

Dip the lemon half into some sea salt (kosher works best) and then get ready to scrub up! Using a bit of pressure, rub the entire surface of the grill grates down thoroughly, replacing your lemon halves as needed until the whole thing is nice and clean.

Be sure to dip the new lemons in salt, as this adds some much-needed abrasion and makes scrubbing a lot easier.

Once cleaned off, wait until your grates are completely cooled before removing them to thoroughly rinse under clean, hot water. That is, unless you want all of your future grilling endeavors to taste like salted lemons!

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