How to Season Cast Iron Grill Grates for Your Gas Grill
Properly seasoned cast iron cooking grates typically last a long time — we’re talking decades — if they are well taken care of. However, not many people know how to care for grill grates, especially cast iron grill grates. In this post, we’ll explain the right way to care for your cast iron cooking grates to keep them in top-notch non-stick condition for years.
Cooking grates can be made from stainless steel, cast iron, or porcelain-enameled steel. Cast iron grates absorb and transfer heat more evenly and can last years longer than stainless steel or porcelain-coated steel grates, but they require more hands-on care. Not caring for your grill grates properly can lead to serious rust build-up and shorten the life of your cooking grids.
Most cast iron grill grates manufactured today are covered with a matte porcelain coating which offers a degree of protection against corrosion, but this coating is not foolproof, and a little TLC will go a long way to prolonging their life. Cast iron has pores that can absorb moisture, so without proper seasoning, water and moisture can easily penetrate your cooking grates and cause rust and other deterioration.
Whether you’re cooking on a gas or charcoal grill, properly seasoning your cooking grates before their first use—and periodically after every subsequent use—will protect them from rust and create a non-stick cooking surface that will make it easier to grill and achieve a good sear with perfect grill marks.
Keep reading to learn how to care for your grill grates, including what materials you need and step-by-step instructions for seasoning your cooking grates.
How to Season Cooking Grates on a Gas Grill Before Using Them for the First Time
Whether you’re firing up a brand new grill or breaking in replacement cooking grates, follow these steps to season your cast iron cooking grates on a gas grill before using them for the first time:
- Remove the cooking grates from the grill or packaging. Wash them with warm water and mild dish soap to remove any dust or debris from the packaging.
- Dry the grates with a clean towel and place them back onto your grill.
- Heat the grill to thoroughly dry the cast iron. Heating the cast iron also helps open the pores, which makes it easier for the oil to penetrate and create a non-stick surface.
- Turn off the heat and let the cooking grates cool off enough to touch.
- Rub the cooled grates with a thin layer of vegetable oil or cast iron seasoning oil using a basting brush, paper towel, or spray mister. Make sure the entire surface, including all corners, is coated thoroughly. Do not use salted fat such as margarine or butter.
- Fire your grill up again and let it heat at low-medium heat (200-400 degrees) for 30 minutes. This will bake the oil into the cast iron and create a protective non-stick layer. Areas that have been coated should have a shiny finish and should look slightly darker than before.
- Turn the grill off and let it cool completely.
How To Season Cast Iron Cooking Grates After Use on a Gas Grill
The best way to keep your gas grill’s cast-iron cooking grates performing at their best is to season them after every use—regularly seasoning your cast iron cooking grates will prevent rust build-up and strengthen the non-stick coating that makes it easier to grill. At a minimum, they should be seasoned after five grilling sessions to prevent rust from forming and to maintain the non-stick surface.
Here’s how to care for your cast iron cooking grates after each use:
- After grilling, leave the grill running at medium-high heat. Close the lid and wait 10 minutes for excess food and debris to burn off. The heat also opens up the pores of the cast iron and makes it easier for oil to penetrate and bake in.
- Open the lid and clean the grate using a grill brush, wood scraper, or a cut onion.
- Spread a thin coating of oil over the entire surface of the grill grate with a basting brush or oil mister. Turn the control knobs off and let your grill cool as usual. The residual heat will bake the oil into the cast iron. Areas that have been coated should have a shiny finish and should look slightly darker than before.
How to Season Cooking Grates on a Charcoal Grill Before Using Them for the First Time
If this is the first time you’ll be using these cooking grates on a charcoal grill, follow these steps to season them properly:
- Remove the grates and wash them in warm water and mild dish soap or all-natural cast iron cleaner. Dry thoroughly and place them onto your grill.
- Brush the clean grates with a thin layer of vegetable oil and rub the oil into the grates with a basting brush or paper towel.
- Arrange the charcoal evenly on the bottom of the grill, using enough to burn for about three hours. Open the vents all the way, light the charcoal, and let the charcoal burn till the coals have a red center and a gray ash coating.
- Place the grill grates onto the grill and close the lid for about 30 minutes.
- Close the vents after two hours and allow the coals and grates to completely cool off to finish the seasoning process.
If the steps above seem too onerous, you can also bake the seasoned cooking grids in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for half an hour. This will save a lot of time and charcoal!
How To Season Cast Iron Cooking Grates After Use on a Charcoal Grill
Follow these steps to season or re-season cooking grates after use on a charcoal grill:
- After you remove your food, close the lid and let the heat from your grill burn off any food debris and oil for approximately 10 minutes.
- Open the lid and brush or scrape the grates to remove any excess food debris.
- Brush the clean grates with a layer of vegetable oil using a basting brush or paper towel held between tongs.
- Leave the coals lit and the vents open. Close the lid and let the grates heat for approximately 30 minutes while the oil sinks in.
- Close the vents after 30 minutes and allow the coals and grates to completely cool off to finish the seasoning process.
Cleaning Cast Iron Cooking Grids
With proper care, cast iron grill grates can last decades on a gas or charcoal grill. Cast iron grill grates should be cleaned and seasoned after every use to keep them non-stick and resistant to rust. Follow these steps to clean cast iron cooking grates:
- While the grates are warm, brush them with a bristle brush or a ball of tin foil held between tongs.
- Scrub away any light rust or stubborn stuck-on bits using steel wool. If these spots still won’t lift, you can use a solution of water and mild dish soap.
- Once the grates have been brushed, rub them with a thin layer of vegetable oil and heat the grill for a few minutes. This will bake the oil into the cast iron and create a thin, non-stick coating for your next cookout.
Never put your cast iron cooking grates in the dishwasher, soak them in soapy water, or allow them to air dry.
However, it is safe to occasionally use mild dish soap or an all-natural cast iron cleaner especially if you’re using them for the first time or you need a bit of help lifting difficult debris. If you do clean your grates with dish soap, take extra care to re-season them properly—soap can strip away the non-stick surface that develops when you bake the oil into the iron.
Learn when to clean grill grates and how to clean different materials.
Removing Rust on Cast Iron Cooking Grids
If you spot any rust on your cooking grates, don’t panic! A bit of surface rust is nothing to worry about, but you should try to clean it off as soon as possible to stop it from penetrating deeper into the cast iron.
Surface rust can often be removed by washing it with hot soapy water. You may also need to give it a scrub with steel wool. If you do use soapy water or steel wool to remove rust, be sure to properly season your cooking grates again. Soapy water and abrasive material like steel wool will strip away the non-stick coating, and unless you re-season your grill grates properly, you are susceptible to recurring rust.
If your grill’s cooking grates were rusting for a while before you notice the corrosion, it may be time to replace your grates.
If you do need to replace your cooking grates, GrillSpot.com carries an assortment of cooking grates for top barbecue grill brands.
How To Store Cast Iron Cooking Grates
If you are winterizing your grill or don’t plan on using your barbecue grill for a long time, clean the cooking grates thoroughly after their last use, then add an extra layer of cooking oil to protect it against rust till you’re ready to grill again
Caring for Grill Grates
Your grill’s cooking grates are one of the most important parts of your barbecue. Cast iron grill grates can last many years when properly cared for, they have the best heat retention, and are best for achieving a perfect sear and great grill marks. But without seasoning before its first use and re-seasoning after subsequent uses, cast iron is susceptible to rust and corrosion.
Thankfully, caring for cast iron grill grates is easy, and it only takes a few minutes of work. If you do need to replace your grill grates, that’s easy too—simply remove the old ones and replace them with new ones…once they’ve been properly seasoned, of course.