How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill (9 Easy Steps)


Having problems getting stubborn cooked on food off your grill? Here are nine simple steps for you to help you make light work of sprucing it up. This is how to clean a cast iron grill, the easy way.

how to clean a cast iron grill

If you’re looking to upgrade your barbecue grill then investing in cast iron grates is a great place to start.

While a lot of modern stainless steel grills are porcelain coated, which helps to a certain extent with protection against rust, robust cast iron grates are not.

Your grates bear the brunt of a lot in your grill. From high heats, to cooked meat, to smoke and accompanying moisture. It’s no wonder that an untreated grate can wear down and rust quite quickly.

barbecue food on grill grates

Cast iron grates are able to conduct, spread and retain heat effectively, making your grill quick to heat up and easy to use.

They’re also fantastic at giving you that iconic BBQ sear that we all love.

And let’s be honest, maintaining that sear is what we all want.

how to clean a cast iron grill

But when it comes to cleaning cast iron, the work can pile up. See, while cast iron is incredibly durable and robust, they’re also prone to rust. This makes cleaning it a bit of a challenge as you need to be extremely careful with how you apply water to them.

After all, if you can’t apply water to it, how are you going to go about cleaning it?

With these nine simple steps, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to clean your cast iron grill, and restore it from a rusty mess to mint condition in no time.

Clean the grill right away

The key to cleaning any cooking surface is often to get to work right away. It’s the same when cleaning a flat top grill, and outdoor grills are no different.

Once you’re done grilling, allow the grates to cool for about ten minutes. This will ensure that they’re still warm but aren’t going to burn your hands off.

In turn this will mean that any leftover food or grease hasn’t cooled and set on your grill grates or in the chamber of your grill.

Set up a cleaning station

I get it, you’re lazy. But you’re in good company: So am I.

Let’s get things running a bit more efficiently by setting up a cleaning hub.

And by efficiently, I mean set up so that I don’t have to walk anywhere or reach too far.

This will also help reduce mess. Let’s set up a no-holds-barred area in which to work by laying several sheets of newspaper across the ground (even if you’re doing this across grass) and on any surfaces you’re using.

Also, crucially, wear gloves.

You will need

  • Gloves
  • Wire brush
  • Washing solution (Made with one part apple cider vinegar, four parts water)
  • Paper towels
  • Warm soapy water

using brush to clean smoker grates

Start scraping

Using a wire brush, start by scraping off any excess food, grease or debris across your grill surface or found within the chamber.

Apply the apple cider vinegar solution to a paper towel, and wipe down all the grill surfaces with it. Repeat until most of the food residue has been wiped off the grate.

Get brushing

wire brush for cleaning grill

Prepare a bucket of warm soapy water, and use this with a brush to clean down the grates. If you don’t have a brush then a sponge will also do.

A steel wool or wire brush like this can help work away at burned on food or grease

After brushing it down, wash the grate with the soap to remove any excess grease or stubborn bits of food. Following this, use warm water to rinse off all the soap.

Dry time

Wipe down the grill with a clean cloth. Be as thorough as possible when wiping it and make sure the grate is completely dry.

Once dry, rub down with a little bit of vegetable or peanut oil before putting the grates back in your grill.


Despite being extremely durable, robust, and able to withstand almost anything, water certainly is cast iron’s weakness. Any residual water will leave your grate prone to rusting, which in turn will lead to a slippery slope towards decay. Do everything you can to be as thorough as possible to leave your grill grates completely dry.

How to season your cast iron grill

Cleaning the outdoor grill

After cleaning it, we need to make sure that the grill is then set up to well protected against future wear or rust.

The best way to do this is to season it.

This can be a confusing term as it’s easy to confuse with food seasoning, but in the context of grills or smokers it’s a preventative measure we use to guard grill surfaces against the negative impacts of heat and moisture.

The process involves applying a protective layer of oil across the surfaces and then heating it to allow it to set.

This then effectively creates a shield that can withstand high levels of heat over the course of months and years, and protect your cast iron grill from rust and damage. It’s also really easy to do.

Just apply some vegetable oil (olive oil will also work just as well) to a paper towel. Rub the towel over the grate to give it a very light coat of oil.

Put the grates back in the grill, and then heat up the grill onto a medium-high heat, cover and leave for ten minutes.

Some people cove the grates in aluminum foil here, but personally I haven’t found that it makes a real difference.

Heating the grill allows the oil to distribute, while also opening up the pores on the grate to then spread into.

Remove the grill from the heat and foil and (while wearing gloves!) apply more vegetable oil to the grate surface.

Read a full guide to the process with our guide on how to season your grates here.

Clean regularly

hard brush to clean cast iron grates with soapy water

I know, I know. This might sound like a parent berating you into submission, but regular cleaning is the best way to prevent rust or wear.

After all, if you take care of your grill then it will take care of you.

If you wash them as frequently as possible (I mean, within reason) after every use then your grill will reward you with repeat uses without rusting over.

Remove rust

cleaning large black cast iron grills

Despite all the seasoning and cleaning we do, rust can still occur across your grates.

Luckily, there are some ways we can get rid of it.

Soak your grates in white vinegar overnight. The next day, use a strong scraping brush or a sanding sponge to scrub the grates down. The vinegar should make removing the rust a lot easier for you.

Once you’ve done that, rinse the grates down and leave to dry. When the grates are dry use cloth and a little vegetable oil to line the grates.

Heat up your grill with the seasoned grates in them, and allow them to cook for an hour, or until the oil has set. Wipe off any excess oil with a cloth.

Store it

We don’t want to undo all of our hard work here so be as careful as possible. Ensure that all water and residual oil has been cleared from the grate surface to help us avoid rust. Then store the grate in a cool, dry place.

About the Author

Ben Isham-Smith

A BBQ obsessive, Ben is behind 250+ of The Online Grill’s recipes, as well as countless barbecue guides to help barbecue newbies get to grips with the world’s best form of cooking.

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