Grill grates might seem rather simple and basic, yet they are also an integral part of how any grill operates. Grates that aren’t cleaned properly can leave grease and other bacterial deposits which transfer from one grilling session to the next. Not only can this affect flavor, but in certain smoking applications, it can even lead to bacterial cross-contamination.
At the same time, grill grates need to be properly maintained to maximize their lifespan. Time, corrosion and improper cleaning can deteriorate the metal. Rather than deal with rust-stained meat, you will need to sink yet more money into replacement grates. For simple chrome-plated grates, this might only cost $20. Yet there are more expensive grates that can cost as much as $100 or more to replace.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the different types of grates, and how to clean them. This includes taking a closer look at the pros and cons of each.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining Stainless Steel Grill Grates
When they are fresh out of the box stainless steel grill grates have an impressive gleam. There are even some grill manufacturers who exclusively use stainless steel grates as part of their consistent “Brand Image.”
Unfortunately, stainless steel also tends to be sticky. As time goes on, excessive scrapings with a wire grill brush can increase the surface texture causing them to be increasingly sticky. This, in turn, can also increasing problems with corrosion.
If your grill has stainless steel grates, you should try to lightly grease them with an oiled paper towel before you lay down the meat. This will reduce the chances of the food sticking, which will reduce the amount of scraping you need to do.
Tips for Cleaning And Maintaining Chrome Plated Or Rolled Steel Grill Grates
These grates are more common on lesser quality grills or a grill where. These grates are even more likely to suffer from rust and corrosion whey they are scraped aggressively.
If possible, you should use a stiff nylon bristle grill brush instead of a wire brush or steel wool. This will reduce the chances of scraping the smooth metal surface.
After the flames have died down, and the grill is still a little warm, you could lightly oil the grates with a food-grade stable oil like flaxseed. This is a little bit of overkill, but it will help with long-term corrosion issues.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining Cast Iron Grill Grates
Cast iron was once a traditional material used for a lot of cookware items. It has superior heat retention, which helps with searing as well as maintaining consistent temperatures across the cooking surface. Just keep in mind that they also require a longer preheating time to absorb that heat energy compared to stainless steel and chrome-plated grill grates.
At the same time, many avid outdoor cooks will use cast iron pans, griddles, and Dutch ovens to help them prepare their side dishes or for sautéing vegetables.
There are a few downsides to using cast iron for grill grates. First of all, they can be prone to rust and corrosion issues in a very short amount of time. There are even some cast iron grill grates that can start showing signs of corrosion after a single session. Cast iron grill grates also have a lot of texture to them, which causes food to stick easily.
Fortunately, you can prevent these problems by applying and maintaining a seasoning layer. In this case, the word “Seasoning” is perhaps a little misleading. While seasoning layers do help impart a depth of flavor to foods cooked in woks or on griddles, when it comes to grill grates, it’s more about the non-stick properties of hydrocarbon chains.
How Do I Season My Cast Iron Grill Grates?
Most cast iron cookware and grill grates come with a protective layer already applied. This could be a light glaze of food-grade wax or a neutral oil like flaxseed. This layer is meant to protect the cast iron and is not actually a seasoning layer. Even if your grates come with tag of being “Pre-Seasoned” or “Already Seasoned” I would still recommend applying your own seasoning layer.
Rinse the grates with warm water to remove any lingering dust. If there’s a light protective layer, you should try to give it a light scrub with a mildly abrasive sponge. You should then dry the grates with a clean towel.
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Then place the cast iron grill grates in the oven on a clean pan. Wait 10 to 15 minutes for the cast iron to absorb the heat and come up to temp.
Fold up a section of clean paper towels and soak it with a high-heat, stable oil like flaxseed oil, peanut oil, of vegetable shortening. Lightly wipe the oil onto every surface of the grill.
Let the grates sit in the oven for 30 minutes. Then carefully flip the grates and lightly apply more oil to the bottom or any other surfaces that may not have been touched with the first application. Let the oven heat for another 30 minutes before turning it off.
Allow the oven to fully cool down, then repeat step three at least two more times. This will effectively seal the cast iron and all it’s microscopic surface textures with a layer of non-stick hydrocarbon.
How Do I Maintain The Cast Iron’s Seasoning Layer?
A tiny amount of the seasoning layer will break down with each grilling session. This is especially likely to happen when you grill things that need to be basted or give off a lot of excess acidic marinade.
After every grilling session, you should scrape the seasoned cast iron down with a nylon grill brush. Then lightly wipe it down with some more oil. Close the grill lid and let the heat do its thing.
When you fire up the grill for the next session, you should lightly oil the surface where you intend to put down the meat.
What If My Cast Iron Still Gets Rusty?
It’s not uncommon for a seasoning layer to break down or for a little rust to show up on cast iron grill grates. This is even more likely to occur over the course of long winter storage.
Don’t kick yourself if you do see a little rust or corrosion on your grill grates. Just give them a good scrubbing with an abrasive sponge and repeat “Step Three” of the seasoning process two or three times.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining Porcelain Coated Grill Grates
You are more likely to find a non-stick porcelain coating on cast iron grill grates. Though there are some grill manufacturers who will offer it on rolled steel grates.
Many people feel that this is the ideal coating for grill grates. Not only does it make the grill grates semi-non-stick, it also protects them from rust and corrosion. When a porcelain coated grill grate suffers from excess stuck-on gunk, you can just remove it and give it a nice soak in some warm soapy water.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining Teflon Coated Grill Grates
Teflon coating is most common with electric grills and indoor cooking appliances. Fresh out of the box it is incredibly slick and completely non-stick. Yet it’s also very delicate. It doesn’t take more than one or two slipups to damage the Teflon surface and rob it of its non-stick properties.
When cooking with a Teflon coated surface, you need to keep the temperature under 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter than this can cause the bond between the Teflon and the underlying metal to breakdown.
At the same time, you also need to avoid cooking methods that call for searing or adhere the food to the surface. Something like potstickers or wontons can damage the Teflon coating, causing it to develop microscopic textures.
You should also avoid using metal tools to manipulate food on a Teflon coated surface. Silicone tipped tools are ideal as they also have non-stick properties.
If there’s any stuck-on material, you should let the surface cool down, then wipe it with a wet, non-abrasive sponge. If you can easily remove the Teflon cooking plate, you might want to simply soak it in hot, soapy water. When the stuck-on material loosens, you can wipe it away with a non-abrasive sponge.