How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill

Food on a grill

Evan Wise / Unsplash

Every good home and professional cook knows that cast iron cookware is essential for creating wonderful food. Its properties of conducting and retaining heat for long periods also make cast iron perfect for grilling. Unfortunately, cast iron will rust and deteriorate if exposed to too much water. Learn how to clean even the most crusty cast iron grill to maintain its unique qualities.

How Often to Clean a Cast Iron Grill

Ideally, a cast iron grill should be cleaned after every use. Leaving grease and stuck-on food on the surface will make the surface more difficult to clean and can contribute to bacterial growth and food poisoning.

Even if the grill cannot be cleaned completely after every use, allow the grill to cool slightly and take the time to wipe down the grill grates with a paper towel to remove food residue.

Tips

Before you use a new cast iron grill, the components should be washed in hot, soapy water, rinsed, dried, and then seasoned. That first seasoning will ensure that food will not stick and will help prevent rusting.

After drying the cast iron completely, apply a thin, even coating of cooking oil or melted solid vegetable shortening with a paper towel. Take care to cover every surface on every side. Don't use too much oil or the finish will be sticky.

Heat the grill to around 400 degrees and maintain that heat for about one hour. Allow the grill to cool gradually. Now your grill is ready for cooking!        

What You'll Need

Supplies

  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Warm water
  • Lemon juice
  • Baking soda
  • Vegetable oil

Tools

  • Drying Cloths
  • Stiff-bristled nylon brush
  • Plastic scraper
  • Nylon scrubber
  • Plastic wrap
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper, drop cloth, or tarp
  • Plastic buckets
  • Rubber gloves (optional)

How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill

  1. Prep Your Space

    Cleaning a cast iron grill, especially if you haven't done it in quite some time, can be a messy job. Spread out some newspaper, a drop cloth, or a tarp where you'll be cleaning and place the grill in the center. This will prevent having to remove stains from the patio or deck. Wearing rubber gloves will protect your hands and nails from the messy job.

  2. Mix Your Cleaning Solution

    Fill a plastic bucket with hot water and add one teaspoon of a good grease-cutting dishwashing liquid per gallon of water. Swish to mix thoroughly.

    Fill a second bucket with plain hot water for rinsing.

  3. Empty the Grill

    If you have a charcoal cast iron grill, it should be completely cool and all of the charcoal embers and ashes should be safely removed.

    For gas grills, if you are cleaning the entire grill, disconnect the gas line for safer cleaning.

  4. Start With the Grates

    Remove the cooking grates and place on the tarp. Use a nylon stiff-bristled brush to brush away stuck-on food. If something is really burned-on, use a plastic scraper to loosen the food.

    Dip the brush or a nylon scrubber into the water and detergent solution and clean the grates. Finish by rinsing with plain hot water and use an old cloth to dry the grates completely. Set aside.

  5. Cleaning Inside and Out

    Use the plastic scraper to remove any food particles, grease, or fuel residue from the inside of the grill bowl and lid. You will be amazed at how much grease has accumulated in the grill lid.

    Once it is scraped down, scoop out the residue or use a shop vac to suck away the mess. Be sure that everything is completely cool!

    Using the hot water and detergent mixture, scrub down the grill inside and out with the nylon scrubber or brush. Follow up with a hot water rinse and then dry every surface completely with an old cloth.

    Tip

    How to Get Rust Off a Cast Iron Grill

    What do you do if there is rust on your cast iron grill? If you see rusty areas, use the plastic scraper to remove as much loose rust as possible. Make a paste of lemon juice and baking soda by mixing about one tablespoon of lemon juice to one cup of baking soda. Apply the paste to the rusty areas and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the paste to work for at least 24 hours and then scrub the area with a stiff-bristled brush to remove the rust. Rinse well and re-season the cast iron with oil.

  6. Season Your Cast Iron

    Once every component of the grill is clean and completely dry, give all the surfaces a light coating of vegetable oil. Use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly.

  7. Reassemble for Use

Reassemble the grill and, if possible, heat the grill up to help the oil penetrate and bind to the cast iron surfaces.

Now that your grill is freshly cleaned, take a little time after every use to wipe down surfaces while the grill is still slightly warm using hot, soapy water. Grease and food will come right off. Finish by wiping down with a sponge dipped in plain hot water to rinse away any sudsy residue. Re-season as needed if food begins to stick to the grill.

Tip

Using a stiff, wire brush to clean a grill grate right before cooking should never be done. The brush bristles can break and leave small metal particles clinging to the grate and ending up in your food. Use a plastic scraper instead. Your guts will thank you.