Can You Cook On A Rusty Grill? The Answer Might Surprise You!

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Most of us know that we should clean and maintain our grills on a regular basis.

However, it’s easy to forget to clean your grill as often as you should; sometimes this leads to rust on the grates of the grill.

Can you cook on a rusty grill, or is it unsafe?

I​f your grill is rusty, it’s safe to cook food on it.

However, it becomes more dangerous the more you do it, so you should clean your grill and remove the rust as soon as possible.

You should especially remove the rust from your grill if it’s loose to prevent the rust from attaching to your food.

I​n the rest of this article, we’ll talk more about why it’s safe to cook on a rusty grill every now and then and how you can clean it.

Can You Cook On A Rusty Grill?

Rust seems like the kind of substance that shouldn’t be in your food—and it really shouldn’t, at least not in excessive amounts.

However, it’s not as dangerous as it may seem. 

According to the Physics Department at the University of Illinois, rust is primarily comprised of iron oxide, which is a natural substance.

Of course, iron is an important mineral that our bodies need to thrive.

Because of that, consuming a small amount of rust (basically iron) isn’t likely to cause any damage to your body.

T​here are exceptions to this, though.

For example, if your grill is contaminated with any heavy metals or toxins, they may contaminate your food.

According to this study, charcoal grills are the most likely to have trace amounts of heavy metals. 

Toxic metals aren’t the only concern when it comes to rust on your grill, though.

While the iron in rust is largely non-toxic, it can be damaging to your body when consumed in large quantities.

This is similar to having a diet that’s too high in iron-rich foods, leading to iron overload in the body. 

A​n overload of iron can be quite dangerous, causing symptoms such as memory fog, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

It can even eventually lead to conditions such as heart failure. 

T​he good news is that it takes an incredibly high amount of iron over a long period to cause these symptoms.

It’s extremely unlikely that the rust on your grill will cause you to experience an overload of iron in your body.

However, to stay safe, you should clean your grill as soon as possible when you notice rust, especially if it comes off of the grates easily.

This loose rust is more likely to bind to your food, causing you to ingest more iron.

By cleaning it, you can be sure that you’re not ingesting toxic chemicals or excessive amounts of iron. 

H​ow To Clean Rust Off Of Your Grill

Thankfully, it’s very easy to clean the rust off of your grill—even if it’s been building up for months or years.

Try not to use commercial rust-removing products, as these can leave toxic chemicals such as sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid on the surface of your grill. 

Instead, you can mix up your own safe, natural, and effective rust-removing cleaner with materials you probably already have in your home.

You will need:

  • Baking soda (at least a cup)
  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • A hard-bristle brush
  • A sponge

A​dd at least a cup of baking soda to a medium-sized bowl.

Gradually add small amounts of white vinegar, mixing to combine.

You want to create a thick paste that you can spread on the grates of your grill.

Once the paste is the right consistency, apply it generously to the grates of your grill using a damp sponge.

Be sure to thoroughly cover all the surfaces of the grates so the vinegar and baking soda mixture can do its job. 

Let the mixture sit on the grates for at least 20 minutes, but preferably 30-45. The longer you leave it on, the more rust it will be able to remove.

Once the mixture has been on the grates for a while, use a hard-bristle brush to scrub the mixture all over the grates.

This will help to break up any stuck-on rust. Be sure to scrub all over the grates.

After scrubbing the grates with a brush, wash them off with warm water.

The amount of water needed will depend on how much of the paste you applied to the grates. 

Once no more paste remains on the grill, use a soft cloth to dry the grates.

Then leave the grill open to air dry; making sure the grill is completely dried off will help prevent any future rust from forming. 

You can also soak your grill grates in a vinegar, baking soda, and water solution.

You’ll want to completely submerge the grates in the solution for at least 20-30 minutes.

While the grates are still covered in the solution, use a wire brush to scrub them down.

The brush will help easily remove the rust from the grates.

After removing the grates from the solution, be sure to rinse them with clean, warm water and dry them with a soft cloth.

This way, no baking soda or vinegar will remain on the grates. 

Final Thoughts

While it’s technically safe to cook on a rusty grill every now and then, you should make an effort to clean your grill whenever you notice rust forming.

This will prevent any toxic chemicals or excess iron from ending up on your plate. 

C​leaning your rusty grill is as simple as applying a vinegar and baking soda solution to the grates.

Vinegar is a completely safe cleaner and is extremely effective at removing caked on dirt and rust.

By cleaning your grill this way on a regular basis, you can also prevent rust from forming in the future.

After soaking or scrubbing your grates with the vinegar and baking soda solution, your grill should be rust-free.

You can then grill in peace, knowing your grill is clean and your food is safe to eat.