There is nothing more frustrating – or embarrassing – than having friends over for some beef burgers on a sunny Saturday afternoon only to find your grill plate covered with rust. So how do we prevent an outdoor griddle from rusting?
To avoid an outdoor grill from absorbing moisture, add a thin layer of natural oil to the surface. The next step is to cover the entire grill with a durable canvas cover to shield it from the elements. Alternatively, store an outdoor griddle in the garage or shed to keep it protected.
It sounds easy enough until you realize that not all outdoor grills are made from the same material. Commonly, manufacturers use cast iron in production, but there are other options – and therefore, other prevention tips – to consider.
How Do I Prevent An Outdoor Griddle From Rusting?
Rust is not particularly hazardous to your health, and contrary to popular believes neither will it give you tetanus. However, I doubt anyone would be eager to eat a rust-spiced burger in any case, and due to our aversion to the unique spice blend, we want to keep our grills rust-free.
Do All Outdoor Griddles Rust?
Outdoor grills are available in either cast iron, stainless steel, or porcelain-coated steel. Each material reacts differently to corrosion and heat and would therefore not have the same maintenance practices.
For the best possible preventive care, you have to determine what type of steel your grill is made of and follow the prevention tips for that specific material.
Even though cast iron is prone to rust, it is still a popular choice for outdoor use because of its longevity and heat retaining properties. With proper maintenance, cast iron will last you a lifetime.
The drawback of having a cast iron griddle is that the maintenance is much higher. Cast iron is a porous metal; this means that it absorbs moisture which makes it prone to corrosion.
Cast Iron cookware and grills need to be seasoned before they are put to use. Seasoning ensures a clean and even cooking surface and also assist in rust prevention. If the cast iron is pre-seasoned, you don’t need to go through the process again.
How To Clean and Maintain Cast Iron
For a corroded cast iron grill, you need to remove the surface rust layer with a non-metal scrub brush or scrubber. Wash it down with warm water and mild soap but do not soak it – remember cast iron is porous. Make sure the steel is dry before you re-season your plate or grate.
If you are packing the grill away for the winter, avoid using vegetable oil as a barrier. As the oil dries, it may create a sticky layer that you want to avoid. There are barrier sprays manufactured for this purpose.
During the summertime, when you use the grill every other weekend, you can use oil to avoid rusting as the heat will evaporate the oil and not leave a sticky residue. Never use hydrocarbons to oil your grill; always use natural (vegetable or cooking) oils.
Newspapers or paper towels are great for absorbing moisture. After cleaning and oiling your grill, wrap the grate or plate in the newspaper for extra protection.
Porcelain Coated Steel
Cast Iron is also available in a porcelain coating. Keep in mind that porcelain is a brittle material; this means that it can chip or crack. Where it chips or cracks, it is very likely that rust will form on the exposed steel if you do not protect it from the elements.
Keep in mind that the quality of the porcelain-coated steel will ultimately determine how long it lasts. Even with a regular maintenance schedule, cheaper products will deteriorate in a short amount of time.
How To Clean and Maintain Porcelain Coated Steel
The maintenance and cleaning of porcelain-coated steel are reasonably straightforward. If you want it to survive for a long time, you have to keep it clean. Avoid using hard metal tools on the surface, as this can cause damage to the coating.
As with cast iron, avoid soaking the griddle in water; you might not be aware of a chip or crack, which can lead to rust forming under the coating. Wash the surface with warm soapy water using a cloth or soft sponge; make sure it is nice and dry before you put it away. There is no need to oil the plates or grates.
If you are thinking of replacing your griddle, stainless steel will be an excellent investment to make. The alloying elements of stainless steel increase both heat conductivity and corrosion resistance, ideal properties for any grill (inside or outside).
The machine-like surface profile (smooth and nonporous) makes the cleaning process a breeze. If you compare it to a porous material like cast iron, stainless steel doesn’t absorb any meat juices, bastings, or fat drippings.
How To Clean and Maintain Stainless Steel
To clean your stainless steel griddle, wait until it has cooled down and simply wipe it with a cloth and warm soapy water. Avoid abrasive scrubbers like steel wool or metal brushes; you want to keep your stainless steel smooth.
You can use mild degreasers (low alkaline content) on stainless steel, but a good soak in warm water and dishwashing liquid should soften any stubborn residue enough to clean it with a cloth or soft sponge.
You can add a very thin layer of natural (vegetable) oil to the grill plate or grate, but keep in mind that if you leave the oil on the surface for months before you use it again, it will dry into a sticky coating that would be a nightmare to clean off.
General Points On Caring For An Outdoor Griddle
- Set up a maintenance schedule for your outdoor grill; this will prevent the rust from forming. Do not wait for the corrosion to set in; as with most things, prevention is better than cure.
- If you live near the ocean, regardless of the type of material used for your grill, you’ll need to clean it regularly (about once a week) to remove any salt residue.
- Weekly cleaning will not be crucial if you live inland; however, that depends on where the griddle is stored during the winter months.
- If the griddle is kept outside but under a quality cover, make a note to clean it at least every second week.
- If the grill is kept in a garage or shed with a cover pulled over, cleaning once a month would be good enough.
If you own a cast iron griddle, your best defense against rust is to protect it from outside elements as much as you can; this means using at least two out of the three methods to prevent rust. If you do not have a shed, make sure you use a barrier layer and a cover.
Stainless steel or porcelain-coated steel are your best options for a rust-resistant outdoor grill, you won’t need to add an oil layer, but you should keep it clean and store it in the garage or shed. Alternatively, you can just pull a durable cover over your grill unit.