How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill

Cast iron grills are extremely durable and can last for decades if properly cared for. However, they do require some special cleaning and maintenance to keep them in good condition. Cleaning a cast iron grill thoroughly and properly is important to preserve the seasoning and prevent rust. With the right techniques, keeping your cast iron grill looking great doesn’t have to be difficult.

Supplies Needed for Cleaning a Cast Iron Grill

Cleaning and caring for your cast iron grill doesn’t require anything too fancy. Here are the basic supplies you’ll need:

  • Scrub brush – A brush with sturdy, abrasive bristles is best for scrubbing the grill surface. Look for a brush specifically designed for grill cleaning.
  • Metal scraper – A scraper can help remove stubborn stuck-on food residues.
  • Coarse salt – Kosher or sea salt works well as an abrasive cleaning agent.
  • Dish soap – Use a small amount of mild dish soap to help cut through grease.
  • Clean cloths – Have some clean rags or paper towels on hand.
  • High-heat cooking oil – You’ll need a small amount of high smoke point oil for re-seasoning. Avocado, grapeseed or refined coconut oils are good choices.
  • Water hose – For rinsing away cleaning solutions.
  • Protective gloves – Wear gloves to protect your hands from harsh cleaning agents.

Cleaning a Hot Cast Iron Grill

For best results, start by cleaning your cast iron grill while it is still hot. Follow these steps:

Scrape Away Loose Debris

After cooking is done, use a metal scraper to loosen and scrape away any food residues stuck to the grill grates while the grill is still hot. This will remove the bulk of the debris.

Scrub with a Cleaning Brush

Dip a sturdy grill cleaning brush in water and scrub the hot grill. This will help release burnt-on food bits. Apply a little pressure as you scrub.

Optional – Make a Paste with Salt

For really stubborn spots, make an abrasive paste by mixing coarse salt with just a little water. Dip the scrub brush in the paste and attack those tough spots again. The paste will help scour them away.

Rinse Well

Give the grill a thorough rinsing with your water hose. Rinse away until the water runs clear. Avoid using soap at this stage.

Cleaning your grill immediately after cooking prevents food from getting baked on and burnt into the grill grates. It makes the cleaning process much easier.

Cleaning a Cold Cast Iron Grill

For a deeper periodic cleaning, you’ll need to tackle the grill when it is completely cooled and cold. Here is a good thorough cleaning process:

Remove the Grill Grates

Start by removing the cast iron grill grates from the grill. Take them to an outdoor work area that can handle a little cleaning mess.

Use Soap and Water

Make a mild soapy water solution by mixing a few drops of dish soap with warm water in a bucket. Use a rag or scrub brush dipped in the soapy solution to wipe down the entire grill surface, including the undersides and edges. Let it sit briefly to penetrate before scrubbing.

Scrub All Surfaces

Use your grill brush to scrub all grill grate surfaces until all residues are removed. Get into the corners and where the grill bars meet. Use your metal scraper as needed to dislodge stuck-on deposits.

Rinse Completely

Rinse very thoroughly with clean water, wiping with a clean wet cloth to remove all soapy residue.

Dry Well

Important – dry the grates completely with clean towels once rinsing is complete. Cast iron can rust if left damp.


Apply a very thin layer of high smoke point cooking oil over the entire surface. Wipe off any excess oil with a clean cloth.

Replace Grill Grates

Put your freshly cleaned cast iron grill grates back in place on the grill. Fire up the grill to low or medium temperature for 15-20 minutes to re-polymerize the seasoning oil.

Deep periodic cleaning prevents excessive build-up and keeps your grill in tip-top shape.

Tips for Cleaning a Cast Iron Grill

Follow these useful tips for keeping your cast iron grill well maintained:

  • Scrub in the direction of the grain – Rub your brush in the same direction as the metal grain to avoid abrasion.
  • Avoid soap when hot – Don’t use soapy water to clean a hot grill as it can damage the seasoning.
  • Dry immediately – Always dry cast iron thoroughly after rinsing to prevent rust.
  • Re-oil before storage – Apply a light coat of cooking oil before storing a cool grill to maintain the seasoning.
  • Remove stuck food – For food stuck after cooking, heat the grill for 15 minutes then brush again.
  • Don’t use caustic cleaners – Avoid abrasive chemicals like oven cleaner that can strip off seasoning.
  • Clean often – Frequent light cleaning is better than infrequent deep cleaning.
  • Protect seasoning – Be gentle with wire brushes and scrapers to avoid removing too much seasoning layer.

With the proper methods and a little elbow grease, keeping a cast iron grill clean doesn’t have to be difficult. Consistent care will help maintain its ready-to-cook surface for years of barbecue. Follow these tips and enjoy great grilled food all season long.

How Often Should You Deep Clean a Cast Iron Grill?

Cast iron grills should be deep cleaned periodically to keep them in optimal condition. Here are some recommendations on cleaning frequency:

Clean Every 3-5 Uses During Grilling Season

  • Give the grill a thorough scraping and scrubbing after 3 to 5 uses during peak grilling season. This helps prevent buildup.

Clean After Long Idle Periods

  • Deep clean the grill at the beginning and end of grilling season if it will be idle for a long time.

Clean After Cooking Fatty Foods

  • Give it a deep scrub after cooking greasy foods like sausages or fatty steaks. Don’t let grease bake on.

Clean Thoroughly Once a Month

  • Aim for a thorough soap-and-water cleaning session at least once a month during the warmer months for a well-maintained grill.

Check for Rust Buildup

  • Examine your grill periodically for signs of rust accumulation, especially along the underside and edges. Deep clean immediately if rust appears to remove it.

The frequency of deep cleaning sessions can vary based on how often you use your grill and what you cook on it. Frequent light cleanings are better for your cast iron than letting messes accumulate.

How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates by Hand

For those who want to put some elbow grease into the cleaning process, cast iron grill grates can be effectively cleaned by hand. Here are some handy techniques:

Use Coarse Salt

  • Pour coarse salt directly onto the grates and use a damp cloth to rub it over the surface. The abrasive salt will help scrub off residues. Rinse thoroughly after scrubbing.

Employ a Potato

  • A raw potato can be used to scour the grill. Cut a potato in half and rub it over the grill surface. The starch in the potato acts as a gentle abrasive.

Try Some Lemon

  • Rub a halved lemon over the grill to help break down grease and grime. The acidity in the lemon cuts through mess.

Baking Soda Paste

  • Make a paste with baking soda and water. Spread paste on the grill and let sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing. The paste will bubble away grime.

Use Aluminum Foil

  • Ball up foil and use it to scrub the grill. The foil is abrasive enough to remove residues but won’t harm the iron.

With some common household items and a little manual labor, you can effectively clean a cast iron grill by hand. Just be sure to re-season it properly after cleaning.

Best Cleaners for Cast Iron Grills

Using the right type of cleaner makes the job of cleaning a cast iron grill much easier. Here are some excellent cleaners to consider:

Barkeepers Friend

Barkeepers Friend powder is one of the most popular and effective cast iron grill cleaning products. The oxalic acid in it cuts through grime quickly. Sprinkle it on, let it sit, then wipe away mess.

Easy-Off Fume Free Max Oven Cleaner

This heavy-duty spray foam clings to surfaces to penetrate baked-on food residue. It’s fume-free and safe for cast iron. Let it work for 15 minutes before scrubbing.

Weber Grill Cleaner

Weber’s plant-based grill cleaner is specifically designed for cast iron grates. It’s biodegradable and works well on grease and carbon deposits.

Lodge Cast Iron Cleaner

Lodge makes a natural soap-based liquid cleaner for cast iron that removes burnt-on food without affecting seasoning. It’s phosphate-free and safe.

Ajax Triple-Action Cream Cleanser

The abrasives in Ajax’s classic cream cleanser formula scrub away grime. Use a damp cloth to rub it over the grill. Rinse thoroughly after use.

Look for cleaners without chlorine or harsh chemicals to avoid stripping off seasoning. Always check a small area first when trying a new product. With the right cleaner, removing grease and grime from a cast iron grill can become quick work.

How to Clean a Cast Iron Grill with Vinegar

Vinegar is a handy acidic cleaning agent that works well for dissolving grease and loosening food deposits on cast iron. Here is how to clean a grill with vinegar:


Gather distilled white vinegar, coarse salt, scrub brush, clean cloths, garden hose with spray nozzle, and high-heat cooking oil.

Remove Grates

Remove grill grates and place on a work surface. Allow to fully cool if recently used.

Make Vinegar Solution

In a bucket, mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts warm water. For example, 1 cup vinegar + 2 cups water.

Scrub with Vinegar

Use the scrub brush dipped in the vinegar solution to scour all grill grate surfaces, applying moderate pressure.

Use Salt as Abrasive

For stubborn spots, sprinkle on coarse salt and rub it around with the wet brush to mechanically scrub away grime.

Rinse Clean

Rinse very thoroughly with clean water, spraying all over with the hose on a high pressure setting until no vinegar residue remains.

Dry and Re-season

Dry the grates fully with clean towels. Apply a very thin layer of high smoke point oil to re-season. Replace grates on grill.

The acetic acid in vinegar dissolves grease buildup on cast iron extremely effectively. Just be sure to rinse very thoroughly after cleaning to remove all vinegar. A little vinegar scrub will keep your grill spotless.

How Often to Season a Cast Iron Grill

Seasoning is essential for maintaining the cooking surface of a cast iron grill. Here are some tips on how often to season your grill:

Season at First Use

Be sure to properly season a new cast iron grill before its first use. This creates a protective coating.

Re-season After Cleaning

Re-apply seasoning every time after cleaning or washing the grill to replenish the protective oil layer.

Season Again After Long Idle Periods

If the grill will be stored for an extended time, season it again before putting away and before using after long storage.

Season Immediately if Rust Appears

If small rust spots appear, scrub away the rust then immediately re-season the grill to protect the iron.

Season When Grates Lose Shine

If grates look dull and gray rather than semi-glossy black, it’s time to scrub away residue and season again.

Every 1-2 Months in Grilling Season

During peak grilling season, aim to season about every 4 to 8 weeks of regular use.

Frequent light seasoning will keep the patina lustrous. Don’t wait for rust to appear before seasoning again. With proper care, a cast iron grill will deliver delicious grilled food for many years.

Signs You Need to Clean Your Cast Iron Grill

It’s important to clean your cast iron grill at the right intervals to keep it in good condition. Here are some signs that indicate it’s time for a cleaning:

  • Buildup of greasy black residue
  • Lots of stuck-on food bits after cooking
  • Rancid oil smell from grill grates
  • Smoke more than usual during grilling
  • Grill grates feel tacky or gummy
  • Visible grease accumulation in drip tray
  • Grates look dull and gray rather than black
  • Small rust spots beginning to show
  • Foods are starting to stick when cooking

Don’t wait until rust and heavy buildup occur before cleaning your grill. Frequent light cleaning is best. Watch for these signs that it’s time to break out the brush and give your cast iron grill some TLC.

FAQs About Cast Iron Grill Cleaning

Can you use soap on a cast iron grill?

Yes, you can use small amounts of mild dish soap to clean a cold cast iron grill. Avoid using heavy-duty detergents. Be sure to rinse very thoroughly after soaping to remove residue. Re-season immediately after washing.

What happens if you don’t clean a cast iron grill?

Not cleaning will allow grease and food debris to bake onto the grill grates over time. This can lead to rust formation, fouling of grates, and loss of non-stick properties. Frequent cleaning is essential.

How do you clean rust off a cast iron grill?

For light rust, rub the area vigorously with steel wool until all traces of rust are gone. Remove deeper rust by using a vinegar soak or electrolysis. Re-season immediately to protect against future rust.

Can a wire brush damage a cast iron grill?

Yes, wire brushes can potentially scratch off some of the protective seasoning layer on cast iron. Use them gently in the direction of the grain. Avoid aggressive back-and-forth scrubbing.

Should you clean cast iron grill grates when hot or cold?

It’s best to clean immediately after cooking while still hot to remove residues before they can bake on. Then do a full soap-and-water cleaning session after the grill has fully cooled.

What is the black stuff on my cast iron grill?

The black material that accumulates is carbonized grease and food debris. Regular cleaning will prevent excessive buildup of this grime. It comes right off with some scrubbing using the methods in this article.

With the right cleaning techniques and a little maintenance, keeping your cast iron grill in prime cooking condition isn’t difficult. Follow the tips in this guide and enjoy years of great backyard grilling.

So in summary, here are the key steps to clean a cast iron grill:

  • Scrape away loose debris after cooking while grill is still hot
  • Scrub with a brush and rinse
  • For cold cleaning – remove grates, use mild dish soap and water, scrub thoroughly, rinse, dry fully, re-season
  • Clean every 3-5 uses or at least monthly
  • Use coarse salt, baking soda, vinegar, commercial cleaners, or elbow grease
  • Watch for buildup, rust, and tacky or dull grates as signs to clean
  • Always re-season after cleaning
  • Frequent light cleaning is better than heavy infrequent cleaning

With proper care and maintenance, a quality cast iron grill can be expected to provide many years of delicious grilled foods. Follow these cast iron grill cleaning tips to keep yours looking and functioning like new.