For thousands of years, people have been using cast iron for cooking. Not only is it durable and long-lasting—cast iron cookware is often handed down through generations—it's an efficient conductor that cooks consistently across every square inch. It's no surprise then that cast iron grates have become a popular option on many grills. Because it absorbs and transfers heat better than any steel, cast iron cooks food evenly at lower temperatures and sears exceptionally well at high heat, sealing in all that delicious BBQ flavor. But that's not the only reason we love cast iron. Unlike other cookware, cast iron pots and pans can be safely used on the grill to simmer sauces, braise meats, bake cornbread, and so much more. To ensure your cast iron grates and cookware perform great for decades to come, it's important to properly season, clean, and care for them.
Seasoning Cast Iron for the First Time
Contrary to what many people believe, seasoning cast iron has nothing to do with adding flavor. It refers to the process of coating cast iron with oil or fat then baking it in. Seasoning cast iron prevents it from rusting and creates a near-nonstick cooking surface. Before using cast iron grill grates or cookware for the first time, season them by following these steps:
- Rinse with warm water to remove any dust then dry thoroughly with a towel. DO NOT USE ANY SOAP.
- Using a paper towel, apply vegetable oil or Crisco to the grates or cookware, coating all the cast iron. You can also use a non-stick spray like PAM.
- Place the pan or grill grate in your cold grill or oven and slowly bring the temperature up to about 350-400°F and let cook for about 40 minutes.
- Turn off the oven or grill and let the pan or grill grate cool.
After seasoning your grill grates or cookware for the first time, continue to re-season regularly by adding more oil or spray and letting it bake into the cast iron. It's recommended that you re-season grates at least every 4 to 5 cooks, but many people like to re-season following every use. If you choose to re-season every time you grill, make sure the grates are clean before applying oil or spray.
Cleaning Cast Iron Grates
Keeping your cast iron grates clean is vital to keeping them cooking well and lasting a long time, and is fairly easy if you follow a few simple guidelines:
- Many of today's cast iron grill grates are coated with porcelain to prevent rusting. To keep from scratching or chipping the porcelain, use a grill brush with brass or stainless steel bristles or a wooden scraper, which molds to your grill's grates and cleans without scratching.
- Brush the grates while the grill is warm, either after preheating or just after food comes off. This will ensure that any food or debris is loose and easy to remove. Often we'll leave the grill on with the hood down for several minutes after cooking to burn off larger food particles, then give the grates a quick brush before shutting it down.
- Don't brush too vigorously. If the grill is warm, the grates should clean fairly easily. Using too much force can remove the seasoning and scratch any porcelain coating.
- Clean your grates after every use.
For cast iron cookware, simply use a stiff brush and hot water. If food is sticking to your cast iron pan, try putting some water in the pan and heating the water on a stove until the food loosens and can be removed with a brush. Towel dry and, if possible, apply another light coat of oil. DO NOT PUT YOUR CAST IRON COOKWARE IN THE DISHWASHER.
Seasoning Porcelain Coated Cast Iron Grates
There's some debate as to whether you have to season porcelain enameled cast iron grates. Some grill makers, such as Weber, state that it's unnecessary because the porcelain coating already prevents rusting and serves as a nonstick surface. However, other grill makers like Napoleon and Broil King instruct owners to season their porcelain coated grates. Therefore, it's best to follow the manufacturers instructions on your grill. If you have any doubts, we suggest seasoning the grates—no harm can come of it and it may save your grates.
Rust on Grill Grates
From time to time, you many notice rust spots forming on your cast iron grates. This is completely normal and can usually be fixed by washing them with hot soapy water—yep, soap is okay this time—then re-seasoning them. Another trick is put the grates in the oven on the self-cleaning mode—the rust will come right off, as will any seasoning, so you'll have to re-season them. If all else fails and the grates can't be salvaged, or the porcelain enameled coating chips or cracks, FireCraft can order replacement cast iron grates for many popular grills, including Broil King, and Napoleon.