Rusty grill grates are a common problem for grills that have not been used for a while. After a long winter we found rust on our 6 year old weber kettles stainless steel grill grates. Which lead us to write this post. Yes, stainless steel will rust. It can be dealt with if it is only surface rust. This will require baking soda, water, aluminum foil and a rag.
First, lets be realistic. Because rust has formed your grill grates they will never be like new again. The following process takes time and elbow grease and your grates will rust again soon. With that in mind and you can always replace them. The replacement grates for our 22 inch kettle runs under $25.
Note: This article deals with stainless steel grates, it can be used on steel, and cast iron as well. Rusty porcelain coated and chrome plated grates should be replaced. They should never again come in contact with your food. Because flakes of the coating could become embedded into your food and swallowed. So the alterative is using a grill grid or these GrillGrates over the top of damaged grates.
Since this article was originally posted we tested a product called a grill stone that simplifies this process and works fairly well. Read that post here.
Step 1) Clean your grates thoroughly:
Top and bottom remove as much grease and gunk as you can without using your grill brush. I have used a power washer, oven cleaner and even a good old SOS pad. You do not want rust to get into your grill brush you neve know when it will fall out.
Step 2) Mix the baking soda and water:
In a cup add a 50-50 mixture of baking soda and water and stir. We are looking for a paste like consistency a little thinner than toothpaste. To thin, add more baking soda. To thick add more water. This needs to be thick enough to stick to your grates.
Step 3) Apply the paste to the rusty grill grates.
Using a wet rag , dip it into the baking soda paste. Apply the paste to all of the rusty areas, be sure to get both front and back. Get a good thick coating here. The better it is applied, the fewer times you will have to repeat this process. Allow the paste to sit on the grates for 15 to 30 minutes. So the paste has time to work.
Step 4) Ball up the foil and scrub the rust off.
Take your time and get in between each rod of the grate a couple of times. The majority of the rust should be removed at this point. But, what is left is going to be stubborn and hard to get rid of.
Step 5) Repeat steps 3 and 4 as needed.
We ran into some raised discolored areas after removing our rust. These areas are where the stainless has oxidized. So the best course of action is to replace the grates. Other options are not a viable solution for a surface that handles food.