Is Rust on Grill Grates Bad?

You might notice rust on your grill and wondered if it is okay to use it or not. If you do not properly clean your grill, or you leave it exposed under harsh environments for too long, it will eventually rust. Can you use a rusty grill for cooking? Are there any negative effects of cooking with the use of a rusty grill? We will answer all these questions in this article, and we will also share ways on how to keep your grill rust-free.

Is rust on grill grates bad? If you notice rust on your grates, you need to clean it immediately because rust can get loose, and will likely stick into the food that you are cooking. Rust is safe to consume in small quantities because they are just iron oxide and not much of a health hazard. On the other hand, consuming food that is exposed to rust regularly could potentially become harmful.

Poorly maintained grills usually have rust on them which raises the question of whether it is safe to cook on the surface of the grill or not? Aside from being a potential health risk, seeing rust on your food can be unappetizing. The good news is that rust can be removed using methods and it can also be prevented to form in the first place.

Is it Safe to Cook on a Rusty Grill?

According to the USDA, you should wash off all rust from your grill because rust is not a food-safe material. On the other hand, most culinary experts agree that it is not harmful to ingest small amounts of rust. The main concern that is often associated with rust is tetanus infection. However, rust does not cause tetanus, but by the bacteria that is often found in soil and animal feces.

What is the Risk of Consuming too Much Rust?

Ingesting rust means that you are consuming iron oxide. Take note that an overdose of iron can lead to death. Children are more vulnerable to iron poisoning because of their lower body mass. Iron is a cellular toxin and kills cells through oxidative stress. For adults, it is unlikely that eating from a rusty grill will provide a large dose of iron in a single meal. On the other hand, there is a possibility that iron will accumulate in your bloodstream over time if you continue using rusty grilling for cooking your meals. If this happens, your body will not process all the iron and you will feel symptoms like, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, and bleeding.

What is BBQ Grill Rust?

BBQ grill rust is the reddish-brown corrosion that you usually found on grills. The rust forms when iron particles of steel are being exposed to oxygen and moisture. The grill rust peels off layer by layer which eventually weakens and damages the grill. We have also shared this article titled, why is my grill rusting? Check out the article to learn about the different causes of rusting in grills.

Which Grill Grate is Less Prone to Rust?

The grill grate that is less prone to rust is stainless steel. However, the main issue with using this material for a grill is that they do not hold heat very well. Moreover, heating stainless steel grates to very high temperatures can make them lose their rust resistance. Furthermore, porcelain-enamel-coated grates are rust-resistant when the finish is intact. But the main problem is that enamel coating often chips off and this results in rust spots on your grilling grate. On the other hand, grill grates that are made of cast iron are the ones most prone to rusting. You can also check out this article that we have shared that discusses if stainless steel grills rust. We have shared an in-depth discussion about the topic.

Can You Get Tetanus from a Rusty Grill?

You cannot get tetanus by ingesting particles of rust that stick into your food. Tetanus is caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani that can be found on rust surfaces. On the other hand, tetanus is not caused by rust. The high-heat temperatures reached during cooking will kill the bacterium. To be on the safe side, make sure to keep your tetanus boosters up to date to protect yourself.

Is Rust on Grill Grates Harmful?

Small fragments of iron can pass through the digestive tract without causing health concerns. Consuming less than 40 mg per kilogram of your body weight will not cause you any harm. On the other hand, ingesting great amounts of rust is harmful and can cause health issues. Make sure that you clean your grill after every cooking to avoid rust from forming. We have also shared this article that discusses if you should clean the grill after every use. Check out the article for helpful cleaning tips and hacks.

How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates

You can clean and get rid of rust on your grill with the use of vinegar and salt, baking soda, commercial rust remover, sandpaper, and cleaning detergent. These are ingredients that you usually find in your kitchen. Cleaning rust off a grill is an easy process. Below are some tips that you can follow.

Vinegar and Salt

Using vinegar and salt to get rid of rust is a non-toxic method that you can try. Both vinegar and salt are substances that can be safely ingested. When used together as a cleaning agent, they can remove rust. Start by combining two cups of vinegar with one cup of salt. Place your grates inside a big container and let the grill grates soak overnight. After soaking, wipe away any rust with the use of a rag or old towel. You can also check out this article that we have shared that discusses why vinegar removes rust. We have shared useful tips that you follow when cleaning your grill.

Baking Soda

This ingredient that you can find in your kitchen is also a non-toxic product that you can use to clean your grill grates. When using baking soda, you need to brush the grates with the use of a soft bristle brush to get rid of as much of the rust as possible. To do this, place the grates on the BBQ grill and sprinkle them with baking soda. Turn the grill on and let the heat cause the powder to bubble. This process will get rid of the rust. Next, turn off the grill and let it cool down. Remove any rust that sticks with the use of a bristle brush.

Lemon Juice and Detergent

Another natural ingredient that can dissolve rust is lemon juice. Combine the lemon juice with a powder-type dishwashing detergent and water. Mix until it forms a thick paste. Next, apply the paste to the rusted areas on the grates and let it sit overnight. Scrub the grill with warm water and a soft sponge or rag. The last step would be to rinse the grill with warm water.

Commercial Rust Remover

You can find a wide array of commercial rust removers available on the market. These rust removers will effectively remove rust from the grill grates. On the other hand, they are made with toxic chemicals that can cause health risks when ingested. If you choose to use a commercial rust remover, make sure to purchase one that is designed to clean rusty grate grills. Take note that using a generic one can leave behind toxic chemical residue.


You can use sandpaper to remove excessive build-up of rust on your grill. On the other hand, the rough texture of the sandpaper will scratch the surface of your grates. Hence, you can use this method as a last resort. To do this, you need to wrap a section of sandpaper around the rusty rung of the grill grates. Next, slide the sandpaper up and down to remove the rust.

✅ Video – How to Clean Rusted Cast Iron Grill Grates

Smoked Reb BBQ shared the video below on YouTube. It discusses how to clean rusted cast iron grill grates. He talked about how to keep cast iron grills properly seasoned. Watch the video for the demonstration.

Is it Safe to Consume Food That’s Been in Contact with Rust?

It is safe to consume small amounts of rust and it will not cause any health issues. This also means that if you do not have any other options, it is safe to grill food on a rusty grill surface. On the other hand, bear in mind that it is not recommended that you cook using a rusty grill grate regularly. Consuming large amounts of rust can be toxic and dangerous to your health.

Ingesting too much rust can lead to various health risks and iron poisoning. Symptoms of iron poisoning include vomiting, severe nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It takes a great deal of rust consumption for any of the symptoms to appear. Make sure to keep your grill grates as clean as possible. Bear in mind that if you continue to cook using a rusty grill, excess iron can build up in your bloodstream. You can also check out this article titled, is it OK for a grill to get rained on? We have shared helpful tips that you can follow when grilling in the rain. Moreover, we have shared hacks on how to maintain and repair grills that are rained on.


In this article, we have discussed if the rust on the grill grates is bad. While you can cook on a rusty grill, it does not mean that you should. It is not a good idea to consume rusty food regularly. Aside from leaving a strange taste in your food, it is also bad for your health. We hope that you learned something from this article. Do not forget to keep your grates clean to prevent them from getting rusty. Thank you for reading!

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