Is It Safe to Cook on a Rusty Griddle? A Gnarly Question!

December 9, 2022
Written by Kristy J. Norton

While cooking on a rusty griddle or grill may not cause food poisoning, this isn’t a risk you want to take. What’s more cooking on a rusty surface can be quite tricky!

I am ashamed to admit that I left my Blackstone griddle outside for an entire winter season. There was no room in my garage and I sacrificed my griddle. When I finally went to use it, I found it coated in rust. Luckily, I have had some experience with rusty grills and decided to try out various methods to see what works.

In this post I will be answering, is it safe to cook on a rusty griddle as well as showing you the right way to clean a griddle and grill. Let,s begin!

Is it safe to cook on a rusty griddle

Is It Safe to Use a Blackstone with Rust?

As you can imagine, most experts will tell you that consuming rust isn’t a good idea. In reality, though, ingesting a little bit of rust isn’t going to do any damage to you unless you have a rare disorder. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t contract iron poisoning this way.

See, rust is formed when metal is exposed to both air and water. So, if your griddle or grill grates has been left out in the open, the iron will fuse with the oxygen and the water to form an iron oxide.

However, just because you can’t get iron poisoning from a rusty griddle surface doesn’t mean that you should cook on one! For one thing, your food isn’t going to taste too great coated in an iron oxide.

The other issue is that a rusty grill, especially a griddle, isn’t going to work as well for cooking. You need a smooth, well greased surface to make any kind of foods, particularly pancakes, burgers, etc. As you can imagine, rusty grates or a rusty surface is going to interfere with this.


Can you cook on rusted grill grates?

Technically you can cook on a rusty griddle or grill, but I wouldn’t advise this as it is going to make your job a lot harder than it needs to be.

Can You Remove Rust from a Rusty Grill or Griddle?

Before you throw in the towel, there is some good news for you. Just because you have a rusty grill or griddle on your hands doesn’t mean that all hope is lost.

See, although iron oxide has formed on your cast iron grill grates, this has only happened at surface level. So, if you were to remove the iron oxide, then the material underneath can be used for cooking.

How to Remove Rust from a Rusty Griddle?

I am going to break down exactly what you need to do to clear your griddle of rust. I would like to mention that these instructions are meant for a Blackstone griddle.

For the best results, I do recommend looking up the instructions from the manufacturer of your griddle. Also, if your griddle is still within its warranty period, make sure that the cleaning methods will not void the warranty.

What You Will Need

Here is what you will need for this job:

  • Cooking oil
  • Paper towels
Person Pouring Oil on a Griddle

Heat Resistant Gloves

I would advise you to go out and buy a pair of these gloves before starting on the cleaning process. Not only can your rusty griddle get really hot, but due to the expanse of the griddle, the chances of you accidentally burning yourself is quite high.

To prevent this, just go ahead and get the gloves – you will thank me for this later!

Metal Scraper

Technically, you can use steel wool or even medium grit sandpaper to remove iron . However, I have found that a scraper is much easier on your hands than steel wool or sandpaper and as it is more efficient, it takes less strength to use as well.

I do suggest doing your research and getting a good quality one. Keep in mind that these are really handy in keeping your griddle clean, regardless of whether it is rusty or not. What’s more, a durable scraper is less likely to break off in your hands.

Grill Stones

A grill stone is a lot like a pumice stone. However, it is made from food safe, eco-friendly materials. As you grind the grill stone into the rusty griddle, it breaks up into a fine grit. This helps to dislodge and remove rust and debris that is on the cooking surface.

Removing Rust from a Rusty Griddle

Here is a step by step guide on what to do:

Step 1: Turn the Heat Up High

Plug the griddle in, power it up, and turn the heat up to high. This will help to dislodge some of the rust so that it will be easier to remove.

Keep the heat on high for around 20 minutes.

Turn the griddle off and let it cool completely.

Step 2: Use the Scraper

Use the scraper on the rusty griddle surface. Scratch away at the corroded layer until all the rusted flakes are completely removed. Continue this across the entire surface until the corrosion is all gone.

Dust all the rust off.

Step 3: Use the Grill Stones

Pour about 3 to 4 tablespoons of oil across the surface of the griddle. Then, use the grill stone to really scrub down the griddle.

Do this until there is no sign of any iron oxide or corrosion.

Wipe down the griddle carefully with paper towels.

Seasoning the Griddle

With griddles, removing the rust is only half the battle. You also have to re-season the griddle after the initial cleaning. This creates a coating of oil between the griddle and the air, essentially acting as a protective layer.

What’s more, this layer also prevents the food from sticking to your griddle as well. Here is how to season the surface:

Step 1: Heat Up the Grill

Plug the grill in and turn it on. Then, heat it up to around medium to high heat. Wait for it to heat up properly.

Step 2: Oil the Griddle

Pour a neutral food grade oil into a spray bottle. This will ensure that you don’t pour too much oil onto the griddle.

Spray the oil all over the griddle.

Step 3: Spread the Oil

Wad up a paper towel and grasp it with a pair of tongs. While the griddle is still hot, use the paper towel to smear the oil all over the surface.

Woman pouring cooking oil onto stove top griddle

Step 4: Turn the Griddle Off

Turn the griddle off and let it cool completely. Don’t proceed with the next step before the griddle has had time to cool down fully.

Step 5: Reheat the Grill

Start up the griddle again and set to medium to high heat. Wait for it to heat up.

Then, spray on some vegetable oil and use tongs and a paper towel to spread this around.

Turn heat off again and let cool down.

Step 6: Repeat the Process

Heat the griddle up once more, apply oil, turn the machine off, and let it cool down.

You are then done seasoning your griddle!

How to Remove Rust from a Rusty Grill?

Now, before you do anything else, you need to figure out if your rusty grill has cast iron grates or stainless steel grates.

The following instructions are meant for cast iron grates. Stainless steel ones aren’t nearly as durable and you have to use materials and products specified by the manufacturer.

What You Will Need

Here is a list of the thing that you may need:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you are someone who prefers a more natural way of cleaning the rust off your cooking surfaces, then this is a good trick to use.

Here, you should combine 2 parts of baking soda to one parts white vinegar. Mix them well to form a paste. This can be applied to the rusty grill grates.

There are some people who also like to use lemon juice, kosher salt, etc. While these can be great, I have found baking soda and white vinegar to be the winning combination.

Now, keep in mind that this is only like to work if there is a thin layer of rust on the grill’s surface.

If there is a lot of rust then you may need:

Commercial Rust Remover

Commercial rust removers are a great way of removing rust that has been caked on for quite a while. These are quite effective and can get the job done fairly quickly.

Now, I know that a lot of people don’t like using a commercial rust remover as they don’t like toxic chemicals being in contact with their cooking surfaces. However, as long as you clean up the grill properly after you are done, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Grill Stones

Now, a lot of people are moving away from the wire brush when it comes to cleaning the grill. This is because the bristles from the wire brush have been known to break off and embed themselves in the grill grates.

In turn, the wire brush bristles can then become stuck in food. It is due to this that I prefer to use a grill stone when cleaning my grill and I suggest that you give it a try too. Aluminum foil can also work in a pinch!

Grill Griddle

Removing Rust from Cast Iron Grill Grates

Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Knock Off Loose Rust

Use a brush or scrubber to get rid of any loose rust flakes that are on the cast iron surface. This will help the the natural or commercial rust removers to do their job better.

Step 2: Make the Paste

Combine two parts of baking soda with one part vinegar. Mix well until a thick paste is formed.

You can skip this step if using a proper rust remover.

Step 3: Apply Paste or Rust Remover

Apply this to each grill grate carefully, making sure to coat every inch. Leave the paste on for 30 minutes.

If using a commercial product, then make sure to follow the instructions stated on the label.

Step 4: Remove the Rust

Using a grill stone or wire brush start scrubbing at the iron oxide on the grates. Continue this until the iron oxide has been completely removed.

Wash off the rust with warm, soapy water.

Then, let the grates dry completely.

Seasoning the Grill

Contrary to popular belief, you do need to season your cast iron grill. Not only does this help to keep the grill rust free by acting as a protective coating, but it prevents food from sticking to the cast iron bars.

Step 1: Spray the Oil

Start by spraying canola oil onto the grates. Use a paper towel to mop up the excess, but make sure that the bars are completely coated with a thin layer of oil.

Step 2: Turn on the Grill

Turn the grill onto high. Leave it on for about 30 minutes or until you see smoke starting to form. This shows that the oil has set.

Turn off the grill and let it cool completely.

How to Prevent Rust from Forming on Your Griddle or Grill?

Cleaning a grill off rust is no fun. So, the best thing to do is to learn how to keep the rust from forming in the first place.

The first piece of advice that I want to give you is to always clean your grill or griddle after each cookout. This is because unlike oil, food grease can contain a small amount of moisture. And, this moisture can lead to the formation of iron oxide.

To add to this, grease can make it even harder to clean your grill of rust, especially once it has cooled down and hardened.

The other thing that I would advise is to always keep your grill covered when it isn’t in use. Your grill or griddle may come with a cover but keep in mind that these don’t all boast the same quality.

This is why I would suggest investing in a high quality, weather proof cover yourself. This can save you a lot of time, money, and hassle in the long run.

If you notice that there are any tears or warping to the cover, make sure to replace it with a new one immediately.

Personally, I am a big fan of storing my grill indoors. This way, it is kept out of the way of the elements.

Even then, though, you should be careful about just where it is that you store it. Stay away from humid areas as moisture can contribute to rust as much as water or rain can.

Also, check on the griddle and grill every now and then, particularly during those seasons where they don’t see much use. After all, it is far easier to get rid of a little bit of rust then an entire layer.

Grilled Pork Steak in Grill Pan

Wrapping It Up

As you have discovered, you can’t cook on a rusty griddle, but this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. I have showed you how to get rid of the rust and prevent rusting in the future. So, now you are all set!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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