What Are the Dangers of Rust on a Grill?

Updated February 21, 2017

There are dangers associated with using a rusty grill, although the sight is common during summer months. Some who grill are conscientious about cleaning their grates thoroughly after every use; others become lax as the hot months wear on and allow food reside and rust to accumulate. Follow a few tips to keep your grill clean and rust free, even if you're hosting a barbecue every weekend. Your guests will thank you, and you'll save money in the long run by not having to replace your grates or purchase a whole new grill.


According to a 2011 episode of "The Rachel Ray Show," rust on a barbecue grill can be toxic. A 2001 Special Report from Channel 7 news in Boston warned that consuming rust in large doses can be harmful to your intestinal tract; however swallowing small amounts of rust absorbed from food cooked on a rusty grill doesn't pose a health risk. Rust is composed of iron oxide, small amounts of which are already present in the human body.

Food Residue

An even larger health concern than rust on a barbecue grill is food residue. Rust on a grill is the result of improper cleaning and storage of your grill; if you have rust, chances are you have food remnants as well. According to the Channel 7 report, grilling meats at a very high temperature releases nitrosamines, which have been linked to colon, pancreatic and breast cancer in people as well as heart damage and cancer in laboratory animals. Well-done meats contain the highest amount of nitrosamines; to lessen your risk factor, cook meat in a conventional or microwave oven first and then brown them on the grill. Thoroughly clean the grill immediately after use to clear nitrosamines and lessen the potential of rust.


Follow a few tips to prevent the accumulation of rust on your grill: Make sure the grill is completely cold, then brush it with a scouring pad to get rid of any food residue. Finally, spray the grates with cooking oil.


According to "The Rachel Ray Show," you can cut an onion in half and scrub it up and down the grates of your grill to clean food residue and add flavour for the next batch of food. If you can't remove the rust from your grill, consider purchasing a new grate or buying a whole new grill altogether. Choose one that is rust resistant. If you can't afford to replace the grate or grill, clean up with a nontoxic rust remover.

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About the Author

Oubria Tronshaw specializes in topics related to parenting and business. She received a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Chicago State University. She currently teaches English at Harper Community College in the Chicago area.