How do you know when the damage is serious enough to warrant replacing a part? Is that unbudgeable gunk just gunk, or is it something more problematic? And when is a part too rusty to keep?
To find out, I talked to Jennifer Bonuso, who holds the title of president, Americas for Weber, the manufacturer of our favorite charcoal grills. Until recently, she was the senior vice president and general manager of product for the company.
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Grill grates tend to see a bit more wear and tear than other grill parts, since they get a lot more direct use. But don’t throw them out the minute they start rusting or you see a little gunk! A lot of the time, they probably look worse than they really are.
Let the heat of the charcoal help you out. Once the charcoal is lit, let the grates preheat for at least five minutes, until they’re good and hot. Then, use a grill brush to scrape off any patches of rust or stuck-on bits of food. The rust spots and food residue should come right off in the heat.
As Bonuso told me, a little rust on any of the grill parts is normal—a natural occurrence when grills are kept outside, where humidity and moisture are present. However, if the rust on the grates is deep, pitting them, or eating away at them enough to cause cracks or breaks, it’s time to replace the grate altogether.
Best Grill BrushesEvery brush did a decent job of cleaning, but only one made it feel easy.
What about the other parts of the grill?
Minor rust on the lid exterior or grill legs is not a big deal–it’s mostly an aesthetic issue. If you like, you can get rid of this rust with grill cleaner or a nonacidic oil such as WD-40. Pitted and no-longer-functional lids or legs, bum wheels, or ash catchers that are bent out of shape can also be replaced if their condition affects your use.
Fortunately, most charcoal grills are fairly simple machines, and replacing any part is easy to do on your own. (You put your grill together in the first place, didn’t you?) If you only need to fix one or two parts, we recommend buying them online through Weber; you can also get most through third-party retailers such as Amazon. Weber provides replacement instructions with most parts and encourages customers to call Consumer Care if they get stuck.
As always, though, prevention is the best cure. Keeping your grill dry–covered and stored in a garage or shed if possible–will help it last so that you can keep on cooking on it for years to come.