Do You Need to Oil Your Grill Grates? You Asked, We Answered

We’ve got the answer to one of the biggest questions about grilling,

<p>LordHenriVoton / Getty Images</p>

LordHenriVoton / Getty Images

Have you ever experienced the frustration of removing a perfectly charred chicken breast from the grill, only to have a quarter of the meat cling to the grates? Been there, and — sadly, done that. When it comes to grilling, whether or not you need to oil your grill grates is probably one of the most asked questions. Here’s how and why you should oil your grill grates.

Related: Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence Spills His Secrets to Grilling Greatness

Why should you oil your grill grates?

The main reason to oil your grates is to prevent food from sticking. Another benefit of oiling your grates is to prevent them from rusting over time. But, there are some exceptions where oiling before cooking isn’t necessary. For instance, if a marinade already contains a lot of oil, it might not be necessary to also oil your grates. Too much oil on the grill can also cause flare ups and, in extreme cases, lead to a grease fire.

What kind of oil should you use on grill grates?

You'll want to use an oil with a high smoke point to oil your grill grates as a high smoke point oil will help prevent your food from burning on the grill. Pick a neutral oil, such as canola, grapeseed, or refined avocado oil. These oils are good choices for grilling because they have a smoke point of over 400°F versus oils like extra-virgin olive oil or unrefined coconut oil, which have smoke points that range between 300 to 350°F. Additionally, these oils are affordable. Since you're using the oil for function over flavor, there's no need to reach for the artisanal stuff.

<p>Vesnaandjic / Getty Images</p>

Vesnaandjic / Getty Images

Can you use a cooking spray to oil grill grates?

We do not recommend using cooking spray on a hot grill because it can cause dangerous flare ups. Cooking sprays come in aerosol cans and often contain flammable propellants.

How do you oil grill grates?

First, make sure your grill is as clean as possible. To do this, fire up your grill over high heat and let it burn for about 10 minutes. This will turn any lingering food remnants from your previous use into ash and make cleaning easier. Next, use a grill brush against the grates to remove any remaining residue. If you don’t have a grill brush, you can use half an onion to clean the grates. Bricia Lopez, co-author of Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling swears by this trick, as the acidity from the onion breaks down leftover food bits and grease.

Once the grates are clean, dip a wadded up paper towel into a small cup or bowl with some neutral cooking oil, taking care not to oversaturate the towel with oil. Using tongs, gently rub the paper towel up and down the hot grates until they are lightly covered in oil and shiny. For optimal results, do this process just before you add your food.

Bottom line: Oiling your grill grates equals a greater grilling experience. It’s an easy step to prevent your delicious, flavor-packed skewers from sticking and more delicate ingredients like fish from tearing on the grill. Like seasoning a cast-iron pan, building the habit of oiling your grates can extend the longevity of your grill so you can enjoy more seasons of summer grilling.

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