Do grill covers prevent rust or cause it? Let’s settle the matter

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  April 18, 2022

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The debate about whether grill covers help to prevent rusting or cause it has been going on for some time now.

There are many theories out there, but no one really seems to know for sure.

Do grill covers prevent rust or cause it? Let's settle the matter

As a grilling and smoking aficionado, I’m pretty clear on the usefulness of grill covers, provided they are used correctly.

Using a grill cover is a great way to save your grill from dirt and rust. However, it can also trap moisture upon prolonged usage. You can remove the cover when it’s moist, dry it, and then spread it on the smoker again to avoid this problem. 

But, before you go and buy a grill cover for your precious grill, it’s important to understand how they work and what they’re made of.

In this article, I’ll be diving a bit deep into the need for a grill cover and examine whether grill covers really do prevent rust or actually cause it.

I’ll also leave you with some useful tips on choosing the right cover, and general grill maintenance, so you can keep your grill or smoker in good nick for many years to come.

Do grill covers prevent rust?

Well, I know you all like showing off your grill, don’t you? Maybe that’s one of the reasons why there has been a debate on whether you should cover your grill or not?

After all, you don’t want to hide the glorious look of your new shiny grill for nothing.

Let me make one thing crystal clear though; grill covers prevent rust, and quite effectively!

In which conditions and how? That requires an explanation of its own.

So, when kept uncovered and outdoors, your grill is constantly exposed to wind and water.

One carries dirt that accumulates on the often greasy grill grates, while the other causes the entire grill to start rusting.

You simply don’t want to grill on a dirty and rusty grill.

There are at least two important disadvantages to grilling on a improperly maintained grill:

  • First, if you don’t clean your grill too often, dirt particles from the air can combine with the residue from your previous grilling sessions, like grease and pieces of meat, and impart a flavor to the food you never want to taste.
  • Second, the rust caused by the water ruins the entire look of your newly bought quality gas grill while contaminating your food, too, especially when the grill grates are rusted. The flakes from grill rust could even result in an injury to your intestinal tract upon consumption if they are big enough.

A grill cover get’s you rid of both of these problems and ensures that your grill remains protected against any environmental hazards, whether dirt or rust.

Guess what? You get to enjoy delicious food without your grill losing its appeal.

When do grill covers cause rust?

OK! Sorry to break it out to you, but the first thing that causes rust is your negligence; moist grill covers come second.

Grill covers trap moisture when they are constantly exposed to a humid climate or heavy rain.

When you leave the grill cover unchecked for a prolonged period, this moisture can reach the grill grates and the outer body of your bbq grill.

What happens next? Hah! Do I need to explain that to you? Of course, it’s all rust!

To prevent this, maintaining your grill cover is absolutely crucial. The best practice is to give it a good cleaning at least twice a year.

Pay special attention to properly cleaning the grill grates, you can use a special grill brush for this.

Moreover, removing the grill cover once the rain stops and letting it dry before putting it back will also help.

In the meantime, even if your BBQ grill has received any water, it will dry down completely before you cover it back up.

It isn’t rocket science, is it?

Choosing the best grill cover for my grill

Here’s the thing, when you genuinely want to protect your grill, you can’t just go with any grill cover. Instead, you want something that checks all of the following boxes first:

Optimum size

Get it too small, and it won’t be able to cover up the grill perfectly. Get it too big, and it will have enough space to shelter a bunch of stray cats within.

Therefore, it’s essential to get something that envelopes your grill entirely. You don’t want any extra spaces in there!

The last flavor you want in your meat is that of squirrel poo.

Perfect ventilation

Where the grill must be perfectly covered, it’s also essential to allow adequate airflow. And nothing ensures it better than grill covers with vents.

They protect your grill from environmental hazards and provide enough airflow to keep moisture from building up inside.

Durable material

A cover not durable is money wasted.

If your grill cover is made of poor materials, it will be more susceptible to wear and tear, thus, will fail to shield your grill from weather elements.

The results? Even your grill will rust away quicker than you could imagine.

Therefore, always choose grill covers made of polyester or vinyl. They are tough and durable and protect your gas grill like a pro.

Velcro straps

No matter what you do, your cover will never stay in place on its own. All it needs is a slight breeze, and you’ll see it lying at the other corner of your lawn.

Furthermore, even if you manage to hold it in place somehow, there will always be small gaps, which can encourage rusting.

This means you need something that could manage both.

And that’s where grill covers with velcro straps jump in.

They will not only hold your grill cover in its place but also eliminate any tiny little gaps that could provide a pathway for moisture or rust. It’s a 2-in-1 package.

Can I protect my gas grill from rusting without a grill cover?

Even though grill covers are essential to keep your grill tip-top, maintenance is still necessary to keep it from rusting out.

Following are some maintenance tips that will come in handy to prolong your grill life span.

Don’t forget to season it

New or old, you should always season your grill.

This makes a thin coat of protective barrier on the surface of grill grates that helps prevent rust and gets you rid of cleaning the burned food residues left after each smoking session.

Usually, oils with smoke points above 450 F are preferred for the purpose as they won’t burn out upon excessive heating.

The ideal choices for seasoning grill include canola and peanut oil, however, vegetable oil will also do.

See all the steps on how to season a grill explained here.

Regular cleaning

After a long grilling session, food particles and grease are left on the steel grates and other parts of the grill, affecting its overall functionality and facilitating grill rust.

Regularly cleaning the grill grates after each use and a full-fledged grill clean at least once in a while will ensure that the grill remains fully functional and efficient for a longer duration.

Using baking soda paste or a special grill cleaner and a good wipe (of steel wool for rust and a sponge for food residues) are ideal for the purpose.

Keep it dry

Now that you have thoroughly cleaned your grill, the next thing to ensure is to dry it thoroughly.

If you have a gas grill, the best you can do is to warm it up for 10 to 15 minutes after cleaning it. You could also use a soft cloth or paper towels to dry up difficult spots.

Keep the grates clean

Steel grates, cast-iron grates, or even grates of vibranium from Wakanda, leaving the thick food residue after grilling will leave it crumbling, turning your grill partially or completely dysfunctional.

To prevent this, it’s a good practice to rub the grates with a thin layer of vegetable oil after each grilling session.

This will prevent rust and residue formation and prepare the grates to cook more delicious meals.

Keep the grill covered

If the weather in your area is mostly warm, it’s perfectly fine to leave the grill outside as long as you keep it covered when not in use.

However, if your area’s climate or the weather is primarily cold and humid, keeping the grill indoors with cover is preferable as moving it in and out each time you use it can be quite a chore.

To tackle this issue, you can also use a yearly schedule to check when the grill should be kept inside or outside.

Conclusion

Without proper maintenance and protection, even the most premium quality grills will get damaged. And that’s why I recommend using grill covers.

They are excellent in protecting your grill from environmental hazards and keep it highly efficient for most of its life span.

In this article, we went through some of the most significant advantages of grill covers, how they protect your grill, and some suggestions on choosing the right cover.

Moreover, we also went through some valuable tips that could help maintain both your indoor and outdoor grill against different deteriorating factors.

Now, next time you uncover your grill for a good cookout, you can rest assured it will look like you left it.

Read next: Complete step-by-step guide on seasoning a smoker | Don’t skip this!

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.