It's here, it's really here! Spring has sprung, the birds are singing, I've discovered a pussy willow bush (impersonating a tree) in my back yard, and barbecue season is official started! I have bunches of pussy willows with their beautiful grey/brown fuzzy buds in my vases. And I stocked up on barbecueable meals. I'm ready!
Last year I got a new barbecue. If you have bought a new barbecue in the last 2 years you may notice that more and more of them are coming with cast iron grates. It's a little different to deal with cast iron grates. At first I thought "what a pain" but I do know that once you get the cast iron just right it's worth the effort. Now I have 2 cast iron pans that I have never gotten "just right". So I wasn't optimistic. I read the instructions for seasoning the grates and did as I was told. Basically you have to wash them in warm soapy water, oil them and bake them at a low temperature. This is typical of all cast iron. I've done this for my cast iron pans and I still have rust issues and well, I still haven't really seen the greatness of the cast iron.
I have been following the instructions for caring for the cast iron grates between uses. We usually care for stainless steel or porcelain covered grates by burning off the food bits and scraping the grates clean after using them. With cast iron you have to think differently. The goal is to protect the grates between use. So I've been oiling the grates a bit after they've cooled, before I put the cover back on the grill. I also don't scrap off the food bits until BEFORE I go to fire up the grill the next time. This not only protects the grill but also adds to the seasoning process.
Last Friday night I threw on some steaks, totally forgetting to re-oil the grates before putting the food on. I thought "oh shit, this is not going to be pretty" and I gave the steak a little jiggle. Now really the steaks had just gone on and should have been sticking to the grates until they were seared and ready for flipping. But guess what?! They weren't stuck! My cast iron grates are seasoned properly! Amazing! I can't believe I finally have some cast iron that works the way it's suppose to... And I had the most perfect sear marks on those steaks. I love how cast iron holds the heat.
Now I'm inspired to work a bit more with my cast iron pans. I think it's easier to get your barbecue grates seasoned properly because you don't have to store them. When I oil up my pans, I then have to put them in the cupboard somehow keeping them dry and not effecting my other pots and pans. With the barbecue the grates have lots of air circulation and I can oil them liberally without any worries. Remember I live 1.5 blocks from the ocean so the air is damp, protecting my grates is imperative! And so far, no signs of rust. And now they work like they are suppose to. So don't despair if you have cast iron grates on your new barbecue. Once you get them seasoned, they are the best at searing food, making your barbecue the culinary wonder it was meant to be!