Seasoning grates with an onion?


 

JohnShepherd

TVWBB Member
I just received a pair of GrillGrates to use on top of the original grates my gasser, and the instructions say to season them with an onion. I'd never heard of that before, and after some googling, I see others doing it on their grates (GrillGrates or not), but no explanation of how it seasons the grates.

My original grates were porcelain coated iron, but due to me not knowing how to take care of them, they rusted and most of the porcelain is gone. I've ground off the rust and seasoned them just like I do an iron skillet - apply a extremely thin coat of grapeseed oil and bake it on for an hour, and repeat several times. My skillet is as non-stick as a brand new teflon pan. The iron grates are getting there.

I was initially thinking I'd do an oil-based seasoning on the GrillGrates but I'll go ahead and follow their onion-based instructions. I'm just wondering what the science is behind it. Does the onion juice convert to a hard non-stick surface like a traditional oil-based seasoning, or is something else going on there?
 

KE Quist

TVWBB Super Fan
Hi John, seasoning with an onion is a new one to me too. I found this on the GrillGrate website that explains it though:

"Onions (and all alliums) contain many sulfur compounds which is why you cry when cutting them. These compounds when heated react with bare metal to form a hard, non-stick sulfide layer. This sulfide layer is rock hard to 1000°F."
 

tjkoko

TVWBB All-Star
...................... These compounds when heated react with bare metal to form a hard, non-stick sulfide layer. This sulfide layer is rock hard to 1000°F."
I'm like a fifties sci fi dude and this is just absolutely tooooo futuristic for me! OOooooooohhhhh WOW man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

JohnShepherd

TVWBB Member
Well, I was expecting to test the GrillGrates out last night, but even though they were reported as "Out for delivery" at 4:12 am the FedEx truck didn't show up until I was pulling the steaks off the grill. Maybe tomorrow....
 

Bob H.

TVWBB Hall of Fame
They will be fine if you choose not to season with an onion as well.
Enjoy your grill grates.
 

Brett-EDH

TVWBB All-Star
It’s common to use onions and green onions to season carbon steel woks. Google some videos on it. I could see doing so on SS grates too. IMO, I would just do a factory oil burn off, scrape and then cook a nice fatty and juicy burger to season my grates. It’s not like the grates are adding any flavor to your cooks. They merely stop food from joining the fire. However, I would and do season CI searing grates. If you don’t seal them, they’ll rust.
 

GaryP

TVWBB Fan
I've have seen a few guys do this over the years. When I asked why, they said it cleaned the grates and added flavor. I guess that's the way their dads showed them how to grill. They would get the fire hot, then scrape with the onion and leave it sitting on the side of the grate during the cook. All of them had parents that had come from Mexico so I just figured it was the way they did it. The food was always tasty so who was I to argue.
 

Bob Bass

TVWBB Guru
During my freshman year at college, I worked for the Carnation Company at Disneyland. The grills would be bricked each evening and seasoned with white onions each morning.
 
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Darren Lebner

TVWBB Fan
Hi John, seasoning with an onion is a new one to me too. I found this on the GrillGrate website that explains it though:

"Onions (and all alliums) contain many sulfur compounds which is why you cry when cutting them. These compounds when heated react with bare metal to form a hard, non-stick sulfide layer. This sulfide layer is rock hard to 1000°F."
I used to onion my grills but I stopped because I didn't see the reason for it, assuming that just cleaning off the grills was sufficient. I think I'll go back to onioning now.
 

Anne M.

TVWBB Super Fan
I've have seen a few guys do this over the years. When I asked why, they said it cleaned the grates and added flavor. I guess that's the way their dads showed them how to grill. They would get the fire hot, then scrape with the onion and leave it sitting on the side of the grate during the cook. All of them had parents that had come from Mexico so I just figured it was the way they did it. The food was always tasty so who was I to argue.
Not only Mexico....
It's reasonably common in Southern Africa as well.
I sometimes do it like described, I almost always heat the grates for cleaning, just not always the onion part
 

JohnShepherd

TVWBB Member
.... However, I would and do season CI searing grates. If you don’t seal them, they’ll rust.
Yeah, I learned that the hard way. I bought my gas grill many years ago, with no real knowledge of how to maintain it. (The instructions don't offer much on that point.) It had porcelain covered iron grates, and after leaving the grill out in the weather for several years, most of the porcelain cracked off, and they were covered in rust. I soaked them in an acid bath, then used a wire brush in a drill, but they still need a bit more work to eliminate all the surface rust.

Further reading claims that the acids in the onion remove rust, and the sulfur in the onion polymerizes to create the hard seasoning. I think I'll give iron grates another brushing, then try the onion method.
 

Brett-EDH

TVWBB All-Star
Yeah, I learned that the hard way. I bought my gas grill many years ago, with no real knowledge of how to maintain it. (The instructions don't offer much on that point.) It had porcelain covered iron grates, and after leaving the grill out in the weather for several years, most of the porcelain cracked off, and they were covered in rust. I soaked them in an acid bath, then used a wire brush in a drill, but they still need a bit more work to eliminate all the surface rust.

Further reading claims that the acids in the onion remove rust, and the sulfur in the onion polymerizes to create the hard seasoning. I think I'll give iron grates another brushing, then try the onion method.
We apply vegetable oil to the grates after scraping them and before cooking on them. Then after done cooking, while still warm, scrape clean again and oil then with vegetable oil on paper towel and use tongs to drag across the CI grates. This builds up that protective layer. Just don’t oil cold grates and leave them oiled and cold. The oil will turn rancid which is bad. A little maintenance and upkeep on CI grates will make them last a long time.
 
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LMichaels

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
The method with onion I have seen on TV and in reading has been to dip the cut onion in oil than rub it on the grates
 

Chris in Louisiana

TVWBB All-Star
I used the onion on my Grill Grates before the first use. Seemed to work.

Since then, I apply a small amount of grapeseed or avocado oil to the heated grates and rub it around with a wad of paper towels. Between that and cooking meats on them, the Grates have developed a pretty good layer of seasoning.
 

Rick Poch

TVWBB Super Fan
I used the onion on my Grill Grates before the first use. Seemed to work.

Since then, I apply a small amount of grapeseed or avocado oil to the heated grates and rub it around with a wad of paper towels. Between that and cooking meats on them, the Grates have developed a pretty good layer of seasoning.
Same here...but with Canola
 

 

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