Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: June 18, 2022

If you’ve been using a grill or a smoker for a while, you’ve probably noticed it started to deteriorate. This happens due to different weather conditions and frequent wear and tear because of use. But, a new coat of grill paint can have it look as new.

I’ve used my fair share of grills over the years I’ve been on a carnivore diet, so I’m no stranger to grill deterioration. But, over the last decade, I’ve also perfected how to paint my BBQ grill and smoker. Today, I’ll let you in on all my tips and tricks, so your barbecue grill or smoker can look brand new again too.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Grills and smokers deteriorate after long periods of use. They eventually chip paint, and you have to do re-painting.
  • You should prep the painting area before you spray paint the exterior of a grill or a smoker.
  • You should follow several steps before painting the grill, such as using a wire brush to smooth rusted areas.

Should You Paint or Clean Your Grill?

Close up shot of a grill with charcoal

You should paint and clean your grill but the choice between painting or cleaning will depend on its material.

Stainless steel and enamel-coated grills don’t need to be repainted. They are usually done in black paint, and the worst thing that happens to black paint isn’t rust but oxidization. You’ll know your BBQ grill has oxidized if it looks ashy and dull.

If this is the case with your grill, you should clean it with kitchen detergent and warm water. Don’t use anything too abrasive for cleaning as it can scratch the finish, and then you’ll really have to repaint instead of just clean.

Finally, once you’re done cleaning and the grill surface is dry, coat the grill with cooking oil. This seals the surface and makes your grill or smoker look better for longer.

Step-By-Step Guide on Painting a Grill or Smoker

A man looking at his paint roller

Here’s how you should paint your grill step-by-step.

1. Prepare the Painting Area

I’ve seen plenty of guides where people take apart their whole barbeque grill. I don’t think there’s a need for that. However, you should find a good spot for painting. Doing it outside or in a well-ventilated area is best so you don’t inhale toxic chemicals and fumes. You want a space with plenty of room to move around the grill so you don’t hurt yourself or the grill you want to restore.

Find a drop cloth and place it on the floor if you’re painting inside. This will make sure the area you’re painting in doesn’t get a lot of overspray.

You also want a place where you can place all the paint tools, such as the wire brush, gloves, paint, metal sandpaper, and more.

2. Stripping

A stack of abrasive discs

Next, it’s time to strip the smoker. You can use a wire brush, steel wool, or metal sandpaper to remove as much rust as possible from the grill.

Grills are usually made of cast aluminum that doesn’t rust, but smokers have a steel body and tend to rust a lot [1] [2].

If you leave rust on the smoker's body, it’ll eat through the metal, even if you paint it, so make sure to get down to the bare metal.

Apart from the rust, you want to smooth any rough areas where paint started to peel off. Another thing you can do here is knock off charred food particles on the grill.

3. Cleaning

Once you’re done stripping the entire grill, so there's no more rust left, it’s time for a good cleaning. This step often gets overlooked, but it’s critical. Paint won’t last if you put it on a dirty, greasy, or rusty BBQ grill or smoker.

“Be aggressive going after the grease. You don’t want any grease left on the surface when you do paint preparation. Sand with a rough sand to get rid of any rough spots on the unit.”

- Feeley Bird YouTube Channel 

To clean the grill you can use a degreaser, such as an oven cleaner. Spray it on, and let it sit between 5 and 10 minutes. Then use a rag and remove as much of the grease and food particles from the grill and grill grate.

Once you’re done, you should use another rag to remove all the degreaser and make sure your grill is clean and dry.

4. Taping Off

This is the final step before you apply barbecue paint. Tape off the grates, handles, and all areas you don’t want to paint. If you plan to apply any logos, tape off the areas you’ll place them on.

5. Painting

A happy man holding a paint roller

Finally, it’s time to paint your old rusty grill or smoker (that’s hopefully not so rusty anymore).

Use high heat-resistant paint. When using high-heat spray paint, you should hold the can about 6 to 8 inches from the grill’s surface. Paint in a swiping motion from one side to the other.

The first fresh coat of paint should be a thin coat, so don’t worry if some areas look off. Wait for a couple of minutes, then apply several light coats until you get the desired result.

Let the paint dry overnight. Finally, fire it up to a high temperature to ensure the paint is cured and good for smoking.

Note: You can do powder coating on the smoker, but not the grill, as most powder coats can’t withstand temperatures higher than 200 degrees [3].

FAQs

Can You Paint the Outside of a Grill?

Yes, you can paint the outside of the grill. You can apply paint to the entire body on the outside, but you shouldn’t paint the inside or any surfaces that are in direct contact with flames.

Can I Spray Paint My Grill?

Yes, you can spray paint your grill. Make sure to use paint that is resistant to heat.

Time to Reinvent your Old Grill or Smoker

You should paint your grill or smoker by following the step-by-step guide I’ve outlined above. Make sure to prepare a painting area, remove the rust from the grill, and use good heat resistance paint.

Give paint time to dry between painted coats, and let it sit overnight before you use the grill.

If you’re looking for a new grill that’s guaranteed to stay sturdy for years, check out our round-up of the grills and smokers with the best warranty.


References:

  1. https://news.stanford.edu/pr/00/aluminum511.html
  2. https://www.reliance-foundry.com/blog/does-stainless-steel-rust
  3. https://www.crestcoating.com/cci-blog/is-powder-coating-heat-resistant/

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