Cottage Q&A: Replacing rusty barbecues

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I’m having to replace my propane barbecues every two or three years because they keep rusting out. It’s expensive. What am I doing wrong?—Morris Rock, via email

Every two or three years? Unless you’re grilling your steak in the Dead Sea, that’s a freakishly short lifespan. 

Michael Rumolo, a part-owner of Dickson Barbeque Centre in Toronto, wonders if you might simply be buying the wrong models. “High-quality barbecues have a traditional replacement life of about 15 to 20 years,” he says. “Even if the owner isn’t doing regular cleanings or maintenance, we still see around 10 years before they need to be replaced.” Opt for stainless steel cooking grates instead of cast iron—less rust-prone—and be prepared to spend at least $550.

Will forking out more cash guarantee that your barbecue won’t get rusty? Well, no. (Rust never sleeps, according to Neil Young.) 

Especially if your barbecue lives on a cottage patio near the ocean. In that case, “all barbecues are going to get some rust,” says Jo Carroll, the owner of BBQ B Clean in Vancouver. “The salt is in the air.” Happily, there’s usually no need to ditch a ’cue at the first sign of orange; small amounts of rust are DIY removable. And the job can be as simple as scrubbing off the rust and cleaning the affected area with dish soap and water.  

No matter which barbecue you buy, keep it covered, and, if possible, stored in a shed when you’re not using it. Do a thorough deep clean once every season, and inspect the whole business regularly. Watch for big rusty holes in the burners or rusty legs (dangerous) or rusty cooking grates (gross).

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