Should you cover your grill? It’d be so easy to say, “Yes!” and move on. But, when it comes to grills, the answer’s never that simple.
Now some of you might be wondering, “Wait a second… you’re saying there’s a time it’s okay to leave your grill uncovered?” while a few of you might even be thinking, “Grill cover? What’s a grill cover?!”
See, it’s worth looking at the question more because all kinds of grill enthusiasts come at it with their own experiences and beliefs that may make sense for some—but not necessarily fit the profile of others.
To use a simpler, resounding answer to a straightforward grilling question: it depends.
So, let’s take a 30,000-foot view of what a grill cover brings to the party and the occasions when you might be able to say, “You know what, I’m keeping the top down on the convertible and keeping the grill cover off.”
What Exactly Does a Grill Cover Do?
First things first: this article isn’t going to discuss covers that are a form of shelter, such as a garage, carport, or specially designed grill gazebo or pergola.
No, we’re going to focus strictly on the types of covers you literally wrap your grill in, like a jacket to protect it from bad weather, and have to absolutely remove before firing your flames out of fear of fusing the said cover to your grill.
Sorry for the long sentence.
The point is, the types of grill covers discussed here are the types designed and fitted to a specific size and shape of a grill; they are supposed to provide protection against harsh weather and corrosion while hopefully prolonging a grill’s service life.
If you’ve seen a car cover, you pretty much know what a grill cover looks like. And like car covers, the debate always comes back to the question, “Are these covers even necessary?”
“It depends” is the easiest answer, and it actually makes a good bit of sense.
If You Grill All the Time, You’re the Grill Cover
That heading may not make sense on its own, but take a moment to think about what a grill cover does.
It acts as a protective barrier against bad weather, helps slow the creeping deterioration that corrosion brings, and keeps stuff like dirt, dust, and other airborne debris from settling on your grill and becoming a permanent resident.
If you have a lot of birds around your home, you understand what’s meant.
So, if you’re grilling all the time, you’re also cleaning your grill all the time. That doesn’t only apply to the exterior surfaces.
That includes brushing and oiling the grill grates. Emptying ash bins and grease traps. Maybe even hitting the inside of the grill with soap and the hose from time to time.
The long and short of it is, because you’re constantly using your grill, it isn’t sitting dormant in bad weather, high humidity, enduring intense bird migrations, or whatever else you can imagine.
If there’s one major threat to a grill, it’s the amount of time it goes unused. If you’re using it all the time, the cover isn’t necessary.
In a more poetic way, you’re the protective barrier.
You Can’t Avoid Rust; You Can Only Hope to Contain It
But what about rust? If you’re constantly using your grill, will you magically avoid rust?
No. But using a grill cover all the time won’t keep rust completely away, either.
The thing with rust, you have to remember, is it’s a chemical reaction. If you’ve got a material that has a natural tendency to rust (metal alloys with iron), and you have the thing that promotes rust (moisture), you’re always going to be doing your best to fight rust.
There are ways to do this, of course, such as brushing your grill grates, cleaning them constantly, or using grill grates made from material that uses metal that can withstand high heat and rust.
Related: Can You Grill on a Rusty Grate?
However, most of these other rust-resistant products are just that—resistant. It’s almost impossible to find a grill grate that’s completely 100% corrosion-proof (and that doesn’t cost a fortune).
The larger point is that a grill cover won’t keep the rust away, and neither will constant use. All you can do is stay on top of the rust and do what you’re supposed to already be doing, which is keep your grill clean and well maintained.
Like Rust, Sometimes You Can’t Avoid Critters Either
Yes, a grill cover will help keep a typical critter off or out of your grill.
Why would they be there in the first place? They may be looking for a chunk of food left behind, or maybe even some grease. The main point is a cover isn’t completely critter-proof.
Don’t believe that?
It’s not uncommon in places of high rain and humidity to have frogs. Frogs like to find areas where water collects and stays dark. Like under a pedestrian bridge spanning a creek.
Or in an ash collector where water can settle after a heavy storm. Water that managed to collect even though a cover was on the grill.
Yes, a cover may be on the grill. That doesn’t mean frogs can’t find a way in. The same goes for water. Especially if that water is blowing in all kinds of different directions.
Side note: a cover on a grill in a high humid area can actually trap moisture and cause rust to spread faster, regardless of frogs. Something to think about.
Grill Covers Are Still Pretty Helpful
Times you should use a grill cover:
- Winter time or other times of grill dormancy (extended travel, etc).
- Use the grill, but maybe only once a week.
- Live in a dry climate where humidity isn’t an issue.
- Want to avoid rain, birds, and yard debris from leaving traces on your grill.
If you like and prefer a cover, use it.
Sometimes a good defense is your best offense and if you’re not using your grill on a regular basis, a cover will help. After all, it acts as a protective barrier. It’s just not magic.
If you’re using your grill often and keeping it well maintained, it won’t hurt to leave it uncovered either. Stay on top of the rust, weather, and critters and you’ll be fine.
Of course, if the weather’s awful and you can store your grill somewhere like a garage, more power to you. No one thinks it’s a good idea to leave a grill out in a hurricane, even if you’ve got the best cover money can buy.