Wondering how to clean a grill, smoker or flat top grill? Our spring cleaning series will have you ready for grilling season.
Roughly 61% of homes in the United States have said they own a gas or charcoal grill. I’ll save you the math - that’s over 78 million homes.
I would bet a good chunk of those aren’t cleaning their grills properly, which isn’t just sort of gross, but it can also be very dangerous as well.
The CDC estimates that there are 48 million cases of food borne illness every year. That means 1 out of 6 people will get sick at some point.
A dirty grill is also well known as a major fire hazard. We're here to help you keep your grilling season safe, happy and healthy!
Tools for Cleaning a Grill
There are a ton of different gadgets and gizmos on the market for cleaning your grill grates - everything from stones to steam wands and more.
I'm here to tell you that a grill brush is all you need.
There are two types of brushes - metal wire and nylon. The metal wire brushes work well, but the wire can break off and get stuck to the grates.
There's then a serious risk of metal wire ending up in the food you’re serving, which poses a serious health risk. There are several documented cases of this happening, even causing major emergency surgery.
Although rare, I don’t like to take the chance. A nylon brush works just fine.
How To Clean a Grill
Whether you use a gas or charcoal grill, the process is pretty much the same. The main goal is to get those grates as clean as possible.
Follow these steps after every cook and maintaining your grill will be a breeze.
You’ve just finished grilling up a beautiful barbecue pork tenderloin or a couple of thick ribeye steaks. You and the family finish up eating and now its cleanup time.
- Turn all of your burners on high, close the hood, and let it heat up for 5-10 minutes. If using charcoal your grates are probably still nice and hot.
- The point here is that you're to burn off all excess food and sauces that didn’t make it to the platter. The more charred the better.
- This will take care of most of the underside of the grates. The top will then need to be scraped with your brush and a bit of elbow grease.
- If you find yourself brushless, a ball of aluminum foil held with a pair of tongs works great as well. (Some even say it works better than a brush!)
- Turn off your grill and let it cool down slightly. While still warm, spray the grates with a 1:1 ratio of water and distilled vinegar. The heat will steam the liquid and help remove any stubborn, residual food.
- Once the grill is completely cool, spray it with your mixture again.
- If it’s too hot to touch, I use my tongs, and some wadded up paper towels to wipe off the excess water and vinegar.
Vinegar? Yes! Vinegar. Cleaning with vineagar is extremely efficient, cost effective and it you can skip using toxic chemicals on the cleannig surface.
Cleaning with vinegar kills up to 90% of bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses like e.coli and salmonella, plus it's budget-friendly, which I love.
How to Deep Clean a Grill
Depending on how much you use your grill, you may need to do a deep clean. I use mine a lot in the summer, so I try to do it once a year.
It’s a pretty simple process involving some extra strength oven cleaner or degreaser.
If you don’t like using chemicals for cleaning, you can make a paste out of dish soap and baking soda that is very effective.
- Remove the grates, heat plates, and flavorizer bars and place them on a hard outdoor surface, like your driveway.
- Follow the instructions for whichever product you decide on. Some products and methods require a lot of set time, while others work rather quickly.
- Plan ahead so you aren’t without your grill for too long. If you power wash your patio furniture at the beginning of each season, that’s a perfect time to clean those grates.
- Just a little warm soapy water and then blast those food particles into oblivion.
- The inside of the grill shouldn’t need too much work. It’s perfectly seasoned, so the only thing I do is scrape off any big chunks.
- I avoid spraying water or cleaners as to not damage the burners.
How To Maintain a Grill Between Uses
Before I cover up the grill, I like to coat the grates very lightly in a little vegetable or canola oil. Pour a small amount onto a paper towel and wipe the entire surface of the grates.
Don’t forget to check your grease trap underneath the grill. I line mine with foil before cooking to make it easy to remove after I’m done cooking.
Lastly, make sure to wipe down all surfaces of the grill, and not just the grates. Clean your side tables, the knobs, and the handle to the hood.
A clean grill is a happy grill! A few extra bonus tips:
- Make sure you invest in a decent grill cover. Even though it’s an outdoor cooking machine, you still want to keep it protected from the elements.
- To keep your gas lines from getting gummed up, turn all the burners on, then turn the gas off at the source and let what’s in the line burn off, then turn off the burners.
- Don’t forget to double click your tongs every few minutes to ensure perfectly cooked food.
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Ryan is a food and writer from Toledo, Ohio where he's had a love affair with food since 1984. When he's not cooking or writing, he's planning the next he wants to eat.Grilling, How To Guides, Cleaning