It doesn’t matter if you have a gas or electric grill. There’s one really important thing you need to do before you throw your next backyard barbecue: clean your grill. Trust us, there’s almost nothing worse than a crusty buildup on your grill grates. While those flame-kissed grates aren’t exactly building up layers of bacteria, dirty grates will prevent you from grilling at your best. Excess grease can cause flare-ups, built-up crud will create off-flavors, and (this is the worst) your food will stick to the grill.
If you don’t know how to clean your grill, that’s okay! We’re here to help. These simple tips and tricks make it easy to get into a grill cleaning routine. So grab your favorite grill brush and let’s get started!
A Note About Your Grill Grates
Before cleaning, it’s important to know if you have porcelain, cast iron, or stainless steel grates.
- Porcelain Grates: Porcelain grates are rust resistant as long as you don’t scrape off the finish, but you’ll need to avoid scratches. Always use a soft-bristled or nylon brush in lieu of metal or wire brushes.
- Cast-iron Grates: On the other hand, cast iron grates are tougher so they can handle the action of those stiff, wire brushes. Unfortunately, they rust easily, so you’ll want to rub the grates down with vegetable or canola oil after cleaning.
- Stainless Steel Grates: Finally, stainless steel grates are pretty durable and don’t require much special care. Just make sure you dry them completely before cleaning to prevent any rust.
The Quickest Way: Cleaning via Burnoff
This is the easiest way to keep those grill grates clean, so you should do a burnoff after every use. Once your food is finished cooking, turn the burners to high (or, distribute the coals on a charcoal grill so they’re under the entire grate). Keep the lid off to allow any grease residue to burn off. The grates will get nice and hot, loosening any stubborn food particles. After about 15 minutes, turn off the grill and brush the grates clean with your grill brush.
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Other Great Ways to Clean Your Grill
Soaking Grill Grates in Hot, Soapy Water
For a deeper clean: hot, soapy water is the best way to loosen up built-on grime. You don’t have to do this after every use, but I like using this method at least once a month. Lightly scrub the grill grates to remove any loose crud and soak them in warm, soapy water for about an hour. If you don’t want to dirty up the sink, you can use a large, 5-gallon bucket. While the grill grates are soaking, you can brush off the grill’s insides and the lid.
After about an hour, rinse off the suds with clean water and return the grates to the grill. Fire up the grill and close the lid so everything gets nice and hot. Now, when you brush the grates with your grill brush, all that loosened up gunk will fall right off. You’ll end up with cleaned grates that are also sanitized by the heat.
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Use Vinegar or a Grill Spray
Some people prefer to clean the grates with white vinegar or a prepared grill spray. While soaking grates in warm, soapy water is the best way to remove tough buildup, the sprays work almost as well. To use the vinegar method, mix 2 cups of water with 2 cups of vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the grates and the inside of the grill before allowing the solution to dry for 10 minutes. Brush the grates clean with your wire brush—no rinsing required. To use a prepared grill spray, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Depending on how much you grill, you’ll want to take things apart at least once or twice a year for deep cleaning. For a gas grill, this means disconnecting the gas and removing the grill layers one by one. Wash the flame shields with warm, soapy water and brush any lava rocks or briquettes clean. Check the burners and unclog any burner holes using your wire brush.
Once all the parts are removed, clean the interior with warm, soapy water and your wire brush. For charcoal grills, the process is much easier – there’s nothing to remove, so you’ll be able to start scrubbing right away. Rinse everything with clean water and dry all the parts before putting it all back together.
Don’t Forget About the Exterior of the Grill
While it doesn’t affect the cooking, cleaning the exterior of the grill is just as important as cleaning the interior. It will extend the life of your grill and keep everything looking shiny and new. When the grill is cool, dip a rag in warm, soapy water and scrub the entire exterior. Rinse the surfaces off with a rag dipped in clean water and polish everything dry. If you have a stainless steel grill, you’ll want to polish everything with a stainless steel cleaner.
For more grilling tips and tricks, check out all of our how to grill cooking tips.
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