How to Clean Your Grill for Perfect Barbecues

It doesn't matter if you prefer gas or charcoal; we'll explain how to clean a grill from top to bottom.

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There’s one really important thing you need to do before you start cooking up your favorite grilled recipes: clean the grill. Trust us, there’s almost nothing worse than a crusty buildup on grill grates. The 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.

The simple tips and tricks below make it easy to learn how to clean your grill. Let’s get started!

How to Clean a Gas Grill

Cleaning the outdoor grillcmspic/getty Images

For a delicious barbecue season this year, you’ll want a clean gas grill; and we’re talking about more than just brushing off the grill grates. This deep-cleaning process requires actually taking apart the grill and cleaning individual components. It sounds intimidating, but it’s easier than you think; and this extra effort will ensure you’re serving up flavorful food all season long.

Step 1: Disassemble the grill

You’re about to get up close and personal with your grill’s inner workings. Ensure that the grill is turned off and completely cool before starting. It’s very important to turn off the gas supply at its source and disconnect the gas fitting.

Remove all the grates and flavorizer bars and wash with warm, soapy water. Other parts you can consider removing include the burner-control knobs, warming racks and grease tray. Again, these components can all be washed with warm, soapy water to remove grease, grime and food buildup.

Don’t forget about the burner tubes—they’re usually located inside the cook box, underneath the flavorizer bar. Check your manufacturer’s instructions for how to remove the burner tubes. To clean them, use a long wire (a straightened-out coat hanger works great) to clear any blockages inside the tube. Debris in a burner tube can lead to future flare-ups. Next, use a steel bristle brush to clean the outside of the burner tubes, making sure all the burner ports are fully open.

Step 2: Wipe down the interior

Now that you’ve removed most of the guts, give the interior a thorough cleaning. Wipe the inside of the lid with a paper towel to prevent grease buildup; built-up grease resembles paint flakes and should be wiped away. Next, wash the inside of the lid with warm, soapy water; then rinse with clean water. Wash inside the cook box with (you guessed it) warm, soapy water; then rinse with water.

Step 3: Clean the grates

There are a few different ways to clean grill grates, so be sure to check our in-depth guide. We like the burn-off method, though. This can be done every time you use your grill, not just when performing a deep clean. Set the burners on high (with the lid closed) for about 15 minutes to burn off any leftover food or grease. Then, use your grill brush (or alternative tool) to brush the grates clean. In addition to the burn-off, you’ll want to scrub the grates with hot, soapy water about once a month.

Step 4: Reassemble

Put back the grates, flavorizer bars and burner tubes. Replace the burner-control knobs, warming racks and grease tray.

Step 5: Clean the exterior

Once you’ve reassembled the grill, close the lid and tackle the exterior. Most gas grill exteriors are made of stainless steel and can be washed with a soft cloth and a soap-and-water solution; then rinse with water, and wipe dry.

For stubborn stains, try using a non-metallic brush and scrub in the direction of the grain. Remember, do not use a wire brush or abrasive cleaners on the stainless steel surfaces. It can result in scratches. We recommend this Grill Rescue brush.

Remember to reconnect your gas line before grilling.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

Barbecue grill with flamesBrett Holmes Photography/getty Images

If you prefer the classic, smoky taste of a charcoal grill, you’re in luck. With fewer parts and a simpler design, charcoal grills are substantially easier to clean than gas grills. You can perform general maintenance after every cook, and a deep clean should be done once or twice a year.

Step 1: Prep for cleaning

Once your grill is cool to the touch, remove the grates and empty any leftover charcoal or ash into a metal container.

Step 2: Wipe the interior

Check the inside of the lid for grease and smoke deposits, which might look like flakes of paint. Brush these away with a stainless steel brush. Then, wash the lid and the cook bowl with mild dish soap, water and a steel wool pad. To prevent future buildup on the lid, wipe it down after every grilling session with soap and water while the grill is warm (but not hot).

Step 3: Clean the grates

The easiest time to clean your charcoal grill grates is actually before you start cooking. Preheat the grill by opening all the vents and keeping the grill at a high temperature for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then, use a stainless steel bristle brush to remove any debris left on the grates. (You can also clean a grill without a wire brush.)

If your grates are in particularly bad shape, try this deep cleaning vinegar trick: Soak the grates overnight in a mixture of two cups vinegar and one cup of baking soda. Then scrub any leftover food and debris with a sponge, rinse with water and pat dry.

Step 4: Reassemble

Once the lid, bowl and grates are sparkling clean, reassemble the grill.

Step 5: Clean the exterior

Wipe down the exterior with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water. Last but not least, if your grill has an ash catcher, wipe it down as well.

For more grilling tips and tricks, check out our ultimate guide to grilling.

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Erica Young
Erica is a cleaning and home décor expert. She knows exactly how to tidy a filthy kitchen and straighten out a mixed-up pantry! When she's not writing you'll find her organizing a closet, buying more bins she doesn't need or bingeing her latest TV show obsession.