GrillJunkie – Addiction to Grilling-What Fires YOU Up?

Cleaning a Grill 101

Cleaning a Grill: Tips and TLC

The team here at GrillJunkie has at least 5 or more grills and/or BBQ smokers in various stages of use at all times. These grills in addition to the units that are being prepped for Product Reviews or photography are representative of an ongoing and deepening investment of our time and assets. As such, we do our very best to take good care of these precious tools of the trade. We encourage our readers to do the same and are happy to share a few maintenance and cleaning tips to bestow a little TLC on those grills of yours and have them last as long as possible for years to come.

Cleaing a Grill GrillJunkie before and afterWhat is a grill or BBQ unit if nothing less than an outdoor stove or oven that provides better tasting food, more fun and more memories with friends and family? It is the centerpiece of your outdoor meals and should be treated well.  And if that doesn’t sell you on the suggestion of cleaning a grill then we’ll use a bit of fear.  Imagine that special weekend where everyone is depending upon you, the self-proclaimed “Master of the Grill”, and looking forward to that great cookout only to be destroyed by a busted grill emergency or dangerous flare up that could have been avoided by some simple routine TLC?

If people thought of their grills like they do their stove tops, there would be a lot less problems with grills wearing out. Think of it this way, after cooking something on the stove you generally have to wipe up the spills. Of course, the GrillJunkie team and I could just simply be messy cooks, but we can’t seem to grill without having to at least wipe down the surfaces as we’re cleaning up after a delicious meal. Every now and then, depending on how often any particular grill gets used, we’ll do a more thorough cleaning. This includes moving everything out of the way and wiping around and under the burners. Your approach to cleaning a grill should be done similarly. Every time it is used, clean it, at least lightly in preparation for the next great outdoor meal.

We begin our discussion with a few pointers for daily/quickie cleanup followed by a more detailed step-by-step thorough cleaning.

Cleaning a Grill “Quickie”: Grill Grates

Grates are the exception to the general rule of cleaning a grill. They need to be cleaned completely after every use. This prevents food from sticking Cleaning a grillon your grill making it much easier to cook on. There are a lot of products on the market for cleaning your grate, but really any good stiff nylon, mesh or wooden brush will do.

Be careful not to use a cheaply made wire brush as there have been recent incidents of people swallowing bristles that became embedded in their food. See the CDC report on grill brush dangers! Instead, opt for either a wooden grill scraper or a mesh metal tool wherein the bristles are less likely to fall off.

Now, few people seem to know the best way to perform the task. First of all, it is better done after you grill and not before. Once your grill has cooled down a bit, but is still warm, take your brush and clean off any remaining food particles. It is much easier to clean off food particles while warmth is still present and not after they have cooled and been allowed to harden on the grate. If you have a cast iron grate clean it completely then, brush on some oil with a paper towel to keep your grate in proper shape. Bare cast iron needs to be inspected regularly because they are more likely to rust. Our KettleKlean Grill Cleaning Tool is designed to not only scrape the grill grates, but can also scrape the grit, grime and ash that collects under the grate and in the heat box. Scratch proof hardwood, custom conforms to your grill’s surface, and will last a lifetime!

Cleaning a Grill “Quickie”: Charcoal Grills

Washing a Charcoal Grill

One of the great things about charcoal grills is that you clean it out after every use. However, many people don’t take advantage of the situation and simply dump the ashes out after a build up over a long grilling season. Keeping a good wire brush handy to sweep out the cooked on remains will make additional cleaning jobs much easier. Our KettleKlean Ash Scraper does a great job without the worry of scratching paint or coated porcelain. And don’t think that because you have one of those grills with the ash catchers that you don’t have to do any cleaning. Everything you cook on requires cleaning. So every time you use your charcoal grill, clean the grate and brush out the ashes and cooked on foods. This will cut down on excess smoke and bad flavors.GrillJunkie KettleKlean grill tool,grill cleaning tool,KettleKlean

Periodically, get in there and really scrape out all that stuff that just seems to develop on the bottom of your grill. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water, turn on your “Cleaning a Grill” mojo, and give it a really good cleaning If you need to touch up the color, get your hands on a can of grill safe paint, some sandpaper and a dab of elbow grease. Just ask someone at the hardware store and they will know exactly what you’ll need. If you do this, your grill will last for many years and produce great results.

Cleaning a Grill “Quickie”: Gas Grills

One unfortunate or deceptive feature on many gas grills is that setting on the knobs marked “clean”. Many people are mislead to think that this is how you clean your grill. Like a charcoal grill, you need to clean your gas grill every time you use it. Make sure that the grates are cleaned after you grill and brush off the sides and lid after every use. Use the clean setting to preheat your grill. Yes, it will burn up stuff that has fallen down into the grill, but it doesn’t really clean it. It simply gets the grill to a high enough temperature to help burn off some of the food that may have been left on the cooking surfaces.Cleaning a Grill from GrillJunkie

Regularly you should lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. This might be lava rock, briquettes, or some variation of metal plates. However, it should get cleaned of the cooked on grease and food particles periodically. Once a year you need to do a good cleaning on your grill. This requires that you take portions of it apart.

Cleaning a Grill Thoroughly: Step by Step

We provide our Step-By-Step list below, but recommend this pre-amble section as good reading as it unveils a solid synopsis while unveiling a warning to avoid a cleaning technique that you may have learned from Uncle Lou the Know-it-All.

Cleaning a Grill - GrillJunkiePre-Amble: First, start by disconnecting the gas and then lifting out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, make sure you inspect them thoroughly. There shouldn’t be anything blocking the flow of gas. If the burner is clogged it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, if not, then replace it. If your grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they happen to be, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce. With everything out of the grill, clean it completely with soapy water. If the paint is coming off, or if your grill is showing signs of rust then you need to do some painting.

Other than that, put everything back in, check to make sure that all connections are good, and then turn it on. Let the grill heat completely before you cook again to make sure that any left over soap residue gets burned off. There are shortcuts to cleaning a gas grill, but these are not always a good idea and there is one method that is definitely a “No-No!”

Never Do This!: How NOT to Clean a Grill

This is a folk remedy for a dirty gas grill that goes back decades. Perhaps, long ago when most gas grills were made with all heavy cast parts it wasn’t a problem, but today it is. The practice was to cover the cooking grate with aluminum foil, turn the grill to high for 20 minutes, let it cool, and then simply brush off the ash. The foil held the heat from the gas burners under the grates and reduced virtually everything to a fine dry ash that can be easily cleaned up. Similar to the clean cycle on an indoor oven, this has been a cleaning method used by many in the past. While it sounds like a great idea, most modern grills simply cannot take the heat.

The intense heat created by this cleaning method can warp cooking grates, crack ceramic ignitions, and cause metal fatigue in the burners. Worse, the captured gases can ignite, gas lines and hoses can melt, and the temperature inside enclosed carts can exceed the safe temperatures for storage of propane tanks. Why should anyone take our word for it? You don’t have to. The official position of Weber is:

“Weber does not recommend this type of method at all. Covering the cooking surface could trap gas and become a fire hazard and blocking the airflow causes very high heat that can damage valves, burners and supply lines that may make the grill unsafe to use. We do recommend consumers always preheat their grill on high for 10 – 15 minutes. This will burn off all of the food particles and prepare the grill for grilling.”

Step by Step

  • Make sure that all dials are in the off position. While the grill is slightly warm, turn off and disconnect the propane tank. Let the grill cool completely so as to avoid burning your hands.
  • Wearing work gloves, remove the grates and the metal plates under them. Place in a bucket of hot water mixed with grease-dissolving dish soap.kettleklean-scraping
  • Loosely cover the heating elements with a big piece of foil or damp cloth to protect them from debris falling and getting into the small holes in the elements. With a grill brush and/or scraping tool, scrub the underside of the hood. (That residue that looks like peeling paint is actually a harmless buildup of carbon from grease and smoke.)
  • Use the grill brush to scrub the inside walls above the elements. (Ash and debris will fall onto the foil.) Wipe the walls with a damp paper towel.
  • Remove the drip pan and turn it upside down over a trash can to empty it. You may have to use a scraper or spoon to get the grease out of the drip pan. Drop the pan into the bucket to soak.
  • Take the grates and the drip pan out of the bucket. Lean them on a wall or a ledge, scrub them with the grill brush, then spray with a hose to rinse.
  • Toss the foil and swipe the elements with the grill brush. Replace the metal plates, the grates, and the drip pan (no need to dry them) and reconnect the propane tank.
  • If your grill has a cabinet, sweep out any leaves and debris inside with a whisk broom or outdoor vacuum.Cleaning a Gas Grill GrillJunkie
  • Grab a few stainless-steel wipes and clean the grill’s exterior and the inside of the cabinet. (For porcelain-coated, cast-iron, or ceramic grills, use a cotton cloth dampened with soapy water and follow with a dry cloth.)
  • Step 10: Step back and admire the fruits of your grill cleaning labor!

Cleaning a Grill: Stainless Steel

Bayes BBQ grill cleaner

Stainless Steel presents some special challenges to cleaning. Stainless steel will show every finger print, and low quality stainless steel will rust and discolor over time. The GrillJunkie team has pulled together some special instructions you can read on cleaning stainless steel.

What are your thoughts on this GrillJunkie blog post? What Fires YOU Up?We welcome your comments, healthy debate, and the inevitable disagreement. Leave a reply or comment. It’s OK. Bring it on!


Comments ( 6 )

  1. ReplyCuriousG

    Thanks for the cleaning step by step. Any tips on Winter grilling or smoking?

  2. ReplyGabbyG

    The web post on this site called Winter Grilling for Die Hard Grillers seems to provide some good info on the subject:

  3. ReplySite

    If you leave the drip hole open in the lower drip pan on the gas grill, is there a particular reason you can line it with aluminum foil for easy clean up?

    • ReplyGrill Junkie Staff

      Hi Jeremy. Great question. The answer is yes, absolutely! In fact, using aluminum foil to cover the grease drip liner as well as the canister cup is one of the best ways we keep the GrillJunkie arsenal of grills clean and easy to maintain. As you mentioned, be sure to leave the drip hole open so as to allow for the grease to flow down and away otherwise you'll be dealing with a potential flare-up. Check out our related post on Grill Cleaning Tips and TLC.

  4. ReplySkylar Williams

    That amazes me that people try and clean grills with tin foil. That just sounds dangerous to me. I just stick with the right tools and effort.

  5. ReplyRowanne Salomon

    That's a great idea!..I am so impressed… I am not very skilled at this sort of thing, but you make it look so easy! Best grate scraper

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