How to Clean a Grill for Your Best Barbecue Season Yet

Food fresh off the grill always tastes amazing, which is why so many families enjoy cooking on the grill not only during the summer but all year long. From tailgating at a football game to hosting a backyard barbecue, grills are an incredibly versatile appliance that takes any meal to the next level.

But each time you cook on the grill, it will start to accumulate carbon build-up. Fortunately, you can learn how to clean your grill quickly before your guests arrive—even if it’s a really big mess. Keep reading for a complete guide on how to clean every part of your gas, charcoal, or flat-top grill.

How to clean a grill

Photo via Lindsay Eidahl

How You Know It’s Time to Clean Your Grill

The easiest way to know when it’s time to clean your grill is by looking it over carefully. Chunks of food, greasy surfaces, carbon buildup—that layer of black crust that often forms—rusty grates, and ashes are all sure signs that it’s time to clean your grill.

While you should wipe down your grill after each use, it’s also recommended that you do a deep clean at least twice a year, no matter the type of grill.

When you have lots of food crusted onto your grill grates or grease dripping down from them, you run the risk of having grill flare-ups. This is another big indicator that your grill needs a good cleaning right away.

How to Clean a Gas Grill

Cleaning a gas grill doesn’t have to take a lot of time or a lot of effort. In fact, you can clean your entire gas grill in just a few short minutes and with very simple products. Plus, the more often you clean your gas grill, the less time and elbow grease it will take during each cleaning.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Wire or bamboo grill brush
  • Hot water
  • Dish soap
  • Mild degreaser (such as Traeger All Natural Cleaner)
  • Sponge with a scouring pad
  • Stainless steel cleaner
  • Towel
  • Large bucket
  • Trash can
  • Grill cover

1. Collect Supplies

Be sure to collect all of your supplies first so that you’re ready to clean the grill without having to run back inside. 

2. Brush Grates

After putting rubber gloves on, start by scraping the food debris and carbon buildup from the grates with a wire or bamboo grill brush. 

Keep a Safe Temperature

Having an already warmed-up grill can make this job a lot easier, but you want to make sure it isn’t hot enough to burn yourself. Only attempt to brush warm grates off when you’re sure that they’re at a safe, touchable temperature.

3. Soak the Grates

Once you’ve scraped off as much of the stuck-on food debris and carbon buildup as possible, remove the grates, place them in a bucket full of warm, soapy water, and allow them to soak for at least 20 minutes.

4. Clean the Burner Hoods

While they’re usually not as dirty as the grill grates themselves, the burner hoods—the plates located directly above the burners—need to be kept clean, too.

To get started, dip a sponge into the hot, soapy water and use the scouring pad side of the sponge to remove all of the grease and grime from each of the burner hoods. 

Soaking the Burner Hoods

If there’s a lot of buildup on your burner hoods, you can also remove them and soak them in hot, soapy water before attempting to scrub off any burnt-on grime.

5. Remove the Grease Pan and Collection Tray

Next, remove the grease pan and collection tray located under the cook box. (If the grease pan is disposable, simply throw it away.) Then clean the collection tray and metal grease pan with hot, soapy water and a sponge.

6. Remove Loose Debris

If any loose debris remains in the lower cook box—the metal container that houses the burner hoods—remove it and dispose of it in the trash.

7. Clean All Surfaces

Now that all of the dirtiest parts of your grill have been attended to, it’s time to clean all of the remaining surfaces of your grill. Be sure to wipe down both inside and outside the lid, the control knobs, the shelves, and inside the cabinet with a sponge soaked in hot, soapy water. 

To clean stubborn grease stains, spray a food-safe degreaser where needed (we included an example in the tools and materials list), let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away.

8. Remove Soaking Pieces

Next, remove any grates or burner hoods you may be soaking and scrub them with the scouring pad on your sponge. If elbow grease still isn’t doing the job in making them clean, spray with the food-safe degreaser, allow them to sit for a few minutes, then try scrubbing them again. Repeat as needed.

9. Reassemble the Gas Grill

Once all the pieces are clean, rinse them, dry them off with a towel, and reassemble your grill.

10. Shine the Gas Grill

Using the stainless steel cleaner and a towel, rub the outside of the grill until it has a nice, streak-free shine.

11. Cover the Gas Grill

Lastly, cover the grill to protect it from the elements.

Lit charcoal grill

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

Cleaning a charcoal grill can be a dirty job, but it is a much simpler process than cleaning a gas grill with lots of burners, a storage cabinet, and other attachments.

Charcoal grills are usually just a few pieces, so deep cleaning them goes pretty quickly. However, because charcoal grills create more soot and ash when they’re burning, cleaning them might cause more of a mess, so make sure you’re equipped with some garbage bags and rubber gloves.

Here’s how to deep clean a charcoal grill.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Hot water
  • Dish soap
  • Wire or bamboo grill brush
  • Mild degreaser
  • Sponge with a scouring pad
  • Towel
  • Trash can
  • Broom or vacuum
  • Grill cover

1. Collect Supplies

Any cleaning job goes faster when you collect all of your cleaning supplies first, so be sure to grab them all before heading outside.

2. Brush the Grate

The majority of buildup will be concentrated on your charcoal grill’s grate. To keep food debris, grease, and cleaning supplies off of your skin, put your rubber gloves on first and then start scraping the grill grate with hot, soapy water and a grill brush.

Use Aluminum Foil

Another cleaning hack you can use to clean your grill quickly and easily is to ball up aluminum foil, grasp the ball with your grill tongs, and rub it over the grill grates. This will remove all of the sticky food and grease residue as you go.

3. Remove the Lid and Grate

Once all of the debris and carbon buildup has been scraped from the grill grate, remove both the lid and the grate from the grill and set them off to the side.

4. Empty the Ash

Charcoal grills can fill up with dry ash rather quickly. Use either a broom or vacuum to remove all of the ash in your grill and throw it away in the trash can. Complete this step only when you’re certain that all embers have gone out and all ash is cool. Failing to do so could result in a fire starting in your trash can.

5. Scrub the Firebox

Next, scrub the entire firebox inside and out with hot, soapy water and a sponge. Depending on your grill, the firebox is usually a box or a drawer to the side of the main grill pit. For tough grease stains, spray a food-safe degreaser, let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it away.

6. Clean the Grate

Using the scouring pad on your sponge, clean the grate with hot, soapy water until any remaining grease has been lifted from the grill grate.

7. Wash the Lid

The lid of your charcoal grill needs to be maintained, too. So wash the lid with a sponge soaked in hot, soapy water to clean up any food or grease splatters.

8. Reassemble the Charcoal Grill

After towel drying all of the grill parts separately, reassemble your charcoal grill.

9. Cover the Charcoal Grill

Protecting a charcoal grill from the elements is just as important as protecting a gas grill. Place the cover over your charcoal grill and move it into storage until it’s ready for use again.

Flat top grill with burgers and buns

Photo via Shutterstock

How to Clean a Flat-Top Grill

While gas grills and charcoal grills are the most common types of grills most people use, flat-top grills, or Blackstone grills, are becoming the new thing at tailgates and for cooking for a crowd.

Cleaning a flat-top grill is a much simpler process because they don’t have any grates for food and grease to drip through.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Hot water
  • Dish soap
  • Mild degreaser
  • Sponge with a scouring pad or grill brush
  • Towel
  • Grill cover

1. Collect Supplies

You only need a few supplies to clean a flat-top grill, so grab them and head outside.

2. Heat the Flat-Top Grill

Cleaning a flat-top grill goes much more quickly when the surface is still warm. Either heat the grill or clean it shortly after grilling a meal. It should be warm but not so hot that it’s uncomfortable to the touch.

3. Scrub the Grilling Surface

After putting on rubber gloves, scrub the surface of the flat-top grill with hot, soapy water and a sponge or grill brush. Use the scouring pad side of the sponge or the wire bristles of a grill brush and a food-safe degreaser for any stubborn food buildup.

4. Wipe the Surface

Next, wipe the grilling surface down with a clean, dry towel.

5. Clean Any Other Surfaces

Using your sponge and hot, soapy water, clean any other surfaces of your grill such as the lid, shelves, and knobs.

6. Cover the Flat-Top Grill

Cover the surface of your flat-top grill so that it stays protected from rain, sleet, hail, and snow.

A person scrubbing the outside of a grill with soap

Photo via Chas' Crazy Creations

How to Clean the Outside of a Grill

For the most part, cleaning the outside of a grill is much simpler than cleaning the inside of a grill. After all, the outside of a grill doesn’t see all the food and grease that the grill grates or cooking surfaces do. Still, spills always happen and outside elements like dust and rain can dirty up the outside of the grill.

The best way to clean a grill on the outside is to wipe it down with hot, soapy water and a sponge, rinse it off, and dry it thoroughly with a clean towel.

For stubborn grease stains on the outside of a grill, try making a paste of baking soda and water—three parts baking soda to one part water— and rub the paste onto any grease stains. Let it sit for up to fifteen minutes, then wipe it away with a clean, damp sponge or towel.

You can also use a food-safe degreaser. Just spray it on, let it soak in for a few minutes, and wipe away the grease and cleaner with a clean sponge or towel.

Using a blue towel to wipe black grill grates

Photo via Home Repair Tutor

How to Clean Rusty Grill Grates

No one wants to eat food that’s been cooked on rusty grill grates. Not only is it unappetizing, but cooking on rusty surfaces can also allow bacteria to enter the food. But the good news is that you can clean rust off your grill grates in just a few simple steps.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Plastic bowl
  • Spoon
  • Sponge
  • Damp towel

1. Collect Supplies

Collect all of the necessary cleaning supplies before heading outside to your grill.

2. Make a Paste

After placing your rubber gloves on, make a thick paste of baking soda and vinegar in the plastic bowl by stirring the two ingredients together, adding small amounts of each until the mixture resembles the consistency of toothpaste.

Paste Alternative

Just run out of vinegar or baking soda? No problem! You can also make a paste out of lemon juice and powdered dish detergent and it will work just as well.

3. Coat the Rusty Grill Grates

Coat the rusty grill grates in the thick paste.

4. Let Sit

Let the vinegar and baking soda paste sit on the rusty grates for around thirty minutes.

5. Wipe Rust Away

After the thirty minutes are up, wipe the paste and rust away with a damp towel. Repeat the process if needed and place the grates back on the grill once all rust is gone.

Tips for Keeping Your Grill Clean

Eliminate the need to clean your grill as often by taking proper steps to keep it clean all barbecue season. Here are ten tips for keeping your grill clean all year long:

  • Do a quick clean of your grill after each use.
  • Be sure to wipe down all surfaces right away after splatters happen.
  • Replace wire or bamboo brushes regularly.
  • Consider replacing grill grates every five to ten years or as needed.
  • Remove grates, burner hoods, and control knobs to clean them properly.
  • Don’t forget to empty the firebox of all ash regularly.
  • Always cover your grill after it cools down.
  • Store your grill when possible so that it doesn’t sit out in the elements.

Cleaning your grill regularly not only helps to maintain its appearance but also promotes food safety and enhances the flavor of your food. Whichever grill you have, following the above cleaning tips will ensure it remains in great condition for years to come.

Are you a grillmaster with helpful tips on cleaning your appliance? Share your tips below—we’d love to hear them!

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