How to Clean a Grill
Inviting friends and family over for a barbecue is half of the fun of summer. However, it is not safe to barbecue with a dirty grill. Clogged burners, excess grease, and leftover food scraps can cause dangerous flare-ups. If it is left unattended, your grill grate can rust, making it unsafe for cooking. Regular cleaning is necessary to promote safe cooking methods and extend the life of your unit.
The best way to clean a grill is to do it regularly. A little light cleaning every time you use the grill will prevent buildup and make deep cleaning much easier. Follow these steps after each grilling session.
- Burn off excess grease and food. Turn propane units to HIGH or stoke the coals in charcoal grills. Close the lid for at least 15 minutes and let the heat reduce the remaining food residue to ash. Give the grill a few minutes to cool down, but do not allow it to cool completely.
- Disconnect the grill from power or fuel sources. You do not have to worry about this for charcoal grills, but leaving propane or electricity connected while cleaning can be dangerous.
- Clean the grill grates while they are warm. You can use a piece of wadded-up aluminum foil or a metal-bristled grill brush on stainless steel or cast iron grates. For ceramic grates, use a nylon grill brush.
- Wipe the exterior of the grill with a mild soap solution. Use a spray bottle full of hot water and a couple of squirts of dish soap to spray the outside of the grill. Wipe the grill down with a paper towel, and then use a clean, damp cloth to remove soap residue. You can use special cleaners for porcelain-covered or stainless steel grills, but this is not required.
- Cover your grill. Most grill manufacturers sell grill covers that are specific to each model. The covers protect the unit from the elements and help keep it clean.
General grill cleaning
Deep cleaning your grill does not have to take a long time. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to cut down your grill cleaning routine to 15 minutes.
Gather your supplies
You will need a few things to clean your grill:
- A large bucket or tub for soaking dirty grill grates and plates
- A grill brush; use nylon bristles for porcelain surfaces and metal bristles for stainless steel or cast iron
- A spray bottle full of soapy water
- Cleaning rags
- Steel wool or a grill stone for removing stubborn baked-on residue from metal grill grates; use nylon brushes or scrubbers for porcelain grates
- Aluminum foil for protecting heating elements or burners
- Paper towels and oil for seasoning metal grates
Cut the power
Trying to clean a grill that still has a fuel or energy source attached is risky at best. Disconnect the propane tank from a gas grill, and make sure an electric grill is unplugged. Taking a few seconds to do this prevents electrocution and severe burns. If you have recently used the grill, give it plenty of time to cool down before you begin cleaning.
Remove grates and plates
Prepare a large bucket or tub of hot soapy water; use a concentrated dishwashing liquid that cuts through grease. Remove the grill grates and any metal grill plates beneath them. (Not all grills will have plates.) Soaking these heavily soiled items while you clean the rest of the grill saves you time. Gas grills also have burner covers. Remove these and soak them at the same time.
Scour the lid
Over time, carbon residue builds up on the inside of the lid due to burning food and grease. Fortunately, it is easy to remove. First, protect any heating elements with aluminum foil; it will catch falling debris. Next, spray soapy water on the inside of the lid, then scrub it with a grill brush or scouring pad. You can use steel wool or metal brushes on stainless steel grills, but use a non-scratching scouring pad or a nylon brush for porcelain surfaces. When finished, wipe a damp paper towel over the surface to remove soap residue.
Clean the grate and plates
Remove the drip pan and empty it into a trash can. Soak the drip pan in the same soapy water as the grill grates. While the drip pan is soaking, finish cleaning the grate and plates. Scrub each piece with a grill brush, then use a garden hose with a sprayer attachment to rinse them completely. After the grill plates and grate are clean, use the same method to finish cleaning the drip pan. Note that cast iron grills must be dried thoroughly and seasoned to prevent rusting.
Throw away the foil you used to protect the heating elements. The elements should be relatively clean; run a clean grill brush over them if necessary. If your grill has burner covers, do not forget to finish cleaning them as well. Replace the drip pan first, plates next, burner covers third, and finally the grill grate.
Spruce up the exterior
For porcelain grills, dampen a rag with the soapy water mixture, then wipe down the grill exterior. The rag should be wet without dripping. Dip a new rag in clean water, then wipe the inside and outside of the grill to remove any leftover soap. For stainless steel grills, cleanup is much simpler. Use disposable stainless steel wipes to remove grease and grime from the grill exterior.
Finally, use a small broom to remove leaves or other debris from base cabinets or shelves. Wipe the area with a soapy rag, then go over it with a clean, damp cloth.
Establishing a cleaning schedule
Most grilling experts agree that you should deep-clean your grill at least twice a year. Ideally, these cleanings should take place at the beginning and end of the grilling season. If you grill year-round, you should deep clean the unit every 2-3 months.
Tips for cleaning an electric grill
Outdoor electric grills work similarly to gas and charcoal models, but there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Most electric grills have a grease trap to catch drippings; clean it after each use.
- Avoid abrasive cleaners and tools that can damage the grill’s non-stick surface.
- Since the grill has electrical components, it cannot be submerged in water.
- You may be able to wash the grill plates in the dishwasher; check your owner’s manual for details.
- Use a soapy sponge to remove food and grease, then wipe the grill down with a clean, damp rag.
- Cleaning after each use is the best way to maintain an electric grill.
How to clean a charcoal grill
Charcoal grills are pretty low-maintenance. First, remove any ashes left from previous uses. Use a metal container to hold them until they are cool enough to transfer to an ash heap. Douse live coals with water to prevent fires.
Next, build a fire in the grill. Close the vents and lid, allowing the grill to heat for at least 30 minutes. Use a grill stone or wadded aluminum foil to clean the hot grate. Wear heatproof gloves to keep from burning yourself.
Oil the grate to season it. Use an oil designed for high-temperature cooking, such as coconut or peanut oil. Vegetable oil will gum up and leave a sticky film on the grate. Apply the oil to a folded paper towel, then wipe down the grate.
Maintaining a gas grill
Gas grills have parts that require extra care, including the gas hose, burner protectors, burners, and venturi tubes. If these parts are damaged or obstructed, they pose a fire hazard. It is important to perform regular maintenance on gas grills to keep them working properly.
Checking the fuel lines
Mix soap and water until it is sudsy; it should feel slick when you rub it between your fingers. Use an old paintbrush to apply it to the fuel lines. Next, turn the gas on and brush on more of the mixture. Bubbles indicate a fuel leak; turn off the gas and immediately replace damaged fuel lines.
Perform this test a minimum of once per month, but check the lines more frequently if you are using the grill often. You should also test the fuel lines after long periods of disuse.
Testing the ignition system
Make sure the gas is off, then try the ignition switch to see if it creates a spark. Now turn the gas on and light the grill. If both the ignition and pressure regulator are working correctly, the grill should light up.
If there is no spark, make sure the pressure regulator is firmly seated on the tank. Try using a grill lighter to light the grill manually. Keep your arms and face away from the burners to prevent burns. If you can light the grill manually, the ignitor may have expired batteries or corroded contacts. Check the owner’s manual for details on how to handle this issue.
Determining the fuel level
Use the following trick to determine how much fuel is in your propane tank. First, disconnect the tank from the fuel line, making sure the gas is turned off. Next, pour a cup of warm water over the tank, starting at the top. Use your hand to follow the water’s downward path till the tank seems cooler. This cooler area typically is a good indication of where the fuel level starts.
Cleaning burners and venturi tubes
Soot and grease can clog burners over time, preventing them from working properly. Insects like to crawl into venturi tubes when they are not in use. Since the venturi tubes control the mix of air and gas to the burners, any obstruction can be dangerous.
Disconnect the gas supply. If possible, remove both the burners and venturi tubes. Use an old towel to wipe down each burner. Unplug clogged holes in the burner with a toothpick or straightened paper clip. Replace burners with cracked or damaged holes.
To clean the venturi tubes, place a hose at one end, then turn it on. The water should flush out dead insects or spiders. After the tubes are dry, replace them. If they are not seated correctly, it could cause a fire hazard, so consult your owner’s manual for details. You can ask an Expert if you need additional help.
Entertaining friends and family and enjoying flame-kissed meals is one of the main features of having a grill. Knowing how to clean and maintain your grill means you can enjoy and share the tastes of summer for years to come.