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How to Clean Your Outdoor Grill

Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Summertime is grilling time, so let’s take a look at how to keep your grill clean no matter how many BBQs you throw.

There’s a big difference between a seasoned grill and a filthy grill. A well-used grill is never going to look sparkling like you just unpacked it, but you don’t want a dirty grill with bits of food, fat drippings, and mess everywhere. Here’s how to keep your gas and charcoal grill clean.

If You Have a Gas Grill

While there are some basic similarities to cleaning gas and charcoal grills, gas grills tend to need a little less attention than their briquette-loaded counterparts. There are still things you’ll want to do after every use, but your main cleaning tasks will happening ar the beginning and the end of your grilling season.

Cleaning Your Gas Grill After Each Use

Aside from avoiding bugs and germs, cleaning after each use of your grill will help you keep each meal you cook tasting like the meal you’re making and not the one you grilled yesterday or the week before.

  • Use a stiff-wired brush or ball up some aluminum foil to clean your grill’s grates. Pick a brush with a long handle and use a pair of tongues when going the aluminum foil route (more protection for your hands).
  • If you don’t have food caked on the grates a mix of hot water and Dawn dish detergent will cut the grease just fine. If the grates aren’t super grimy, though, don’t feel guilty skipping a full scrub down.
  • Once the grates are clean, wipe them down with a soft cloth to remove any loose debris and bristles from your wire brush, then coat them with vegetable oil, which will help keep them from rusting and slow down the build-up of food.

If you haven’t cleaned your gas grill in a few weeks, or you’re using it daily, there are a couple of other things that could be changing the way it cooks your food. To ensure your gas grill is evenly and thoroughly cooking, add these steps when it looks like they’re needed (you’ll be able to see build-up and debris).

  • You’ll also want to clean the heat deflectors with hot water and soap. Remove them from the grill before cleaning, then dry them off with a rag before putting them back in.
  • If you have loose debris in the bottom of your gas grill, pick it out or dump it out, or you can use a shop vac to remove it.

Cleaning Your Gas Grill Before and After Grilling Season

You can do a deep steam cleaning to your grill at the end of the season to make sure you’re putting the grill away in tip-top shape. You may also want to do this again at the beginning of the season—to clean off any dust that has accumulated over the winter.

  • Start by preheating your gas grill for about five minutes (turned up on high). Then shut it down and disconnect it from the gas supply.
  • Using a bucket of water and a stiff wire brush, start cleaning the grill. This will create steam, which will help remove even the most crusted grills. Be careful not to burn yourself, and don’t lean over the grill into the steam. You can use some soap added to the water if you haven’t been cleaning your grill regularly after each use.
  • Let your grill cool completely, then wipe down the grate and insides with a damp cloth.
  • Tearing down your grill, like connecting the gas line, will allow you to clean in nooks and crannies, like getting blockages out of gas ports. Clean side to side using the brush on these, so you don’t push debris farther into the ports.
  • You can use hot soapy water with Dawn to clean most of the internal parts of your gas grill, including the burners. Put everything back into place once it’s clean and dry.
  • Cleaning the outside of your grill may need a little extra care since you don’t want to scratch surfaces or remove any paint. You can use a grill cleaner or the same soap and water mix you’ve been using, but use a soft microfiber cloth to clean with.

If You Have a Charcoal Grill

black kettle charcoal grill sitting on a green lawn
Ezhova Mariia/Shutterstock

Charcoal grills tend to get a bit dirtier than gas grills. For a clean and well running grill, you definitely want to clean this one after every use.

Cleaning Your Charcoal Grill After Each Use

The biggest reason why charcoal grills need more clean than gas grills is that ash is left behind in the bottom of your grill with every use. That may not seem like a big deal, but it can block vents in the bottom of your grill, which makes it difficult to control the temperature while you’re cooking. Further, a grimy grill filled with fat-soaked ash increases your risk of fire (and not the good lets-grill-some-chicken kind).

  • The first thing you’ll need to do is to let your grill cool completely, then pick out any bricks that are still whole, or chunks that can’t be sucked up in a vacuum.
  • You can then wipe out any ash that is left behind or use a shop vac for easy removal.
  • Your grates can be cleaned the same way as the gas grill, with aluminum foil or a wire brush. Follow by smearing them with some vegetable oil.
  • Clean the grilling bowl and the lid with some Dawn soap and warm water.

Cleaning Your Charcoal Grill Before and After Grilling Season

Cleaning your charcoal grill at the end of the season is basically the same as the cleaning you read above for each time you use the grill. Be sure to vacuum out all of the bits once you’ve pulled out the chunks of charcoal.

Grill cleaner works, but so does soapy water. Be sure to dry your grill out thoroughly before you put it in storage. Your grill can stay outside for the winter if you have a grill cover.

You might be more interested in the delicious things you can cook up on your grill than cleaning the grill, but a clean grill is a happy (and safe!) grill.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »
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