How To Clean a Grill For Prolonged Use
Modified: February 7, 2023
Learning how to clean a grill is important for maintaining one. Find out how you can extend the lifetime of your favorite barbeque partner right here.
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It’s that time of year again. Summer is simmering down and cozier fall weather is just around the corner. The last couple of months have probably left a good layer of grime on your summer barbeque gear though, especially your beloved grill. Whether you want one last hurrah before the sunny days end or you’re wrapping up for the fall, this loyal piece of equipment could probably use a good clean. Join us as we go through the steps of how to clean a grill the right way.
What Is a Grill?
A grill is a piece of equipment traditionally used to cook meat and other food over an open flame. Modern grills are made with a chamber that covers both the fire and the cooking ingredients to infuse a smoky flavor into the food. There are a variety of grills out there, including charcoal, gas, ceramic, and wood pellet.
The charcoal grill is a rather familiar sight in many backyards. This type of grill is most commonly spherical with a domed top, but they come in other shapes and sizes as well. A grill grate is placed on the lower half of the grill chamber, suspended over live coals during cooking. Charcoal grill lids often have a smoke spout that can be opened and closed to control the amount of smoke inside.
A gas grill is built differently from a charcoal grill in that its main source of heat is an open flame fueled by a propane tank. This means it has burners built into its grilling chamber instead of a space for the charcoal. Gas grills are typically larger than charcoal grills and can more evenly distribute heat thanks to their method of cooking.
Ceramic grills are similar to charcoal grills in that they also use solid fuels to cook food. However, their main difference is in their construction. Ceramic grills have a larger bottom section, mimicking a large pot in shape. Inside, a ceramic shell provides a layer of insulation that keeps temperatures more stable than other types of grills. For this reason, a ceramic grill can be used for both grilling and roasting.
Wood Pellet Grill
A wood pellet grill is a hybrid piece of equipment that combines aspects of a traditional grill, wood smoker, and oven. For fuel, it burns wood pellets inside its firepot. The temperature is controlled with a twist of a dial, much like gas grills. This type of grill can give food a more rich, smoky flavor based on what types of wood pellets are used.
Tools for How to Clean a Grill
Now that you know the different types of grills, it’s time to look at the different tools you’ll be using to clean them. This section aims to familiarize you with the most common ones and how to use them to your advantage.
There are a few tools that you’ll find useful for a whole host of cleaning jobs. Keeping your grill spick and span is just one of them. For this particular job, you’ll want a bucket, a plastic scraper, and a shop vacuum. A bucket is invaluable for holding sudsy water, the scraper will get rid of any stubborn food or debris clinging to your grill, and the vacuum will make ash cleanup much easier. The vacuum isn’t strictly necessary, but it’ll significantly cut down your workload.
Once the scraper has done its work, you can move on to the finer parts in need of cleaning. Larger brushes will allow you to sweep away the majority of the grime. At the same time, a nylon wire brush can help you get into the little crevices where dirt and ash like to hide. This is especially important for gas grills as the holes in their burners may get clogged during cleaning. There’s also the grill cleaning brush for the grill grates themselves.
For cleaning solutions, you’ll want to go with more gentle options. After all, many grill finishes may react badly to stronger grill cleaners. Try to use a mix of dish soap and water for most scrubbing. If you need a deeper clean, a mix of baking soda and vinegar will usually do the trick. Place your solution in a plastic spray bottle and spritz away after you’ve gotten rid of the larger piles of ash and grime. This should loosen up any remaining dirt for you to scrub off.
Finally, if a particular part of your grill is giving you more grief than usual, you can turn to the scrubbers. For instance, aluminum foil is excellent for taking stuck chunks off a grill’s inner lid. Meanwhile, heavy-duty scour pads can loosen up a lot of muck from grill grates, sides, and exteriors. Also, for rusty parts, you can always turn to good old steel wool. Just make sure it’s the fine steel wool to avoid large scratches, and don’t use it on the outside of your grill unless completely necessary.
How to Clean a Grill
Since we’ve gone over the tools you’ll need, it’s time to get to work. This section aims to give you a rundown on how to clean most grills. For more instructions for specific types of grills, you can read further down. However, this section will set the basis for those parts to build on, so keep reading.
General Cleaning Tips
Before we start, there are a few general tips to keep in mind. Firstly, grill cleaners are your friend. Try not to use too much force while cleaning unless necessary. More often than not, you may find that letting the cleaner soak into the stubborn stains will soften them just as well as elbow grease.
Second, try to clean your grill every time you use it. Each cleaning session doesn’t need to be a deep clean, but at least scrape off the larger residue stains, empty the drip pan, and sweep away the ash. Deeper cleans can be reserved for the end of the barbeque season or when you’ve been particularly rough on your hardware.
Finally, for the times you do a deep clean, it’s best to take everything apart and make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies. The buildup isn’t good for your machine. So, while it takes quite a bit of time and effort, a good deep clean goes a long way towards extending your grill’s lifespan.
How to Clean a Grill Grate
The grill grate is without a doubt the first thing to get dirty. Since this is where the food sits while it cooks, it will take a beating. It’s best to clean your grill grates with a grill brush that will topple any bits of food and debris into the bottom chamber. Often, from there, they can turn straight to ash.
Since grill grates benefit from a good dose of seasoning, sometimes this is all you need to do. Turn the heat up to burn the grime off the grates, and brush off any excess. Once a month or so, you’ll want to hit the grates with hot, soapy water. Once that’s done, re-season the grates by heating them on high and coating them with a layer of high heat-resistant oil. This will help protect the grills from rust while also keeping them somewhat nonstick.
How to Clean a Grill’s Insides
Cleaning the rest of the grill’s insides will depend on the type of grill. In general, you’ll want to remove any ashes or other debris from the bottom chamber. Use a brush to clear it all away and a shop vacuum to suck up the extra tiny film left behind. Ceramic grills may need their ceramic layer removed to get to the ash between the layers.
How to Clean a Grill Grease Tray
The grease tray of a grill is where a majority of the extra fats and oils from your cooking end up. It’s best to have a drip pan in here to make for easy cleaning. That way, it’s as easy as lifting the drip pan out and throwing it away along with the grease. The alternative is emptying the grease tray and hand-washing it yourself.
How to Clean a Grill’s Exterior
The outside of a grill is the first thing you or your guests will see during a barbeque, so it’s just as important to clean as the inside. Mild cleansers work best here, especially in tandem with a microfiber cloth. If you’re worried about how your grill’s materials will react to your cleaner, test it on a small, out-of-sight spot first.
For more stubborn smoke marks, you can even use a scouring pad. Just go gently so you don’t scratch any surfaces.
How to Clean a Traeger Grill
Next, we’ll be diving into specifics. Traeger grills are a type of wood pellet grill, so they have a few extra steps. In addition to the general cleaning advice above, you’ll need to empty the wood pellet holder, which is also known as the hopper. This allows you to inspect it for any damages and get rid of the fine layer of wood dust that inevitably accumulates.
How to Clean a Gas Grill
For a gas grill, be sure to check the burner holes for blockage, since this will affect the evenness of the heat. The shields on top of the burners should ideally be removed after you clean the grill grates and sides, as they protect the burners from small bits of debris during cooking and cleaning.
How to Clean a Flat Top or Blackstone Grill
Flat top grills are more commonly known as flat top griddles and include popular grills such as the Blackstone grill. They work a little differently from traditional grills as seen by their titular flat tops. These types of grills forgo the use of a grill grate in place of a slab of evenly heated metal.
Cleaning the slab is your main concern for this type of grill. Simply scrape off any food residue with a scraper and re-season as you would a regular grill grate. If you don’t have a scraper on-hand, try rubbing on a load of kosher salt along with a spritz of oil or water over the surface while hot.
How to Clean a Stainless Steel Grill
Stainless steel grills are the most prone to scratches if you’re too rough on them with scrubbers and other cleaning tools. Try to rely on your grill cleaners for this one, especially the baking soda and vinegar combo. You’d be surprised how much a sprinkle of baking soda and a spritz of vinegar can do for a grill exterior.
How to Clean a Rusty Grill
Many grills will work fine even with a little rust on the inside. As long as it’s not on the grill grates themselves and the integrity of the grill isn’t compromised, some rust is normal. Keeping it to a minimum is key though. When you do your deep clean, try to get rid of as much rust as you can, either with some fine steel wool or a vinegar-baking soda bath for the particularly rusty grill parts.