How to Clean a Grill: 4 Easy Steps for Perfect Results

Cleaning a grill is a task that is often dreaded. However, a dirty grill can end up ruining the taste and quality of your food. Here's how to clean a grill the easy way!

A brush scrubbing a grill.

Photo by Rodnae Productions

With summer festivities in full swing, the grilling season is in high gear. Now is the perfect time to lift those grates, remove the grease, and give your grill a thorough scrub down.

Most backyard chefs dread cleaning their barbeques. However, a dirty grill negatively affects the taste and quality of your food; not to mention that building up grease under your grill grates is a major fire hazard. Cleaning your grill makes your food taste better and provides a safe cooking environment as well.

Gas, charcoal, and pellet grills create some of the best-tasting food out there. Everyone loves a good char on their burger or the perfect sear on their steak! However, those same burners that produce such delicious results also create carbon deposits. Debris build-up on them from the food you’re cooking.

Over time, these deposits break down and provide a perfect breeding environment for bacteria, which release into your meat when heated. If you are barbequing food with high fat content, animal fat drips down between the iron grill grates, causing grease pools.

If exposed to fire, this grease can eventually cause really dangerous fires and flare-ups with little warning. Most modern grills include a drip pan to divert the grease away from the fire, but it is always a good idea to remove the extra grease as a safety precaution.

No fancy tools are necessary to accomplish a good clean. You’ll just need a good stainless steel wire brush, some liquid dishwashing soap, rubber gloves (optional), and a clean rag or towel to wipe the sludge away. Enjoy the warm weather and a favorite cold beverage as you toil away.

If you’re not grilling frequently, cleaning your grill once a year will suffice. If you’re grilling multiple times each month, consider cleaning your grill every other month. Here are four easy steps to clean your grill for a perfect result.

Step One: Remove and Soak

Close up of a grill grate.

Photo by Silly Little Man

The first thing you should do when cleaning a grill is to remove the internal components of the grill and put them in soapy water to soak for a short period of time. Don't forget to check out your grill manufacturer's instructions ahead of time to make sure there are no critical elements of your grill that shouldn't be cleaned!

Before you drop them into their foamy bath, use a grill brush to scrub the iron or stainless steel grill grates as you lift them out. Then, remove the covers on the burner tubes and use a sponge or wire brush to scrub the food particles out of the grill box.

Usually, soaking the grill components in a mild liquid dishwashing soap with water has enough cleaning power. But if you have multiple years of crusted-on residue and deposits, try spraying them down with a mix of water, white vinegar, and baking soda before soaking them. Avoid using chemical-based grill cleaning agents as they leave a residue that affects the flavor of your next cook.

Step Two: Scrub the Grill's Interior

Scrubbing a grill grate.

Photo courtesy of CharBroil

Snap on the rubber gloves if you’ve got them! With the cast iron grill grates removed, get inside the main grill cabinet and get rid of any loose particles of food or crusty carbon deposits by hand.

I was recently cleaning the ash out of my pellet grill at home and found a half-burnt, half-fuzzy onion tucked under the grease pan! It just goes to show how necessary cleaning is and how important it is to regularly inspect the main cabinet, along with the other grill components as explained above.

If you’re cleaning a pellet grill, I recommend grabbing a shop vac and sucking up the loose ash. Excess ash can cause issues with your burner box and prevent the auger from pushing pellets down to it.

If you’re using a charcoal grill, don't be afraid to lift out any leftover charcoal. You may need a flathead screwdriver or a metal putty knife to scrape out the caked-on charcoal particles. If you really struggle to get the old deposits off, don't be afraid to fire up the grill. A warm grill loosens those hardened deposits and makes them easier to remove from the grill cabinet. Once fully cleaned, inspect the inside of your cabinet and the burners for signs of corrosion. This is especially pertinent for chefs that live in wet climates where rust and corrosion is a serious grill problem.

If you grill infrequently, the tiny crevices and holes inside become the perfect spot for insects, spiders, and small animals to build nests. Clean out any animal debris so you don't have a critter surprise during your next cook.

Step Three: Remove the Control Knobs & Wipe Down the Exterior

Knobs on a grill.

Photo by Amanda Mills

Before grabbing your favorite stainless steel cleaner to make the exterior of your grill sparkle, make sure the grill is completely cool to the touch if you turned on your grill in the previous step. Most grills have easy-to-remove control knobs and exterior handles. Remove and toss them into the soapy mixture from step one to soak.

There are several stainless-steel cleaners on the market that can bring the shine back to your backyard kitchen. However, they won't remove heavy deposits, grease, or any generous overspills of marinade and sauce. If you have these types of heavy deposits, grab that vinegar, baking soda, and soapy water mixture discussed earlier and lay on the elbow grease to remove the exterior stains. Once eliminated from the exterior of the cabinet, apply the stainless-steel cleaner as a last step.

Pull out the cabinet draws and exterior cooking units to inspect for corrosion and give them a wipe down as well. You should check the connections of your propane tank, pellet box, and external elements as well to make sure they are properly secured and fully fastened down.

Step Four: Rinse and Reassemble

Close up of a clean grill grate.

Finally, remove the interior grilling components (burner tubes, grill grates, and grease pan) from your soapy mixture and give them a good rinse with clean water to eliminate any debris or leftover soap. Now carefully reassemble the interior in the same steps you used to remove them.

Once you have the burner tubes, grease pan, and grill grates back in place and your control knobs on the exterior of the grill, close the lid and turn the unit back on high for about 15 minutes. This ensures any remaining cleaning residue and soapy water mixture has burned off, preventing flavor contamination with your next cook.

The only thing left to do is put together your favorite brisket rub recipes and get back to grilling! If you have questions about grill and exterior cabinet cleaners, or if your grill has been ignored for too long, reach out to me or any of Curated’s great Grill Experts to help dial in your next backyard BBQ.

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Written By
I grew up as a kid in the Pacific Northwest. Family was always grilling salmon, halibut, shrimp and oysters - fresh from the Hood Canal. As I got older eventually that focus would shift to steak and ribs and the rest was history. I've always enjoyed the slower cook times of a smoker and the flavor p...

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