Cleaning a Grill for Maximum Life

Cleaning a grill is something you need to do every time you get done cooking on outdoor grills. Good maintenance practices for barbecue grills ensures they will be ready to cook your next dinner.

Cleaning a Grill

When you purchase an outdoor grill, you must think of it as a household investment, just like you would any other kitchen appliance. Depending on where you are from or how much you like to cook on the grill, you should expect your barbecue grill to become a huge part of your dinner cooking.

The more you use your BBQ grill, the quicker it becomes dirty and greasy. Dirt and grease within your grill holds dangerous bacteria and viruses, potentially making you and your dinner party sick if you are not careful.

Grills are also very expensive and not something you want to replace once a year. With proper maintenance and care, primarily cleaning a grill every time you use it, you can make it last for many years to come, just like the stove and oven combination in your kitchen.

The Basics of Cleaning a Grill

Cleaning a grill isn't difficult as long as you do it from the start or when you first purchase your outdoor grill. Leaving a barbecue grill dirty and greasy after every use will just make your job harder when you do finally decide to clean your grill.

When you only clean the grill every year, or a couple times during the outdoor cooking season, rust, acids, and harsh chemicals eat at the metal of the grill body and greatly decreases the overall life span of the cooker.

Along with cleaning a grill, some general maintenance may be required. Some tasks and parts are specific to a type of outdoor grill (either gas, electric, charcoal or smoker), but the majority of maintenance doesn't change much from grill to grill.

Tools Necessary for Cleaning a Grill

Cleaning a grill requires some tools and a little bit of time on your part. Don't be lazy and skip maintenance. It is very important and is a lot easier if you do it every time.

Here are some necessary tools to use to clean outdoor grills:

1. A brass wire brush, approximately 3 x 5 inches, with a long wooden handle.

2. Steel wool pads that contain mild soap.

3. Dawn dish soap (because it cuts grease better than any other brand).

4. A large sponge or good dishcloth (don't use the one that is used in the kitchen sink).

5. The Pam cooking oil spray made for the grill.

6. A box of dry baking soda.

7. A large roll of aluminum foil.

8. One leather glove or oven mitt.

9. A spray bottle with warm water.

10. A roll of paper towels.

11. A large paint brush with thick, hard bristles.

12. A one to one and a half inch metal putty knife.

Keep all of these maintenance tools away from the kitchen. These are exclusively for your outdoor grill and shouldn't be used for anything else. You don't want a tool missing when you are cleaning a grill because you just might not do it, and we want to avoid that.

Step 1: The Moment You Are Done Cooking

As soon as you take the food off of the grill racks, turn all of the burners on to high heat. You must watch the temperature of the grill and make sure it doesn't exceed 600 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point you may see flames as drippings and grease burn off of the racks and the inside of the cooking box.

CAUTION: The inside of the barbecue grill is extremely hot. Do not touch any of the metal in or around the grill.

Once you reach 600 degrees, turn the burners off. Turn the gas off on the propane tank (if required). While the racks are still hot, use the brass wire brush to scrape off the ash left on the grill racks.

Step 2: Removing Excess Grease and Grime

Before starting this step of cleaning a grill, ensure the internal temperature of the grill is outside air temperature. It may be a little warm to the touch, but not hot. This step is usually done after dinner.

Once verified cool, use the brass grill brush and thoroughly brush the grill racks, horizontal edges, and vertical edges within the box of the grill. If there are any stubborn pieces of food or grease burned onto the grill racks or the body of the grill, spray the steel wool pad with warm water and go over the spots.

Step 3: Wipe Everything Down

In this step of cleaning a grill, you will remove the grill racks and set to the side so you can access the inside bottom of your grill. Lightly brush off the heat deflectors (if they are in the grill) with the wire brush to get any fallen debris off of them.

Spray a few sheets of paper towel with warm water and pour a little dawn dish soap on the paper towel. Begin wiping all of the parts of the grill body, inside and out. You can remove each of the heat deflectors and wipe them down as well (they are easier to clean this way). You may have to replace the paper towel often depending how dirty the grill is. Keep wiping until all of the grease film is out of the inside of the grill and off of the deflectors.

Soak the sponge with warm water and wipe the entire inside of the grill to remove any soap residue. Rinse the sponge often to remove soap and dirt. At this point, the inside of your outdoor grill should look like new.

Use dry paper towels if needed and dry up any water on the inside of the grill. Place the heat deflectors back over the grill burners.

Step 4: Cleaning the Bottom of the Grill

After scraping and wiping the rest of the outdoor grill's box, you must clean out the bottom of the grill. All of the scrapings, ash, and drippings end up in the bottom of the grill. Liquid usually pours out through a hole in the bottom into a catch cup. But all of the other stuff can cause problems at the bottom of the grill over time.

This is where the paint brush comes in handy. Take the paint brush and brush from the outside edges of the grill's floor and push all of the debris into the drain hole into the catch cup. If you do this every time, it's not so bad; however, if you haven't done it in a while, it can take some time to scrape it off and remove.

If there are thick pieces of debris from drippings in the bottom of the grill, use a putty knife to scrape them off and push them down the hole. Once you are finished, repeat the soap and water wipe to remove the grease. This area doesn't have to be perfect, but it is the part of the grill that will rust the fastest if not maintained.

Be sure to empty out the catch cup underneath the bottom of your grill when you are done sweeping debris into it. This keeps the catch cup ready at all times to do its job.

Step 5: Extend the Life of the Grill

This step of cleaning a grill is one that will greatly extend the life of your grill. The average outdoor grill may last three years if it is never cleaned and is left out in the weather. This step should extend the life of your grill by at least five years.

Using the Pam grill cooking spray, spray a light coat of cooking oil all over the inside of the grill. Don't over do it! Once everything is coated, take some paper towels, spray them lightly with the same spray and wipe down all of the surfaces within the BBQ grill.

The purpose of the light coat of cooking oil is to keep the grill from rusting. You can also do the outside of your grill with the oil, but you want to wipe off as much as you can. Excessive heat can catch the oil on fire, so don't leave the surface where it shines with oil.

Step 6: Cleaning the Grill Racks

Step 6 of cleaning a grill concentrates on the cooking surfaces, otherwise known as the cook racks. You already brushed them off with the grill brush, but this only took off the stuff that was burned to ash during Step 1. Now you want to get them clean.

Take a damp paper towel with some Dawn dish soap and thoroughly wipe down and scrub the racks with the soap. Wipe the racks down with a damp sponge and remove the soap. It is also wise to spray the racks down with either a garden hose or the spray bottle of water until the racks are completely free of soap.

Once all of the soap is removed, use some dry paper towels and wipe the grill racks dry. Afterwards, spray the racks with Pam grill cooking oil. If the grill racks are stainless steel, you can wipe them down with dry paper towels. If they are cast iron racks, you don't have to wipe them down.

Place the racks back inside the barbecue grill when you are done cleaning them.

Step 7: Deep Cleaning

Some of the tools and things you can do for cleaning a grill are optional. They can be used if you want to give your barbecue grill a shine or if there are bad stains or burn marks inside the grill that just don't seem to want to come off.

You can use baking soda mixed with a little water to act as a nice cleaning and polishing agent. It works similar to Ajax without the soap and bad smell. If you want your outdoor grill to look like new, this is the way to go.

Aluminum foil is great for removing stubborn stains. Pull of a large sheet of foil and ball it up. Gently rub the ball of aluminum on your grill over the severely stained areas and it will remove the grime.

Step 8: Outdoor Grill Storage

If you store your barbecue grill outside, you should always use a grill cover that is the appropriate size to keep rain and moisture off of the metal while not in use. If you grill does get wet, such as when you are tasked with cooking in the rain, be sure to thoroughly dry off all surfaces with a towel before placing the cover over the grill.

When fall comes and you are approached by the white stuff of winter, follow all of the steps of cleaning a grill, then move the grill to the garage or storage building that will keep it out of the damp weather. Leave a thicker coat of oil on the metal to protect it from rust and remove the gas tank if it is a propane barbecue grill.

The opposite of winterizing your grill is cleaning a grill at the beginning of the barbecue season, which occurs in the spring. Weber Blog has a great article on spring grill cleaning that will help you get your ready for a great three seasons of grilling out.

Cleaning a grill and extending its life is quite simple if you take your time and do it every time you cook out. Don't slack off and miss a few cleanings, otherwise you will end up spending hours doing all of these steps to bring your barbecue grill back up to par.

Take care of your most precious cooking appliance and it will take care of you. Now get to cooking some great BBQ recipes for dinner.

Subscribe to DinneRecipe Weekly Newsletter