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Cleaning the outdoor grill

Ultimate Grill Cleaning Guide How Important Is It?

Cleaning your grill is very important. I would argue that cleaning is a part of cooking. I once heard a chef say he doesn’t hire cooks, he hires cleaners who can also cook. Unsanitary cook surfaces can lead to a range of health issues.This grill cleaning guide will help you mae sure your grill is clean and ready to use.
Cleaning is important to stop the spread of diseases. Any unclean surface harbors bacteria which can contaminate your foods. Eating contaminated foods is no fun. At first you may not even notice, but with time you will.
I once ate food that was either contaminated with bacteria, or just rotten. It was a horrible experience that took a few days to recover from.
It’s true that your home kitchen is probably acceptably clean. There are certain areas that may need extra attention, the grill is not one of them. Cleaning a grill is so easy that sometimes it doesn’t even feel like cleaning.
At times your grill may get extra dirty. In this article I will go over not only how to properly clean a grill, but also some tips to help you out in certain cleaning tasks. First you must understand that grill cleaning is different than any other kitchen cleaning.

Why Clean?

Beside the fact that keeping your grill clean lowers the risk for food-borne illness, it can also affect flavor and product outcome. A clean grill cooks better, that’s a fact. Since cleaning your grill is easy I suggest you make it a habit. Clean every time before you cook.
A clean grill will give you stronger flavor, without any unwanted tag alongs from past cooks. Sometimes food from previous cooks can linger on the grates. Cleaning your grates can eliminate this cross contamination.
A dirty grill can also leave less than satisfactory grill marks. Certain areas of the cooking surface may have gunk on it, not allowing it to properly sear your foods. If you notice odd flavors, or undercooked foods regularly it may be because your grill is dirty.
On top of all the reasons to clean to cook better, it also is better for your health. A dirty grill can harbor bacteria! This is why the first most vital step in grill cleaning is preheating. This step kills all harmful bacteria that may be lingering on the grates.

When to Clean

This questions answer depends on who you ask. Some will say you should clean every time you grill. Some will say never clean your grill. I find the correct answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I recommend doing a deep clean once a season, a seasonal cleaning I’ll call it. You should do a seasonal cleaning at the beginning of the cooking season, hence seasonal. This includes taking pieces out, cleaning interior components, and the top/lid.
If you live in an area where you can only cook for one season, do this deep cleaning at the start and the end of the season.
You may also do extra deep cleanings if you notice unsavory build up on internal parts. It is recommended that you limit the amount of deep cleans you perform on your grill.
Spot cleaning is recommended prior to any cooking. Spot cleaning includes brushing grates, preheating the grill, and emptying any grease or ash. Spot cleaning is very important! Below I break down spot cleaning and deep cleaning for gas and charcoal.
Before we start cleaning, we need proper tools. If you currently don’t own a grill brush, buy one. If you own a sub par one, upgrade. Trust me they make a difference, and bad ones can damage your grill, or cause you injury.

Grill Brushes

Your most important tool for cleaning is your grill brush. A good grill brush should last, on top of being a cleaning work horse. When buying a grill brush there are a few things to look out for.
Material is the most important, not just for the bristles. The entire brush must be examined. Personally I would shy away from anything with plastic parts. You are going to use it on hot surfaces and plastic can melt.
My grill brush at the moment features a solid wooden handle, with a metal head. This style is my recommendation, as the wood can’t melt. The metal head is perfect for scraping the grates also.
Some other styles I like are full metal brushes, or hybrid styles. Be sure whatever you purchase you do your homework. Read reviews and questions anything you can get your hands on. You can see my recommended Best Grill Brush to see a good hybrid brush that will be easy on the grates, but hard on the grime.
Certain grills don’t recommend a grill brush. Flat tops for example require a totally different cleaning described below! Be sure to research your grill!
Since each fuel source has different steps for cleaning, I have included each below, starting with gas grills. Even if you don’t have a certain type of grill I still suggest you familiarize yourself with how to clean every grill.
If you lack a grill brush, you have options. In a pinch a sheet of foil works wonders. Crumple it up and use some tongs. Without some kind of buffer between the foil and your hands you risk injury. Trust me finger burns are the worst!

Step-By-Step Gas Grill Cleaning Guide

The first step in cleaning your grill is preheating the grill. Simply turn on the burners to medium heat, and close the lid. Allow the grill to heat up and smoke. If there is smoke it’s the left over fats being burned away.
Don’t let the smoke scare you, this is going to happen, it’s normal. After about fifteen minutes your grill should be ready to clean. We already went over good grill brushes so I won’t again, but use your grill brush.
Let the brush do most of the work. You can turn off the burners if you can’t handle the heat coming from them, I advice you leave them on. In a continuous motion, brush the grates from top to bottom.
Those two steps should clean your grill completely about 95% of the time. Some messes require more work, for example when food is stuck even after heating and brushing. You can try to let the heat work it’s magic, let the grill get hotter.
If nothing is working on cleaning the grates of gunk you can use this tip. Dip the brush in some water, this water will create steam which will loosen up tough messes. The mixture of steam and the brush should clean your grill completely, even really tough messes.
If your grates are getting very messy over time you can remove them to get a better clean. Some people like to clean their grates once a season, so every summer they do a complete clean.
When removing the grates it’s suggested to use a steel wool brush and warm water. Some suggest you avoid soap in cleaning but you can add a little bit, just make sure to rinse enough to remove soap residue.
Also lightly clean the inside of the cooking chamber, and the lid with warm soapy water. Like always be sure to clean all the soap residue, you don’t want any soap lingering in the chamber.
While performing a deep clean you can use this time to check the gas tubes. Sometimes gunk or obstructions can find their way into the tube. If you check every once in awhile you shouldn’t run into long term issues.
Cleaning your grill should be done prior to cooking. After cooking leave that grill the way it is. Unless you made a huge mess. A small mess on the grates provide a protective coating. This coating keep certain bacterias off your grill. It also provides some protection from the environment.
For a deep seasonal cleaning do the following. Remove the cooking grates from the grill. Clean with warm water and either a grill brush or a steel wood pad. You can also take the grill brush to the lower grates but be gentle, sometime those may be brittle.
Clean the cooking chamber, the burners, and the lid. Visually inspect the gas tubes to ensure no blockages are forming.
Hot Tip!
Be sure to rinse any parts washed with soap
thoroughly. Left over soap on food is a very unpleasant experience.
Certain styles of grills, flat tops for example, may require cleaning after cooking. Be sure to read the owner’s manual to ensure proper handling of your grill.
Also different style grills require different style cleaning tools. Be sure to research your grill to avoid any damage.

Charcoal Grill Cleaning

Cleaning a charcoal grill starts with the coals. Charcoal grills require less cleaning then other grills. Some experts suggest only cleaning it once per grilling season. Though if you find yourself using a public grill, like the ones popular in parks, I would suggest cleaning before use. You never know what was cooked or what was used as fuel on a community grill.
Doing a deep seasonal clean on a charcoal grill is very simple. First you need to clean the grill and charcoal grates. Simply remove them and give them a good brush with your handy grill brush. The goal is to brush any visible residue from both.
Depending on your grill you will need to clean the charcoal area. This area is prone to carbon build up. Simply wipe away any excess charcoal, and use a grill brush to brush away any hard gunk.
Also make sure you empty the ash catcher. This step should be done prior to cooking, always.
It is also recommended that you clean the top and the inside of the lid with warm water and a little soap. Just make sure to give them a proper rinse once you’re finished. You don’t want any soap residue to be in your grill.
If you are not doing a seasonal cleaning, a simple spot clean can suffice. Similarly to gas, the charcoal grill is easy to clean. Preheat the cooking grates, and brush them with a grill brush.
The act of heating up the grates should also kill any bacteria present. Certain things that I consider cleaning, some say it’s maintenance, are emptying the ash catcher, and oiling the grates prior to cooking.
Emptying the ash catcher is easy. Simply remove all the present ash. Oiling the grates may be a bit tougher, if you’ve never done it before. Pick an oil you use, I use coconut. Apply a medium amount to a kitchen towel, and wipe the grates while they’re hot.

Flat Top Grill Cleaning

Cleaning a flat top is a little different. First turn off the burners. Wait a short time, the grill should still be hot, but not to hot. Pour on some warm water, using a palmento brush, a soft brush, clean the grill of food.
Allow the grill to cool naturally. Once cooled dry off with a towel. Once the grill is clean and dry, you can polish the top with a food safe polish.
It is recommended that you clean your grill after each cooking session. Prior to cooking you don’t need to brush the grill, unless you see some debris on the grill. Simply preheat the grill top and wipe with an oil.
There are other types of grills out there. Most likely it requires a mix of these cleaning instructions. If you don’t see your style of grill on the list don’t freak out. Cleaning instructions are located in the owner’s manual. Many owners manuals are available online. Searching Google with your model number should come up with specific directions.


You are now an expert in cleaning some of the most popular grills. Remember that a clean grill leads to a better product. Keep your grill cleans not only to stop the spread of disease, but to also cook some amazing foods.