Although cleaning a grill is a dirty job, it should take no more than 20 minutes, tops, says Jeffrey Rosenfield, senior marketing manager at Char-Broil, one of the oldest grill brands. In fact, you should probably do it more than once a year.
“Not only will [cleaning] prevent unwanted flare-ups, but it also extends the life of the grill, reducing rust buildup,” he says.
Your grill manual will tell you the best way to clean and maintain that particular model. If the manual is long gone, we’re here to help.
Grate cleaning basics
The good thing about grills is that if you do slack off, contamination isn’t a big concern—high-heat cooking typically kills off any surface bacteria. That said, you should give heat some help by cleaning the charred bits off grates after each use.
Cleaning those charred and gunky grates is pretty much the least fun thing about grilling. One popular cleaning tool can even be dangerous—the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued warningsagainst using wire grill-cleaning brushes. The bristles can come loose and lodge in your food, causing injuries including perforating your gastrointestinal tract.
For that reason, some outdoor cooks use nylon brushes or stone scrapers to clean grates. If you do use the wire brushes, make sure they’re in good working order and that you thoroughly rinse grates to remove any bristles that may have fallen off.
If scrubbing grates isn’t your idea of a good time, try these hacks:
- Season before cooking: If you rub a cool grate with cooking oil (try an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs), food will slide off easily without leaving charred bits behind. “Couldn’t be simpler even if you tried,” says Rosenfield.
- Let your oven do the work: If you have a self-cleaning oven, pop the grates in and let the high-temperature, self-cleaning function burn off the crud. At the end of the cycle, just wipe the ash off the grates.
- Pop in the dishwasher: Place grates in the machine, then turn on the strongest cycle your machine offers.
Cleaning a gas grill
Since gas grills have more working parts than charcoal grills, they take a little more work to clean.
Make sure you turn off your gas supply or detach the propane tanks from the grill before taking apart the machine to clean the parts. Brush clean any moving parts, like V-shaped metal bars or ceramic briquettes.
Brush or wipe clean the burner tubes and make sure the gas ports are clean and unclogged. Scrub the grease collection tray, clean the top and bottom of the grill lid, and gather chunks and ash from the bottom of the grill.