Here's everything you need to know about keeping your grill clean during the outdoor cooking season.
cleaning bbq grill with red wire brush
Credit: Konev Timur / Getty Images

Is your outdoor grill your summertime sidekick? If so, you probably turn to it regularly, since grilling is an efficient, fun, and flavorful way to cook—and often results in less mess than using the stove. This appliance, however, still requires some maintenance. And while the high heat of the grill kills lurking food-borne pathogens, it's important to keep it clean to improve its performance and prolong its life. "The more barbecue debris on the grill, the harder it is for the hot air to move around the inside," says Kevin Kolman, Weber's head grill master. This prevents the grill from heating up quickly—and means it won't be as hot as you need it to be. Simply put: A clean grill cooks food better and faster. Below, the grilling expert shares exactly how to clean your grill and keep it primed to work its best.

How Often Should You Clean Your Grill?

monthly maintenance and cleaning schedule will help prolong the life of the grill depending how often you use it. Gas, charcoal, and electric grills should be cleaned once or twice per month. That cadence ramps up in the summer, when we grill more: "The good rule of thumb is for every five to seven cooks, clean your grill," explains Kolman. Pellet grills, however, should be cleaned after every use. 

What to Clean Every Time You Grill

There are a few things to check off your maintenance list every time you grill. Ashes and old charcoal should be removed from the bottom of the bowl and ash catcher of a charcoal iteration before each use to prevent buildup. (Make sure the charcoal is fully extinguished before tackling this task.) For a gas grill, empty the catch pan or tray of any grease or food residue to prevent fires or overflow. 

How to Clean Your Grill Grates

Cooking grates definitely do the heavy lifting in high grill season. Kolman recommends cleaning the grates of any food residue when the grill is hot, right after pre-heating. It's easy to make it part of your grilling routine. "The best way to clean any surface you grill on is to heat the grill up to 500 to 600 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes and use a grill brush," he says. Brushing all the excess debris down and out of the grill helps prevents any future food from sticking. All other cleaning should be done when the grill is cool to the touch.  

How to Clean Your Grill

Identify Your Grill Type and Materials

Looking for a step-by-step guide to cleaning your grill? We have you covered. First things first: Identify your grill type (charcoal, gas, or pellet) and its surface material. While cleaning methods for all grill options are similar, their interior and exterior materials will determine the type of cleaning supplies you need. "Always use the correct surface cleaner," affirms Kolman. Read the labels of your cleaning solvents to better understand which surfaces they should be used on—and be prepared to have a few options on deck. "You want to use specific food surface cleaners for the inside of the grill and specific cleaners for the outside of the grill," he says. 

Protect Your Hands

Before you get started, protect your hands (Kolman always recommends wearing gloves when cleaning). "Smoke, grease, and other barbecue stains are hard to get off of your hands and clothes, so using rubber gloves will make your life easier," he says.

Clean the Interior and Exterior of Your Grill

On porcelain interior surfaces, use a mild scouring pad and dish soap or surface cleaner; porcelain exteriors should be cleaned with paper towels and surface cleaners. Mild dish soap helps cut some of the grease and debris on both inside and outside of a porcelain grill—so if stains on your exterior surface won't budge, suds it up. For a stainless-steel grill exterior, apply a stainless-steel cleaner first and then a polish using a microfiber towel. Never use paper towels on this material, which could result in scratches, Kolman says. Pro tip: Make sure to go with the grain of the stainless steel while cleaning, which will also help minimize scratches.  

Avoid These Common Grill Cleaning Mistakes

For the best results, do not spray surfaces with cleaning solvents and wipe them down too quickly afterwards. "You should always give the cleaners a couple of minutes to attack the grease and caked on debris and then wipe clean," says Kolman. And don't forget to use a grill cover: "Using a cover to keep the grill out of the elements will also help prolong its life," he says.


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