It’s Grilling Season, Which Means It’s Also Clean-Your-Grill Season—Here Are the Best Ways To Do It

That's gonna leave a mess.
That's gonna leave a mess. / Justin Ong/Moment via Getty Images
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There’s no big mystery when it comes to deciphering the appeal of grilling. For many, serving up seared burgers, hot dogs of indeterminate ingredients, and vegetables can be one of the best parts of the summer. But the longer your grill goes without a good scrubbing, the less tasty those cookout staples will likely be. Built-up food grime can affect flavor and even reduce heat circulation, making your grill less efficient and possibly inviting foodborne pathogens.

In short, you want to clean it. Below, we break down the best ways to do that, plus how regularly you should be giving it a scrub down.

How Often Should You Clean Your Grill?

Opinions on this vary. Some recommend cleaning before or after each use, but others think cleaning every five to seven times that you use it will be sufficient. The best solution may be to do a quick clean-up every time you cook and then a more substantial wipe down once or twice a month.

6 Simple Steps for Cleaning Your Grill

1. Scrub the grates while they’re hot.

Scraping off food that looks like the remains of Mount Vesuvius will be easier to do when the grill is still hot. You can do that after cooking, or while pre-heating. Use a stiff brush with a built-in scraper, or a rag held by tongs so you don’t burn yourself. Always remember that wire brushes can sometimes leave a bristle behind, which could conceivably be ingested and lead to internal injury.

You’ll want to inspect the grates carefully after cleaning. Alternately, wadded-up aluminum foil works just as well but doesn’t pose the same risks. While being careful not to burn yourself, be sure to clean under the grates, too.

2. Use a vacuum to suck up ash.

Your grill’s firebox can harbor a lot of debris, including charcoal if that’s your heating source. A putty knife will get rid of the build-up. You can use a shop vac to suck up the remnants, then wipe it down with water.

3. Scrape and wipe down the grease trap.

Most grills have a removable grease trap, bottom pan, and flavorizer bars. It’s best to remove them, scrape off any hardened material, and wipe off the remainder or soak them in water and detergent.

4. Clean the exterior.

While the exterior of the grill isn’t burdened with food grease, it’s still going to get dirty. You can use a mild detergent or stainless steel cleaner, but avoid abrasive wipes like scouring pads that will scratch the surface.

5. Soak it before you store it away.

When grilling season is over, it’s a good idea to give all the parts a good soak using soap and water or a mild degreaser.

6. Try an onion.

If you find caked-on gunk to be a recurring problem, you can try heating up your grill and then using a halved onion to wipe the grates down. The steam helps break up hardened debris.