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Share Your Grill Cleaning Tips!

Posted by in Kitchen Talk

Tasty Kitchen Blog: Kitchen Talk (Grill Cleaning Tips)

The unofficial start of the grilling season is just around the corner, and I for one cannot wait. Yes, I know in some places, the cold hasn’t quite relaxed its grip just yet, and in other places, it’s been grilling season since 1983. But still. There’s just something exciting about being able to grill with everyone else. Perhaps cooking over fire outdoors is both primal and communal.

Every year, after going through a winter that makes grilling outside impossible, I look forward to the day I can finally lift that heavy grill over off. But I always do it with a bit of trepidation, wondering what I might discover underneath. Did my husband remember to clean the grates properly before throwing the cover on? Did we perhaps get surprised by the first snowstorm and inadvertently cover the grill with food still inside? Will I find my long lost pair of tongs in there? Will I be greeted by that orange monster, rust?

Of course, I’m being melodramatic. We never leave food in the grill, so I don’t know why images of moldy cobs of corn and hockey-puck burgers on black crusted grates dance in my mind. I’ve also never found utensils left inside accidentally. (I should have been a surgeon.) But the cleaning-before-storing part? That’s real. I watch too many food shows and have grate envy. Their grills look so nice and smooth, and when they rub that piece of paper towel dipped in oil all over, the paper towel still looks clean! How do they do it?

So to prepare ourselves for what I hope to be a long season of outdoor cooking and al fresco dining, let’s make sure our equipment is in good shape and looking its best.

What are your favorite grill cleaning tips?

My husband does most of the grilling around here, and my pet peeve is those grates. I look at them and all I want to do is take a brush and Baker’s Joy and make them all shiny and new again. But as I researched grill cleaning tips online, I read that you actually want that black crud on your grates after cooking. Minus any large pieces of food, of course. Apparently, that coating around the grates protects their seasoning in between grilling sessions, and it also adds an extra barrier against rust. The time to clean it up is before grilling, not after. Who knew! (Anytime someone gives me permission to NOT clean, I obey.)

I’ve also seen people clean their grates with a thick disc (about 1-inch thick) of fresh onion pierced with the pointy end of a grilling fork. Once the grill has been preheated, the onion is rubbed all over the grates. Supposedly, acid from the onion helps clean and even disinfect the grates (especially if using a public grill), and it has the added bonus of adding a bit of flavor and making it smell like you already have something amazing cooking in there. I’ve never tried it, but it can’t hurt, right?

I have yet to tackle the outside of our grill, so I’m looking forward to all your cleaning tips. Share your (or your husband’s) favorite tips below!



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Jennifer on 5.22.2015

We cookout at parks and on the beach, so, it is so not about the grill, just need a box or a deep hole in the sand and a grate. It is all about the fire, just wood, charcoal, and newspaper, light it up, let it burn down and keep an eye on it. Rub down your grate with onion or newspaper or tin foil, and cook. If you are a half descent home cook you can cook over open flame, trust yourself. All I bring is tongs and fire making stuff and paper towels and food, split it between the kid’s go bags, and you are eatin’ good. Grilled steak tacos with lemon and salt. Toasted marshmallows. Done! And way better than PB&J.

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kay43026 on 5.22.2015

Buy a new grill!! Well, we bought a new one…but needed one.

I/we make sure, once we preheat the grill, to use a stainless steel T-shaped grill brush to get all the crud off. I’m from the school of cleaner is BETTER. I mean, would you just keep cooking inside and not clean the pans you use? Kind of gross!!

I also (because I’m type-A & a little bit of a perfectionist) use stainless steel cleaner wipes for the outside of our grill. Sometimes I need to wipe it down with another cleaner first, then finish it up with the wipes for a ‘like new’ look. I do this before covering the grill once it’s cooled. Even thought our stainless steel grill is very pretty to look at, we keep in covered when not in use, which really keeps it looking nice longer. When we have company, we just put the grill cover in the deck boxes that house the chair cushions…since they’re empty because the cushions are on the chairs!!

I’m also pretty anal about keeping the drip pan underneath emptied and clean. Just takes a few minutes…and it REALLY helps to keep down the flare ups, especially when cooking a fattier cut of meat.

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Aaryne McEvoy on 5.21.2015

You’re supposed to clean your grill? Just kidding. Although I do come from the “camp” that less is more, but I suspect that is self-serving. I go with the advice that says to brush the grates right before grilling food while the grates are hot. The rest of it just adds flavor! Now, the outside of the grill is another story. Every time I race out to cook something it occurs to me that I have not wiped down the side table part of the grill where I rest plates and utensils since the dinosaur ages. It’s long forgotten by the time I get back in the house and then I repeat the same thought process the next time I grill. What I need is for some company to come over and scare me that they might see it – then I will remember. Probably.

Talina on 5.21.2015

My boyfriend has tried a few different things and his favorite way is to bring a container of hot water and dip the wire brush in it then scrub the grill – I guess we’re really ‘steam cleaning’ it. It works really well for us. My contribution to his idea is to put the hot water in a plastic container with a lid – that way he doesn’t spill water in the house on the way to the BBQ.

Donna on 5.20.2015

I agree with comment 1 – I can not tae the noise the aluminum foil makes to clean so use a wire brush before grilling when its hot. I also spray my grills with pam before cooking (standing way back) so the meat pieces really do not stick.
Horror lighting up for the first time a few weeks ago – the bottom flame protector had a hole in it and I had flame coming out the back cover – Hot and too close to propane line!
Scary – got a new grill now!

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Patricia @ ButterYum on 5.20.2015

My husband is a fan of using a wire brush on really the really hot grate. I’ve never tried this, but I’ve read that you can put a cool grate in a large plastic garbage bag with a paper towel that’s been doused in ammonia. Twist the bag closed and let it sit outside (or in the garage) for a couple days to let the fumes from the ammonia loosen all the burnt on stuff. Carefully open the bag outside (strong fumes will escape), and spray the grates off with a hose. Supposedly works for oven racks too. If all else fails, you can usually buy replacement grates at the hardware store.

kim on 5.20.2015

I know the aluminum foil ball is supposed to be a great way to clean the grate, but am I the only one who just can’t stand that noise? It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me.

We keep it really simple: We use a Weber gas grill, and after it preheats for a good 15 minutes or so we just use a wire brush to get off anything solid. I swear, we’re pretty neat clean folks, but I’ve never done more than this, and it’s never seemed necessary.

When we put the grill away for the winter we wipe it all down, then it’s covered and tucked in the “mudroom” which is between the basement and garage. When we get it back out for grilling season we just wipe it down and wire brush the grates again.

mctrot on 5.20.2015

Basically, I treat my grates the same way I treat my cast iron skillets. Clean them with friction, usually from crumpled-up foil, then oil them. The only difference is that I do the grates while the charcoal is heating instead of after using them. BTW, onion does have antiseptic properties, so it can’t hurt.

Lynne R on 5.20.2015

We use a grill brick or wire grill brush to clean after the grate has preheated–before the next heating. We just became aware of a caution on the wire grill brush–be sure there are no broken off bits of wire left on your grill. Those stick to your food and then if you swallow them, they can cause internal damage. Who knew? (I guess the people who had to go to the hospital)

Anyway, we are much more careful now.

Mary D. on 5.20.2015

After the grate cools (I always grill with charcoal), I scrub it with a rolled up ball of heavy-duty aluminum foil as water runs over it. Then I wash it in hot sudsy water and it’s ready to use again. Next time I grill, however, I first squirt charcoal lighter over the new coals, then put the grill in place and light the coals. The flames that shoot up thoroughly sterilize the grate.

ellie k on 5.20.2015

The grill top on my grill is two parts, I can put them in the dish washer and give them a good cleaning, most of the grill parts will fit in the dish washer if I fit them just right. works well for me. It is a weber grill.

Patty Paulsen on 5.20.2015

Aluminum foil is your friend. Make a ball, use it to clean the grates. I usually do this towards the end of the pre-heat stage. Then I slather some canola oil on the grates. Voila! clean and oiled, ready to go. BTW, the time after you are done cooking but while the grates are still hot is a good time to use the aluminum foil ball to get the big pieces off for next time.

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C. L. ( Cheryl ) "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser on 5.20.2015

We grill year round in Florida. My husband uses a wire brush while it is still hot/warm across the grills, easy peasy and ready for the next round! Happy Grillin’ Y’All.