How to Clean Grill Grates

Read on to learn how to keep your grill grates in great shape and guarantee your food always tastes great.

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Next Project
Time

Two days

Complexity

Beginner

Cost

Less than $20

Introduction

A simple method for cleaning gas, charcoal, smoker or pellet grill grates.

Materials Required

  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking soda
  • Garbage bag
  • Towel
  • Vinegar

Grill grates are like most cooking appliances that food touches. If not cleaned properly, bacteria will make it their home, potentially making you, your family and your guests sick. That can be a big downer during your summer outdoor grilling parties.

Grill grates are typically made of stainless steel or cast iron, and are often porcelain coated. Stainless steel grates can handle more vigorous cleaning compared to porcelain, which can be easily scratched. It’s important to use soft brushes on porcelain and make sure the grates are dry after cleaning to avoid rust.

Cast iron grates can be cleaned with a ball of tin foil, or a cleaning brush and dish soap for tough areas. Cast iron grates without an enamel coating run a higher risk of rusting, so be sure to completely dry those after cleaning as well.

Grates should be cleaned after every use; it’s quick and easy. First, heat the grill all the way to burn off anything left on the grates. Then turn it off and wait a few minutes. While the grates are still warm, remove residue with an appropriate scraper and brush.

Ideally, you should deep clean your grill once a year to prevent dirt, food and grease buildup. Here’s an effective and safe way to deep clean your grill grates:

Project step-by-step (6)

Step 1

Start with a cool grill

Ensure that your gas, charcoal, smoker or pellet grill and its grates are completely cool.

Dirty grill on roadsideFamily Handyman

Step 2

Place grates in cleaning vessel

Put the dirty grates in a garbage bag or shallow bucket. Mix in one cup of baking soda and two cups of vinegar.

Place grates in cleaning vesselFamily Handyman

Step 3

Soak grill grates

Tie off the garbage bag and let the grates soak in the mixture for at least 12 hours.

Soak Grill GatesFamily Handyman

Step 4

Use aluminum foil to clean grill

Remove the grates and scrub with an aluminum foil ball. Because the foil is less abrasive than a grill brush, it won’t damage any porcelain or non-stick coating. Then rinse the grates thoroughly under warm water.

aluminum foil to clean grillFamily Handyman

Step 5

Dry the grates

Dry the grates completely with a clean towel before putting them back on the grill.

Dry the gratesFamily Handyman

Step 6

BBQ grill cleaners

Spray-on grill cleaning products offer convenience and ease of use. In my experience, Easy-Off Heavy Duty Oven and Grill Cleaner effectively removes grease, baked-on food residue and sticky gunk.

Just apply the foaming spray and allow it to penetrate whatever’s baked on. Within minutes, you can wipe the grates clean with little or no scrubbing. If some stubborn grill gunk remains, soak the grates in the foam spray for up to four hours before wiping clean.

It’s important to be aware of what’s in some of these grill cleaning products. According to the National Capital Poison Center, β€œThe same qualities that make oven and grill cleaners desirable and effective – dissolving tough, baked-on food and grease – also make them poisonous. Oven and grill cleaners often have a high pH, making them alkaline corrosives. Upon contact, via any route, they can cause tissue damage, burns, and, at the very least, irritation.”

While using spray-on oven/grill cleaning products, always wear gloves and eye protection, and cover other nearby surfaces. When finished, ensure you’ve wiped out all the cleaner. Several grill cleaners recommend heating the grill to a certain temperature to burn off any remaining solution. As always, follow the instructions on the can.

Pros of grill cleaners

  • Easy to use;
  • Works quickly.

Cons of grill cleaners

  • Made of harsh chemicals;
  • Can be corrosive to outside surfaces;
  • Eye and skin irritant;
  • Often requires a thorough cleaning and burning-off of chemicals.