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How to (Safely) Clean Your Grill

July 20, 2020

A clean grill is the secret to better tasting BBQ. Most people do a quick wipe down, but we'll tell you how to clean your grill the right way.

man grilling on open flame in backyard

It's simple math, a dirty grill = dirty food. Cleaning grill grates before or after use is a must-do, as a few minutes of elbow grease now saves you hours of work later. But a deep clean at the start and end of the grilling season is recommended to keep everything in tip-top shape. 

Regardless if it’s gas or charcoal, here’s how to clean your grill*

What you’ll need

It doesn’t matter if you know how to clean your grill if you don’t have the right equipment. Being prepared will cut down on your work time, so gather your things and have them ready to go. Here’s what you’ll need to clean your grill: 

  • Grill Brush Or Wire Brush

  • Paper Towels Or Cleaning Rags 

  • Bristle Brush

  • 5 Gal Bucket

  • Dish Soap And Water

  • Baking Soda & Vinegar

  • Aluminum Foil

Step 1: Turn up the heat

For gas grills, place aluminum foil over the grill, close the lid, and turn up the burners. For charcoal grills, get the coals going as you normally would, place aluminum foil over the grill grate, and cover with your lid. The aluminum foil will increase the heat and help burn off excess grease and other bits stuck to the grates. Once it’s hot, carefully remove the foil.

Step 2: Scrub down the grates

With your grill nice and hot, this is your chance to give those grill grates a scrub with a wire brush. 

If you’re concerned about wire brushes, the easiest alternative is to get your aluminum foil from before and ball it up. Use tongs to hold the foil and scrub the hot grates. Clean the grates as much as you can.

(Pro tip: If scrubbing before cooking, a halved onion works wonders. Cut an onion in half, use tongs or a grill fork to take hold of the onion and scrape it along the hot grates. If cleaning a charcoal grill, you can toss the onion into the hot coals.)

Step 3: Cool down and prep

Let your grill cool down. If it’s a gas grill, turn off the gas and disconnect it. Set aside the tank. You can even remove the battery from the starter for safety. If it’s a charcoal grill, just dump the coals as you usually would.

Step 4: Soak 

Fill your bucket with warm water and mix in some dish soap. When the grill is cool, remove the grates and soak them for at least 15 minutes or longer if you haven’t deep cleaned them in a while (or ever). Take this opportunity to remove all other parts of the grill that can be removed without tools.

Step 5: Scrub it all

While the grill grates soak, scrub down everything else. Brush down the inside of the charcoal grill, including under the lid. For gas grills, you must scrub the heat diffusers, clean out the burner holes using a bristle brush, and scrape the grill's interior. Use a paste made of vinegar and baking soda for any especially grimy and hard to clean sections. 

Remove the grates from the soak and scrub them clean one more time. Rinse off and replace all parts of the grill, including grates.

Step 6: Wipe down

Replace the warm water and soap. Clean the exterior of the grill with a sponge or cleaning rags. Use paper towels or a throwaway towel to dry all parts. DONE!

Step 7: Ready for grilling or storage

Now that you’ve gone through all the appropriate steps of how to clean your grill, it’s time to enjoy the outdoors and some fresh food. Or perhaps you wanted to give it a deep clean before it’s covered up for the coming winter season. Regardless of the reason you chose to give your grill a scrub down, rest easy knowing its been safely and properly cleaned.

kebabs cooking on a charcoal grill

Signs it’s time for a replacement

After you followed our steps on how to clean your grill, you might find yourself looking at a chipped greasy mess of a "grill" and think it's time for an upgrade. In fact, you should look for these signs that you need to replace your grill.

  • A rusty or cracked firebox. You can remove a little rust with a stainless-steel brush, but if the firebox has rusted through or cracked, it's time to get a new grill.

  • Yellow or uneven flames or heat. If deep cleaning the burners doesn’t fix the issue, look into replacing the burner. Burners could cost $40 to $150. Before you buy, check your warranty to see if burners are covered

  • Flaking, cracked, or warped grates. Scrub icky stainless-steel grates with a wire brush as rusted metal or flaking cast-iron grates could contaminate your food. If they’re too far gone, you will need to replace the grates or grill as continued use will be unsafe. 

  • Leaking hoses and connectors. Do not cook with a gas leak! Replacing a cracked gas hose is a safety requirement! Mix dish soap and water in a spray bottle, then spray the hoses and connections to the gas tank. Open the gas. Bubbling is a sign of a dangerous gas leak requiring repair or replacement of your grill.

  • Excessive Grease buildup: If eve our how to clean your grill guide isn’t enough to clear up that built-up grease, you’re in danger of a fire hazard. If your best efforts can’t clear the grease, it could be time to replace the grill.

  • Poor stability: Rusty legs and an unstable grill base are safety hazards. If you can’t adequately stabilize your grill, replace it.

Luckily, Howard’s has a massive selection of grills and a team of customer service professionals that can help you find the perfect replacement!

*Always check the manufacturer's instructions before beginning any deep cleaning.

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