How to Best Clean Grill Grates (and Keep ‘Em Clean)

It’s grilling season, baby! If you’re hoping to impress everyone with your skills, start with clean grill grates. When you don’t regularly clean your grill grates the right way, you allow unsavory and unsafe gunk to build up and coat your otherwise perfectly cooked meat and veggies. Turns out, high heat does not clean as well as you think, and ash is not all you’re tasting on your plate.

Relax, your Hometown Heroes are here to help you keep your grill and grates in the best shape for summer bar-be-que season.

It’s Time for a Deep Clean

Depending on how often you grill, you should give your grill grates a deep clean either once or twice a year. If you haven’t been staying on top of your “after every use” cleanings and it’s been a while since your grill was well and truly clean, it’s probably a good idea to deep clean your grill grates and interior now, before the summer starts in earnest. 

Deep cleaning the main parts of your grill — the grates, the interior, the grease trap — each involves four steps. 

  1. Scrape large debris off.
  2. Use a cleaning solution to loosen the remaining gunk and grease, then scrub away and rinse.
  3. Wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth (moisture = rust).
  4. Apply a coating of vegetable oil to further prevent rust and make it harder for food to stick.

It’s a bad idea to try to use high heat to burn everything to ash. 1) it doesn’t work that well and 2) it reduces the lifespan of your grill. But for the first step, heat is your friend. Let your grill heat up for 10 minutes to loosen the gunk inside, then wait for your grill to cool until it is just warm before performing step 1. More will scrape away this way. Then wait until the grill is cool before performing the next three steps to avoid burns.

Deep Cleaning the Grates
  1. After letting your grill heat up and cool down to loosen debris, crumple up a ball of aluminum foil and, holding it with your tongs, scrape the warm grates clean. The foil will mold into the shape of the grates and is abrasive enough to remove larger debris in hard-to-reach places. It can remove enamel over time, so reserve this for the occasional deep-clean, not your everyday cleaning.
  2. Once the grates are cool, remove them. Fill a sink or large bucket with warm water and a ½ cup of baking soda. At the same time, mix a paste of dish soap and baking soda in a bowl. First apply the paste to the grates, then let the grates soak in the other solution for a half hour or more. Once the grates have soaked long enough, scrub them clean with a scour pad or cloth and rinse.
  3. Wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth.
  4. Dip a cloth or paper towel in vegetable oil and apply a coat of oil to each grate.

Wait, why baking soda? Baking soda is a natural cleaning agent. It dissolves dirt, grease and other sticky substances. It’s made up of mildly abrasive crystals that scrub without scratching. Plus it neutralizes odors. Why use chemical cleaners when there’s a cheaper, safer alternative?

Deep Cleaning the Interior and Grease Trap

With the grates removed, you can clean the rest of the grill. The interior and grease trap don’t need to be spotless, but when the heat is high, grease and carbon buildup will smoke and can spoil the flavors you’re after. Keeping both clean and oiled also prevents your grill from rusting, extending its lifespan.

  1. Use a putty knife or grill scraper to remove most of the buildup.
  2. Mix a solution of warm water and dish soap, then use a scour pad or cloth to scrub the surfaces. Anything more abrasive, like steel wool, will damage the grill’s enamel. Rinse the solution off when it’s clean enough.
  3. Wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth.
  4. Dip a cloth or paper towel in vegetable oil and apply a coat of oil to the interior surfaces.

Buy a Better Brush

If you own a grill brush with metal bristles, it’s time to replace it. For starters, these brushes can damage the enamel on your grill, reducing its lifespan. Worse, these bristles can break loose over time and get stuck in residue on your cooking grates. Every year, over a hundred people end up in the ER because they accidentally ingested one of these metal bristles. Yikes!

A brush with nylon bristles is safer, but the bristles melt if you use it on a still-hot grill, and you can bet it’s leaving microplastics on your grates after every use. Plus you have to regularly clean the bristles, which is a chore. So what are you to do? You absolutely need a brush of some kind.

We recommend the Grill Rescue, a brush made from the same material as firefighting gear that steam cleans your grates. All you need to do is soak the pad in water then push it over the still-hot grill grates. You don’t even need to use much force. To clean the pad, just toss it in the dishwasher. It’s not great for deep cleans, you’ll need something more abrasive (like aluminum foil), but it’s easy-to-use and effective for everyday cleanings. 

Tips for “After Every Use” Cleanings

A quick clean after each use makes your deep cleans much quicker and easier. And if you do a good job with these everyday cleanings, you can probably get away with only one deep clean a year.

  1. After every use, give the grates a quick scrub with your grill cleaning brush.
  2. Once the grill has cooled, dunk a rag or ball of paper towels in vegetable oil and apply a coat to the grates. This will keep your grates cleaner and prevent rust.

After every use (or at least every few uses), you should also remember to scrape out the grease trap. For those that cook with charcoal, empty the ash pan into a metal can.

And that’s all you need to know to keep your grill grates clean. We hope you have an amazing summer, and if your appliances need any more love and attention this season — i.e. they break — remember to give your Hometown Heroes a call.

Happy grilling!