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Cookout season is underway and if your gas or charcoal grill is still covered with the remnants of last year's cheeseburgers and barbecued chicken, now's the perfect time to give it a refresh so it will be ready to take on a summer's worth of festivities. These tips from the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab come from our rigorous tests of grill cleaners, along with decades of testing outdoor grills and grilling tools in our Kitchen Appliances Lab.
Follow all the steps below for those times your gas or charcoal grill needs a full-on cleaning, usually midway into a busy cooking season and before it's stored for the winter. Or, if time is short, just spruce up the parts that need the most attention for each cooking session and keep it going all season long.
Here are the three main steps:
Remove and clean the grates
Clean the grill’s interior
Clean the grill’s exterior
Step 1: Clean your grill grates
These are the workhorses of your cooker and because they come in direct contact with your food, they need to be cleaned regularly. Start by removing the cool grates and wiping or brushing off as much of the big, loose debris as you can with a mesh or nylon scrub pad or a grill brush.
In a sink or large bucket or basin, mix up a sudsy solution of a grease-cutting dish liquid, like GH Seal star Dawn, and hot water and place the grates in to soak. If they don’t completely fit in, immerse one half, soak, then flip it over to get the other side. After soaking for 15 to 30 minutes, put on some rubber gloves and scrub the grates clean with a sturdy grill brush or scrubbing pad. Take extra care with porcelain grates, because you don't want to damage them.
If the grates are really dirty, soak them a second time to help soften and remove more gunk without expending extra elbow grease. Finally, rinse the grates well and let them air dry.
If scrubbing isn’t your thing, Carbona’s 2-in-1 Oven Rack and Grill Cleaner is an effective, single-use, work-free option. This kit contains a large zip-top bag and a 16 oz. bottle of cleaner. Simply place your grates in the bag, pour in the liquid, seal the bag and shake gently so the cleaner coats the racks. Let it sit (away from children and pets) for eight hours, or even overnight. Afterward, remove the racks from the bag, lightly scrub away any stubborn residue and rinse them well. In our GH Institute Cleaning Lab tests, even grates from a charcoal smoker came out clean with virtually no effort after soaking overnight in Carbona's cleaner.
Step 2: Clean the inside of your grill
With the grates removed, brush down the inside of the grill and lid to remove any loose particles that have collected in the bottom and around the sides. With a putty knife or scraper, pry off any large peeling flakes of carbon and grease and if yours is a charcoal grill, empty the ash catcher. Don’t forget to clean the drip pan and grease cup in warm soapy water and line them with aluminum foil so they’ll be easier to clean next time.
There's no need to be too fastidious as the interior will get dirty again the next time you cook. You just want to remove any large accumulations to keep it from catching fire. It's usually not necessary to disassemble and clean the burners of a gas grill all that often as grease usually burns off them. But, if you notice they are badly caked with grease or clogged holes are causing an uneven flame when you cook, follow your grill manufacturer's directions on how to remove, clean and replace them.
Step 3: Clean the exterior of your BBQ grill
Mix up another batch of sudsy dish liquid and warm water and wipe down the exterior, handle, side trays and any bottom doors with a sponge or cloth or use a grease-cutting all-purpose cleaner, like Mr. Clean Clean Freak Deep Cleaning Mist. In our Lab tests, Mr. Clean Clean Freak cut grease on contact, plus it cleans without streaking. If your grill has a primarily stainless steel exterior, you can also use a specialized stainless steel cleaner. Whichever cleaner you use, afterward, rinse the grill exterior and wipe dry.
Finally, light the grill to make sure that none of the burner holes are clogged and all the gas lines and tubes are well-connected and in good condition.
How to keep a BBQ grill clean all summer
During grilling season, follow these simple steps to keep your grill looking great:
Go over the grates while they are warm — either before or after cooking — with a brush, pad or even a ball of aluminum foil to keep food residue from building up.
Regularly clean grates with a scrub pad, like Q-Swiper's scraper pad and disposable wipe — a 2021 Good Housekeeping Cleaning Award winner — or use a spray like Parker & Bailey BBQ Cleaner & Degreaser. In GH Institute Cleaning Lab tests, it dissolved stuck-on messes better and faster than others we tried and works on the exterior, too.
Stash a canister of grease-cutting cleaning wipes nearby, like Clorox Multi-Purpose Paper Towel Wipes, for quickly removing sticky messes from side tables and handles.
Keep wire brushes in good condition and replace them when worn so metal bristles don’t stick to the grates and get into your food.
Cover your grill between uses to keep the exterior clean and free of dust and dirt.
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