Is your outdoor grill your summertime sidekick? From fruits and vegetables to meat and fish, grilling gets it done—often with more flavor and less mess than using the stove—but it does require some maintenance. Here's how to keep your grill clean and primed to work its best.
Although the high heat of the grill kills lurking food-borne pathogens, it's important to keep the grill clean because it will ultimately affect its performance and prolong its life. "The more BBQ debris on the grill, the harder it is for the hot air to move around the inside, causing the grill not to heat up as fast and not to get as hot," says Kevin Kolman, Weber's head grill master. Simply put: A clean grill cooks food faster.
When to Clean
A monthly maintenance and cleaning will help prolong the life of the grill depending how often you use it. Gas, charcoal, and electric grills could be cleaned once a month or bi-monthly. "People are grilling more right now, so the good rule of thumb is for every five to seven cooks, clean your grill," says Kolman. For pellet grills, however, it is important to clean after every use. In addition to general cleaning, there are a few things to check off your maintenance list every time you grill. Ashes and old charcoal should be removed from the bottom of the bowl and ash catcher of a charcoal grill before each use to prevent build up. (Make sure the charcoal is fully extinguished before tackling that.) For a gas grill, empty the catch pan or tray of any grease or food residue to prevent fires or overflowing.
Cooking grates definitely do the heavy lifting in high grill season. Kolman recommends cleaning the grates of any food residue when the grill is hot, right after pre-heating. It's easy to make it part of your grilling routine. "The best way to clean any surface you grill on is to heat the grill up to 500-600 degrees for 10-15 minutes and use a grill brush," he says. Brushing all the excess debris down and out of the grill helps prevents any future food from sticking. All other cleaning should be done when the grill is cool to the touch.
What You Need
Start by protecting your hands. Kolman recommends wearing gloves when cleaning. "Smoke stains, grease stains, and other BBQ stains are hard to get off of your hands and clothes so using rubber gloves will make your life easier," he says. Whether it's a charcoal grill or gas, cleaning methods are very similar. The material of the surface, and whether it's on the interior or exterior, will determine the type of cleaning materials needed. "To keep your grill clean always use the correct surface cleaner," says Kolman. Read the labels of any cleaning solvents to know which surfaces they should be used on. "You want to use specific food surface cleaners for the inside of the grill and specific cleaners for the outside of the grill," he says. On porcelain surfaces, use a mild scouring pad along with a mild dish soap or surface cleaner. For a porcelain exterior, use paper towels and surface cleaners. Mild dish soap helps cut some of the grease and debris both inside and outside the grill.
For a stainless steel exterior, use a stainless steel cleaner first and then a polish. But use a microfiber towel. Using paper towels could scratch the surface due to the amount of cardboard inside the towel, he says. Pro tip: Make sure to go with the grain of the stainless steel while cleaning. This will help avoid scratching the surface of the grill.
Avoid Common Mistakes
To get the best results, don't spray surfaces with cleaning solvents and wipe them down too quickly afterwards. "You should always give the cleaners a couple of minutes to attack the grease and caked on debris and then wipe clean," says Kolman. And don't forget to use a grill cover. "Using a cover to keep the grill out of the elements will also help prolong the life of your grill," he says.