How To Clean Your Grill Grates Like A Grill Master

4 easy methods to get your grill lines back.

Everything tastes better with grill marks. Whether you’re cooking up burgers and dogs, steak and seafood, or fresh veggies, food from the grill is king. But when the plates are empty and the bellies full, the last thing you want to worry about is cleaning—especially those super hot grill grates.

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Obviously, the surface you cook your food on is pretty important. Neglecting to remove the grease, marindates, and drippings from your grill grates is not only a fire hazard, it’s kind of gross. But there’s good news: cleaning your grill grates is a simple project any grill master can perform. A small investment of intentionality and time can yield big results the next time you’re firing up the backyard grill.

Why should I clean my grill + grill grates?

You’re asking the right question. In summation: because dinner will taste better if you do. Here are six reasons why you should regularly clean your grill grates.

  • Stop bacteria. You wouldn’t eat dinner off a dirty plate… so you shouldn’t prepare dinner on a dirty grate. Uncleaned grates can attract bacteria, guests you definitely don’t want to invite to dinner.
  • Better tasting meals. A cleaned grate means you’re not cross-contaminating tonight’s steak with last week’s teriyaki salmon… not an appetizing thought.
  • Better cooking experience. Good grilling requires some patience, but if your grill is clean, you won’t be waiting quite as long. A clean grill and grates will heat more quickly and evenly than dirty ones, meaning you’ll be sinking your teeth into dinner sooner.
  • Clean grills last. You made a financial investment in your grill, and you want it to last. Simply put, clean and well maintained grills have more staying power over the long haul.
  • Boot carcinogens. The grilling process, especially overcooking at high temperatures, can create carcinogens. Regular grate cleaning will help mitigate that health risk and give you peace of mind.
  • Get the grill marks. Those grill marks not only look pretty, they lock in the juices and flavors that make your meals sing. But they’ll be a no-show to the grill party if your grates are covered in build-up.

Before you clean the grill + grill grates, identify your equipment

Before you run to the dish soap and scrub brush, we need to take a second to assess the type of grill grates you’ll be cleaning. This will directly influence how you clean your grates, and what types of cleaning tools will be appropriate for use.

The three major types of grill grates are:

  • Porcelain - they’re great because they resist rust (as long as the finish is intact), but they can be quite delicate. For these, you’re going to want gentle tools like a soft-bristled or nylon brush.
  • Cast Iron - these grates are battle strong, and can handle the intense cleaning of a stiff grill brush. The not-so-good news: they tend to rust easily. For that reason, you’re going to want to rub them down with some vegetable or canola oil after each cleaning.
  • Stainless Steel - durable enough to stand up to those stiff cleaning brushes, with less potential for rust. Even still, you’re going to want to make sure these grates are dried thoroughly after each cleaning. Don’t take a risk on rust.

Grill cleaning tools of the trade

The cleaning tools you use will be based mostly on personal preference and the type of grill grates you have. Choices include:

  • Wire grill brush - the old classic standby for hard scrubbing. Remember, these are not appropriate for porcelain grill grates. Pay careful attention as you use these, as some wire bristles have been known to break off and even get in food. Ouch.
  • Soft-bristled or nylon brush - required for cleaning porcelain grates as they won’t scratch the surface finish. If you have cast iron or steel grates, however, they likely won’t be strong enough for you.
  • Nylon scouring pad - easy to use, and when added to the cleaning methods below, strong enough to remove caked on gunk.
  • Silicone sponge - reusable and effective. Mother Earth thanks you for your conscious choice.
  • Grill stone - pumice-like rock that cleans as you glide it across your grates. Finish with a gentle wipe down with a cleaning cloth and you’re all set.
  • Aluminum foil - it's not just for wrapping baked potatoes. Crumble a piece into a ball, grip with long tongs, and scrub your hot grates clean.

4 methods for cleaning your grill grates

Cleaning your grill grates is important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be complicated. Here are four easy, effective, and quick methods for getting your grates back to their former glory.

  1. Firing - The quickest method for grate cleaning. Remember, fire is your friend!

    1. After you’ve finished grilling, turn the burners up to high (or shuffle the coals if you’re using charcoal) and let the grill go for 15 minutes with the lid open. This will get all the gunk and drippings piping hot.
    2. After the heat-up, take a grill brush (or other tool of your choice) and gently brush the grates clean. It should be rather easy, but be sure to keep your hands away from the grates. You don’t want to cook yourself in the process.
  2. Steam bath - The power of hot water to make your life easier.

    1. Fill a grill-safe container with water—like an aluminum tray or an old coffee can.
    2. Fire up your grill to 600oF and then turn it off. If you’re using charcoal, stoke it to as hot as you can get it.
    3. Place the container of water directly on the grates, close the lid, and let the steam do its work for 30 minutes.
    4. The steam will loosen up all the gunk inside your grill, making it easy to finish the job by scrubbing off any loosened build-up with a silicone sponge.
  3. Soap and water - never underestimate the oldest combo in the book.

    1. Fill an appropriately sized tub with water and add a highly-concentrated dish detergent. We prefer Dawn Ultra Liquid Dish Soap for its ability to cut through tough grease easily.
    2. Mix the water and soap by hand, and then add your grates, making sure they’re fully submerged.
    3. After letting them soak for 30 minutes or so, remove the grates. Brush or wipe them clean.
    4. If using cast iron or stainless steel grates, be sure to dry them thoroughly with a towel before returning them to your grill.

Pro-tip: This method is great for the longevity and maintenance of your grill. Even if you choose another method for regularly cleaning your grates, put the soap and water bath on a monthly rotation to get the most out of your grill.

  1. Vinegar and water - the other oldest combo in the book, and just as effective.
  2. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Mix by shaking.
  3. Spray liberally on grill grates and let sit for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Using a brush or cleaning pad, clean the loosened grim from your grates.
  5. Remember to thoroughly dry grates, especially if using cast iron or stainless steel.

More grill + grill grate cleaning hacks

Remove water stains or weather elements by giving your grill a bath with some soapy water and a microfiber cloth. After sudsing up, make sure to rinse your grill completely to stop water stains. It’s critically important you take the time to dry your grill completely with a towel to stop rust in its tracks.

An Extra Durable Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is your best friend when it comes to grill cleaning. The thing really does a number on grease splatters. Like a sponge (but better), you just wet it down, squeeze out the excess water, and wipe it over any areas in need of attention. When you’re finished, rinse the grill down and dry it thoroughly.

Don’t skip the grill cover. A good quality cover will protect your outside grill from the elements, and literally add years to its life.

With a little time and elbow grease, your grill will be living in its clean-grate-glory-days before you can say “backyard barbeque.” Speaking of, when are you inviting us over?

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