Courtesy of BBQ Guys, bbqguys.com
Cleaning your grill may not be as fun as cooking on it, but regular upkeep is crucial for extending its lifespan. Food residue and carbon buildup that remain for extended periods of time will cause components to break down and rust. We recommend cleaning your grill grates after every cook and occasionally perform a deep clean on the entire grill to keep it in tip-top shape.
Clean Your Grill Grates
Would you rather wrestle with caramelized food stuck to your grill grates or simply brush aside ashy flakes in a matter of minutes? If you’re like us, you prefer your cleaning routine to be as quick and painless as possible. That’s why the first step of cleaning grill grates is a process called “burn-off,” which reduces food residue to white or gray flakes that’ll practically fall off the grates.
Close the lid and turn all burners to the highest heat setting for about 10–15 minutes. When smoke stops flowing from the back of the grill, you’ll know the burn-off process is complete. Turn the burners off, disconnect the gas if necessary, and let the grill cool off to a moderate temperature of about 250-300ºF before scraping the residue.
Grill brushes are the most common tool used for the job, but you can also loosely pack a few feet of foil into a ball and pair that with tongs to create a makeshift scrubber. No matter which method you choose, brush back to front once on every grate before checking to see if there are any spots that need more work. This should be fairly easy if you allowed enough time for burn-off.
Once the grates are clean, season them with a thin coat of high-smoke point oil (we prefer palm or grapeseed) to prevent food from sticking the next time you fire up the grill. It’s important to clean your grates after each cook to prevent caramelized buildup from wearing them down or causing food to stick to the cooking surface during your next cookout.
Clean Your Burners
There are several different types of gas grill burners, but all of them can be cleaned using the same methods. Start by turning off all burners, disconnecting the propane tank if applicable, and removing the burners when they’re completely cooled. Grills are usually shipped with a cotter pin holding the burners in place, so you’ll have to use needle-nose pliers to remove the pin before you can take the burners out of the grill body. Most grills also have a screen where the burner is inserted, so be sure to dust it off while you have access to it. From there, cleaning a gas grill burner is fairly easy:
- Check the burner’s orifice and air shutter for debris, using a bottle brush to clean if necessary.
- Use a paperclip to unclog the tiny ports that run down the burner.
- If your style of burner has a crossover channel, scrape away any soot with the paperclip.
- Pump canned or compressed air through the burner opening to force out ash and debris.
- Shake the burner to get any stubborn bits of debris to fall out.
- Wipe any grime on the exterior of the burner with a grill brush.
You will know it’s time to clean your burners when:
- The flames are spotty which indicates clogged ports.
- The flames are continually orange from too much soot inside the burner.
- If they just look grimy.
How frequently you need to clean them depends on the quality of your grill, what you cook, and how often you cook, but it’s an essential step of proper grill maintenance.
Deep Clean Your Grill
Avid grillers should cleanse their whole grill every 2–3 months, whereas the more casual crowd can get away with an all-over clean at the end of each grilling season. Because you’ll be reaching inside the grill to remove internal components and eventually the burners, you shouldn’t start the process until your grill is completely cooled. Always disconnect your gas line before deep-cleaning your grill, and it’s also a good idea to double-check that the burners are off just for good measure.
Deep-cleaning is done from the top down, which allows debris and scraped-off gunk to fall into the removable drip pan at the bottom of the grill. This means you shouldn’t start the process unless your grates are completely clean. If you didn’t burn off leftover grease and grime after your last cookout, just follow these simple steps to get up to speed:
- Turn all burners to high and close the lid for about 10–15 minutes.
- Open the lid, turn all burners off, and disconnect the gas if necessary.
- Allow grill to cool to a moderate temperature of about 250–300º F.
- Scrub each grate back to front with a grill brush or wadded ball of foil.
Start by removing the cleaned grill grates and setting them aside. This will give you access to the flame tamers, which need to be scrubbed clean with a stainless steel wire brush. When you remove each flame tamer from the grill, check the underside to see if there’s any food residue there too. Heavy exposure to direct flame will generally burn off drippings that make their way to the bottom, but it’s worth inspecting while you’re taking the grill apart.
Once your flame tamers are out of the way, all that should be left are the burners and (if your grill includes them) heat baffles. Clean your grill burners one at a time, scraping the exterior with a grill brush and using a paperclip to unclog the gas ports. If present, the heat baffles need a good scrubbing as well.
At this point, you should have removed every internal component from your grill besides the drip pan. Now’s the time to use your wire brush on the side walls and firebox walls, which must be maintained, or else corrosion will make the grill unusable. Also take a look at the underside of the hood for any carbon buildup and scrub it with a grill brush. The temperature probe on the back of the hood thermometer might also be coated with buildup, in which case it’ll need to be cleaned with Carbon-Off and a soft cloth or sponge.
Remember what we told you about cleaning from top to bottom? Your drip pan will probably be pretty full by now, so all you have to do is pull out from the grill and toss the debris and grime in the trash. You’ll be glad you did it this way.
Finally, cleaning a grill’s exterior might be the easiest part of the whole process. Clearing away dust, dirt, and grime for the grill body is as easy as wiping it down with a damp cloth — don’t even think about scrubbing it with an abrasive nylon brush.