How to make your barbecue shine — and food taste better

Grilling can be messy business, and grill cleaning often is neglected. That’s unfortunate, because conscientious grill care improves the taste of grilled foods — grills coated with baked-on grease and grime impart unpleasant flavors — and dirty grills tend to break down faster as parts clog and corrode.

They even can be safety risks. Accumulated grease suddenly can ignite, burning anyone standing nearby.

Whether you’re just an occasional griller or a year-round devotee to a gas or charcoal grill, here’s how to keep your grill clean…


Just before you place food on your grill, use a pair of long metal kitchen tongs to dip a balled-up paper towel into cooking oil, then wipe the oil across the hot bars of the grate. The oil coating makes food and grease less likely to stick to the bars, which makes cleanup easier later. Any type of cooking oil is fine, but grape seed, peanut and canola oil all have relatively high flash points, which reduce the odds that they will ignite.

After you remove food from the grill, close the lid and — if you have a gas grill — turn the temperature all the way to high. The intense heat will cook off much of the food residue. After five minutes, turn off the heat, and while the grill is still warm but not hot, scrape the grate with a wire-bristled brush. If you use a charcoal grill, you cannot quickly crank up the heat, but you can close the lid for five minutes, then scrape the grate as best you can.

When the grate has somewhat but not completely cooled, put on heat-resistant gloves, flip the grate over and scrape the underside with the wire brush.

If the grit on your grate proves stubborn, the next time you are done grilling, lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the grate and cook off the residue. The foil concentrates the heat onto the grate.

Helpful: For charcoal grills, use natural lump charcoal, such as Royal Oak or Wicked Good. This burns cleaner than other coals, leaving less residue. Warning: If your grill has a drip pan, empty it after every use to avoid grease fires.

EVERY 15 to 20 TIMES

It’s certainly not the fun part of grilling, but giving your grill a more thorough cleaning every once in a while is important, especially at the end of the season.

About every 15 to 20 grillings, after you have scraped the top of the grate and the grate has cooled, take it out of the grill, flip it over and apply a coating of a food-safe cleaner, such as Simple Green (800-228-0709, Wait a few minutes, then scrub both sides of the grate with your grill brush or grill-cleaning block. Rinse with clean hot water or damp-wipe.

Also, clean the belly of your grill every 15 to 20 uses. To do so…

If you have a gas grill: First shut off the gas supply valves. Remove only the parts of the grill that absolutely must be removed to access and clean the interior. Taking out parts unnecessarily increases the odds that you won’t get everything back together correctly.

Also examine the gas jets of a gas grill. If grease or grit is visibly clogging any holes, use a toothpick to very gently clear these blockages. Be careful not to make the holes bigger, because this could disrupt the gas flow and throw off the temperature.

If you have a charcoal or gas grill: When the grill is cold, spray the interior basin of the grill and any parts you have removed with Simple Green, wait a few minutes, then use a wire brush, putty knife or steel wool to remove debris from unfinished metal grill components and rinse or damp-wipe. Use a plastic putty knife, wooden spatula or plastic scrubber on any stainless steel, enameled or painted surfaces.

Check the inside of the grill’s lid. If there’s a layer of grease or flaky creosote (the flakes may look like peeling paint, but they’re not), spray it with Simple Green and then use a sponge, paper towels, plastic putty knife or wooden spatula to clear it away.

Be sure to remove any grease and grime from the channel or edge where the grill’s lid connects to the body of the grill when the lid is closed. Filth here could cause the lid to stick shut, and forcing open the stuck lid of a lit grill can cause a fire.

Don’t feel guilty if some grime remains. You don’t have to get all parts of the grill spotless. Most important is to get the cooking surfaces clean and to avoid big buildups of grease or creosote that could ignite.

Related Articles