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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Doug is a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and connoisseur. While he spends most of his time on editing and research, he sometimes moonlights as a product tester for particularly interesting things he comes across.
Flat top grills have been around for years but it is only recently that they have become more popular with BBQ enthusiasts. These grills look just like griddles but they have a circular heating element that guarantees fast conduction and even distribution of heat.
Grillers are opting for this outdoor appliance due to its versatility and flexibility. In any case, these grills offer a wide surface area for cooking and you can use it with various techniques like sautéing, grilling, shallow frying, stir-frying, and even baking. And unlike griddles and other types of grills, you can use a pot or a pan on a flat top grill.
As much as flat top grills are great for BBQs and outdoor cooking, they require regular cleaning and maintenance to guarantee optimal performance. These grills go through a lot during the cooking process. They bear the brunt of charred pieces of food, grease buildup, meat juices, and cheese drippings.
Considering this, cleaning your flat top grill is a necessity rather than a luxury. Preferably, you should give it a thorough clean after every use to remove stuck food particles and prevent cross-contamination. In any case, no one wants the taste of fish or seafood in their beefy dish.
Proper cleaning and maintenance of your flat top grill also goes a long way to give you your money’s worth by protecting your valuable investment from rust or corrosion.
As you know, many grills are made of metal alloys that contain iron like cast iron and carbon steel. This means they are likely to develop rust if left exposed to moisture and oxygen over a long period without taking action. You can avoid this by cleaning your grill regularly.
1. Signs that Your Flat Top Grill Needs Cleaning
As a rule of thumb, you should clean your flat top grill after every use. However, some grillers prefer to wait until after several uses to clean their grill. Moreover, some flat top grills only require a simple wiping down, meaning you do not have to deep clean every time. Whatever the case, here are some signs to look out for as far as cleaning your flat top grill is concerned.
Food cooks unevenly
One of the reasons why grillers love flat top grills is that they distribute heat evenly thus ensuring your food cooks to perfection. However, if your flat top grill is greasy and dirty, it will impede the even distribution of heat. This will also reflect on your food as it will similarly cook unevenly.
Food sticks to the cooking surface
It is common for food to stick to the cooking top, especially if the grill surface does not have a non-stick coating. However, if you notice this happening several times and in excess, then it is high time you considered giving your flat top grill a thorough cleanup.
Flakes of burnt oil in food
Your meals should be fresh and clean - free of any foreign particles. However, this is not a guarantee when cooking on a dirty flat top grill. An unclean grill is likely to have burnt oil on the cooking surface, which might end up in your food.
Cross-contamination of foods
If you notice your freshly cooked food has a conspicuous taste or an unwanted flavor, then it is highly likely you prepared it on an unclean grill. Cross-contamination is very common when cooking on unwashed flat top grills. The only way to prevent this in the future is to clean your grill between uses.
Grease buildup and troublesome fat
The presence of grease buildup and troublesome fat that won’t go away is another sign that your flat top grill requires thorough cleaning. If left unattended to, bacteria and disease-causing pathogens may thrive on your grill and cause all sorts of health problems
Rusty flat top
A neglected and abandoned flat top grill is likely to develop rust over time if exposed to moisture and air. If you do not use your grill often, consider giving it a thorough wash and covering it before storing.
2. Step by Step Guide on Cleaning a Flat Top Grill
Now that you know the signs to look out for when planning to clean your flat top grill, it’s time to discuss the steps involved. The good news is that you can clean your grill using different methods as highlighted in the next section.
Water and Steam
- Fire up the grill to loosen stuck food particles
- Sprinkle water on the cooking surface and use a grill brush to remove food residue
- Drain the water and repeat the step above until your flat top grill is clean
Liquid Soap and Sponge
- Spread a few drops dishwashing soap or liquid soap on the flat surface
- Use a sponge to scrub and clean the grill the traditional way
- Rinse with clean water
Vinegar and Water
- Mix an equal amount of vinegar and water
- Fire up your grill to loosen stubborn food particles
- Scrub away the debris using a heavy-duty scraper
- Sprinkle the vinegar and water mixture on the grill to form a gunk
- Turn off the grill and spread some more mixture while you scrub
- Repeat the above steps as necessary
Lemon Juice and Soda Water
- Mix one-third of lemon juice to water
- Fire up the grill to loosen stuck food residue
- Scrub away the food residue using a brush or scraper
- Sprinkle the lemon juice and water mixture on the grill
- Scrub the grill to remove the formed gunk
3. How Often Should I Clean My Flat Top Grill?
Ideally, you should clean your flat top grill after every use. Allow the cooking surface to cool down until it is warm before scrubbing it with a soft grill brush or scouring pad. Removing stuck food particles, grease, troublesome fat, and other drippings is much easier when the grill is still warm.
If your flat top grill is for home use, then you don’t have to worry about deep cleaning it every day. You can schedule it for a thorough cleaning every 4-6 months depending on how you often use it.
Deep cleaning your flat top grill will entail disassembling the entire appliance down and inspecting the burners, exterior, and gas pipe for leakages, cuts, rust, and other issues.
Make sure you cover the grill when not in use to protect it from harsh weather conditions and other elements such as dirt, dust, and debris. This is particularly important if you often leave your grill outdoors in the yard.