How to Clean Grill Grates Like an Expert

Last Updated on April 15, 2021
Doug Stephen

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.

How to Clean Grill Grates Like an Expert

Everyone loves a good outdoor cookout, but then there is the dreaded clean-up. Many outdoor cooking enthusiasts don’t keep their grills in good condition because they leave it too long to clean their grills that dirt, food, and other contaminants attach to the surfaces.

Cleaning your grill grates can be a straightforward process, even if it’s been a while since you last took a brush to them. Besides, clean grill grates look better and provide a more even outdoor cooking experience.

Follow these simple tips to have your grates looking like new in no time.

1. Before You Begin Cleaning

cast iron

The first step is to determine which type of grill grate you are going to clean. The material is important because you could damage the grates using the wrong cleaning product on their surfaces. Grills generally use three types of material.

  • Stainless steel grill grates: These are the most robust grill grate types and can withstand contact with rigid bristle brushes. 
  • Cast iron grill grates: This material is durable, and there is no problem using a stiff bristle brush. Be aware there may be some rust on the surface if it’s been a while since their last clean.
  • Porcelain-coated grill grates: As long as there are no breaks in the surface, porcelain-coated grates do not rust. You need to use more gentle tools such as a soft-bristle brush because rougher materials can damage the coating.

2. Turn Up The Heat

cleaning grill

Pieces of food and dirt can be stubborn, and the quickest way to loosen their grip is to turn up the heat. If you’re cleaning gas grill grates, fire up your grill and close the hood. After approximately 20-30 minutes, you can lift the lid to check on the progress. You should notice any remaining food bits have blackened or vaporized. 

If you are cleaning charcoal grill grates, the best time to apply heat is immediately after cooking. You can move the coals around to raise the heat level. If the grill is already cool and the coals are no longer producing heat, dump them in a safe container. You can scrape away as much dust and dirt as possible using a grill brush. 

3. Soak Your Grill Grates

spraye-cleaner-for-everyday-use

When considering how to clean grill grates, a large bucket of soap and water is essential. The heat should have loosened most debris attached to your grates, and the soapy solution makes it easy to remove any remaining contaminants. 

When food is present on grill grates, it promotes bacterial growth. By soaking your grill grates in soapy water for at least 30 minutes, you can kill any microorganisms that may still be present after heating. 

While the grates are soaking, use your brush to lightly scrub the surfaces, taking care to clean both the grills’ top and bottom surfaces. If you notice any debris that won’t budge, you can apply more pressure, being careful not to bend or scratch the surface. If it has been several months since you last cleaned your grill grates, you may need to soak them for longer to remove all the debris.  

Keep a spray bottle or hose nearby, and rinse the soapy water from the grill grates after cleaning. Keep a large towel handy and place the grates gently on top of the soft fabric to begin drying. You can use a second towel to lightly dry the surfaces. Cast iron grates are particularly vulnerable to rust, so they must be completely dry before going back on the grill.  

When drying your grill grates, this is an excellent time to inspect their surfaces for cracks or scrapes that could affect their performance. If you notice any chips on porcelain-coated grill grates, you can apply a porcelain touch-up paint. If you’re not confident doing this procedure, you can ask a local outdoor grill retailer if they offer a repair service.

Once the grill grates are clean and dry, you can place them back on the grill. Although this cleaning process works with ingrained debris, it’s much easier to perform the procedure after each cookout.

4. Alternative Grill Grate Cleaning Tips

grill brush

Burning off the debris and washing with soap and water while scrubbing with a brush is the best method for keeping your grill grates in pristine condition. However, other techniques work fine and don’t take as much time to perform.

Apply Vinegar or Grill Sprays

When learning how to clean grill grates, you may prefer to use a store-bought grill spray. This method works well, but you must follow the instructions on the bottle carefully. Using too much of the chemical solution could potentially damage your grates. You can also make a homemade grill grate spray using vinegar.

Fill a spray bottle with two cups of water and two cups of vinegar. Put the lid on and give the bottle a thorough shake to mix the liquids. Spray the solution on your grill grates and allow it to soak into the dirt and debris for approximately 10 minutes. You can then use your wire brush to scrub the grates clean. You can repeat this process as often as necessary, and there is no need to rinse the grill grates.

Steam Clean Your Grill Grates

For a grill grate cleaning method that requires little effort, steam cleaning is an excellent option. Turn the grill heat up to 600°F, and then turn the burners off. Fill a large empty vegetable or soup can with water and place it on the grill grates. 

Close the hood, and the water and heat will create steam that loosens the stuck-on food pieces from your grates. After 30 minutes, raise the hood and use a sponge to wipe off the remaining debris. 

Read more: Tips on using a kamado grill.


Doug Stephen

Doug Stephen

Final Thoughts: Cleaning Grill Grates

Make cleaning your grill grates a cinch by applying oil to the grates before cooking. Using a paper towel, rub a food-safe oil on the grate to prevent sticking. You’ll notice cleaning takes less time and effort, especially if you clean your grates after every use. 

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