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BBQ Cleaning: 11 Simple Steps To Get Your Grill Good As New

By James King

October 20, 2023

While we’d all rather host carefree cookouts without worrying about BBQ cleaning…

Unfortunately, it’s an essential task if you want your trusty outdoor grill to last.

And if you’re here… It means you’ve got a dirty grill, and you’re wondering how to restore it to its former sparkling glory.

The good news? Cleaning your grill isn’t the daunting, drawn-out affair you’d imagine it to be.

And with the right guidance, it can be done in a flash.

person wiping down grill

When (And Why) Should You Clean Your Grill?

close up of grill with popular grill food items being cooked on it

Each and every time you use a BBQ grill… You should perform a routine cleaning to keep the grill grates spic and span.

And a few times each grilling season, you’ll need to pull out all the stops, put in some elbow grease, and conduct a thorough deep clean of your entire grill.

We know, we know… BBQ cleaning may seem like just another chore on your to-do list.

However, there are many reasons why you shouldn’t skip it.

Unappetizing Outcomes

When food residue and old drippings are left to stew on your grill’s cooking surface… It’s an open invitation for bacteria, leftover carbon buildup, and generally unsavory flavors to make unwelcome appearances in your (should be) delicious dishes.

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The Sticky Grate Struggle

grill grates covered in burned on sticky sauce

Not only does food build up affect flavors… It can also turn grilling into a frustrating affair.

Dirty grill grates lose their non-stick properties… And the sticky surface will make flipping meat way more difficult than it needs to be.

Potential Fire Hazard

On a more serious note… A dirty grill can quickly turn into a major safety concern.

Layer upon layer of old oil left in your grill makes grease fires a real possibility… Putting your family and property at risk.

Forgone Functionality & Financial Burdens

grill that needs to be cleaned

Stuck-on grime will accumulate in your grill quicker than you’d expect… And this buildup can drastically hamper your grill’s performance.

Interior components can begin to break down and take on rust… Turning what should’ve been a simple cleanup into an expensive maintenance problem.

This is especially pertinent if you have cast iron grill grates or components in your grill, which are notoriously susceptible to oxidation.

In short: Keep your grill clean.

Your food will taste better… Your grill will last longer… And you won’t be kicking yourself down the road for neglecting a simple chore.

Now, what tools does BBQ cleaning call for, anyway?

Must-Have Grill Cleaning Tools

must have grill cleaning tools

Whether you’re perusing Amazon or passing through your local hardware store… The sheer amount of outdoor grill cleaning gadgets you’ll encounter is enough to make your head spin.

Are all of these BBQ grill cleaners and tools really necessary?

We say no.

Here’s what you really need to get the job done.

Rubber Gloves

rubber gloves

First things first, be sure to have gloves on hand. (Standard rubber gloves will do!)

Grill cleaning is a messy process… And gloves will keep your hands shielded from the inevitable grime and debris.

Grill Brush

grill brush

Grill brushes are a given.

They’re essential for scrubbing down grates, burners, and the interior walls of your grill.

But when selecting a grill brush… Exercise caution.

Wire brushes with steel bristles should be kept at an arm’s length!

Sharp bristles can fall off and end up in your food… And accidentally ingesting these can cause severe personal injury.

Personal safety hazards aside… Using a wire bristle brush can seriously scratch up your grill’s surfaces, turning your once-stylish stainless steel grill into an eyesore.

Instead, the best BBQ grill cleaning brush will be bristle-free, wooden, or soft-bristled.

Paper Towels or a Damp Cloth

paper towel

Next, be sure to have a roll of paper towels or a damp cloth at the ready.

These will be used throughout the cleaning process… And prove invaluable while wiping away grime and food particles.

Soapy Water

soapy water

While there are plenty of grill cleaning products and degreasers available, a simple DIY dish soap and warm water mixture typically does the trick.

Dish soaps like Dawn are heavy-duty degreasers… Making them a solid, safer alternative to harsh chemicals found in many off-the-shelf BBQ cleaners.

Garbage Can

garbage can

Finally, when cleaning a BBQ grill… Don’t forget to set up a garbage can nearby.

You’re going to have a lot of grime and gunk to dispose of… So, save yourself some trouble by thinking ahead!

Other Optional Tools

These additional gadgets may not be absolutely essential… But they sure can make cleaning more convenient.

Spray Bottle

spray bottle

Using a spray bottle to dispense your water/dish soap solution can make it easier to loosen stubborn grime and target problem areas during a deep clean.

Shop Vac

Shop vac

A handheld shop vac isn’t a must, per se… But it can be handy for removing dirt and debris from the inside of your grill (particularly for the pellet and charcoal grill owners out there).

Putty Knife Or Scraper

grill scraper

If you’re dealing with stuck-on gunk… A grill scraper or putty knife may be of assistance.

These tools make it easier to dislodge grime that a standard BBQ cleaner brush might struggle to budge.

And…That’s it, your BBQ grill cleaning toolkit in a nutshell!

There’s no need to clutter your space with all sorts of specialized cleaning tools… And there’s a good chance that most of these items are already at your disposal.

Now, onto the “how-to’s…”

How To Clean A Gas Grill: Routine Cleaning

Now that you know what to include in your BBQ cleaning kit… It’s time to roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty.

We’ll kick things off with a routine barbeque grill cleaning guide.

This process is simple as it gets… And focuses primarily on getting the grill grates clean.

While RTA’s very own Justin Merchant cleaned his Coyote S-Series gas grill for this demonstration, the same general concepts apply to cleaning a charcoal grill or pellet grill as well.

(Looking for griddle-cleaning instructions? This process will be a bit different.)

1. Remove Grime Around Your Grill Grates

After gathering your BBQ cleaning tools and putting on a fresh pair of gloves… It’s time to get to business.

Note: Before touching any part of your grill… Always ensure that it’s powered off and fully cool.

Start by using paper towels and soapy water to wipe down the perimeter of your grill’s cooktop. (In other words, the flat area surrounding the grates.)

This will remove any lingering food particles, oils, or drippings from your last BBQ session.

2. Remove Easy-To-Budge Debris

Next, get out your grill brush.

Remove and dispose of any large pieces of debris on the cooking grates.

At this point, take a peek at the inside of your grill’s hood. Burnt carbon deposits often build up here… Though they can easily be removed with your BBQ cleaning brush.

3. Remove, Brush, And Replace Grill Grates

Now, it’s time to remove the grill grates.

This includes the warming rack, if your grill has one.

Over a trash can (or off the side of your deck, we won’t judge)... Use your grill brush to thoroughly wipe these down.

Don’t be afraid to employ some elbow grease… You want to remove as much residue as possible!

Be sure to get both the front and back of the grates… As fat and drippings adhere to both sides.

If your grill has ceramic briquettes, infrared plates, flame tamers, or flavorizer bars below the grates… Now’s the time to remove these, as well.

Use your brush to carefully clear off any burnt food bits and debris.

Once you’ve cleaned these components as thoroughly as possible… Place them all back inside the grill, upside down.

4. Turn Your Grill On High Heat

Once the grates and other components are back in place… Crank your grill’s burners to high heat.

If you have any accessories in your BBQ grill, like a smoker box, be sure that these are taken out beforehand.

Close the lid and allow your grill to run on high for approximately 10-15 minutes.

If there’s any leftover grime or stuck-on food.. The high heat will help burn off stubborn food buildup and drippings. (Placing the components upside down allows more debris to burn off… As that would be the side you typically cook on.)

Once everything is fully cooled, all that’s left to do is flip the components right side up.

5. Clean The Drip Pan

drip pan and bowl of warm soapy water

To wrap up routine cleaning… Remove your grill’s drip pan.

If you clean regularly, this step shouldn’t be too daunting.

Use warm soapy water and a rag or paper towel to remove any excess grime that has accumulated here.

Then, dry the drip pan thoroughly and put it back in place.

And with that, your grill is ready to go for your next BBQ party!

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How To Deep Clean A BBQ Grill

Frequently cleaning BBQ grates is one thing… But sometimes, your grill calls for more than a simple routine cleaning.

As we mentioned earlier… A deep cleaning should be done at least once per grilling season, or every couple of months if you grill fairly often.

Really, any time you notice a disconcerting amount of grime buildup in your grill… It’s safe to say your grill is past due for a deep clean.

Let’s see what this process entails…

1. Ensure Your Grill Is Cool, Burners Are Off, And Gas Lines Are Disconnected

person shutting off propane

When deep cleaning a grill… You’ll need to reach your hands inside the unit.

Because of this, the first step is to make sure your grill is fully cool before you start.

Additionally, you should always disconnect your propane tank or gas line before a deep clean to prevent potential leakage… And it’s best practice to double-check that the burners are powered off.

If you have a pellet grill, be sure that the power cord is unplugged… And any leftover pellets are removed from the unit.

And if you’re cleaning a charcoal grill, dispose of spent briquettes in the charcoal tray before you start cleaning.

2. Remove Grates & Internal Components

Your grates, ceramic briquettes, flavorizer bars, infrared panels, flame tamers, or similar components should already be spotless from routine cleaning… But if not, follow the steps above to complete this.

Now, if it’s been a while since your last routine cleaning… These components may require some extra attention.

You may need to spray down and/or soak them in a soap and water mixture to help loosen stuck-on grime.

If you do get these components wet… Be sure to thoroughly dry them before placing them back inside your grill. (This will prevent rusting!)

After the grates have been cleaned, dried, and put back in your grill… You may also consider adding vegetable oil to the surface to keep them non-stick and rust-free, especially if your grates are cast iron.

But, that all comes later.

For now, leave these components out of your grill.

3. Clean The Burners

With the grates, flame tamers, flavorizer bars, or other similar components out of your grill… You’ll have direct access to the burner tubes.

At this stage, you can carefully clean the burners with your grill brush.

Any grime removed from your burners will fall into your grill’s drip pan. (We’ll worry about this, later!)

Brush in a side to side motion only, as going front to back can clog the burner holes.

If needed, you can use small tools like a paperclip, drill bit, or clothes hanger to unclog the gas ports.

To get the burner tubes looking good as new… Spray them down with your soap/water mixture and use paper towels to thoroughly wipe and dry.

In some grills, the burners can be removed… Which may make it easier to conduct a thorough cleaning.

If you do remove the burners, just take extra caution to correctly reinstall them.

4. Scrub Down The Cook Box Walls

Now, it’s time to use your grill brush, soap, water, and paper towels to clean the internal walls of your grill.

This includes the underside of the hood, the hood thermometer (if applicable), the walls below the burners, and really anywhere else that you see grime.

For charcoal, pellet, and especially dirty gas grills… This is where you might want to break out the shop vac to suck up excess debris or ash residue.

If you’re cleaning a charcoal grill, a grill scraper may also come in handy here to remove remaining charcoal sludge.

Take your time with it… Your grill should be spotless!

When you’re satisfied (and your grill is looking shiny)… Fully dry the inside.

5. Clean The Drip Pan

person pulling out drip pan from bottom of grill

Once your grill’s internal components are looking spic and span… It’s time to remove the grease tray.

Unlike with routine cleaning… Your drip tray will surely be jam-packed with grossness after deep cleaning your entire grill.

Dispose of loose debris in a garbage can… And use soapy water and paper towels to remove any stuck-on grime or stains. (If things are particularly putrid, it may be necessary to soak the grease catch.)

After it’s clean, clear, and dry… Re-install the drip pan.

At this stage, you’re free to place any other components you removed back in your grill.

Then, there’s just one task left…

6. Clean The Grill Exterior

Luckily, the final step of the cleaning process is by far the easiest.

Finish by wiping away dust, dirt, and grime from your grill’s exterior with soapy water.

Doesn’t get much simpler than that!

For this task, avoid using wire brushes, steel wool, or scouring pads… As these can scratch your grill’s exterior.

Instead, a damp cloth or paper towel will suffice.

And voila! You officially have a clean grill.

Make BBQ Cleaning Easier With A Summer Kitchen

Let’s be real…

No matter how easy it may be… No one likes cleaning

And if you’re anything like us, you’re always on the lookout for ways to make your chores easier to manage.

When it comes to BBQ cleaning… That’s exactly what an outdoor kitchen can do for you.

Our custom grill islands have plenty of counter space and storage for your cleaning supplies, allowing for easy access as you clean.

Not to mention… You can factor in a sink and pull-out trash, helping to keep things neat and tidy.

Want to discover more? Read through resources in our Learning Hub, check out our free online design tool, and you’ll quickly see why it’s a good idea to have a summer kitchen on your side.

Need Help With Your Plans?

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FAQ

Though it may seem like a daunting chore… Cleaning your BBQ grill actually isn’t all that time-consuming.

If you have the correct tools and know-how… Routine cleaning can be completed in less than half an hour, and semi-annual deep cleans should take no more than an hour.

You should clean your BBQ grill’s grates after each and every cook… To keep them free of grime, carbon buildup, and other leftover food bits.

At least one every grilling season, you should also conduct a deep cleaning of your grill… Which entails fully dismantling your grill to thoroughly wipe down every component.

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