Keep your barbecue in prime condition throughout the grilling season, and keep your grill clean. It may seem like an effort, but it will keep your grill working well, and your food tasting great.
Cleaning and maintenance really only takes a little time and elbow grease, but is well worth doing.
It prevents a buildup of grease and burnt-on food particles which can harbour mold and bacteria, which then can get into your food. The high heat of cooking may help kill some of the mold or bacteria, but only cleaning eliminates these fully. Grilling red meat also leaves behind charred bits that could contain harmful carcinogens. Plus, a greasy, dirty grill can be a fire hazard. If these aren't good enough reasons, dirty grill grates will negatively impact the flavour of your food.
For any cleaning jobs being done on a warm grill, always wear long-sleeved oven mitts and long-handled tools.
Cook with a clean BBQ and good tools
Get a Grill Brush
A critical first step is to get a good grill brush -- one that's right for your grill. A good wire brush is fairly easy to find, and you can even find ones that are multifunctional. Pick one with a long, sturdy handle.
For grills with porcelain, ceramic, or cast iron grates, stainless steel brushes are too aggressive, so choose a softer brush. For really tough jobs, you might want a metal scraper.
Avoid Chemical Cleaners
Cleaning chemicals can cause an unpleasant taste, and may not be safe for food surfaces. They may also be too harsh on your grill. Warm, clean water, dish soap, vinegar and baking soda will handle the job safely.
Have a Grill Cleaning Routine
The best way to keep your grill clean is to have a regular grill cleaning routine so it always gets done.
After cooking, turn your grill up to a high heat for a few minutes to burn off some of the leftover food. Turn it off to let it cool, then scrape the still-warm grates with your wire brush or scraper. Start with the brush, and use the scraper only if necessary. Always check to see if flakes of metal or the finish are coming off, and replace the grates if you do see any. If your grill has flavorizer bars, clean them too.
You can let everything drop down into the pan or grease trap underneath to clean later. When you're ready to work on that, use your scraper to get rid of the debris and oil in the grease trap. This should be done every time you grill.
Then, when completely cool, wipe a little oil over the grates, using a wadded paper towel or clean rag. Be sure to use a vegetable or other food oil. This will prevent rusting and future food from sticking. The next cleanup will be faster, too.
Take out your bottom pan and grease trap, and use your scraper to clear them off, then wash them, too.
Once a Month
Once a month, or more often if you barbecue a lot, you need to clean your grill a little more thoroughly. Get a large bucket of water with dish soap. Take out your grates to soak in the bucket. Depending on the size of your grill, you may even be able to put them in the dishwasher, instead. After soaking, a wipe-down with an old sponge is perfect. You can dry them with an old microfiber cloth, and reapply clean oil.
Next, clean the inside of the grill, along the sides and the lid. Your wire brush and scraper will work well for removing the debris. Again, everything can drop down into the grease pan. The gas burner tubes can be cleaned, but only gently and carefully. Don't use a side-to-side motion with the brush, which may push particles into the holes. Wipe the sides and lid with the sponge and soapy water. An easy way to rinse your grill off is with your hose, on low pressure.
Wash the outside, with dish soap and water. If your grill has stainless steel surfaces on its exterior, glass or stainless steel cleaner is safe to use.
Cleaning and Maintenance for Different Grill Types
For a gas grill, you can follow the above routine exactly to clean your grill.
Safety for Gas Grills
One very important task is to check for propane leaks regularly. With the propane on, wipe soapy water along the gas line and connections; if there’s a leak, bubbles will appear.
Flat Top Grill
A flat-top grill is easier to clean than a charcoal or gas grill. Use your scraper on the flat surface while it is still hot, to push everything into the grease trough. Hot water can loosen stuck-on food before you scrape again. Before it cools completely, use paper towels or a clean rag to do a final wipe.
Apply an oil coating over the surface afterwards, and turn the grill on to a medium heat for a couple of minutes to help the oil coating set.
Empty the ash catcher or grill bottom after each use, so the air vents aren't blocked and the temperature control isn't impacted. Always have an empty bucket on hand to make this easier.
If You Don't Have a Brush
If you don't have a suitable scrubbing brush at hand, sprinkling baking soda on the grill or making a paste of it with water will help instead. Scrub with a damp cloth or rag until the cooking grates are clean. You could also scrunch up aluminum foil to scrub with, or even rub the hot grates with an onion on a grill fork.
Keep Your Grill Covered
A good grill cover protects your barbecue from dust and dirt, wind damage, and the sun, to help it last longer and stay cleaner.
At Smitty's, we have the grills, grilling accessories, and grill covers you need for a fabulous summer of barbecues in the backyard!
Smitty's Fine Furniture is a family-owned furniture store specializing in Canadian made furniture and customized solutions. Visit our locations in Kitchener and Hanover: