News flash: You need to clean your grill. Like any other piece of cookware, your grill requires a good, thorough cleaning every so often because when you take care of it, it will take care of you. But cleaning a grill isn't as intuitive or straightforward as cleaning a regular pan or a stovetop.
As the owner of at least 22 grills, Harry Soo knows how to make delicious barbecue, but he also knows his way around cleaning a grill. Soo — an award-winning pitmaster, owner of the barbecue sauce brand Slap Yo' Daddy BBQ and Youtube grilling personality — says that a cleaner grill means you get better-tasting barbecue. Not only that, but a dirty grill is a food safety hazard.
"Number one, you want to be sure that food safety is the priority," Soo says. "Obviously, you don't want to cook on a grill that has mold, rancid oil, creosote [which is a harmful mixture of chemicals], leftover food or rust."
But how exactly does one go about cleaning the grill? Soo let us in on some tips for making sure you properly clean your grill so it can keep pumping out delicious barbecue.
How Often Should You Clean a Grill?
Unlike a pan that you should clean after every use, you don't actually need to clean a grill every time you finish using it. Soo definitely doesn't clean his grill after every cook. Instead, he judges when it's time to clean his grill based on how much gunk has built up. But when it comes to pellet grills, you should be clearing out that ash buildup after every use.
How to Clean Your Grill Grates
Your grill grates are probably going to be the first thing you want to clean given that's where your food sits and where a lot of grease and food bits will accumulate. This is how Soo recommends cleaning those grill grates, and what you'll need to get started
What You'll Need
- Take a wire brush, and scrub down the grates all over. Be sure to focus on the creosote, which Soo describes as the "black flaky stuff" that builds up on the grates and all around the interior of the grill.
- Remove the grill grates from the grill and put them into a large trash bag.
- While wearing gloves and protective face covering, spray the inside of the bag with oven cleaner so that the grill grates are fully covered in the cleaner.
- After five minutes of letting the oven cleaner sit on the grill grates, spray the grates with a hose to remove the oven cleaner, revealing like-new grill grates.
How to Clean a Grease Tray
Soo's secret weapon for cleaning grease trays is actually a preventative measure: Line your grease tray with aluminum foil. Once your grease tray is filled up with gunk, make sure you dispose of it right away. Bag up the grease or put it into a container, and then put it in the trash. Soo says you shouldn't let the grease tray sit out overnight or else it'll coagulate and turn into a disgusting mess. Also, don't throw that grease down the sink, a mistake Soo says he's seen even profressional pitmasters make. If you do, that grease may end up clogging your pipes. If it doesn't do that, it will lead to fatbergs, or rock-like buildups of biodegradable solids, in the sewer system at large.
How to Clean the Interior and Exterior of a Grill
For the interior of a grill, you can use a wire brush to scrape off debris and stuck-on messes. A wet rag and some dish soap is really all you need to clean both the inside and outside of your grill. If you want to get extra involved, buy specific cleaning solutions like one for stainless steel surfaces.
Buy a Grill Cover
Whether you've spent $40 or $4,000 on a grill, you should buy a grill cover. Soo says that a grill cover might be the most impactful way to make sure your grill stays safe and clean, especially if you don't have a space to keep the grill stored when it's not in use.