Make Your Grill Gleam With These Cleaning Tips

This is pretty gross, huh? Don’t winterize your yard with your grill looking like this! Photo by Ken Bosma (Flickr)

We’re well into fall now, so it’s time to winterize the things you may have forgotten. While grilled squash is amazing, fall is a time when your outdoor cooker goes a bit unused. So now is the perfect time of year to clean it up and put it away.

What’s my secret ingredient for keeping the grill clean? Heat! Starting when the grill is a bit warmer makes getting the grates clean that much easier.

How to Clean a Propane Grill

This is the easiest and fastest way to do this that I’ve found:

  • Use aluminum foil to cover the top of your grill’s grates, and then turn your grill on. This may seem counter-intuitive, but getting your grill hot will turn much debris to ash and make it easier to clean. Shut the grill and leave it on for 15-30 minutes.
  • While it’s “cooking,” grab your supplies: work gloves, a big bucket of hot, soapy water, an old, clean towel, some tongs, more aluminum foil, a grill brush, and a stainless steel cleaner should your grill have a stainless steel exterior (WD-40 can be used for this, but something gentler like mild dish detergent also works).
  • Turn down the heat and let your grill cool. Use tongs to safely remove the foil. While the grates are still warm, you can simply use a slightly damp old towel to wipe away and debris. You also might want to flip the grates over and do each side. It’s much easier and faster to do this while they’re hot, huh? I’ve also heard that using half of an onion to clean the grates is very effective.
  • Let the grill continue to cool until it’s now only slightly warm. Turn off and disconnect the propane tank. While you’re down there, double-check your connections to make sure there’s no rust or issues. If there are, items might need to be replaced.
  • Next, you’ll be pulling your lovely grill apart, layer by layer. (Don’t be a doofus like me and forget how it all goes back in the end: You might want to make a chart as you go if you think you might do this.) Using the tongs, take off the grill grates and put them right in the soapy water bucket. There might be metal plates under your grill grates; do the same with them, too.
  • Now that your grill has cooled down, wearing work gloves, use the foil to protect your heating elements.
  • Go to town with your grill brush! Clean everywhere you can! Don’t do what a lot of grill owners do and forget about the flaky buildup on the hood: The hood can have a black buildup of smoke and grease. Clean the inside walls of your grill. After scraping away the grime with a grill brush (or a putty knife if you’re really having trouble), use your damp towel to wipe away excess. If you’re still having quite a bit of trouble here, a bit of vinegar can go a long way.
  • Take the foil off of your heating elements. Once you do, give them a good, hard look: Nothing should be clogging the holes for the flames. If there’s debris clogging them, brush it with your grill brush or poke holes in it with a thin, sharp nail.
  • Now for the really gross part: the drip pan. Dump it out into the trash, and then put it straight into the soapy bucket.
  • Clean the exterior of your grill with a gentle dish detergent solution and a sponge. If your grill has a tray or cabinet, get that clean, too.
  • Almost done! After giving the stuff in the soapy bucket another scrub with your brush, lean it against a wall to dry off.
  • Once everything is completely cool and dry, put it all back together, and then cover your grill with its cover. (We live in New York, and grills are expensive; get a cover!)

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

If you’re like many New Yorkers, you probably have a small charcoal grill. Cleaning it is really pretty easy, and it’s much faster and easier than doing a propane grill:

  • Dump out the ashes from the base and the ash catcher at the bottom.
  • Put the entire grate in a bucket of hot, soapy water and attack it with a grill brush.
  • Wipe out the bottom of the grill and the lid using hot, soapy water; grab a bristle brush or even a putty knife to help you if you have trouble.
  • Once it’s clean, let it dry for a while.
  • Put everything back together, and then store it in a dry, safe place away from the snow.

During the summer season, continuously clean the grill every time you use it, and cleaning it at the end of the season will be much easier!

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