How to Clean Your Grill

Take care of your grill and it will take care of you with a lifetime of delicious meals.

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Is meat sticking to your grill? Are flare-ups and intense smoke a common occurrence? Does food taste smoky or burnt? If you answered yes to any of these questions, it's probably time to clean your grill.

Routine Care and Maintenance

Every time you grill, you should do some routine cleaning. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guide for specific maintenance, but follow these general guidelines.

Gas grills have a removable tray that collects drippings and grease. If not cleaned regularly, the grease can catch fire, causing smoke and flames and giving your food an "off" flavor. Pull out the tray and scrape any grease and debris straight into a garbage can. For safety, do this only when the grill is off and completely cool. If it's extra grimy, wash with warm soapy water.

If your charcoal grill has an ash catcher, empty it before lighting. A clean ash catcher ensures adequate airflow. Good ventilation is essential for charcoal to burn — without it, your fire won't stay lit. Ashes also absorb moisture, which can cause rusting. For safety, make sure the ashes are completely extinguished before disposing of them.

Use a Grill Brush

A stiff wire grill brush is a necessity for maintaining your grilling grates. Before you put any food on the grill, preheat it for 15 minutes with the lid closed. The high heat will burn off any residue and turn it into ash. Brush off the ashes with your grill brush, then grill as your recipe instructs. After grilling, scrape the grates with a brush again while they are still hot. Replace your grill brush once a year.

Seasonal Deep-Cleaning

After each grilling season, deep-clean your grill so it's in tip-top shape for next year. Start by collecting the necessary cleaning tools: a grill brush, scraper, fine steel-wool pad, a sponge and some clean rags.

To clean a charcoal grill, start by removing the grates. Using steel wool, gently scrub them with a 2-to-1 mixture of vinegar and baking soda. Allow to soak for at least 1 hour then rinse and pat dry.

Next, remove old coals and ashes from the cook box using a scoop or shovel. To ensure that the coals are completely extinguished and cool, close the grill lid and vents for at least 48 hours after grilling before proceeding. Discarding coals that are not completely extinguished can cause a fire.

Use a grill brush to scrub away built-up debris along the bottom and sides of the cook box and inside the lid.

And gently scrub the outside of the grill with a sponge and warm soapy water, then wipe dry.

To deep clean your gas grill, start by turning off the fuel source. Then scrub the grates with a 2-to-1 mixture of vinegar and baking soda, rinse well and pat dry.

Next, clean the burners and heat distribution system. Brush the burner portholes using an up-and-down motion. Never brush side-to-side, since this can push debris from one hole into the next and clog the burners. Scrub grime off the heat distribution system using a grill brush and scraper. The warming rack and grill basket can also be washed using a fine steel wool pad and warm soapy water. Rinse well and dry thoroughly with a rag to prevent rusting.

Now that your grill is in tip-top shape, it's time for the hard part — deciding what to grill first!

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