Meal Prep on Grill

Grill cleaning and maintenance is an often overlooked aspect of owning a grill. Let’s be honest, nobody likes cleaning the grill. Unless you’re into grease stains on your jeans and soot on your sleeves, these cleaning sessions are definitely not the most fun aspect of your grilling game. 

But seasoned pros and grill masters know cleaning and maintenance might be one of the most important. Think of this maintenance time as an investment in your grilling system. A little work now and then will keep that stainless steel sparkling in the sun for many summers to come. 

Plus, what’s the use of having a fine piece of grilling machinery if you’re not keeping it clean. You want friends and guests to notice the delicious food, the aromas of seared cuts and fresh veggies and the glean of the sunlight on polished stainless steel — not off-flavors from gunky grates, flare ups, rust and grime.  

How to Clean Your Grill

If you want your grill to last through its expected lifespan and perform to the best of its abilities, sticking to a maintenance and cleaning regimen is one of the most important things you can do to protect your investment. This is true regardless of whether you buy a $30 stand-up charcoal grill from a big-box store or the top-of-the line gas outfit with built-in burners. 

By cleaning and performing maintenance on your grill and components, you are extending the grill’s life. But it doesn’t have to be something you dread. 

When it comes to cleaning, slow and steady wins the race. Take your time and try not to rush it for the best results. Schedule a few hours of cleaning before you’re ready to grill to avoid a frustrating experience. 

By sticking to an organized schedule, you will always be ready for a spontaneous cookout on any unexpectedly sunny day, while breaking the routine into manageable chunks so that you don’t become overwhelmed. 

Basic Grill Maintenance

Every grill is a unique work of art. So, it is only fitting that each type of grill should have its own cleaning regimen to reflect its materials and components. 

Some tasks are easier than others. 

It’s easy to scrape the excess food from the grates and polish the outside of your grill after each use. And it’s not too much of an ask to clean spent coals before loading the basket and firing the grill. But disassembling the burners and checking the fuel lines are tougher jobs. Luckily, they only need to be done once or twice a year.

If talk of flavorizer bars, grease traps and burner protectors has your head spinning, don’t worry. We’ve created easy instructions that break these tasks into manageable bites and organize cleaning responsibilities to help you put together a yearly maintenance plan. 

One rule of thumb before we begin: Do not use a wire brush on any stainless steel or ceramic surfaces. 

Many grill systems are made with stainless steel or ceramic parts. Regardless of whether the grill is charcoal, electric, pellet or gas powered, using a stiff bristle brush will harm stainless steel components. So for all of the following steps, keep in mind that any reference to stiff bristle or brillo cleaning is meant for alloy steel or cast iron parts. 

Got it? Let’s continue…

Deep Cleaning Your Grill

A good, thorough cleaning of your grill should be the first thing you do each spring and the last thing you do each fall before packing it away. That way, you get a clean grill come spring and have more time to deal with any maintenance issues that come after months of storing your grill on mothballs. 

A solid rule of thumb: Each component part of your grill should be cleaned at least once a year. 

In this post, we’ll teach you how — and when — to clean the various parts of your grill, when to think about a deep clean so you can ensure you get the longest life out of your investment.

Cleaning Different Types of Grills

Gas Grills

Gas Grill

Keeping your gas grills sparkling clean and fine-tuned throughout the year will ensure you’re equipped to impress next time you fire up your gas grill. 

Before each use, fire the grill on the high or ‘clean’ setting to burn off any residue and wipe down the grates before cooking. Use a wire brush or aluminum foil to brush off any clingy crispy bits from the grilling grates. 

After each use, wait until the grill is cool and clean the grates — again with a bristle brush or steel wool if needed. Use vegetable oil to coat the grill grates to prevent rust after they have been rinsed and dried. Peanut and canola oil are great because they have higher burning temperatures. 

Before firing up for the first time each season and before putting your grill away for the winter are great times to perform deep cleaning and maintenance. A list of items includes:


  • Check gas lines for any signs of damage or leaks. One way to check is to run soapy water solution over the lines and turn the gas on to see whether any bubbles form. 
  • Remove the grill plates and clean thoroughly. 
  • Make sure gas is detached and remove the ‘V’-shaped burner covers and wash thoroughly with warm, soapy water. 
  • If you burners detach, remove them and clean thoroughly. Use a garden hose to push water through the piping. Clean any clogged openings using a coat hanger or a tiny drill bit. 
  • Remove, clean and replace the grease trap. 
  • Place a 5-gallon poly bucket under the grease trap opening and clean the firebox thoroughly with warm soapy water and a wire brush or brillo pad to get caked on bits and remove any rust. Use a garden hose to rinse and apply vegetable oil places that showed any signs of rust.

At the end of each season, be sure to store your grill properly. If storing indoors or in a garage, remove the gas. If storing outside, you can leave the gas tank attached and cover with an all-weather covering.

Electric Grills

Electric Grill

Electric grills offer a lot of flexibility — especially for those living in urban areas where open flame is not allowed, or for those looking to up their culinary game by adding an extra dimension not available to traditional flame grills. 

Electric grills come in many shapes and sizes, and include griddles, stovetop-style burners and hibachi-style raised grilling surfaces. Because they do not have open flames to burn off dripping fat while food cooks, it is important to stay on top of grease traps before and after each session to avoid a disgusting spillover event. 

Before cleaning, it is important to ensure the grill is unplugged and powered off. Remove the grill surface if possible. Some are dishwasher safe, others will need to be washed with warm, soapy water. Use a rubber spatula to clean off any clingy bits. Thoroughly clean the drip tray and housing before putting the grill back together. 

If you have a flat griddle, a cleaning brick can be utilized to clean any caked on residue. Use vegetable oil to coat the cooking surface to prevent rust or weathering.

Charcoal Grills

Charcoal Grill

Charcoal grills come in many shapes and sizes, and vary from the inexpensive tailgate grills that can be found at your big box store to elite automatic-fired systems.

Most models have a few things in common. 

  • Removable grilling grates that can be thoroughly washed. Before each session, leave the top open to let flames clean the grill of any residue from the last session. Once the grill cools after each use, remove and clean with a bristle brush, aluminum foil or a rag to remove residue from the past session and coat with vegetable oil to prevent rust. 
  • A coal catch. Depending on your model, this might be the belly of the grill itself, or a separate, removable chamber. By cleaning the spent ash before each session, you can ensure air flows properly to your fired coals, allowing the maximum control of your grilling temperatures. 

The outside of the grill can vary and can be made of stainless steel, steel alloy, cast iron or ceramics. Cleaning the outside is important to maintaining an impressive rig and preventing corrosion and rust. 

If you have a steel or cast iron exterior, make sure that you diligently stay on top of rust. Remove rust with a bristle brush, steel wool or fine-grained sandpaper. Then wash thoroughly with sudsy water, dry and coat with vegetable oil before storing it away.

Portable Grills

Portable Grill

Whether you are into tailgating, boating, recreational vehicles or camping, sometimes the grill has to pack up and hit the road with you. For those grilling on the go, here are a few maintenance tips. 

Portable grills are usually propane or charcoal fired. Whichever you choose, cleaning your grill after each use and before packing it away will ensure you will be able to start cooking as soon as you hit camp. 

Most grills have a removable cover. Clean as you wood any other grill — with sudsy water, a bristle brush to remove crust and cover with oil before putting it back together. For gas grills, make sure you remove propane tanks before packing them away and check the lines for any damage or leaks. Make sure you remove ash from charcoal grills after it has cooled to avoid a mess in your trunk on the ride home.

Pellet Grills

Pellet Grill

Pellet grills are the best of two worlds — the big, bold flavor of a smoker with the ease and convenience of your indoor kitchen oven. 

To clean your pellet grill, make sure it has completely cooled before removing the grilling grates. Clean them thoroughly using soapy water. If they are made of steel or cast iron, clean using a bristle brush or steel wool and coat with vegetable oil. If they are made of ceramic, clean them with warm water and a microfiber towel. 

If your rig does not have a removable ash box, use a dry vac to clean the inside compartment of ash. Empty and thoroughly clean the drip pan. Clean the inside of the chimney to remove creosote. Wipe down and buff the exterior.


Asado Smoker

There’s nothing like the smell of wood fire smoke and seared prime cuts wafting from a smoker chimney to get saliva glands flowing. But just as smokers require a little more supervision when meat’s on, they need a little more when it comes to cleaning and maintenance

Ceramic smokers in particular require a unique approach for cleaning and maintenance. Steel wool and bristle brushes will damage any ceramic components, so any ceramic, painted steel or porcelain surfaces or components should be cleaned with warm water and soap. 

For cleaning the inside of the grill, it is recommended to clean out the charcoal after each use. You can also clean the smoker in a similar way to a self cleaning oven by heating it up to a high temperature to remove moisture and then cleaning the interior out once it has cooled. 

An important thing to remember is what you can and cannot use with a ceramic grill. When it comes to lighting, lighter fluid is something to avoid. The chemicals in lighter fluid can soak into the ceramic and contaminate the taste of the food you are smoking. Instead, use matches or an electric alternative.

When to Clean Your Grill

As we’ve mentioned already, the best times to perform heavy maintenance and deep clean your grill is before your first light-up in the spring and following the last cookout before you pack it away for the winter. 

Let’s take a look at the best ways to approach these critical deep cleanings.

After the Winter Season

The first time you take off that tarp in the spring is the best time to do a thorough clean as well. You’ll get to see if any damage took place over the winter, and if you had the forethought to put your grill away clean, it will be a lot less of a hassle than if you wait until the peak summer season. 

Now is the time to make sure all lines are in working order, your grill is free of rust and all components are working properly. That way, you avoid the wrath of hungry 4th of July guests during a breakdown. 

Making sure your grill is in fighting shape before your first grilling session will allow you to make the most of the summer season. Future you will thank you for the effort.

After the Grilling Season

Before you put your grill away for the winter, make sure you remove all rust. Any rust spots will only grow over the winter, and the problem gets worse if you live in an area that receives snow. 

Check all components for damage, wear and tear or fraying. 

Checking for damage to parts such as gas lines and hoses or burners will allow you to order any replacement parts at the down time of the season, locking in better prices and avoiding the need for rushed shipping. Cleaned and oiled components will prevent any degradation while in storage. Plus, packing away a clean grill in the winter ensures you’re one step closer to lighting up come springtime.