How to Clean Your Grill

By: Emilie Sennebogen  | 
charcoal grill
It's beginning to look a lot like barbecue time! And that means it's time to get your grill in tiptop shape. Anselm Kempf/Shutterstock

The weather is getting warm and that means barbecue season is here. If you haven't fired up your grill lately, it probably needs a good cleaning before you put on those burgers this weekend. After all, keeping your grill clean is the secret to great food.

There are other reasons why you need to keep your grill clean. First, it will last longer and heat up better. And a seriously dirty grill also can be a fire hazard, especially if it has a grease trap. But the main reason you want to properly clean your grill is your food will just taste better. Yesterday's barbecue rib marinade won't taste good on today's lime-grilled chicken.


The good news is it's simple to keep your grill clean if you just follow a few steps before — and after — you fire it up.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

If you prefer a charcoal grill for the flavor it imparts to your food, it will require more cleaning than a gas or propane grill. That's because ash from the coals ends up at the bottom of the grill after it's burned. If you don't clean that out regularly, it can build up and block vents that allow air to circulate. Without enough airflow, you can't control your grill's temperature, or the fire can choke out entirely.

But the extra cleaning time is worth the little effort to get that smoky flavor only charcoal can add. Here's what you need to do to keep your charcoal grill in top condition every time you cook.


  1. Clean the grates. You should do this before and after you grill. Open the vents and heat the grill to high for about 10 to 15 minutes so the grates get hot. Then use a stainless-steel grill brush to scrape off burnt-on food debris from the grates.
  2. Oil the grates. After you've grilled and the grates are cool enough, apply a liberal coat of vegetable oil shortening to the clean grates with a rag. This will help prevent rust and food from sticking.
  3. Clear out ash catcher. Once the charcoal and ash are completely cooled, brush the ash out from the bottom of the grill pan and store it in an ash bucket for disposal later.
  4. Clean the grill bowl. Occasionally, or before you close up your grill for the season, wipe down the entire grill bowl and lid with a mild dish soap. This helps remove grease and smoke deposits that build up over time.

How to Clean a Gas Grill

Many backyard barbecuers prefer the ease of a natural gas or propane-powered grill. They light up with the flip of a switch, and don't need the same level of cleaning as charcoal grills. But gas and propane grills still need to be cleaned, mainly to remove grease and smoke buildup. Here's how to clean your gas grill.

  1. Clean the grates. The technique for cleaning the grates on a gas grill is the same as a charcoal grill. You want to clean them before and after you grill, every time. Heat up the grill to high for about 10 to 15 minutes. Then use a long-handled, wire brush to scrape off any stuck-on food.
  2. Oil the grates. After you've grilled and the grates are clean and cool, use a rag to apply vegetable oil or shortening to the grill grates.
  3. Clean the inside of the grill. Occasionally you want to clean the grill lid and heat deflectors over the burners. Just use mild dish soap to clean both. The burners are easy to remove; just let them dry before you reinstall them.
  4. Clean gas supply line. Another key element on a gas grill to maintain is the gas supply line. You want to clean it occasionally to remove any blockages to the gas ports. Use a wire brush (sans cleaning solution) and scrape side-to-side so you don't push debris into the ports.