How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful Techniques

Jeremy Bivens
Jeremy Bivens
Research Writer
Jeremy Bivens is a passionate writer and grilling enthusiast. He's been working as a freelance journalist for over 15 years now and has a particular interest in food writing read more
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Bruce Williams
Bruce Williams
Expert Consultant
Claims that grilling is the art that he has been learning all his life long and is not planning to stop. Has been grilling for as long as he can remember. Author of numerous read more
Last updated: August 08, 2023
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Grilling is considered a national pastime and for many people there is nothing better than having family or friends over for an outdoor cookout. However, when it comes to cleaning up, that is usually another story.

Cleaning a grill can be a messy task, but it is essential to avoid the taste and safety of your food being compromised. The trickiest area is usually the grill grates that tend to have baked on food remnants, char and other stubborn stains. Fortunately, there are some techniques to help you learn the best methods of how to clean grill rates.

So, here we’ll delve into the topic of the best way to clean grill grates and how you can keep your grill sparkling clean.

How often should you clean your grill grates?

The leftover bits of food on your grill grates can not only create a smelly mess, but can be a breeding ground for bacteria that could contaminate foods next time you grill. Additionally, burned food has been linked to cancer causing carcinogens, so it is important that your grill is nice and clean before your next cookout.

For easier cleaning of your grill, at the start of a new grilling season, you should give your grill a good clean. If you are using the grill frequently, you will need to clean it at least once a week and give the grates a thorough clean every month or two. This will ensure that your grill cooks well all season and it will also have a longer lifespan.

Cleaning grill grates with a brush and a scraper

How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful TechniquesThe simplest way to clean grill grates is using a brush and scraper. You can find grill cleaning brushes at most hardware stores or even local grocery stores. This provides a way to remove leftover food particles and any cooking residue while your grill is still warm after cooking.

Regularly using a grill brush and scraper will help to prolong the lifespan of your grill grates to ensure better grilling performance and safer usage.

Of course, not all grill brushes are the same quality. The best grill brushes and scrapers have wire bristles that can tackle both gas and charcoal grills. However, if you have porcelain grill grates, you should not use a metal brush. You’ll need a brush with nylon bristles that will not cause damage to the coating.  Once you have a good brush, the technique is quite straightforward.

Wait until the grill is still warm. You don’t want it too hot or you risk burning yourself, but it should be warm enough so any leftover food or grease is still soft for easier removal. Use an up and down motion with the side of your grill brush to start cleaning. Try to use the same direction to minimize damage to the protective coating on your grates.

Remember, if your grates are non-stick or porcelain, you will need to use a nylon brush as a wire one will cause damage.

Rotate the brush to get between the side of the grates and clean all sides. You can dip your brush in some soapy water as you scrub. Regular dish soap will help to dissolve any grease.

Flip the grates over and repeat. use a damp cloth or paper towels to wipe excess debris. Then use a paper towel to apply a little vegetable oil to the grates.

How to deep-clean your grill grates

How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful TechniquesIf your grill is in need of a deep clean, you need to be prepared to give them some time and effort. The first step is to burn off any food remnants before you start the actual cleaning. Burning off does not refer to setting your grates on fire, rather operate the grill at the highest possible temperature. This will incinerate any residue from the grate.

After about 15 to 30 minutes, you should see white foam appearing on the grates. Wearing heavy duty gloves, you can use a damp cloth to wipe off this unwanted residue.

Once the grates cool until they are barely warm, you can start cleaning. Using gloves, scrub the grates to remove the carbonized grime from the grates. At this stage, you can use brushes or scrapers to accomplish the task.

To finish off the cleaning, you’ll need a bucket or bowl of warm water with regular dish soap. Dip your brush and scrub, rinsing periodically to add more soapy water to the brush.

If you’re still struggling with stubborn residue that remains after cleaning and rinsing, you could resort to a grill cleaning spray. These products are designed to tackle tough residues, but you will need to follow the instructions carefully and ensure thorough rinsing.

Rinse the grates with clean water. You can even use a high-pressure water hose. The dish soap is likely to remove the majority of the residue and stains, but you don’t want any traces to linger and compromise the taste of the food on your next grilling session. So, be sure to rinse multiple times until you are sure they are free of soapy residue.

Allow the grates to air dry or wipe them with paper towels or a clean, dry cloth.

How to clean cast iron grill grates

How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful TechniquesCast iron is a popular choice for grill manufacturers. However, cast iron grates are typically covered in a layer of coating or even rust resistance protection. So, you need to know the best method of how to clean porcelain coated cast iron grill grates.

The first thing you need to do is ensure that you have the proper tools. A scraper or chainmail scrubber is a better option for cleaning cast iron compared to regular grill brushes. A regular brush may be too abrasive and cause damage to the protective coating. Use a tiny amount of dish soap in a bucket of warm water and scrub the grates thoroughly.

Rinse the grates with clean, warm water, but you will then need to towel dry them. Cast iron is not designed to be exposed to high moisture levels, which can oxidize the metal and encourage rust buildup. So, don’t allow the grates to air dry; you want to remove as much moisture as possible as soon as you’ve finished cleaning.

To ensure that your grates are free of moisture place your grates back inside the grill and heat them. This will vaporize any remaining drops of water you may have missed. Once the grates are cool enough to the touch, you should season them with a coat of vegetable oil over the surface. This will help improve rust resistance.

Although this is a little more fiddly than other types of grate, with proper care, cast iron can last decades. So, it is worth investing the time and effort to do a proper cleaning job.

How to clean stainless steel grill grates

How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful TechniquesStainless steel is a leading option for grill manufacturers, offering rust resistance and fantastic durability. So, it is common to find burners and grates made of stainless steel. If you’re wondering how to clean stainless steel grill grates, you can be assured that this is one of the easiest materials to maintain.

You can use most scrapers and brushes without major concerns. You can even be liberal with regular dish soap and simply scrub away.

Just be aware that while stainless steel grates are considered weatherproof, it is a good idea to avoid leaving them exposed to the elements. Air dry your grates and use a breathable tarp as a cover to allow any remaining moisture to escape.

How to clean porcelain coated grill grates

How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful TechniquesIf your grill has porcelain grates, they are likely to be basic metal grills with a coating of heavy porcelain. The metal core may be steel or iron, but while this impacts how quickly the grates heat up, the cleaning process remains the same for either.

To clean your porcelain grill grates, you will need a soft bristle brush or toothbrush, a bucket of warm water, dish soap, cleaning cloths and a soft surface, such as a grill mat. If you’re cleaning outdoors, cover a table or piece of plywood with a heavy drop cloth to protect the underside of the grates while you’re scrubbing.

Add a dash of dishwashing soap to a bucket of warm water. Remove your grates from your grill and hose them off with clean water before laying them on the soft surface. Dip a cleaning cloth into the soapy water and scrub the surface of the grates. If there is baked on material that isn’t coming off just with the cloth, switch to your soft bristle brush.

Bear in mind that you should never use a scraper on porcelain grates. A scraper may damage the surface and cause a chip or crack that could allow moisture to seep in and damage the metal core.

If you have stubborn residue or stains on the porcelain, you could try soaking your grates.

All you need to do is place the grates in a large container filled with warm soapy water. Allow them to soak for up to an hour. You can then hose off and use your brush to clear any remaining residue.

Rinse with clean water and either air dry or dry with a soft towel.

How to clean rusty grill grates

How to Clean Grill Grates: Helpful TechniquesRust is often a result of prolonged disuse or improper cleaning. It can not only look unappetizing, but it can also add an unpleasant taste to your food. If you have stubborn, rusty grates, you will need to learn how to clean grill grates with vinegar and baking soda.

This may seem complicated, but it is one of the best methods of how to clean rust of cast iron grill grates or other types of grate affected by rust issues.

All you need to do is place the grates into a trash bag or large ziplock bag. Wear silicone or latex gloves to protect your skin and fingernails. Mix a solution of 1:1 white vinegar and water, and add a spoon of baking soda. Add this mixture to the bag and seal the bag tightly.

Allow the bag to sit overnight to allow time for the residues to loosen from the grates. The following day, remove the grates and rinse with clean water. You should find the residue is easy to rinse off, but if there are any bits remaining, scrub with a grill brush and then rinse. Dry your grates thoroughly before reinstalling them on your grill.

Final thoughts

A clean grill is crucial for delicious food that the whole family can enjoy safely. Although cleaning your grill may seem like an unpleasant task, with the right techniques you can make the job easier. The key to how to clean grill grates is understanding what materials are used on your grill. Each type of grill grate requires a different method of cleaning, so it is important that you know whether your grates are cast iron, stainless steel or porcelain.

Once you know this information, you can get set with your cleaning. WIth the right technique, you can get the job done quickly, so you can grill with confidence.

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