How to Clean Charcoal Grill Grates

Barbecue grill with flames

A dirty grate can have a major impact on how your food tastes and how long it will take to cook. Learning how to clean charcoal grill grates is crucial in order to keep your grill functioning properly. If you have the best portable charcoal grill, you should scrub it down at least once or twice a month. This will remove rust, ash, and carbon buildup, all of which can impact how hot the grate gets.

Keeping your grill and the grate clean and free from burnt, stuck on food and grease is one of the best ways to ensure your grill is cooking your food efficiently and quickly how to clean charcoal grill grates can be as simple as scrubbing down the grate with a grill brush after each use. However, if you’ve been slacking on regular upkeep a deep clean may be in order. If you’re dealing with several months’ worth of stuck on food, you’ll need to use a little elbow grease and the following cleaning options:

These cleaning options can have your grill looking new in no time. Scrubbing the grate will also allow the food to come into closer contact with the surface of the grate, which equals a faster cooking time.

Keeping your grate clean is important for a number of reasons. Not only can it help to prevent flareups, but it can also allow you to cook your food faster. Our guide will walk you through several cleaning options that will have your grill clean and looking new in no time.

Getting Started

BBQ in the summer

In order to clean your grill, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Plastic bags
  • Foil
  • Grill brush
  • Putty knife
  • Bristle brush

If possible remove the grate. It should be scrubbed with a type of coarse cleaning brush, such as a grill brush.

Once you’ve removed most of the caked on gunk, ball up a piece of aluminum foil. Foil works well as a scrubber, especially on this type of tough surface.

Basic Grill Maintenance

After you’ve cleaned the grate it’s time to show the lid and the grill a little TLC. Clean the lid and the bottom of the grill. Wipe out any debris found at the bottom of the grill. If your grill has one, empty out the ash catcher. Next, use a putty knife or bristle brush and scrub off any black peeling gunk. This is usually grease and/or carbon flakes. If you have a kettle grill, wipe down the outside of the lid and the grill with hot soapy water.

How to Maintain A Cleaner Grill

If you don’t want to have to deep clean your grill every week or two, the following tips can help you stay on top of grill maintenance:

  • Empty out the ash catcher every time you grill. Ash catchers are a mess waiting to happen and can easily overflow if neglected.
  • Use a grill brush to clean the grate before you grill. This should be done after you’ve preheated the grill. The heat will help loosen the burnt pieces of food left on the grill from the last grilling session.
  • Depending on the type of food you’re cooking, you may need to oil the grate. Fatty cuts of meat, such as steaks won’t stick to the grill, but low-fat cuts of meat such as skinless chicken breast can and often do. To prevent your food from sticking to the grate, slightly brush olive oil on the grate before cooking.
  • Don’t forget to clean the grill’s lid. Many models of grills on the market these days are lined with a type of porcelain enamel. With wear and age, the smoke and grease can accumulate inside the lid. You can clean the inside of the lid using a mild dish soap and hot water. Wipe out the inside of the lid using a soft sponge. Once you’ve removed any built up gunk, rinse the lid out and allow it to air dry. This should be done every time you use your grill.

Cleaning Your Grill at the Start or End of the Season

Cleaning Your Grill at the Start or End of the Season

Many grilling enthusiasts are guilty of not cleaning their grills as often as they should. Some will even admit to storing their grill away dirty, at the end of the season and pulling it back out of the garage without cleaning it up for the season. If this sounds like you, then our guide on deep cleaning your grill will help you whip it back into shape and have it ready for the grilling season in no time.

Routine maintenance will not only keep your grill looking good, but it also ensures that your grill can cook your food efficiently. If you don’t stay on top of routine maintenance then your grill will need a deep cleaning at least once a month.

When it comes to cleaning the grate and the grill, nothing can really replace regular dish soap. Of course, you’ll also need to use plenty of elbow grease to scrub off tough stuck on food.

For a deep clean, you’ll need the following supplies:

  • Towel
  • Dish soap
  • Hot water
  • Sponge

Mix the hot water and soap in a large mixing bowl, stirring well until the soap is dissolved. Next, you’ll scrub the grate and the exterior of the grill with the sponge and soapy mixture. Make sure you remove any grime stuck to the grate. Continue to scrub until the shiny surface of the grate is visible. You should also remove the grate and scrub out the bottom of the bowl as well.

Soak a towel in hot water and use it to wipe off the grate and the grill’s interior and exterior. Allow the grill and grate to air dry before putting everything back together or storing it.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

If you’re dealing with a lot of stuck on grime, baking soda and vinegar can be a more effective solution. When combined, baking soda and vinegar can easily remove the gunk off the grate. The acetic acid in the vinegar will help to break down hardened and burned on food particles. It also acts as an abrasive cleaning agent.

For this cleaning method, you’ll need two tablespoons and one cup of white wine vinegar. You’ll use equal amounts of water and vinegar to create the cleaning solution. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Sprinkle the baking soda over the grate, then spray it thoroughly with the water and vinegar mixture. Make sure you thoroughly saturate the grate with the solution and allow it to sit for fifteen minutes before scrubbing.

After you’ve scrubbed the grate clean, wash off the residue using a hose, then wipe the grate off using a towel to remove any remaining residue.

Magic Eraser

Another option is scrubbing the grate clean using a Magic Eraser. This sponge works wonders on grates and can easily restore the grate’s shine. These sponges are made out of melamine foam, which contains abrasive properties that makes it work similarly to sandpaper. To use, all you have to do is wet the sponge to activate its cleaning agent and get to work scrubbing the grate.

Avoid using the Magic eraser on nonstick, polished, or high-gloss surfaces. The abrasive material can easily scratch a grill’s exterior.

Related Questions

Can You Recommend a Low-Maintenance Charcoal Grill?

Not only is the Char-Griller E06614 Charcoal Grill low-maintenance, but it’s also priced affordable. This is a very basic, beginner-friendly grill and one that comes loaded with some great features. However, just like higher priced feature-packed charcoal grills, this model will also require a little routine maintenance.

Are Ceramic Grills Easy to Maintain?

Most are. Ceramic grills feature an egg-shaped design with thicker walls than the average charcoal grill or kettle grill. You can easily break it down to clean it out by removing the grate and the ash catcher. However, their heavier size may make deep cleans a two-person job. To learn more about the different types of charcoal grills available, click here to read our portable charcoal grill buyer’s guide.

What Can I Do to Regulate a Grill’s Temperature?

How to maintain charcoal grill temperature can be tricky. The best thing you can do is resist the urge to constantly lift the lid off the grill when you’re cooking. You can also spread out the coals in order to ensure that the food on the grill is cooked evenly.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to clean charcoal grill grates will ensure that you get the most flavor out of your food, and an even heating temperature, while also preventing flareups. If you clean your grill at least once a week, you can scrub it down in a matter of minutes. If you’ve failed to stay on top of scrubbing your grate down after use, then a little more elbow grease may be needed. Remember, not only will basic maintenance keep your grill looking great, but it will also impact how quickly and efficiently the grate heats up and cooks your food.