How to clean a grill – from quick fixes to thorough scrub downs

Get your grill gleaming and enjoy healthier barbecues with our essential guide

How to clean a grill
(Image credit: Morso)

When barbecue season is in full throttle, keeping a clean grill on standby is essential for stress-free garden parties and impromptu backyard cookouts. Maybe you’ve just dragged your grill out from the garage for the first fire-up of the summer, only to realise that quick end-of-season wipe-down in the rain really wasn’t up to par? Or you’re in the market for a new grill – check out our best grills – and need tips on how to look after your investment? 

Whatever your situation, if your grill is beyond grubby, we’ve got the dirt on how to get the grate and base burger-ready and keep it that way.

What are the best tools for cleaning a grill?

There are all manner of weird and wonderful tools aimed at grill cleaning but, whatever the state of your grate, you can’t go wrong with a long-handled wire brush. Choose one with stainless steel bristles for serious scrubbing action but be careful to avoid any surfaces besides the grill bars as wire brushes will scratch enamelled finishes. Use a brass-bristle brush on grills with porcelain-coated racks. 

If you can stretch to it, go for a large brush and then a smaller detailing version to get into nooks and crannies. ‘You will be able to clean with a wire brush much more efficiently if you do it while the grill is still warm – just make sure there are no flames,’ adds Catherine Moss of The Indian Fire Bowl Company. 

Other less vital but very useful additions to your grill cleaning kit include rubber gloves, a large bucket or bowl and lint-free cloths.

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Subzero Wolf)

How do I deep clean a grill?

Despite all best intentions to put it away sparkling clean at the end of the year, the sight of a greasy, blackened grill is all too familiar. Even if you do manage a scrub-down pre-storage, after languishing unused for several months, a deep clean is never a bad idea. 

So, how to get the job done with minimum effort? Start by scraping off the worst of the debris, using any flat surfaced implement, such as a sturdy spatula, garden trowel or regular dinner knife. Soaking the grill in very hot soapy water for a couple of hours will really help your cause but you may need to do it in two halves if you don’t have a container or sink big enough. Then it’s time to apply some elbow-grease and put the wire brush to work. 

If you’re still not satisfied, try a specialist grease-busting product, taking care to rinse thoroughly afterwards. Finally make sure your grill is completely dry and buffed to a shine using a lint-free cloth.

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future)

What about the base?

Outdoor kitchen with gas grills generally require little more than a wipe down with a damp, soapy cloth. Use an all-purpose degreaser to blitz grease splatters. For charcoal grills: wait until the ash is cool and either tip or shovel it into a bucket for disposal – it makes a great additive for compost heaps if you have one. Then wipe out the remaining dust or use an outdoor vacuum before cleaning with damp, soapy water.

Outdoor kitchen ideas

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

What are the best homemade cleaning products for a grill?

Chemical-based cleaners are sometimes the only way to get rid of ground-on grease. However, there are a few natural homemade solutions that are really effective, especially when applied soon after you’ve finished grilling for the day. 

Natural ingredients are safer for any surface that’s designed to be cooked on, and they are safer for the environment, too. A poultice made from equal parts baking soda and vinegar can be rubbed onto the rack and left to soak for 10-20 minutes before scrubbing with your wire brush and rinsing clean. 

Another popular cleaning tip is to cut a white onion in half and rub the flat surface onto a still-hot grill – stick it with a BBQ fork to protect your hands from residual heat. A cut lemon will have a similar effect on flat, steel hotplates, lifting charred-on food and providing an impressive shine.

Can I clean my grill in the dishwasher?

It depends on a few factors. Firstly, the size of your grill’s racks and the size of your dishwasher. If it fits and the spray arm has clearance to rotate, there’s no reason a stainless-steel or chrome-plated grate can’t be washed in the dishwasher. Do make sure any major grease is wiped off with paper towels and disposed of correctly to keep it from blocking your dishwasher’s pipes. 

Cast iron racks (including enamelled cast iron) are not suitable for the dishwasher as the seasoning will wash off and steam may cause rust. Aluminium racks that are not anodised may turn black if washed in the dishwasher. If in doubt check your grill’s user manual for details.

outdoor kitchen tips

(Image credit: Lundhs)

How can I keep my grill clean throughout the season?

Our best advice for swerving extensive cleaning is to use your grill to clean itself! When you’re done cooking, simply turn it up to its highest heat (or pile on the charcoal) and leave for 15 minutes. Any lingering food and grease will carbonise in the high temperatures. Once the 15 minutes is up, turn the gas off and make sure any flames are out, then pop on some water-soaked newspaper, close the lid and give it a 10-minute steam clean. Done regularly, you’ll never need to deep-clean again.