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How to Clean Grill Grates

How to Clean Grill Grates

When it’s grilling season, all grillers- newbies and grill masters-must know how to clean their grill grates after grilling. After all, a great barbeque begins with clean grill grates. Besides dirty grill grates negatively affecting the taste of your food, they are a health hazard and slow down the cooking time.

Cleaning your grates may sound complicated but is overly simple. Here are a few ways to remove grime and get your grill ready for the next grilling season for better-tasting food.

Burn off

Burn off is the easiest and quickest cleaning method for your grates.

When you finish grilling, shuffle around the coals if yours is a charcoal grill, or turn your burners to high heat with the grill lid removed to get rid of any grease or food leftovers. Wait for 15 minutes, then use a brush to clean the grates.

Use hot, soapy water

You can also clean your grill grates with hot, soapy water at least once per month. Cleaning every month inhibits build-up. The heat from the hot water also sanitizes your grill grates.

How to clean

  • Scrub your grates gently.
  • Soak them in soapy water for about an hour.
  • Rinse off the grates with clean water.
  • Place the grates inside your grill and close the lid.
  • Warm-up your grill.
  • Use a grill brush or any other tool to brush off any residue from the grate once the grill warms up.

Use vinegar or a grill spray

You can replace the hot soapy water with vinegar or a grill spray.

How to clean

  • In a spray bottle, put two cups of vinegar and two cups of water and mix.
  • Use this mixture to spray over your grates.
  • Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Use a brush to clean off any residue.
  • You do not need to rinse off the grates.
  • If you opt for a grill spray, follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Use steam to clean

Using steam is an easy method of cleaning gas grill grates, although it can also work for your charcoal grill.

How to clean

  • First, heat your grill to 600°F.
  • When you reach 600°F, turn off the grill heat.
  • Put water into a large tin or can and place it on your grill grates.
  • Cover the grill and allow it to steam for about 30 minutes.
  • Use a sponge to scrub off residue and build up.

How do I make my grill grates look new?

Here are four easy ways to clean your porcelain, stainless steel, or cast iron grill grates with less effort using baking soda to make them as good as new.

Method 1: Aluminum foil and baking soda

  • Mix 1 ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup water in a bowl and make a paste with a thick liquid-like consistency that will stick to the grates.
  • Cover your grates with the paste using a brush or sponge and allow it to sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Tear about 2 to 3 feet long aluminum foil and make it into a ball.
  • Use the aluminum foil ball to scrub the grates covered with baking soda. Work with an up and down motion across the grates.
  • Use clean water to rinse the grates and place them back into the grill.

Check this too: How to Keep a Charcoal Grill from Rusting

Method 2: Baking soda and scouring sponge

This method is ideal for porcelain grill grates. Unfortunately, a wire brush or aluminum foil scratches the grates’ coated finish. To avoid this damage, use a nylon bristle brush or a scouring sponge. Here’s how to clean:

  • First, remove the grates from the grill and place them on a flat surface.
  • Sprinkle some water over the grates to moisten them
  • Liberally sprinkle baking soda over the moist grates and allow to sit for about 10 minutes. The baking soda dissolves charred bits of food to make cleaning easy.
  • Scrub the grill grates with a damp scour sponge and use an up and down motion.
  • Rinse the grates with clean water and put them back into the grill.

ProTip: Fire your grill up after cleaning to dry it up or leave it under the sun. Leaving pools of water will accelerate rusting and could leave you with a rusted out grill bottom

How to clean cast iron grill grates without removing them from the grill

Cast iron grill grates heat evenly and is also durable. However, they are prone to rust. Baking soda is effective in removing rust. Here is the procedure.

  • Use 1½ cups of baking soda, ¼ cup white vinegar, and ¼ cup dish soap to make a paste in a small bowl. Make a frothy liquid consistency that will stick to the grates.
  • Paint the grates with the paste using a brush, ensuring you do not paint the heating parts if it is a gas grill.
  • Cover the grill, but do not turn it on.
  • Let the baking soda paste sit overnight or for 8 to 12 hours.
  • With a scour sponge or nylon-bristled brush, remove the loose grime and residue from the grates.
  • Use warm water to dampen a sponge and wipe off any residue.
  • When you remove all the rust, dry the grates thoroughly.
  • Rub a generous amount of vegetable oil on the grates to coat them. This coating protects your grates from moisture. After rubbing the oil on the grates, turn the grill on high to speed up the seasoning process.

Baking soda and vinegar

Consider soaking your dirty grates in a baking soda and vinegar mixture overnight for stubborn grime or caked-on grease that does not loosen easily. Soaking will save you from the scrubbing labor. Here is the process.

  • Let your grates cool completely, then remove them from the grill.
  • Find a large garbage bag that can hold your grates.
  • Mix 1 cup baking soda and 2 cups white vinegar in the garbage bag. The mixture becomes foamy immediately.
  • Put your grates inside the garbage bag and tightly seal it with a rubber band or string.
  • Position the bag in a cool place that’s out of the way and let it sit overnight.
  • Remove your grates and rinse them in a sink or washtub. Most of the dirt will fall off as you rinse.
  • If there is any residue, rub it off with an aluminum foil ball or sponge. Cleaning will be easier than before soaking, as the residue will now be loose.
  • Seal your garbage bag and throw it away.
  • Place the grates inside your grill.

Baking Soda is an effective natural cleaner ideal for daily cleaning around your home and seasonal deep cleaning.

What to do before cleaning grill grates

Before you clean, consider the material your grill grates are made of. How to clean the grill grates and what cleaning products to use largely depends on the material of the grates.

  • Porcelain grates: as long as their original finish is not damaged, porcelain grates are rust-resistant. They require a nylon brush or one with soft bristles to clean.
  • Stainless-steel grates: this type is durable and does not require much care compared to porcelain and cast iron grates. To inhibit rust, ensure to dry them completely.
  • Cast iron grates: this material makes the grates tough enough to handle stiff brushes. They are not prone to rust and can be cleaned by rubbing with vegetable oil.

How to clean grill grates without a brush

Wire brushes break easily, and their bristles can fall into your food and be accidentally ingested. Other than the traditional grill brush, here are other tools you can use:

  • Aluminum foil: take your aluminum foil, roll it into a ball and use grill tongs to secure it as you scrub your grill grates.
  • Grill stone: rub the stone across your grates and then wipe them with a damp cloth.
  • Nylon scrubbing pad: you can clean grill grates easily with a scouring pad from your kitchen.
  • Onion: you can also clean grill grates with onions. It may look weird, but all you need is half an onion. Put a barbecue fork through the onion with the cut side to the bottom. Rub this cut side across the grates to clean them. Its acidic enzymes break down the grease residue covering the grates without being abrasive. If you use charcoal on your grill, you can throw away the used onions into the coals.

What to do before using grill grates

Clean your grates

  • Inspect burners and flame tents and clean your grease trap.
  • Remove any debris on the ledges holding your grates to prevent potential flare-ups from lighting debris and grease in your grill’s bottom.
  • When a grease fire occurs, turn off the grill burners and cover the grill until the fire goes out. You should not use water to extinguish a grease fire.

Season your grates

  • Use an onion to season your grill grates. Cut an onion in half and rub it on the clean grates. Onions have sulfur elements that create a hard surface when heated.
  • The hard surface degrades at 1000°F. The onions also have antibacterial components that ensure your grates are safe to cook on.
  • After grilling a few times, oil your grates. But as your grill grates season over time, oiling them will become unnecessary.
  • You can also oil your food before grilling to help the seasoning process and break in new grill grates.
  • Use oils that have high smoke points, like avocado or canola oils.
  • Oils like extra virgin olive oil smoke at 400°F and become sticky, making grilling pretty messy.

Give your grates time to season.

  • Over-cleaning your grates hinders them from seasoning. Seasoning allows them to form a non-stick coating. As your grates season, they turn from grey to black.
  • Do not heat burn-offs on extremely high heat upon grilling to avoid baking the debris.
  • Overexposure to high heat of over 850°F will gradually warp your grates.

Can you soak grill grates in Dawn?

Yes, you can. Soaking your grill grates in dish soap like Dawn is an effective way of deep cleaning your grill grates. You can deep clean your grates in a washtub or sink. Deep cleaning is perfect for removing sauces and marinades. Do not use a dishwasher, oven cleaner, or harsh acidic products to clean your grates as they will damage them.

After soaking your grill grates, use a sponge or brush to scrub them. A blackened surface is a sign of seasoning. So you should only deep clean occasionally. Over-cleaning will damage the seasoning, and you will need to re-season your grates.

Check this too: Types of Gas Grill Burners


It is advisable to clean your grill before and after grilling thoroughly. However, you can make the work easier if you oil your grates beforehand. Use a paper towel to rub any oil of choice on your grates. The rest of your grill, grill tools, and accessories also need to be sparkling from top to bottom.

Also, protect your grill from debris or rain with a grill cover during barbecues. Proper cleaning and maintenance increase your grill’s longevity, allowing you to enjoy many grilling seasons.