The Best Way to Clean a Grill for Delicious Backyard BBQ

Discover the best way to clean a grill, whether you choose to cook over gas or charcoal.

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $30

Take your barbecue dishes from good to fantastic! Brushing up on your grilled steak technique and acing your burger temperature is important, but the most critical steps of the grilling process occur after you use the grill. Learning the best way to clean a grill (yes, you need to do it every time) makes it easier to achieve the fresh yet smoky flavors of your favorite grilled recipes.

Plus, everything you cook on the grill will be easier to flip and remove from the grates when the surface is clean. Cleaning your grill is a quick task that will help keep your friends and family healthy while making your burgers and brats taste better.

Whether you prefer cooking with charcoal or gas, these Test Kitchen-approved tips on cleaning a grill will help you achieve professional-level results at your backyard barbecue. We'll show you the best way to clean a grill, including charcoal grills, outdoor electric grills, and griddle grills for your best backyard burgers.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

Cleaning a Charcoal Grill

  • Heat-resistant mitts
  • Stainless-steel grill brush
  • Bristle-free grill brush (optional)
  • Mild soap
  • Steel wool
  • Towel (optional)

Cleaning a Gas Grill

  • Stainless-steel grill brush
  • Soft cloth
  • Warm, soapy water
  • Buckets
  • Handheld vacuum
  • Shop vacuum (optional)
  • Hose with sprayer
  • Towel

Cleaning a Griddle Grill

  • Metal spatula
  • Boiling water
  • Grill tongs
  • Towel
  • Clean cloth (optional)

Cleaning a Smoker Grill

  • Grill brush
  • Damp cloth
  • Putty knife

Cleaning a Flat Top Grill

  • Griddle scraper
  • Warm water
  • Scouring pad
  • Towel


Cleaning a Griddle Grill

  • Seasoning oil (optional)


How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

The best way to clean a grill and prevent food from sticking to it is by cleaning the grates after each use.

  1. scrubbing dirty grill rack with sponge
    Photo: Jacob Fox; Stylist: Joseph Wanek

    Let Coals Cool and Scrub Grill

    Allow the coals to die down a bit before cleaning, but keep in mind that particles release easiest when the grate is still warm. For safety, slip on heat-resistant mitts or grill gloves to clean a charcoal grill. Scrub steel racks with a long-handled, stainless-steel grill brush or a bristle-free grill brush to avoid dangerous bristles in food.

  2. Dispose of Coals

    Once the charcoal grill is cool, dump out the burned coals and dispose of them carefully.

  3. Wash and Thoroughly Dry

    After the grate and grill are fully cooled, wash both using mild soap and steel wool. Then allow all pieces to dry (or wipe dry with a towel) before topping the grill with the lid and storing away from the elements. (The drying portion of this grill-cleaning process is essential, so you won't have to learn how to clean a rusty grill!)

scrubbing grill rack with wire brush
Photo: Jacob Fox; Stylist: Joseph Wanek

How to Clean a Gas Grill

The best way to clean a gas grill starts by cranking up the heat after every use.

  1. Remove Residue from Grill

    Turn your grill to high for 10 to 15 minutes with the lid closed to burn off any extra bits—similar to how you'd clean your oven. Next, turn off the grill and let it cool slightly, then loosen the residue from the grill rack with a stainless-steel grill brush. This prevents sticking and helps avoid flare-ups (surges of flames) the next time you cook.

  2. Clean Inside and Outside Grill

    Once your gas grill is completely cool, wipe the inside and outside surfaces with a soft cloth and warm, soapy water.

  3. Clean Caked-On Grime

    If the grime is caked on, remove the grill grates and soak them in buckets of soapy water for 15 minutes or more. Then, rinse with clean water and wipe the grates dry.

    Grab a handheld vacuum or shop vacuum to clean the inside of a gas grill. Use a grill brush to dislodge the soot, then suck it up with the vacuum. Next, spray clean with a hose and wipe with a towel to dry.

How to Clean a Griddle Grill

If you've cooked on a cast-iron skillet, you've probably heard the advice not to use soap—and the same applies to your griddle grill. Using soap or chemicals will strip away the seasoned surface of your griddle, which means food will stick to it and won't taste as good. However, it's still essential to properly clean a griddle grill after each use.

  1. Add Water and Scrape Residue

    Once you're done cooking, take a metal spatula and scrape away any remaining food or grease. While the griddle is still hot, pour water on the metal surface. The water will boil and steam off any remaining food particles, so it can help to continue scraping with the spatula as you pour the water. Then, use grill tongs to wipe a cleaning towel over the hot surface to soak up any leftover water and remove the remaining food bits. Repeat the process until the griddle is clean, then let it dry completely before using it again.

  2. Re-Season Grill

    You might choose to re-season the grill after cleaning it. To do this, let the griddle cool off a bit. You want it warm but not so hot the oil sizzles and smokes. Then, pour a minimal amount of seasoning oil (about the size of a nickel or smaller) onto the warm surface and use a clean cloth to spread it around. The cloth will soak up some of the oil as you rub it into the griddle, leaving you with a seasoned surface that's not oily to the touch.

How to Clean a Smoker Grill

Also similar to cast-iron skillets, many smokers are seasoned with an oily coating that protects the interior from rust. When cleaning a smoker, it's important to maintain this coating while removing ash and excess buildup.

  1. Clean After Each Use

    Remove and dispose of ashes and leftover grease from the smoker after every use.

  2. Scrub and Scrape

    Scrub the grates with a grill brush, and wipe up grease or spills with a damp cloth. Scrape away large deposits of grease or cooked-on food from the cooking chamber with a putty knife or similar tool.

How to Clean a Flat-Top Grill

Although most commonly found in restaurants and other commercial kitchens, flat-top grills can also make a great addition to your outdoor cooking setup.

  1. Scrape and Steam

    To clean a flat-top grill, start when the surface is still hot. Use a griddle scraper to clear away bits of food and grease. Carefully pour warm water onto the surface (be prepared for steam) to help boil off the additional buildup.

  2. Scour and Dry

    Use a scouring pad attached to a scrub handle to clear away any residue, then rinse the surface and wipe clean with a towel.

The Best Way to Clean a Grill Without a Brush

If you don't have a grill brush handy, try a long-handled metal spatula or grip a ball of foil with a pair of tongs and rub the grates. Either works well to clean a grill without a brush, allowing you to scrub the grates to make them grime-free.

leather wrapped grill utensils
Dana Borremans

The Best Way to Clean Grill Accessories

Grill accessories, including brushes, spatulas, tongs, and other cooking utensils, also need cleaning after each cookout. The best way to clean grill utensils is to wash them by hand, even for technically dishwasher-safe utensils. Tossing greasy grilling tools into your dishwasher can lead to clogged plumbing and an even bigger mess. Instead, soak grilling utensils in hot water and a few drops of dish soap designed to cut through grease. Use a scrubbing sponge or bristled brush to loosen cooked-on food and grime, then rinse the utensils and dry well with a clean cloth.

Best Products for Cleaning a Grill

The right tools are key to the most effective cleaning. An all-in-one grill-cleaning kit, such as the Weber Grill Cleaning Kit ($82, Weber), makes it a cinch to clean a BBQ grill. However, if you prefer to stock up on individual elements or need a few cleaning tools to round out your barbecue tool kit, consider these items:

With these tips, you're armed with the best way to clean a grill, no matter what tools you already have. If you cook grilled recipes regularly, make life a bit easier and stock up on all the cleaning tools. On the other hand, if you only pull out the grill a couple of times a year, stick to soapy water and use our tips on cleaning a grill without a grill brush. However you tackle it, cleaning your grill after each use and before and after grilling season is essential to keep your equipment in peak condition for outdoor cooking.

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