How to Clean Grill Grates

Don't push this essential end-of-summer project to spring.

Everyone loves a cookout, but cleaning up afterward can be a pain. Once the food is gone and the charcoal has cooled, cleaning your grill's grates is a pesky task that often falls off the to-do list. However, grime-free grill grates are essential to keeping a pest-free yard and delicious barbecues all year round.

Grill grates can be made of cast iron, stainless steel, or a porcelain coating. Cutting through fat and greasy buildup on each surface is easiest when you've got the right products and equipment. You can buy a professional grill cleaning kit or use supplies you already have around the house. However, each surface requires different tools and techniques.

cleaning grill grate with cloth
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How to Clean Stainless-Steel Grill Grates

Stainless-steel grill grates are known for their rust resistance. They can withstand intense heat, which can be used to help loosen any hardened fat deposits left from meat, butter, or caramelized veggies. Here's what you need to know to get the job done.

What You Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Dish soap
  • Nylon brush
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled white vinegar

Step 1: Heat Grates and Let Cool

If your grates have caked-on food, turn the grill on low heat for about 10 minutes to remove as much buildup as possible.

Step 2: Wash Grates

After the grill cools, remove the grates from the grill. Wear gloves to prevent any gunk from getting on your hands or under your nails. Wash grill grates in the sink using dish soap and a nylon brush to scrub off any remaining particles.

Step 3: Apply Baking Soda and Vinegar

If stubborn food particles remain, sprinkle on a generous amount of baking soda. Spray distilled white vinegar over the baking soda. Wait a few minutes for foam to form. Gently scrub the grates.

Step 4: Rinse and Dry

Rinse with warm water and towel dry. Don't place the grates back in a closed grill until they are completely dry.

For stainless-steel grills less than a year old, consider an oven rack or grill cleaner kit, which has everything needed to clean two grill grates without much scrubbing.

How to Clean Cast Iron Grill Grates

How well you clean cast iron is directly related to how long you'll be able to enjoy it. Alex Varela of Dallas Maids says that cast iron grill grates are durable but, like all cast iron cookware, prone to rusting. To avoid rusting and chipping, start by heating the grill, as instructed above, to remove food particles. Afterward, skip the soak and try these techniques for cleaning cast iron grill grates.

Step 1: Scrub Grates

Avoid soaking cast iron in water. Instead, use a damp cloth or a nylon cleaning brush to scrub the grates clean.

Step 2: Dry and Season Grates

Use a soft towel to pat dry the grates. Don't skip this step! Air-drying cast iron can lead to calcium deposits and rust. Season the grates by coating them with vegetable oil after every use.

How to Clean Grill Grates with a Porcelain Coating

Usually, porcelain-coated grill grates are made of either iron or steel beneath the surface. Porcelain has a smooth, even outer coating, making it easy to scrub with dish soap. To avoid cracks and chips, don't scrape the surface with abrasive sponges or brushes. Instead, use these easy steps.

Step 1: Soak and Wash Grates

Once cool, remove the porcelain grates and soak for 30 minutes as needed; for day-to-day grime, you can likely skip this step. Wash them thoroughly with warm water. Use a vinegar spray or dish soap to scrub the surface. Even the gentlest metal cleaning cloths can damage non-stick coatings, so be sure to only use a soft brush, sponge, or cloth to clean your grates.

Step 2: Dry Grates

Thoroughly dry the grates using a clean towel. Quick-dry and cotton cloths can make this job faster.

For a deep clean, former chef and grilling enthusiast, Michael East, recommends steam cleaning grates. "Simply heat the grill to 600 degrees and then turn the heat off. Place a heat-resistant container of water onto the grates and then close the lid and allow this to steam for 30 minutes. Lastly, scrub the grill grate with a silicone sponge to remove the buildup of food and grease."

grilled kabob assortment charcoal grill
Carson Downing

Must-Know Tips for Cleaning Grill Grates

When it comes to cleaning your grill, you might want to clean up right after the barbecue is done, but grill grates need time to cool. Be patient and don't risk burning yourself. Instead, wait a few hours to let the grates cool for cleaning purposes.

Remember to wash grill grates thoroughly after every use. And do not place wet grates on the grill rack. Water droplets can rust the grates, as well as the undercarriage of the grill itself. Towel dry thoroughly before closing the lid on your freshly cleaned grill.

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