By Tina Jepson
You spent a good chunk of change on your outdoor grill, but you’ve probably found that it tends to take a beating over time. The constant grilling, exposure to the elements, and infrequent cleanings are just a few of the ways you may be prematurely aging your grill.
Photos by Tina Jepson
Why care for your grill? There are so many reasons why regular cleaning and maintenance are necessary. For starters, it helps decrease the bacteria on your grill grates, meaning there’s less likelihood of contracting a foodborne illness.
With less “gunk” on your grill, you’re also exposed to fewer carcinogens and other grill-corroding chemicals.
But, when push comes to shove, the biggest reason why you should always maintain a clean grill is that it makes your food taste SO much better.
Let’s break down the ins and outs of outdoor grill care and maintenance.
What You’ll Need
Since cleaning is a dirty job, prepare beforehand so you’re not running around with dirty grates and no cleanser!
Here’s what you’ll need to clean both a gas grill:
- A solution of vinegar and water (25% vinegar and 75% water). If you can’t stand the smell of vinegar, put a few drops of a yummy-smelling food-grade essential oil such as peppermint or lemon.
- Dish-cleaning soap, such as Dawn
- Sturdy rubber gloves
- A grill brush or a sponge with scrubber
- Paper towels or utility rags
Deep Cleaning a Gas Grill
Cleaning a gas grill with vinegar is a chemical-free way to spruce up your grill safely without compromising on effectiveness! Here’s how:
- Prep Your Working Space: When cleaning a gas grill, start by turning off the propane (make sure all those control knobs are turned to the “off” position). Better yet, go ahead and remove the entire propane tank from the grill. This way, the grill is easier to move and to clean.
- Remove the Grates: Wearing gloves, carefully lift the cooking grates, any other racks (such as ones for warming), the grease tray, and grill burner covers and place them in your kitchen sink or large bucket. Soak in warm water and a few drops of dish cleaning soap (most have strong degreasing properties!)
- Take Inventory & Get Cleaning: Open the lid and the cabinet doors, and get to work. I find it easier to work your way from top to bottom. Start by applying a steady stream of the vinegar solution directly to the grill (work in sections). Allow it to sit for a minute or so, and then, using paper towels or a rag, use a circular motion to remove any dirt and debris. For stubborn areas, use a scrubber sponge or even the grill brush.
- Clean Inside and Underneath: Are you wondering how to clean the inside of a gas grill? Truth be told, you’ll use the same techniques as outlined above. Simply spray, wait, and scrub. Don’t forget to scrub and sweep the bottom cabinet (if you have one).
- Finish Up Those Grates: Your grates, grease tray, and burner covers have been soaking for about 15 minutes now. Give them a good scrub, a final rinse, and then place them right back on the grill.
- Wash Down the Outside: Even if you keep your grill covered, the outside can get quite dirty. Wipe down the outside of the grill with a rag soaked in that vinegar solution. Then, hose it off and allow the grill to dry before throwing the grill cover back on.
Total Time: 20-30 minutes
Cost: Free (using only household materials!)
Grill Cleaning and Maintenance FAQ
Maintaining a clean grill helps cut down on the longevity and frequency of those deep cleans. Here are some FAQs related to grill cleaning and maintenance that can help to prolong the life of your outdoor grill.
How often should I clean my grill? Perform a deep clean once a month if you’re using the grill two, three, or more times per week. Also, always clean it after a long period of inactivity to help ensure it’s both clean and working properly. Don’t forget to clean your grill grates after each use!
Can you hose down a gas grill? Yes, you can hose down a gas grill or even use a pressure washer. Just make sure the propane is turned off before you begin.
What temperature kills bacteria on a grill? A temperature between 400-450 degrees kills almost all food-borne bacteria. Before each grilling session, preheat your grill for at least 15 minutes at this high temperature to ensure a clean, bacteria-free surface.
Can I clean a grill without a brush? Yes (and you should if you can). Wires from grill brushes can get stuck in food, presenting a potentially fatal safety hazard. If this worries you, rub an alternative grill-cleaning tool such as an onion sliced in half or a ball of aluminum foil across your grill grates.
Take 30 minutes or so every month to perform a deep clean of your grill. In doing so, you’ll prolong the life of your grill, ensure a clean cooking surface, and ultimately have better-tasting food.