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How to Keep Your Charcoal Grill Clean

Dirty, gross grill? We can help. Here's how to keep your charcoal grill clean all season

Don't cook your food on a dirty grill! Here's how to keep it clean.

When grilling season arrives, nothing can compare to friends and family gathering together to enjoy some grilled goodness. Don't mar your next cookout with a dirty grill. Considering the delicious-looking (and tasting!) food your charcoal grill produces for us, you ought to give your grill the care it deserves.

Charcoal grills have many components that are important for them to function well. The grates, burners, tubes and so on can develop carbon deposits on them when we cook food on it. These deposits are not good for your health. First, the buildup of carbon deposit will lead to uneven heating as it’ll block the tubes to reach its maximum temperature. Secondly, it’ll lead to the growth of bacteria on the deposits due to the grease that sticks to it. Thirdly, it’ll look, um, ugly and unsightly. So, you need to clean and maintain your charcoal grill to get the same flavorful food every barbecue for every grilling session.

There is a general cleaning lifecycle for charcoal grills every grilling season, namely:

  1. Before you start grilling your food
  2. After you're done grilling your food
  3. At the end of the grilling season is over

Use the tips below to help you clean your charcoal grill in the easiest way possible. Let’s get started!

Before you Start Grilling your Food

Invest in good cleaning supplies for your charcoal grill: This is a step that many people tend to neglect. Good-quality cleaning supplies can make the cleaning task efficient and effective. A good grill brush is a must. We’ll advise you to opt for stainless steel brushes as they have longevity in addition to being functional. Get foil, paper bags, and a putty knife too. Aluminum foil is really good for scrubbing both the grate and grill.

Thoroughly clean your grill grates: Preheat your grill at a high temperature for around 15 minutes. Take care to open all the vents of the grill. Use a steel bristle brush to remove leftover junk on the grate. You’ll get grates as good as new. Heating helps to loosen the gunk attached to your grill.

Inspect the inside bowl of your charcoal grill: Empty the bowl of any charcoal ash that it may contain. Soak it in lukewarm water and soap. This will help to break up any junk stuck on it. Take a steel wool pad to scrub the bowl once. A putty knife can be used to scrape up burnt-on bits, as well.

After You’re Done With the Grilling

Clean the grill while it’s still warm: Now, we are not asking you to burn your fingers so be careful. When your grill is at lukewarm temperature, use a mild soap or multipurpose surface cleaning liquid to wipe your lid and bowl. Also, use a wad of aluminum foil to scrub off sticky food or grease. You can even use the steel bristle brush to remove food chunks. This step will actually help you save time in the long run. If the grease gets hard then it can be quite a task to clean it properly as it sticks to the grate.

Oil your grate properly after grilling:  Oiling your grate after cleaning it will help it not get rusty. The oil acts as a protective layer from moisture and will even keep it clean from sticky dirt. Of course, you will have to re-oil the grate the next time you use it.

Ensure that your ash catcher is empty: An ash catcher needs to be emptied carefully. It is better to do this as soon as possible for health and hygiene reasons. While you’re at it, check if your charcoal or briquette stock is enough for the next cookout.

When the Grilling Season is Over

If you want to pack your charcoal grill away for the winter, keep certain points in mind to make things easy for you for next season. It may seem like extra effort now, but you will be thankful to have done it when you use it again. The pointers are:

  1. Wash the bowl and lid to ensure no leftover deposit of grease is on it. Pay special attention to the cooking grate and the charcoal grate.
  2. Take care to throw away the charcoal ash.
  3. As mentioned above, oil your grate to prevent rust.
  4. Invest in a weatherproof cover for your charcoal grill. This will protect it from insects and climate.
  5. Replace your grill brush. Due to excessive use, the bristle of the brush may loosen.

Resources— The Spruce Eats, The Kitchn