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How should we clean a grill? And how often should we do it?

Good Question: How should we clean a grill? And how often should we do it?
Good Question: How should we clean a grill? And how often should we do it? 02:44

VADNAIS HEIGHTS, Minn. – The gorgeous weather likely has people fired up to fire up their grill. 

Barbecue season is upon us. As we start to cook more often outdoors, we wanted to know: How should we clean a grill? And how often should we do it? Jeff Wagner gets his hands dirty for this one.

At Anderson Barbecue Supply in Vadnais Heights, owner Robert Anderson is an honest man. When asked if he feels people clean their grills as often as they should, he answered with a smile.

"If you ask me if I do, absolutely not. You cook, you let your grill cool down, you eat dinner, then you probably have some dishes to do and you kind of forget about it."

Until you open the grill again and get that grimy reminder of your lack of cleaning.

When cleaning a grill, no matter the style, what are the main tools needed? Anderson's top three include:

  1. Natural-based cleaning solution: Not only does it tackle grease well, but the natural ingredients are non-toxic. Natural grill cleaners can cost upwards for $20, so if that's too expensive then dish detergent and water should suffice.

  2. Wired or steel brush. "I like the hard coils on them because they're not gonna fall off onto [the grill and into] your food," said Anderson. He said steel bristles are fine to use, just examine the grates to ensure bristles didn't fall off. They work best when the grill grates are hot, before and after use, or with cleaner when cool.

  3. Paint scraper: Using a steel or plastic paint scraper can help remove the hard, stuck-on chunks and layers that leave a brush struggling.


When cleaning a gas grill, what is key to remember? 

"Most importantly with gas grills is the heat deflector that's over your propane burners is to keep them clean of grease. If you let that grease build up in there, that's gonna give you a fire later," said Anderson.

Clean the heat deflectors just like you cleaned the grates. Same tools, only wait for them to be cool first. Anderson said to clean them nearly as often as you clean the grates. And don't forget to tackle the grease build-up beneath the burners, not regularly but at least a few times a year.

For charcoal grills, Anderson said ensuring airflow is most important. 

"You don't want any charcoal dust or ash sitting around those vents. Like on this Weber kettle [grill] they have the bottom little latch where you can shake it back and forth and it's gonna open up those vents," he said, while demonstrating how opening the latch allows the charcoal ash to fall out.

Pellet grills have grown in popularity. Cleaning the surface on one is similar to gas grills according to Anderson. The part that stands out is ensuring there isn't too much ash at the bottom near the fire pot. If it builds up, it could hinder your ability to start the grill in the future. Anderson uses a shop vacuum to clean it after nearly each use.

No matter how you grill, keeping it clean is key. Your food will taste better, cook more evenly, and prevent fire hazards.

"Just keep it clean and don't neglect it and you'll be OK," he said.

Once your grill cools, you can try rubbing vegetable oil on the grates. That will help prevent food from sticking next time, which will also make cleaning it easier.

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