Your cooking grates are integral to a properly functioning grill. But, since you do your cooking on them, they tend to get dirty first and fast. The rest of your grill may not need a deep cleaning when your grates do. Plus, the material your grill grates are made out of can determine how to properly clean them.
Stainless steel and cast iron grates should be cleaned in slightly different ways, which we’ll go over, as well. Plus, we’ll give you some tips on different ways to clean your grates. Look no further for how to clean grill grates: a step by step explanation.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
For the most part, the supplies you’ll need to clean your grill grates are the same for any type of grill. But, it’s always best to read the owner’s manual for your grill and follow any specific instructions found there. If you don’t have or can’t find your owner’s manual, just follow the instructions below.
Grill Grate Cleaning Supplies
- Grill Brush
- Cleaning Brush or Sponge (For porcelain grill grates)
- Mild Dish Soap
- Aluminum Foil
- Cleaning Gloves (Optional)
- Large Bin or Bucket (Large enough to fit grill grates in)
- Grill Cleaner (Optional – use only if your grill grates have hard baked on residue)
Step 2: Determine Your Grate’s Material
The three main types of grill grate are cast iron, stainless steel, and porcelain. You need to care for each of these a little differently. Once you determine what your grill grates are made out of, move to the next step for your specific material.
Step 3: Scrub
- Stainless Steel and Cast Iron: Use your scrub brush with metal bristles to scrape any loose residue and food off of your grates. Scrub with the grates, not against them. This will allow you to get in between the metal. Once you’re done with one side, flip over and repeat on the other side.
- Porcelain: Using your cleaning brush with nylon bristles or sponge, remove any loose residue from your grates. Move the brush at an angle to the direction of the grates. This will help to clear any food residue and keep you from chipping the porcelain.
Step 4: Soak
Once you’ve removed any loose food material, you’ll want to soak your grates in soap and water for 30 to 45 minutes. To do this, fill your waterproof bin or bucket with water and a generous amount of dish soap. If you have access to warm water, it works best. Place the grill grates in the soapy water. If your grates don’t fit and aren’t fully submerged, flip them after 15 or 20 minutes.
Alternative methods: If your grates are particularly grimy and dirty, you can use Simple Green cleaner or grill cleaner on this step. Simply follow the instructions on the package.
Step 5: Scrub Again
Once you’ve let your grates soak for a half-hour or so, you can pull them out and scrub them again. The soap or cleaning solution you used should have loosened the remaining food residue to where you can easily scrape them off with the appropriate brush. If you still have tough residue on your grates after this step, soak the racks for an hour or more.
Step 6: Rinse and Replace
Once your grill grates are looking good again, it’s time to rinse them off with a hose. It’s okay to apply a little water pressure to your grill grates but stay away from powerful cleaning methods such as pressure washing, especially for porcelain grates.
If you don’t have access to a hose, simply wipe them off with a wet rag to remove any cleaning solution residue. Once they are dry, place your grates back on the grill.
Step 7: Season Your Grill Grates
To help keep your grill grates looking good and lasting long, you’ll want to season them properly. To do this, simply apply your choice of cooking oil with a paper towel. You can use canola, peanut, coconut, or vegetable oil. Or, you can use bacon fat. Once you’ve coated your grates in the oil, heat up your grill for 15 to 20 minutes. This will heat the oil, and your grates should turn bronze or brown in color.
You can then either begin cooking or simply let your grill cool down. You’ll want to season your grill grates with oil before and after each grilling session, to prevent rust and wear. It will also help to keep your grill grates clean.
Cleaning Grill Grates With Vinegar and Baking Soda
If you have stubborn residue on your grill grates that just won’t come off with the steps above, it’s time to bring out the big guns: vinegar and baking soda. For the best results, you’ll need 24 hours for this method.
You’ll need a large trash bag, 2 cups of vinegar, and 1 cup of baking soda.
Mix the vinegar and baking soda in a bowl. Place your grill grates in the large garbage bag, and pour the vinegar and baking soda solution inside the bag. Seal the bag and position it so that the grates are being soaked by the solution. Let it sit for 24 hours.
Once the allotted time has passed, pull the grates out and rinse or wipe them off with water. The residue should come off easily. If it doesn’t, try scrubbing with a sponge or nylon brush, as it shouldn’t take much force to remove anything still on the grates.
Once your grates are nice and clean, you can put them back on the grill and season them as described in step 7 above.
Cleaning Grill Grates With Vinegar and Water
If you’re only looking for a quick and easy cleaning solution, mix two parts water with one part vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray your grates (you can leave them in the grill) and let the solution soak for 10 minutes. Then scrape it down with your grill or cleaning brush. There’s no need to rinse your grates, as you’re only using vinegar and water. This works best for a simple touch-up, and you should still deep-clean your grates at least once a year.
Grill Hack: How to Clean Your Grill Grates Without a Brush
If you want to clean your grill grates but you don’t have a brush, don’t worry! You can simply ball up a piece of aluminum foil and use it as a brush on the grates. If your grill is still hot, use a long pair of tongs to hold the foil. If it’s cold, you can use your hand to hold the foil and scrape off any food residue.
Now you know a couple of different ways to clean your grill grates. There really is no right or wrong way to do it, provided you’re using the right kind of brush for the type of grate you have.
Some people simply heat their grill up and scrape the grates with their grill brush. That’s all the cleaning they ever do. But, to keep your grill running strong for years to come, it’s best to clean it at least once every year. If you grill a few times a week or more, it’s best to clean it 2 or 3 times a year.
A clean grill is a healthy grill, and the grates are the only part of it that comes into direct contact with your food!
Happy cleaning, happy grilling!