We had an interesting discussion recently about cleaning pellet grills. It turns out that some people never clean their grill. They clean the grates as necessary, but that's it. Not cleaning the whole pellet grill is understandable, at least. You usually don't think about it until you are firing up your smoker and it's too late to spend the time cleaning. But here is a neat little hack – frequently cleaning your grill makes it faster and easier to do so you don't have to spend an entire afternoon scrubbing years of smoke and grease off of it.
Why Cleaning Your Pellet Grill is Important
First and foremost, cleaning your grill is an essential step to cooking the best tasting food possible. Accumulations of grease and smoke affect the flavor of your food and can introduce off flavors you don't want. Worse, many of the chemicals that build up in your grill can cause health problems.
If good tasting, healthy food isn't enough to convince you that cleaning your pellet grill is important, perhaps this next bit will offer encouragement. Have you ever seen a pellet smoker burn to the ground? It's not a pretty sight and it can be incredibly dangerous, too. Even a small grill fire can quickly spread, catching your house on fire. Cleaning your pellet grill should be a part of the regular maintenance you do to keep everything working properly.
Cleaning Supplies You Need
Before you start cleaning your grill, you should have the proper tools and chemicals on hand. Your pellet smoker is an expensive investment, don't destroy it by using the wrong products for cleaning. Having the proper tools on hand before you begin will make the process faster and much easier.
Do not clean your grill without protecting your hands. Even the safest cleaning products can dry your skin and expose you to the possibility of health impacts. Plus, it's irritating to have to get out the hand scrubber to clean yourself after spending a bunch of time scrubbing the grill. A box of latex or nitrile gloves comes in handy for cleaning your grill.
Soapy Water and a Bucket
The first thing you'll want is a large bucket for warm water. Dish soap works wonders for breaking down grease and grime so use a decent squirt. Dish soap is a mild cleaner that isn't likely to leave behind harmful chemicals and won't damage the finish on your grill grates or the metal surfaces.
You'll want to have a roll of heavy-duty paper towels on hand. We like using the blue shop towels you find at auto parts stores because they are durable and absorbent. Low quality towels will shred and leave little bits of paper in your grill while not doing a good job absorbing the filth. You'll also want a few cotton towels. We like to use the red shop towels from the auto parts store. They work well and are hard to confuse for your wife's best kitchen towel.
You need nylon scrubbers and at least one plastic scraper. Never use wire brushes or steel wool pads to clean your grill. We know it's tempting to grab one of those heavy-duty steel scrubbers and attack that dirty grill but you'll end up doing damage that will cause your grill to deteriorate over time. It is particularly important to avoid using harsh chemicals and aggressive scrubbing pads on porcelain-coated grills like those that Traeger uses.
Degreaser Products that Work
I'll bet you thought we were going to tell you to use an automotive degreaser on your grill, huh? A decade ago, that might have been the case. Today, there are lots of effective products available that clean your grill without leaving nasty chemicals behind or damaging cooking surfaces.
One of our favorites is the all-natural grill and grate cleaner from Traeger. This product is specially formulated to clean your high-dollar pellet grill without damage. Not only does it do no harm, it also makes cleaning the worst grills a fast and easy task.
How Often Should I Clean My Grill?
The frequency you clean will depend on a few factors like how often you use it and how messy the last thing you cooked was. If we are smoking a whole bunch of briskets, we might go three or four times of use before cleaning. But every time we smoke fish the grill needs to get cleaned afterward. No one likes fish-flavored prime rib after all. Traeger recommends cleaning their grills after every two or three uses and that seems to be about right in our experience.
Are Pellet Grills Easy Clean?
The more often you clean the easier and faster the job becomes. If it's been a few years since you cleaned your grill last, plan on spending lots of time and energy getting that thing back together. When you get into the habit of cleaning your grill regularly, it becomes a very painless process you can do in a few minutes.
Best Tips On How To Clean A Pellet Grill
With gloves on and cleaning supplies on hand, let's get that filthy thing sparkling again. Also this should be obvious, but maybe it isn't – don't try to clean a hot grill.
Cleaning Grill Grates
Here is a tip we try to share often that makes cleaning grill grates faster and easier. Grab a trash bag big enough to hold your grates, put them in, then thoroughly spray them down. If you are using the Traeger cleaner we recommend, it won't take long for the debris to start coming off. Close the bag with the grills inside and place in the sun for a bit while you clean the rest of the grill.
After the grates have soaked, you can use a nylon scrubber to remove the remaining bits of gunk. If there is still stuck-on food that doesn't come loose, spray the grates again and put them back into the bag. Rinse the grates completely with clean water once you are satisfied with the cleanliness.
Cleaning the Hopper, Auger, and Fire Pot
Use an empty pail, box, or bag and empty the pellets from the hopper. Make sure to get as much from the auger as possible. Use a shop vac to vacuum dust and loose pellets out of the hopper and auger. Vacuum out the fire pot making sure to get all of the ash. Use a scraper to loosen anything that has clumped in the auger area or in the fire box.
Deep Cleaning Your Grill
Now it's time to get into it and get that grill fresh and clean. Soapy, warm water will get the outside and easily accessible surfaces clean without a lot of effort. Make sure to wipe down edges and lips where juices can drip and collect in unseen spaces.
You can use the Traeger grill cleaner and simply spray the lid, sides, and outside. Pay special attention to cleaning the chimney or back vent. This is where the majority of volatile chemicals accumulate and you don't want to leave anything that can catch your grill on fire.
A nylon brush designed for cleaning bottles and jars works very well for cleaning the chimney pipe. Use a couple paper towels to keep loose soot from dripping into the grill. Then, use shop towels to wipe the surfaces clean.
Now that you have all of the grossest stuff cleaned up, you can dump your soapy water bucket and fill it with clean water. Use the shop towels to wipe own all of the surfaces to remove any residue that gets left on the grill. The last thing is to reinstall the grates making sure they are completely clean and free of cleaning products.
You should be regularly cleaning your pellet grill. If not, that's okay – but you should really start. There are few things more embarrassing than having friends over for a barbecue only to see the look of disgust on their faces when you open the lid on that grill that hasn't been clean since you bought it. Perhaps the only thing more embarrassing is when your expensive pellet smoker burns to the ground, taking your brisket with it.
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