There is a smell a dirty grill emits that is hard to describe, but once you've smelled it, you'll never forget. Here is the good news – getting your grill cleaned up and ready for grilling season is actually really easy.
This step-by-step grill cleaning guide will give you the knowledge you need to make your grill sparkle like new so that when you have your friends, family, and neighbors over this summer, you don't get any looks that say, "I'm not eating anything off that nasty grill."
Get Your Grill Ready for Summer! How to Prepare for Grilling Season
Preparing your grill for summer starts out with getting together your cleaning tools and making a plan. Don't wait until the last minute to prep your grill for cooking, only to rush through the process. Give yourself at least a day to get the grill ready and give it a thorough cleaning. There are specific steps for gas grills and charcoal grills, but both types also have some cross-overs. We will point out some steps for each type that are important for both types in this guide. At the end, we will give you a checklist that you can use to make sure you didn't miss anything.
Step 1: Inspect the Grill for Any Damage
Start by getting your grill out and placing it somewhere that you can clean it without making a big mess. Right in the middle of the walkway is probably a bad idea, and so is cleaning it in the lawn. We also like to use one of those metal drip tray pans for putting under a leaky old car so the loose debris, grease, and cleaning products don't stain the deck.
Open the lid and do a thorough inspection of the grill. Make sure that the lid opens and closes smoothly, that the wheels roll well, and that there are no parts hanging off, bent, broken, or rusty. These problems should be the first priority because they directly affect the functionality of the grill.
Disassemble, Clean, and Inspect
Remove the grill grates and make sure they are completely clean. Stainless steel grills should be cleaned with warm soapy water. Put in the elbow grease to give them a deep clean on the top and bottom. A paste made of baking soda and water will help to remove stains and get the grill grates sparkly. If the grill grates are rusty, consider new ones. Rust is a sign that the stainless steel is failing.
Charcoal grills will have an ash catcher under the charcoal grill grate, which commonly rusts. The ash catcher should be replaced if it is rusty because it can allow ash to fall on the ground and could start a fire. With the grates and burners completely removed, you can get leftover debris and grease out of the grill. Give it a good scrubbing and let it dry completely before putting everything back together. Address any rust spots that you find. Holes can be patched using scrap metal and fireproof epoxy.
Gas grills will have burner tubes under the cooking grates. These tubes will wear out over time and will cause uneven burning, and can prevent food from cooking correctly. There are a lot of places that sell replacement parts for your grill. While you are at it, check the gas line and make sure it isn't leaking. You can use soapy water in a spray bottle to check for leaks.
The last few things to give a good scrub to will include the inside of the lid, the grease pan or grease tray, and the insides of the grill. Use a wire brush or a putty knife to remove the built-up crud, then clean it with dish soap to get the grill ready for cooking.
After a while, some grills can start to get unsightly – but never paint the inside of a grill. Instead, apply a light coating of a high-temp oil like peanut oil or an oil made specifically for grilling. Oil will prevent rust better than paint and it will not flake off like paint does.
Regularly cleaning your grill will lead to the need for little maintenance. That way, you'll only do a deep cleaning once a year and it won't take you forever to start grilling. We recommend using paper towels and soapy water or grill wipes to wipe down the grill in between cooking sessions. Giving things a quick once over is the safest cleaning solution to prevent premature wear and keep the grill working properly.
Step 2: Make Sure You Have Enough Propane or Charcoal
The day that you plan on grilling should start with a few quick checks. The first thing is to make sure you have enough fuel. We recommend always having two propane tanks for gas grilling so that if one runs out unexpectedly, you have a backup. You don't want to be that person who is grilling and has a valve fail on them, preventing propane from flowing. If not properly prepared, you would have to abandon the process and switch to using the oven. Cooking on high heat can also burn through propane quickly, so have a backup.
The same holds true for charcoal or pellets for your smoker. Always have more than you need. Nothing is worse than getting almost done only to run out of fuel.
Step 3: Clean Your Workstation
You will need some place to put your cooking pan, tools, and other items that is clean, so brush your workstation with soapy water and clean it with a microfiber cloth before you start cooking. Nothing is worse than having no place to set things down and trying to juggle hot tools and a plate full of chicken.
Step 4: Upgrade Any Grill Tools and Accessories
Before grilling season gets underway, you should check your tongs, grill brushes, spatulas, and spray bottles. These things wear out and are inexpensive to replace, so bite the bullet and upgrade. This is also the right time to make sure you have a reliable instant-read meat thermometer on hand for checking food temps while you are cooking.
If you need to stock up, we have a whole section in our store dedicated to grilling accessories.
Now that your grill is clean and your tools are ready, you are all set for grilling season. Our best advice is to keep up on the cleaning all season so that when it is time to put the grill away for winter, it is already in good shape. Next year, you won't have to spend so much time cleaning before you start grilling.
Grill Prep Checklist
Clean cooking grates with stainless steel cleaner or a gentle cleaner
Clean the ash catcher and burners
Clean the lid, sides, and other surfaces
Make sure you have plenty of propane or charcoal on hand
Clean your work area before and after cooking every time
Clean and replace tools and accessories
Clean the grill after cooking and before storing
Q: How do I prepare my grill for summer?
A: Start by cleaning everything and making sure you have the tools and accessories you need on hand. Don't forget to fill the propane tank or have a spare bag of charcoal on hand
Q: How do you prepare a grill after winter?
A: Start by inspecting the grill for damage and addressing rust issues, bent or broken parts, and replace damaged grills.
Q: How do I clean my grill in the summer?
A: Regularly wiping down everything after cooking will keep the grill ready for summer.
Q: How do you clean a BBQ before summer?
A: Remove ash, replace rusty parts, and clean greasy areas before you start cooking.