How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

Summer is here—the season for awesome cookouts and spending quality time with your friends and family. And who can think of such a gathering without steaming, piping-hot grilled food? It won’t be wrong to say that grilling is an indispensable part of any summer chill out plan that involves food.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

But wait! A grimy and uncleaned charcoal grill from the last year use can turn out to be a party pooper. It is true that many people just push back their barbeques because they haven’t done with their dirty charcoal grills yet. All cooking experts and people who frequently use charcoal grills are in agreement that they are easy to use but quite difficult to clean.

Using a dirty charcoal grill is just out of the equation for many reasons. Not only does grilling on a dirty charcoal grill make the grilling difficult but also affects the taste of the prepared food. Besides this, the repeated use of a charcoal grill without regularly cleaning it cuts down its prescribed operating life. Lastly, when you have used a grill for a long time without cleaning it once, it just becomes virtually impossible to clean.

Learn How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

As mentioned earlier, cleaning a charcoal grill is difficult than using it. In this piece, we are going to center our discussion on how to clean a charcoal grill with all the great and relevant details.

The Standard Cleaning Procedure

If you are working with a new charcoal grill that has been used just a couple of times, then its cleaning procedure is pretty straightforward. We are breaking down this procedure in three simple steps.

1) Dispose of All the Ash

Carefully remove the grates from inside the grill and rub them with sandpaper or any other abrasive to wipe clean all the ash powder. Also, empty out the ash catchers made below the bowl. Some grill models don’t have them. In this case, your standard garden trowel or any other pointed scooped tool can come in handy for collecting and disposing of the ash buildup.

2) Clean the Grates

Grates are the main grill component that you need to take care of during charcoal grill cleaning. After removing the ash powder from grates, thoroughly spray them with any standard oven cleaner. The idea of using a spray-on oven cleaner is to soften the grease buildup. Leave grates with the cleaner on for good 20-30 minutes to get the best results.

When you notice grease patches are sticking out, wipe the cleaner-laden grates surfaces off with a paper towel. As a finishing touch, spray them a solution of detergent and water. Make sure you are not soaking them in soapy water. Also, do not use strong and hard detergent.  In last, rinse them with water and wipe to dry.

3) Clean the Exterior

Although the removal of ash and grates cleaning is enough to ensure hassle-free and tasty grilling, it would be better if you also clean the grill exterior. It can be done within the same time you are giving to grates cleaning and with the same tools and chemicals.

When the cleaner is softening the grates grease, you can use the same detergent solution to clean the grill exterior. Use a sponge and a scourer to make sure all the grease buildups are removed from the exterior frame of the grill.  In the end, rinse it with water. If you are using a grill with an exterior made of corrosion-prone material, then spray it with any good oil afterward.

By cleaning the exterior, you can make sure your grill can prepare scrumptious food and continue to be easy on the eyes.

Some Charcoal Grill Cleaning Hacks

The above is the simplest, easiest, and most effective charcoal grill cleaning method. But as mentioned earlier, the procedure is only good if you do clean the grill regularly. Moreover, sometimes even a couple of extensive uses are enough to give the grill all the hard and unwashable grime.

For all such cases where simple cleaner and soap wash don’t suffice, there are some hacks that you can use to get the best and wanted cleaning results.

Steam Cleaning

No, you don’t need to take your charcoal grill to any steam cleaning facility. Remember that we are discussing ‘hacks’ where you can easily take unusual cleaning steps without doing anything considerably extra.

To steam clean your charcoal grill, you just need a couple of paper towels or old newspapers and some water. Soak the paper in water and put it on the grates when they are cooling down (not on red hot) and close the lid for 15-20 minutes.

This steam treatment will definitely help you in softening all that hard grease and grime that has accumulated over the years of use. You can use this hack after every cooking session to keep the post-grilling cleaning as easy as possible.

Rub the Onion on Grates

When preparing the seasoning for your grilled food, keep one slice of the onion for the later cleaning use. After you are done with grilling and the grates are cooling down, rub that piece of onion on the grates through a tong or fork. The moisture in onions will give micro steam cleaning meanwhile its natural cleaning agents will cut through the grease buildups.

Vinegar Spray

While preparing a side of salad for your grilled salmon if you are also using vinegar, then keep aside some of it because it can also help you in getting rid of the hard grease stains. Mix the equal amount of water with vinegar that you have and put it in the spray bottle.

Just like you apply any OTC cleaner on the grates, spray this vinegar solution and leave them for a couple of minutes and then scrub it to wipes off all the softened grease.

Vinegar is high in acids that have the perfect balance to clean metal grates i.e. they are neither too soft nor too hard. The vinegar acid just breaks down the grease and other organic and nonorganic grates buildups without affecting the underneath metal surface.

Use the Dishwasher

If you are working with a small grill assembly, then its hot plates can also be cleaned in the dishwasher. Just remove the plates from the grill and put them in the dishwasher with the pot wash cycle on. With one cold and hot wash cycle, you can get your hot plates all brand new. However, make sure that the manufacturer hasn’t classified hot plates as non-washable items.

Baking Soda

We all know that baking soda can be a really good cleaning agent for kitchenware. And you can also use it to get rid of hard baked-on grime.  Make a solution of baking soda and water and apply it on the grates with a scrub. Make sure the dirty grates surfaces get perfectly drenched in that solution. After that, gently rub the grates with a scouring pad to get your grates all shining.

Coffee and Coffee Grounds

Coffee is also rich in acids like vinegar that can help in softening out the old grease buildups on grates.  So coffee and its grounds can also be put to use as an improvised cleaning agent. Collect the grounds from your everyday coffee brewing instead of throwing them away and use them just like baking soda to clean those dirty grates.

We are pretty positive that all these hacks will help you in keeping your grates all shiny, clean, and ready for grilling a perfect panini, salmon or bacon. While we are at it, let’s also answer some of the frequently asked questions about charcoal grill cleaning.

How Often One Needs to Clean a Charcoal Grill?

Well, it depends on how often you use your grill. If you are an avid grill lover and put your grilling gloves on every other weekend, then you should do a little cleaning touchup after every use. By little cleaning touchup, we mean rubbing the grates with sandpaper or a boar bristle brush after every use.

Should Deep Cleaning Be Done Before or After the Use?

The thorough cleaning procedure that we have discussed in the first section should be ideally done before using the grill. You can also deep clean your grill after the use but you have to take care of many things and frankly, that’s not worth it.

What Products Should Be Used for Grill Cleaning?

From the above-detailed discussion, it has also become pretty clear that you don’t need any special tools and chemicals to clean a charcoal grill. Your everyday cleaning agents and off-the-rack products are enough for the purpose. Nevertheless, specialized grill cleaning products are also available in the market and you can certainly go for them.

Things to NOT Use for Cleaning a Charcoal Grill

We have discussed enough things that can help you in cleaning a charcoal grill. Now, let’s have a quick look at the things that you should not use.

  • Any flammable cleaning product
  • Hard acid and bleaches

Our Final Thoughts

Moreover, make sure you are wiping the grill and grates dry after exposing them to water-based solutions. We hope that this comprehensive guide on how to clean a charcoal grill will make your grilling indulgences more satisfying and easy to manage.

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