The state of your grill grates has a direct impact on the taste and appearance of your food as well as the ease of grilling. Dirty grill grates can lead to flare-ups, or they might leave pieces of carbon on your food.
Cleaning your grill grates is essential, but not every cleaning method is effective. If you go about it in the wrong way, you could actually wind up damaging them. Consider the following dos and don’ts of cleaning grill grates.
Do invest in a quality grill brush. Look for one with a long handle and long, firm bristles. It will make it easier to clean your grill grates while the grill is still warm. See top options on Amazon.
Do deep clean your grill grates periodically. You can do this by pre-soaking them in a bucket with dish soap before scrubbing. Another way is to place them in a trash bag with about a cup of ammonia. Cinch the bag up tightly and leave for 24 hours. The grates do not actually have to come into contact with the ammonia as the fumes will be doing most of the work. When you open the bag, any gunk on your grill grates should come off with minimal scrubbing. Do this outdoors or in a well-ventilated part of your home.
Do clean stainless steel grill grates after each use. The burned-on residue should be easier to remove while it is still fresh and while the grill is still warm.
Do clean your grill grates with heat. Cover the top side of the grates with heavy duty aluminum foil and get your grill as hot as possible. The aluminum foil will reflect the heat back at the grates and turn any accumulated gunk to ash.
Do oil cast iron grill grates immediately after cleaning. Oil will protect them from moisture and from rust.
Do be careful when using wire brushes. While wire brushes are arguably the most effective tool for cleaning most types of grill grates, they can be hazardous. Bristles can break off and get into food and from there they can get caught in someone’s throat or the lining of their stomach. Check your grill grates after brushing to make sure that there are no broken bristles on them.
Don’t clean cast iron grill grates immediately after use. While a dirty grill may irk you if you like to keep things clean, the reality is that you want to keep them coated in gunk between uses. Get rid of any large food chunks, but leave the oils and burned-on residue. The residue seasons them and can protect them from rust much like a cast iron skillet. You can burn and scrape some of it off the next time you start your grill up. You can deep clean them from time to time using heat and a wire brush. Be sure to re-season them before use, however.
Don’t ever use water to clean cast iron grill grates. These grates can last for a long time and are impervious to everything except water. Getting them wet will make them highly vulnerable to rust.
Don’t clean grill grates using the self-cleaning cycle of your oven. While this is widely recommended, it is not a good idea unless you like setting your smoke alarms off and making your home smell like it’s on fire. In addition, time in a self-cleaning oven can discolor your grill grates.
Don’t use wire brushes to clean porcelain grates. While these grates are heat resistant and will not rust under normal circumstances, they chip easily and this will expose the underlying metal. That metal can rust if it is exposed to moisture.