Yea, yea, I know all about the new fangled propane grills, and the electric type too. But if you’re like me, you favor using a good old-fashioned charcoal grill when you cook up barbecues at home. When my family and I get together at my parents’ house for summertime cookouts- and there are a lot of us to feed, trust me- we always use three or four charcoal grills. What can we say? We just like the taste that a charcoal grill gives to our barbecued chicken, hamburger patties, steaks, and hot dogs.
I’ve used the same Weber charcoal grill for several years now. There are secrets to keeping it in good shape. Plus, by keeping it clean and in good shape, the flavor of the food I barbecue on it tastes as delicious as ever.
The first thing I do after I use my grill, (and it has cooled down enough so the grate is just warm), is to remove both the top and bottom grates.
Since I clean the grates after each and every use, they don’t get an accumulation of grease and goop on them. Therefore, cleaning them is a breeze.
If you run a metal brush over the top grate to remove the worst of the burnt on food, you can then use a soap-filled steel wool pad to finish the job. If the steel wool pad doesn’t cut the grease and grime, put a few drops of Dawn™ Dishwashing Detergent on the pad and scrub the grill again. Rinse the entire grate, (a garden hose works great), with plenty of clean water to remove the soap, food particles, and dissolved grease. Those soapy pads might smell good, but you sure don’t want that smell clinging to your next batch of grilled meat.
The bottom grate, which holds the charcoal briquettes, can be cleaned in the same manner. They don’t normally get a lot of food and grease on them. So, they’re easier yet to keep clean.
Next, I clean the inside and the outside of the lid on my charcoal grill.
The inside of the lid tends to get greasy and black like the top grate. The outside basically gets dirty from the smoke. Again, you can use a soap-filled steel wool pad to clean the outside. However, don’t scrub too hard or you’ll scratch the paint. I sometimes use a nylon scratcher in place of the steel wool if the lid isn’t too dirty.
To clean the inside of my grill lid, I use- yea, you guessed it! – a soap-filled steel wool pad.
What can I say? Those pads do a super job of cleaning up grease, burnt-on food, smoke, and other “dirt.” Rinse the lid with plenty of clean water.
Then, after I’m sure the ashes are completely extinguished, I carefully dump them out of the bottom of my grill.
Otherwise, if you allow the ashes to build-up, they’ll block the air vents in the bottom of the grill. The lack of air will hinder the proper burning of your charcoal.
Note: Never, ever use any type of oven cleaner on your charcoal grill. Most oven cleaners are so harsh that they will take the paint right off your grill. Bad news! In fact, you’re not supposed to use any type of harsh cleaner on your grill. And, you don’t need to apply wax to your grill either. The porcelain enamel is baked-on and is quite shiny and durable under normal use.
After the ashes are gone from the body of my charcoal grill, I simply wipe off the outside with a damp, soapy rag.
I then wet the rag and wipe out the inside as well. Before I rinse the body off, I wipe off the ash catcher tray. Then, I spray the body clean, inside and out, as well as the ash catcher.
Finally, I wipe off the legs and any other parts on my charcoal grill. You can dry it off with an old rag. Personally, I always leave it apart and allow it to dry in the sunshine.
Then, assemble your charcoal grill and store it in your garage or in another dry place in between uses. Or, you can buy a cover for it at your local garden supply store. The cover will protect it from the elements, tree sap, leaves, and bird droppings if you want to leave it outside.
Some grill cleaning tips and tricks
Your grill can get caked with burnt food and grease and it can make for a messy situation. Having a clean grill is not only good for sanitary issues, but it will help your grilled food taste better. It is also a great idea to give your grill a good, thorough cleaning at the end of the summer before storing it for the winter so it is clean and ready to go at the beginning of next season. Here are some tips that will help you to clean your charcoal grill with ease and get it ready for your next grilling adventure.
Begin by removing all of the grates and any other accessories from inside your grill and then empty out the old ash and coals from the bottom of the charcoal grill. Many people add the charcoal ash to their garden or compost heap, but there are indications that some of the ingredients in it may actually be harmful to plants so it is a better idea just to dispose of it to be on the safe side.
Next, take your garden hose and rinse your grill down, both inside and out. You don’t have to worry about getting the inside of the grill spotless, but giving it a good rinsing will loosen any grease, grime, or leftover food chunks and keep them from negatively affecting the flavor of your food the next time that you grill.
To make your charcoal grill look great wipe down the outside of the grill to remove any dirt, dust, or grime. Remember that the outside of the grill is painted so you don’t want to use an abrasive cleaner or any cleaning tools that could damage the paint or cause scratches. If you do scratch your grill or if the paint is damaged you can touch it up or repaint it using high heat paint specifically designed for painting grills.
The most important, and unfortunately most difficult, part of cleaning your charcoal grill is cleaning the racks or grates. The easiest way to remove grease, grime, and buildup from your grilling grates is to use an oven cleaner which will work to dissolve the grease. Oven cleaner typically takes a while to get to work so you will want to spray it on your grates and leave them alone for an hour or two (or follow the manufacturer’s directions) to give the cleaner time to go to work and loosen the old stuck on food and grime.
After the oven cleaner has had a chance to work you can either wipe the grates off with a clean cloth and water to remove the gunk or for harder jobs use a wire brush to clean them. After all of the dirt has been removed rinse the grates thoroughly several times to ensure that you have removed all of the oven cleaners and replace them inside the grill.
Cleaning your grill can be an easier job if you take some steps to prevent food and grime buildup in the first place. Start by spraying your grilling grates with a non-stick cooking spray each time you grill. This will make removing the grime from the grates much easier while at the same time help to keep your food from sticking making it easier to turn. Rather than letting the grill cool completely and cleaning it before the next time you grill, you should allow it to cool enough to handle and clean it after grilling while the food and grime are still fresh. This will make getting the grates clean a much easier task.
You should also empty out the old ash from your grill each time you use it and add new, fresh charcoal to get the best flavor in your food.
Cleaning a charcoal grill takes time, but it is well worth the effort for the great tasting grilled food that it will give you.