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Tips for Cleaning Your Grill Grate

Dirty grill grateThere are several reasons grilling is my favorite method of cooking. For one, it allows me to be outside and enjoy a beautiful day while my food is cooking. For another, it is generally pretty economical. Most grilled meals can be prepared with a small amount of ingredients. It is also as easy as you want it to be. A grilled dinner can be as simple as a couple of good steaks with sliced squash grilling right next to the meat. One of the best things though? How simple clean-up is.

Think about it. With a standard meal, you have pots and/or pans that the food is cooking in, along with any other measuring cups, mixing bowls and other various containers which may be required. Certainly, you can use all of these items grilling as well, but you don’t have to. If you want to, you can just throw whatever sounds good on the grill, plate it, and you’re basically done!

That being said, your grill grate will require some maintenance at least. Be careful with whichever method you use though, especially if your grate is coated. Once the bare metal is exposed, it will get corroded and be even more difficult to maintain. Let’s look at some tips and methods for keeping your grill grate cookout ready.

Keeping as clean as possible after using

As with everything else in life that needs to be tidied up, cleaning a grill is easiest when it is the least dirty. Here are a couple easy ways to spot clean your grill grate before it gets nasty:

  • If coals are still hot after you are finished cooking and the grate is gunked up, put the grill cover back on with the vent open so it stays hot and let it burn out more slowly.
  • If the grate is especially dirty (such as burned on cheese that came off of burgers), use the same instructions as above, but cover the affected part of the grate with foil first. Remove the foil after 15 minutes or so.
  • Much of the food remnants that were left over should have burned off. Use your grill brush to finish cleaning off the ash and rest of the remnants on the grate, close the vent and reinstall the grill cover.

How to clean a greasy grill grate

  • Do not use the dishwasher! While using the dishwasher may certainly clean your grate well enough to extend the life of the grate, the sheer amount of grease and gunk will almost just as surely shorten the life of your dishwasher. What is more expensive, cleaning your grate properly or a divorce because your spouse is so angry with you for making a horrible mess of the dishwasher? Not worth the trade-off.
  • If heat isn’t enough, turn to baking soda. While cooking off food remnants generally works well, a particularly greasy grate will require some elbow grease. Using baking soda can help ease the burden though. Mixing the soda with hot water and dish soap and soaking the grates in the solution can do wonders for lifting the grease and getting your grate closer to new. Fill a (very) large bucket with hot water, a quarter cup of dish soap, and a quarter cup of baking soda and mix. Soak the grate for an hour or so in the mixture, then spray it off with a hose. The only tricky thing about this is finding a container large enough to soak the grate in, especially for a Weber-style large round grate.
  • Use your oven. While using the dishwasher is ill-advised for grill grate cleaning, another appliance can do the trick. If your grates are in good enough shape and similar enough to the grates in your oven, you can use the oven’s self-cleaning setting to bake off excess grease.

How to clean rusty grill grates

  • Soap and water. Sometimes the simplest solution is the most effective. If there is light corrosion building up on your grate, you can use a sponge with some hot water and dish soap to scrub it right off. Easy as that!
  • Baking soda and vinegar mixture. Mix together vinegar and baking soda. To make the paste, pour out one cup of baking soda into a container, then stir in vinegar slowly. Once it gets to the consistency of paste, it is ready to use. The paste is then applied to the rust spots on the grate. Allow the paste to set in (leave on for an hour or so), then clean it off with water. If done properly, the rust should come off with the paste.
  • Sandpaper. This is more of a last ditch effort than anything. However, if your grate is starting to get to its last legs, you can use fine grit sandpaper to remove rust and get a few more uses out of your grate.

Cleaning your grill grates with ammonia

I must admit, I have never used this method personally but found it here in my research. However, it seems pretty straightforward and ammonia is powerful, so I can see how it would be effective, and it is easy.

Put the grate in a garbage bag, add a cup of ammonia and seal it tight with a rubber band. The garbage bag must be heavy duty to ensure that the ammonia does not leak out of the bag. Remove the grate from the bag the next day, carefully dispose of the ammonia and rinse the grate extremely well. If there is still some remnants left after rinsing, scrub the rest off and rinse once more.

That’s it! Seems a little excessive to use that harsh of a chemical, but I have no doubt that it effectively removes grease and grime.

More natural solutions

If you are nervous about using either abrasive cleaning products that could leave behind chemicals on your grate or scrubbing too harshly with a brush and damaging the finish on the grate, there are a couple of tricks you can try with some items in your refrigerator:

  • Using Coca-Cola as a solvent: I do not recommend this method. Not because it would not work, but Coke is my favorite non-alcoholic beverage, and I’d hate to waste a can on cleaning. Anyway, Coke can be used to clean rust spots off of your grate if you are so inclined. Dampen a rag with Coke and scrub the affected areas.
  • Use a lemon: Lemons are extremely acidic. A halved lemon can be used to scrub tough to clean areas. You can add rock salt to the exposed side of the lemon to add grit to the acid before scrubbing with it.
  • Scrub with an onion: Turns out the same chemicals that make you cry when you cut into an onion can help you clean your grill! Similar to the lemon trick, if you cut an onion in half, you can use that to scrub away grit and grime off of your grate. It will work better if the grate is at least warm, but it apparently works.

So there you have it. Whether you choose to use baking soda, a can of Coke, half of a lemon or simply heat and a little elbow grease, keeping your grill grates clean is imperative to sanitary and tasty grilling. So go out, cook up a great meal, and then make sure you clean up well after. Happy grilling, everyone.

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