Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: April 4, 2022

After hosting many corporate events, I have learned to always clean the grill grates every time they are used. It not only provides a clean, hygienic surface to cook on, but first impressions are essential for guests.

We have put together a quick guide covering how to easily clean the grate on your grill so that you can grill confidently, without dreading the cleanup later.

Quick Summary

  • Reheat the grill grates to soften up the fats. Brush or wipe these off the grate.
  • Allow the grill grates to cool and place them in water to soak them till the remaining residue becomes soft. 
  • Final rinse with clean water and place on the grill. Heat up again to dry the grate.

How To Clean A Grill Grate The Right Way

A grill grate on a fire

Grill grates are vital to ensuring a grill delivers what it promises and is integral in the cooking process.

Grills generate heat using propane gas, charcoal, wood, or wood pellets. The heat source often dictates the type of grate your grill needs to cook food properly

Grill grates are generally available in stainless steel, cast iron, or porcelain-coated varieties. It is essential to know what type of grate is on your grill as each kind has different cleaning requirements. This is to avoid damaging the grates or causing them to rust.

How To Clean A Grill Grate In 6 Easy Steps

Close up of a bucket of cleaning supplies

You will need the following cleaning supplies and utensils. You may not need all of them every time you clean the grates.

The degree of cleaning depends on what you cooked:

  • A soft cloth or paper towel
  • Brass bristled grill brush (Spiraled bristle brush type is best)
  • Wooden grill scraper
  • Nylon scourer
  • Nylon brush
  • Detergent soap

Hot tip: Warm oils or fats are easier to remove from grates than when they are cold and solidified.

Meat sauces and marinades, such as rib sauce, tend to burn onto the grate forming a black crust on the grate surface. Soaking in water and then scrubbing works well to remove these.

  1. Step one is to determine what type of grate your grill uses [1]. We use a porcelain-coated grill in this example, but the cleaning routine applies to all grate types.
  2. Warm the grate over the grill to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then turn off the grill. Working fairly quickly, so the grate doesn’t cool down too much, use the wooden scraper to gently push any loose grime off the grate (the slots in the wooden scraper must correspond with the ridges on your grate to work effectively).
  3. Next, using the brass brush, give the grate a rub down without pushing down too hard. Run the brass brush along the length of the bars or slots of the grate.
  4. When the grate has cooled enough, for a squeaky clean finish, remove the grate from the grill and rinse the grate with warm soapy water or, if you prefer, you can use a commercial grate cleaner. Using a nylon brush or scourer will remove any remaining residues.
  5. Wipe down the ridges and grooves of the grate with a paper towel or cloth until clean.
  6. Lastly, to dry the grate thoroughly, replace the grate onto the grill and reheat the grate for a few minutes. The remaining water residue will evaporate due to the heat.
Soapy sponge on blue tiles

For stubborn cooking residue, soak the grate in water for an hour or two, then use the nylon scourer to remove the residue.

Porcelain grates have a non-stick surface which can be damaged or removed if scrubbed with a wire brush or metal scraper. It is a thin porcelain layer, so avoid being tempted to chop at the grate with a hard object to remove stubborn grime. Blows to the grate will chip off the protective porcelain layer, damaging the grate permanently.

Stainless steel grates are hardy but can also develop surface rust and tarnish over time. Give the grate a rub down with a cloth once a month if stored for a long time.

If needed, stainless grates can be scrubbed down using a wire brush and washed in a detergent; however, don’t use a wire brush on the porcelain or cast iron grates.

Cast iron grates should only be scraped using a wooden scraper or nylon brush (when cold) unless the grate has rusted. The cast iron grate will have been seasoned to make it non-stick thus, preserving this layer is essential.

After using a cloth to clean the cast iron grate, apply a thin layer of vegetable oil [2] using a lint-free cloth to avoid the cast iron from rusting when in storage.

The cast iron grill relies on the seasoning of the grate to make the surface non-stick. Using harsh detergents or a wire brush on the surface will damage the protective coating. The grate must be re-seasoned regularly to prevent rust and maintain its non-stick properties.

How To Save A Rusted Cast Iron Grate

Grill on fire

All cast iron grates are prone to rust if they have lost their protective seasoning or if stored wet.

Getting your rusty cast iron grate back into use is done in the following few easy steps.

You will need a soft cloth or paper towel, metal scraper, wire brush, nylon scourer, and water.

  1. Heat the cast iron grate until it is hot
  2. Using the scraper and the wire brush (alternate between the scraper and brush), scrape the grate's surface until the rust starts flaking off. Be careful not to scratch the grate by exerting too much force with the scraper. Take your time and keep the scraper at a shallow angle.
  3. Turn off the heat and allow the grate to cool enough to avoid burning yourself.
  4. Pour water onto the grate and wipe it down with a cloth
  5. Using a paper towel or a cloth, wipe the surface clean of the loose rust residue.
  6. Rub down the surface with a nylon scourer and rinse with water.
  7. Should the rust remain, repeat steps 3 through 5.
  8. When the rust is off, the cast iron grate will need to be re-seasoned to restore the non-stick surface and prevent the grate from rusting again.

Conclusion

Cleaning your grill grate is as easy as scrubbing it down, rinsing, and drying it after cooking. You only require a few essential items such as a copper brush, nylon brush, nylon scourer, paper towels or a rag, and some water to make this task easy.

Re-seasoning after every use is only essential for a cast iron grate to ensure the cooking surface does not rust.


References:

  1. https://www.thespruceeats.com/choose-the-best-grate-for-grill-335047
  2. https://homeguides.sfgate.com/season-cast-iron-grill-grates-38386.html

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