Your grill represents a serious investment in cooking delicious outdoor meals. At the same time, quality grills aren’t cheap. So, you want to make sure you are cleaning and maintaining it during the peak grilling season, as well as during the winter.
This calls for some basic cleaning in between each grilling session. Depending on how often you use it, your grill will also benefit from periodic deep cleaning and maintenance.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how to take care of some of the more popular grills.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining A Charcoal Grill
Charcoal grills are one of the more popular, traditional type of grills that you will find on decks and patios. Yet wood/charcoal ash also becomes very corrosive when it is combined with water. Even high ambient humidity can start to affect metal components caked in lingering ash.
Cleaning Between Grilling Sessions
Once you are done grilling, you should leave the charcoal to burn for another 10 to 15 minutes. This will dry out any lingering drippings and grease. You can then give it a quick, yet thorough scrape down with a wire or stiff nylon-bristled grill brush.
At that point, you can seal off the dampers and vents to effectively suffocate the fire. Depending on how big the coal bed was, this could take up to an hour or more.
If you need to extinguish a portable grill, that you might take with you to the beach or a tailgating party, you might need to put it out faster than that. You should never pour water into the firebox as it could crack the metal, affect the paint, make a dangerous amount of steam, and cause corrosion problems.
You can spread out the charcoal with your tongs and pour sand on the coals to starve them of oxygen. In a pinch, you can use your tongs to pull the bigger pieces out and put them into a metal bucket of water one at a time.
Technically you are supposed to wait 24 to 48 hours after grilling before removing the ash and lingering spent embers. If you are going to empty the grill out sooner than that, you should keep the coals in a metal pail for a day before putting them in your garbage can. If you have a backyard fire pit, you can place the coals in there.
Giving Your Charcoal Grill A Deep Clean
Charcoal grills might seem to be simple and perhaps even a bit utilitarian. Yet they do still need some deep cleaning from time to time. If anything, you should flip the grill grates over after every other cooking session just to make sure you are scraping down every surface.
Making sure to remove excess ash and spent embers is also critical for preventing corrosion issues. You should also empty any drippings cup between each session. If you sometimes forget to do this, you could find yourself with internal corrosion issues.
If your charcoal grill has a shallow, pull out drippings tray, you might want to consider lining it with heavy-duty aluminum foil. This will protect the underlying metal from possible corrosion issues. It also makes it easy to dispose of burned out material.
Don’t forget about the dampers and vents. As time goes on grease and soot can start to build up around the sliders and dials, which can effectively jam them open or closed. Giving them a gentle scrub with an abrasive sponge and moving them around will keep loose and clean.
If your grill hood has a thermometer built into it, you should give it a thorough wipe down every two or three grilling sessions. A lot of people who complain about their grill’s thermometer not being accurate often find a serious buildup of grease and grime on the internal temperature probe.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining A Gas/Infrared Grill
Propane and natural gas grills are also very popular. Natural gas, in particular, has started to gain a lot of traction as municipal service continues to expand. These grills do need a little more care and cleaning than their charcoal counterparts.
Some gas grills also include infrared components, that are capable of searing foods up to 1,000 degrees. However, they to also need a little special care.
Cleaning Between Grilling Sessions
Just like a charcoal grill, the grates will benefit from a good scrape down after every session. The drippings pan or cup will also need to be poured out. Take a close look at the fire ports on each burner element.
If your gas grill doesn’t have flame tamers, it’s possible for some grease or excess marinade to drip down and caramelize, clogging one or even multiple ports. In a situation like this, you should let the fire burn for an extra 5 to 10 minutes to try to dry the material out. Then let the grill cool down.
At that point, you can clear it away with a round toothpick, or a wood grilling skewer. In a pinch, a stiff-bristled nylon grill brush might be able to scrape it away. A metal grill brush or steel wool could scrape up the metal surface of the burner element.
Giving Your Gas Grill A Deep Clean
Gas grills and infrared elements benefit from some periodic deep cleaning. Make sure to give a dripping’s pan or tray a thorough wipe down. If your gas grill has a stainless steel hood, shelves, or cabinets, you might want to get a quality stainless steel cleaner and give it a good wipe down. This will help maintain the sheen and prevent the gradual corrosion that can start to affect certain types of stainless steel.
If your grill has an infrared element, give it a close look to make sure that all the ceramic ports are clear. If necessary, you can take apart the element and give it a gentle, yet thorough cleaning. If it’s a tube-style infrared element, make sure to give it a thorough wipe down and make sure all the flame ports are clear.
This is also a good time to inspect the gas hoses and connections. Keep an eye out for any cracks or abrasions on the gas lines. If you notice a problem, you should consider replacing the line. Double-check couplers to make sure they are completely still nice and tight.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining An Outdoor Electric Grill
Outdoor electric grills used to be very cheap and simple units. Today modern technology has allowed them to evolve into sophisticated cooking appliances.
Cleaning Between Grilling Sessions
The first thing you need to do is pay attention to what your grill grates are made from or coated with. Some outdoor electric grills will use stainless steel or porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates, which can be scraped down just like their gas or charcoal counterparts.
However, there are some that use Teflon coated grill grates. If you try to scrape these down with a wire grill brush or steel wool, it could severely damage the non-stick coating. In a situation like this, you will need to use a soft-bristled nylon grill brush to clear away lingering materials. If necessary, you might need to remove the grill grate for a gentle soak in some warm, soapy water.
If your electric grill has an exposed, visible element, you should give it a close look. You don’t want excess drippings to linger on the element between uses. If necessary, let it dry out and then give it a gentle scrub with a nylon grill brush. If your grill has a drippings pan or tray, it should also be emptied.
Giving Your Outdoor Electric Grill A Deep Clean
Outdoor electric grills typically need a deep clean more often than gas and charcoal grills. This is due in part to maintaining the electric components. Make sure to check all connections with the elements. Excess grill debris and grease can cause increasing corrosion issues at the base of the element.
If your grill doesn’t have an exposed element, you should still remove the cooking plates and give the internal components a close look. If grease, excess marinade, or other material has worked its way into nooks and crannies, you should try to clean it with a cotton swab.
Make sure to double-check the power cord and any other external connections. Since electric grills are essentially large resistors, the excess heat they develop can sometimes affect the wiring and external electric leads.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining A Kamado Grill
The versatility and efficiency of kamado grills have made them increasingly popular with outdoor chefs who want a unit that can grill as well as smoke. Most have double-walled cooking chambers, with precise air control dampers.
Cleaning Between Grilling Sessions
When it comes to cleanup, kamado grills are very similar to their charcoal siblings. Since they are designed to be thermally efficient, they leave behind far less ash and spent coals. Most even include a special cleanout port or a removable charcoal pan.
The grates will need to be thoroughly scraped down. If your kamado grill has exposed stainless steel, chrome-plated, or rolled steel grill grates, you should consider lightly greasing them afterward.
If you’ve been using it as a smoker, you will also need to make sure to pour out any liquid and give it a thorough wipe down.
Giving Your Kamado Grill A Deep Clean
Kamado grills are designed to be easy to clean and maintain. Most have a ceramic inner wall, which reduces problems with ash-related corrosion. Lingering ash and loosened soot will need to be wiped down to help maximize its thermal efficiency.
Pay close attention to the thermometer probe in the lid. Kamado grills rely on accurate temperature control. Excess soot and grime that builds upon the probe can give you inaccurate readings which can leave you with burned or undercooked food.
Double-check all the dampers and air valves to make sure they move smoothly. If there’s an issue, you should clean it and perhaps apply a food-grade spray lubricant.
If your kamado grill comes with a heat deflector or a pizza stone, you should also give it a thorough cleaning. This will keep it from smoking when you preheat the kamado grill, and give you a clean surface to place food.
Tips For Cleaning And Maintaining A Wood Pellet Grill
Wood pellet grills are very popular, thanks in large part for the ability to let you “Set It And Forget It” as a smoker. That being said they are arguably the most complex grill you can buy. There are a lot of internal components and moving parts that need to be taken care of to maximize the wood pellet grill’s life.
Cleaning Your Wood Pellet Grill Between Sessions
Like most other grills, the grates will need to be carefully scraped down, and any drippings need to be disposed of.
It’s especially important to empty the wood pellet hopper after every grilling session. The pellets are produced on a commercial scale and bound together with natural lignin, which is water-soluble. If you leave them in the hopper when its rainy or excessively humid the lignin binder can break down leaving a thick and hard to clean brick of wood fiber behind.
The fire pot also needs to have the ash cleaned out after every session. Some are easy to remove, while others need to you to wait until everything has cooled down, and you can then suck it clean with a shop vac. You might be tempted to use shop air or an air compressor to spray the ash out, but I think you’ll find this is very messy.
Giving Your Wood Pellet Grill A Deep Clean
Wood pellet grills typically need a pretty deep clean after every grilling session. Yet there are a few things you want to keep an eye on as time goes on.
One of the most important is the temperature controls. All leads and thermometer probes need to be cleaned. Grease, soot, and other materials can affect their accuracy causing you to accidentally run your wood pellet grill too hot or too cold.
You should also double-check the grease management system. Sometimes caramelized material can buildup and clog ports or slots. If your wood pellet grill comes with a reusable metal drippings cup, it might benefit from a good soap and water cleaning from time to time.