man heating up and cleaning a charcoal grill

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

If you own a charcoal grill, it’s a great tool to cook delicious meals on throughout the summer season. You can even grill year-round, depending on where you are. A charcoal grill can be especially great for use in a neighborhood block party or another special occasion that calls for tasty BBQ. However, it’s necessary to clean your grill from time to time if you want to keep your grill from experiencing wear over time. Here we’ll discuss how to clean a charcoal grill in this complete guide.

How Often Should You Clean a Charcoal Grill?

Before we get into how to clean a charcoal barbecue grill, you may want to know how frequently you should clean it. Generally, you should deep clean your grill at least once per grilling season, but you may need to clean it more often if you use the grill more frequently. This will help prevent the buildup of carbon within the grill and rust on the grates.

We’ll get more into the specifics of when you should clean your grill after covering the basic steps for how to clean a grill.

What You Need to Clean a Charcoal Grill

There are several supplies you will need to clean your grill effectively, including:

  • A grill brush or a coarse cleaning brush
  • Paper or plastic bags
  • Stainless steel bristle brush or putty knife
  • Aluminum foil
  • A fork (not always necessary)

Pro Tip:

You don’t need a grill cleaner or special soaps to clean your grill — a DIY dish soap and water mixture does the trick. But some cleaners can minimize the amount of the scrubbing you need to do. If you try these cleaners, make sure the surfaces are rinsed and wiped cleaned so soap residue (and the smell) doesn’t get near your food.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill

Cleaning a charcoal grill involves several different steps. Cleaning the outside, scrubbing the inside, and seasonal maintenance are all different tasks. The following are some procedures regarding how to clean the different parts of your charcoal grill.

How to Clean the Outside of Your Grill

Wait until the grill is cool to the touch before cleaning the outside. You can use soapy water or a glass cleaner to clean the outside of the grill. Over time, dirt and other debris from nearby plants or weather could dirty the grill, but you can keep it looking great by scrubbing away at the buildup on the exterior.

How to Clean Inside Your Charcoal Grill

You can clean out the lid without worrying about peeling. They feature a coating made of porcelain enamel, which is actually baked onto the inside of the lid. However, some spots you may see resemble peeling paint.

Don’t worry — they are really just grease, cooking oil, and smoke deposits that can collect normally when using the grill. You can remove these spots using a stainless steel brush when the grill is turned off. Wipe the interior with a soapy water mixture and paper towels after grilling if you want to prevent any additional buildup, but make sure the grill isn’t too hot beforehand.

As for the bowl, you can clean this part using a steel wool pad, bristle brush, or wire brush and dish soap to remove any leftover residue after cooking. You can also let the grill heat up and run for a period of time to burn off any ash or other debris before giving the bowl a final wipe once it cools.

It’s also possible to use plastic bags instead of specialized tools. Simply place your hand in the bag and use it to sweep the excess debris out of the grill before placing it in another bag.

How to Clean Grill Grates

It’s easy to clean your grates prior to grilling. Start by preheating the grill by opening every vent, and then maintain a high temperature for around 10 to 15 minutes. Once the grill has had some time to heat, you can use a stainless steel bristle brush to eliminate any remaining ashes or other grime that might still be on the grates. It’s important to ensure that the grates are completely clean to keep food from sticking to the grates while cooking.

The last step will be to check your ash catcher every time you grill to make sure that it’s not full, and empty when necessary.

Pro Tip:

Don’t know how to clean a charcoal grill without a scrubber? Use a ball of aluminum foil to clear off any additional ash or debris off the grate.

How Often You Should Clean Your Charcoal Barbecue Grill

Now that you know the basics of how to clean a charcoal grill rack and other parts, don’t just make it a one-and-done chore. How often should you clean your charcoal grill? We recommend cleaning it at the start of the season, every couple of weeks or after every grilling session, and before you put it away for the winter. Through regular maintenance, you can keep your grill in great condition and prolong its lifespan. Follow these processes for in-depth seasonal cleaning or more casual weekly cleaning.

Cleaning at the Beginning of Grilling Season

woman scrubbing a charcoal grill grate in soapy water

Oftentimes, people neglect to clean their grill at the end of a grilling season and simply put it away dirty. If you do this, it’s not a problem, as you can simply clean it at the beginning of the next grilling season.

1. Bake Away the Buildup from Storage

The best way to begin the new grilling season if you plan on using your grill is to fire up the grill. This will let it bake off any ash or other buildup that might’ve collected during the last season without any elbow grease. This can even loosen up caked-on gunk at the bottom of the grill. Doing this can also eliminate any spiders or insects that may have made their home in your grill.

2. Scrape the Surfaces

Once the grill has been on for about a half an hour, use your grill brush’s scraper to remove any grime, followed by thoroughly scrubbing the grates and surface of the grill using the brush.

Pro Tip:

Replace your grill cleaning brush every season or as soon as bristles begin to loosen, which will keep potentially dangerous bristles from getting into your food.

3. Deep Clean the Grates

When you pull your charcoal grill out of storage, it may need a deep clean instead of just a quick scrub. Sometimes old stains and buildup are too tough for heat and friction to remove. Wait until the grill cools down again. Start by removing both the charcoal grate and cooking grate if your grill has both. Then brush away any ash, debris, or charcoal pieces from the grates. In some cases, you may need to let the grates soak in soapy, warm water for a few hours before wiping.

Next, wash the interior of the lid and bowl using your steel wool pad or scrubber brush. Then use a scraper to clean the cooking grate.

4. Oil the Grill Grate

Oiling the grate can be a good way to keep food from sticking, and it also prevents corrosion. Oil the grill grate using a rag soaked with olive or vegetable oil to clean the cooking grate, or you can use bacon or beef fat or cooking spray. Much like seasoning a cast iron pan, this preemptive oiling step can help set your grill up for a season of successful grilling (especially if you cleaned the grill with soap).

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill Throughout the Season

Depending on how often you use the grill, you may want to clean the grill once every two weeks or so throughout the grilling season.

The following are some simple steps for how to clean a charcoal grill during the season:

  1. Empty out the bowl, ash receptacle, or cook box to clear the grill of ash, which could otherwise clog air vents and make it harder to regulate temperature.
  2. Clean the inside of the lid, including any grease or debris that may build up on the inside. But only complete this step when the charcoal grill is cool.
  3. Remove the grate and use a scraper to remove debris inside the bowl. Use a scrubber for greasy or saucy buildup.
  4. Clean the interior of the cooking cavity with dish soap and water.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill After Every Grilling Session

Cleaning your charcoal grill after each use isn’t always necessary. But fastidious chefs or infrequent grillers can quickly scrub it down after every cookout to keep it clean and reduce the elbow grease you need to get the job done. Follow these simple steps to clean the grill after cooking:

  1. Clean the grate while it’s warm, which makes the food and grease easier to remove. Just avoid cleaning it while it’s still hot.
  2. Oil the grate using a paper towel or rag, and re-oil it when necessary before cooking the next time you use the grill.
  3. Make sure there’s enough charcoal to use for cooking with each use and refill as needed.

How to Clean a Charcoal Grill At the End of the Season

Knowing how to clean a charcoal grill at the end of the season means you have less work at the start of next summer. The task is also very similar to how you’d clean out a charcoal grill at the beginning of the grilling season. Perform each of the following tasks before putting your grill away:

  • Clean out any ashes or other debris from the bottom of the grill.
  • Scrub the lid and bowl with soapy water, and let it dry completely.
  • Clean the grates with your preferred method.
  • Oil the grate to protect it from residual moisture.

Pro Tip:

Keep the grill covered and clear of debris throughout the rest of the year with a weatherproof cover. This can keep rain and pests away if you store your grill outside. Even if you store your charcoal grill inside the garage, a good cover can ward off spiders, dust, and dirt.

Taking all of these grill cleaning steps should help keep your grill in great condition during the year. Grilling outside this summer isn’t just a fun way to cook; it can also help keep your house cool. By following this complete guide for how to clean a charcoal grill, you won’t need to worry about the hassle of buildup, corrosion, or inefficiencies that you might otherwise experience.

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