Grease and oil residue can make a grill disgusting, particularly when the weather’s hot. Also, it makes your food taste “funky”. The grease along the bottom of the grate can evaporate and also affect the food’s flavor – not to mention the rancid black crust made of carbon that’s similar to burnt toast.
It is really important that your fresh food is cooked on clean grates. Besides tasting bad, there’s the general safety concern as well if you’re cooking rancid leftover food.
Before you start to cook, get the grates super hot, shut the lid, and wait approximately 15 minutes or until the smoke clears. The smoke is coming from grease and doesn’t flavorize food like smoke from wood. It just covers the food with bitter soot. The high heat will eventually burn off the grease and melt any leftover food particles into carbon.
An even better method is to immediately clean the grill after a round of cooking in order to dispel any insects from buzzing around in between your cookouts. Allowing charcoal to burn out and naturally carbonize food residue is a good idea. However, if you have a pellet or gasser burner, leaving it on is definitely not a good idea. Many people forget to shut off the gas and accidentally let it run all through the night – wasting an entire tank of propane or bag of pellets. Make a note to turn it off when you serve the food or set an alarm so you don’t forget it’s on.
First, invest in a good quality scraper. Then take a wire brush made of stainless steel, dip it in water, and start scrubbing the grates with the wet brush. This will create a lot of steam. Afterwards, use a damp cloth to absorb any wire bristles, chunks, or dusty material left behind. Some folks use a handheld steamer to clean both the grates and inside of their grill as well. Use a mild enzymatic cleaner rather than a harsh chemical cleaning agent whose remains could potentially be harmful.
Note: If you have reversible grates, flip them in between cooking sessions. It will keep the gunk and goo from building up on the other side.
Be very cautious when it comes to using bristle brushes, especially the cheaper brands. Each year there are countless stories of people who consumed grilled food with tiny bristles embedded in them that inevitably got caught in either their throats or digestive systems, generally causing them a great deal of pain and suffering; or even death. This can easily be preventable by taking the appropriate steps to keep your BBQ grates super clean and free of debris, including bristle brushes. Therefore, it pays to run a damp cloth over your grates after brushing them. Some experienced grill enthusiasts slice a lemon or onion in half and run it over the grates to ensure the bristles are completely removed.
If your grates have a great deal of stubborn grease on them, put a sheet of extra heavy duty aluminum foil down on top of the grates; add some weight so it won’t rise with the hot air and just let the fire burn about 5 minutes. Carefully remove the foil with a pair of tongs and scrunch it up. Next, grab the scrunched up foil in the pair of tongs and thoroughly scrub your grates.
Never run your grates through your dishwasher. You would be amazed at how many people try this. Grill grate grease is not the kind of grease you want in your dishwasher since it will coat everything inside. It’s nasty and destructive. Instead, every so often, lay them on the ground on top of a cloth. Get a bucket with hot soapy water. Using a brush, scrub both sides and rinse. A word of caution: washing cast iron in this manner may cause it to lose part of its non-stick qualities. Sometimes, however, you simply don’t have a choice, especially if rust is present. Just be sure to completely dry and then oil cast iron after washing.
Every year, put your grill grates in a large plastic trash bag, slip on a pair of gloves, and thoroughly spray oven cleaner on them while they remain in the bag. Allow them to sit for a minimum of 30 minutes and then simply hose them off. If you grill quite often, they may need it more than once a year.
Following these tips will keep your grates spotless, your food safe, and let you enjoy your cookouts worry-free.