Not cleaning your grill properly can give you food poisoning, hygiene expert says

Your grill could make you very sick if not cleaned regularly – plus, many of us are cleaning our grills incorrectly

bbq food on grill
(Image credit: Beata Haliw/Alamy Stock Photo)

Summer would not be summer without the smoky flavor of barbecued meat, but not cleaning your grill correctly before cooking could give you a nasty bout of food poisoning. 

Whether you're in the US and preparing for 4th July celebrations, or in the UK (hopefully it will stop raining sometime soon), learning how to clean a BBQ should be an essential ritual every time you use it. Even if you've invested in a top-of-the-range grill recently, it's still not self-cleaning. 

Can not cleaning the grill give you food poisoning?

Yes. Researcher and hygiene expert Lisa Ackerley told The Daily Mail (opens in new tab) that the average grill contains 1.7 million microbes 100 square centimetres – twice than your average toilet. At the same time, most people only clean their best grill once or twice a year, which leaves them vulnerable to ingesting common food poisoning-causing bacteria such as listeriasalmonella, and E. coli. 

This is because the burnt-on food and grease that remain on your grill are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, and, contrary to popular belief, just wiping the grill with napkins or paper towels after use is not enough to remove them. 

In some cases, if a BBQ hasn't been cleaned in years (yes, that does happen) and you've inherited it as part of a house move, it may make more sense to just get rid and get a new one. There are always BBQ deals on that will help you save on a brand new grill. 

bbq vegetables on grill

(Image credit: Tat'âna Maramygina/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Top tips for cleaning the grill correctly

beef and bell pepper skewer on bbq

(Image credit: Chris Alack/Future)

The other common mistake people make is that when they do clean the grill or barbecue, they clean it from cold, in the same way you'd clean an indoor cooking pan. This again is insufficient to ensure all the bacteria are gone – you need to get that grill hot and burn off all the bacteria before cleaning it with warm soapy water. This way, you can be sure you haven't just smeared the grease and food remnants around. 

After you've burned off any remaining food and washed your grill, dry it off and oil it with a natural slow-burning oil like rapeseed or corn oil – don't use olive oil as it will just burn off, leaving an acrid flavor on your food. Follow these handy tips and you'll soon be ready to try our favorite BBQ recipes on your sparkling clean grill. 

Anna writes about real estate, interior design, and gardening. Her work has appeared in Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, and many other publications in the US and the UK. Before embarking on her writing career, Anna taught English at university level and is the author of a book called London Writing of the 1930s. She currently splits her time between London and the Midwest US. She is an experienced outdoor and indoor gardener and has a passion for growing roses and Japanese maples in her outside space.