How to clean grill grates: 4 easy ways to keep your BBQ sparkling

Knowing how to clean grill grates correctly is vital so you can cook food safely on the BBQ

Cleaning a grill grate to keep it looking brand new
(Image credit: Napoleon Grills)

There are a few techniques for how to clean grill grates which will ensure you keep your family free from food poisoning as well as keeping your BBQ looking as good new.

There are natural home remedies as well as hi-tech methods for cleaning grill grates with pressure washers and steam cleaners. Regardless of how you go about it, these methods will spruce up your grill grates by removing burnt on food scraps, leaving them shiny and new.

As well as doing deep cleans on your grill grates there are things you can do between uses to reduce your cleaning load considerably, whilst still keeping the grates on your best BBQ looking brand new and sparkling.

cleaning a bbq grill grate with a wood and wire brush

(Image credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus)

4 simple methods for how to clean grill grates 

When the sun is shining there’s nothing better than gathering around your outdoor grill station with family and friends, but food poisoning can easily become an unwelcome guest according to GP and TV doctor, Dr Sarah Jarvis, speaking on behalf of Kärcher (opens in new tab)

'Leaving grills unwashed could lead to harmful bacteria such as campylobacter, salmonella, listeria and some types of E. coli forming. So it’s imperative to make sure that you know how to clean a BBQ,' she stresses.

These four different methods for cleaning BBQ grill grates will tackle food debris and grease build up and leave your grates shining.

1. Soak and scrub the grill grates

The most common method for how to clean grill grates is to simply give them a good scrub and soak. 

For this simple method from Martin Sobey, National Sales Manager UK for Napoleon Grills, you'll need a grill brush, rubber gloves, bucket, kitchen sponge and cloths.

  1. Fire up the grill and close the lid: Once you've followed the correct method for how to light a BBQ, allow your grill to come to a high temperature, and wait for 30 minutes near your grill during this stage for safety. The high temperature will burn off the build-up of food and grease but remember to use a grill brush that won’t react to the heat to scrub away the build-up. Brushes made of wire, coiled steel, or wood are your best bet. 
  2. Leave it to cool: After giving it a good scrub, allow the grill to cool down completely. For gas BBQs, turn off the gas. If you cook on a charcoal grill, once completely cool, carefully dump the charcoal into a metal container. You may also need to scrape away any remaining charcoal dust and debris.
  3. Soak the grates: Now that the grill has cooled down, take out the grates and sear plates. Submerge these parts into a bucket of warm, soapy water. Make sure the bucket is big enough and allow them to soak for 30 minutes.
  4. Leave to dry: When the 30-minute soak of the grill grates and sear plates is done, take them out and scrub them with a kitchen sponge. Rinse the grates with water and allow them to dry.

Man cleaning grill grates with a bucket of water and sponge

Soapy water is ideal for soaking grates

(Image credit: Ihar Halavach / Getty)

2. Use a pressure washer 

If you're looking for a less labor-intensive option, you can use your best pressure washer as a quick and easy way to clean your grill grates. 

'Set your BBQ grills up against a flat surface, like a sturdy wall and turn the pressure up to high, to dislodge any stubborn sticky leftovers,' says Dr Sarah Jarvis. 

Work from top to bottom for best results. 'This is such a fast way of effectively cleaning your BBQ grill grates, you can get it done in under ten minutes and leave them to dry in the sunshine,' she adds. 

A yellow pressure washer sitting on a lawn

A pressure washer will make short work of cleaning your grill grates

(Image credit: vitranc / Getty)

3. Give your grill grates a steam clean

Did you know you can learn how to clean BBQ grill grates with a steam cleaner? For an intense deep clean use a steam cleaner on the grill, such as Kärcher’s SC 2 Easyfix (opens in new tab) – this also has the added benefit of getting rid of any bacteria.

'Steam cleaners are such a versatile piece of equipment to keep around the house,' says Dr Sarah. 'They make light work of the grease, and dirt, delivering deep cleaning results with no chemicals or scrubbing.'

A steam cleaner being used to clean BBQ grill grates

A steam cleaner is ideal for cleaning away grease

(Image credit: Diane Macdonald / Getty)

4. Try a household cleaner remedy 

If you've had a BBQ party you might find yourself with half-finished cans of beer spread around the garden. Don’t let it go to waste, pour it onto the grill grates while they are still warm and tackle with a wire brush for surprisingly sparkling results. 

White vinegar can also come in handy as an alternative to stainless-steel cleaner. 'Use a left-over spray bottle, fill it with half white vinegar, and half water and spray it all over the grill,' says Dr Sarah. 'Wait five minutes, then wipe it off with a clean, dry cloth. This also works well to get the outside of your BBQ shining.'

Can of beer on the corner of a BBQ

Did you know that beer can be used to make your grates sparkle?

(Image credit: Jan Hoffmann / Alamy Stock Photo)

How do you clean cast-iron grill grates?

'Caring for cast-iron grill grates is like caring for that awesome frying pan that has been in the family forever,' says Martin Sobey. 'If for some reason rust has appeared on the surface of these grills, scrub it off gently with steel wool. You can clean your grills with warm soapy water, but rinse thoroughly and dry them right away.' We'd really recommend that you do this when they’re not hot!

'Once the gas or charcoal bbq grills are clean and dry, rub them down with a hardy fat like lard or coconut oil,' says Martin. 'Heat your grill until it reaches high, about 500°F (260°C), then allow it to cool completely. This bonds the fats to the metal, seasoning it like that fantastic old frying pan.'

When you use your grill again, remember to use a softer brush, to remove any particulates that may have stuck during cooking.

Using a grill sponge to wipe down grill grates

A soft brush like this one from Napoleon Grills (opens in new tab) is ideal for wiping away food particles after use

(Image credit: Napoleon Grills)

How do I make grill grates look new?

'To avoid rust and mold make sure to close the lid of the grill when it’s not being used,' says Martin Sobey. 'If you plan to store your grill, for example over the winter, ensure that your cooking grills have been thoroughly cleaned. Lightly coat them in cooking oil and wrap them in a plastic bag before storing them, along with your grill.'

If you do discover rust on your grill grates, our tips on how to remove rust from grills and BBQs will come in handy to resolve the problem. 

To keep your grill grates looking like new after every use Martin suggests turning the grill up to high as soon as food comes off to rest. 'After five or so minutes, brush the grill grates with a grill brush to clear away any debris and turn the grill off. This should be done after every grilling session,' he says.  

'Once your brush begins to shed bristles, it's done and a new one should be purchased, as grill brush bristles can be dangerous when ingested. Ensure you use the correct grill brush for the job.

'You should use a brass grill brush for cleaning cast-iron cooking grids. They can also be used on stainless-steel cooking grids. But make sure you only use stainless-steel grill brushes on stainless-steel cooking grills,' adds Martin.

You can shop for a new grill brush at Amazon (opens in new tab), or check out our BBQ tools guide for more top buys. 

A hand scraping off grime from metal grill grates

Grid scraper from Napoleon Grills (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Napoleon Grills)

Should you clean grill grates after every use?

Whether you have a built-in BBQ or a freestanding design, cleaning the grill grates doesn't have to be a weekly chore. 'Despite what you might think, your BBQ grill grates don't really need to be cleaned all that often,' says Ross Bearman, Great Taste Judge and Founder of the BBQ Gifting company, Ross & Ross Gifts (opens in new tab). 'The best trick is simply to use a stiff wire brush straight after the food comes off the grates so nothing sticks and sets on it.'

'If you open your BBQ after not using it for a while and you find any mold has appeared, then simply set up a fire in the BBQ and place all the grates on top to burn off, then use the stiff brush to clean,' says Ross. 

Martin Sobey advises that during grilling season you would want to give your grill a thorough cleaning at least twice. 'If you use your grill frequently, you should follow your chosen method for how to clean grill grates every two months. This includes cleaning the burners, sear plates, and firebox,' he says.

Using sunflower oil every time you cook your BBQ recipes will prevent burnt food from getting stuck on the BBQ. Once you’ve finished cooking, rub vegetable oil on the grills to prevent them from going rusty. Dr Sarah says, 'this is one of my tried and trusted hacks, and it works every time.'

Once you’ve got your BBQ looking spotless, it can be a good idea to keep it under a cover or BBQ shelter throughout the summer and beyond to reduce cleaning time before each use.

Teresa Conway
Teresa Conway

Teresa has worked as an Editor on a number of gardening magazines for three years now. So she is lucky enough to see and write about gardening across all sizes, budgets and abilities. She recently moved into her first home and the garden is a real project! Currently she is relishing planning her own design and planting schemes. What she is most passionate about when it comes to gardening are the positive effects it has on our mental health to grow and care for plants, as well as being great for the environment too and help provide food and shelter for wildlife.