How to Clean Grill Grates : Tried and True Methods

After a long day (or night) of cooking up delicious meals, the last thing on your mind is cleaning your grill. However, maintaining and cleaning your grill is essential for preserving the life of the grill and its parts and preventing any potential health issues.

One of the most important parts of your grill to clean is the cooking grates. These are the grates where you place your food to cook. In this article, we’ll discuss why cleaning your cooking grates is important and provide some tips and tricks for keeping them in top shape.

Different Ways to Clean Your Grill Grates

As you might have guessed, at the BBQ Depot, we love grills—and we want you to love them too! That’s why we’re committed to ensuring you have the best grilling experience possible, including cleaning and maintenance.

Cleaning a grill doesn’t have to be a chore. We prefer to look at it as part of ensuring your next cookout is done to perfection. To make things simpler, we will go over different methods to clean grill grates with our suggestions for choosing the ideal approach for you and your grill.

Why Is Cleaning Your Cooking Grates Important? 

Health and Safety

Every grill owner knows the importance of keeping your grill clean. One of the main reasons to clean your cooking grates is for health and safety purposes. Not only will keeping your grill clean lead to better-tasting food; it will also make your food safer to eat. No one wants to eat grilled food covered in carbonized bits left over from last week’s barbeque. This build-up creates an unsanitary cooking surface potentially leading to foodborne illnesses.

Additionally, if you are using a gas grill, the buildup of grease and food particles can increase the risk of flare-ups, which can be dangerous for both you and your grill.

Improved Taste and Cooking Performance

A dirty cooking grate can also affect the taste and quality of your food. A clean grill will also help your grill last longer. Less gunk means less rust that will deteriorate your grates until you need to replace them. If you’ve never given your grill a thorough cleaning before, there’s no better time to learn how to clean a grill grate.

As the grates become caked with grease and food residue, it can transfer onto your food, altering its flavor. This can be especially noticeable when cooking delicate foods like fish or vegetables.

Furthermore, a dirty cooking grate can also affect the cooking performance of your grill. The buildup of grease and food particles can create hot spots and uneven heat distribution, resulting in unevenly cooked food.

Extended Life of Your Grill

Proper maintenance and cleaning of your cooking grates can also help prolong the lifespan of your grill. The buildup of grease and food particles will eventually cause corrosion and rust on the grates, which will lead to damage and the need for replacement. By regularly cleaning your grates, you can prevent this and extend the life of your grill.

The Basics of Cleaning Your Grill Grates

First, turn your grill on high for 15 minutes. This will cook off a lot of the carbon and food bits stuck to your grates. Plus, once your grates have cooled down a little bit, you'll have a much easier time cleaning them. If you do this every time you use your grill, it will make any deep cleaning jobs easier. 

After you've let the grates cool down, use a brush or stainless scrubber to free your grates of any carbonized food and debris. Because you cooked the grates beforehand, all these bits will be much easier to get off. 

Now that you know the basics, let’s explore the methods we used to give our grates a thorough cleaning.

Tips for Cleaning Your Cooking Grates

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of cleaning your cooking grates, let’s dive into some tricks for keeping them in top shape. By the time we’re done, you’ll know everything you need to know about how to clean and care for your grill grates.

Brush off After Every Use

The best way to keep your cooking grates clean is to brush them after every use. This may seem like a hassle, but it will save you time and effort in the long run. After you finish grilling, let the grates cool down for a few minutes, then use a grill brush to scrub off any food particles or residue. This will prevent them from hardening and becoming more difficult to remove later on.

Use Baking Soda

Anyone who has done cleaning work knows the power of baking soda. It's an effective cleaner that's typically safe to use in many different applications.

To start, make a paste by mixing equal parts baking soda and water. You can also add dish soap or vinegar to the baking soda mixture helping further is grease cutting capabilities.

Use a brush to cover the grates with the baking soda paste and let the paste and let it sit for 15-20 minutes before scrubbing them.

Use a stainless scrubber (we love the ones from Scotch-Brite) to scrub the baking soda-covered grates. You can also use a brass bristle brush. After scrubbing, rinse the grates with water and put them back in the grill.

Results Works pretty well, removing most of the food bits and greasy residue. We’re sure that a few more sessions of soaking and scrubbing would get the grates into ideal condition.

Clean Your Grill Grates with a Degreaser

Degreaser is commonly used in grill cleaning. Zep grill degreaser is great as it penetrates and loosens burned-on grease for easy removal.

Spray the degreaser on the grates and let it sit for about 40 minutes, allowing it to start breaking down the particles. (Different degreasers may recommend different waiting periods.) Then, simply wipe off the grit and grime.

For a natural degreaser use vinegar, mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray onto the grates. Let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a grill brush.

Results It effectively removes burned-on grease and other gunk clinging to the grates but, you want to be sure that you thoroughly remove all the chemical so that you are not heating it and putting it in your food. We feel it is best to use a natural degreaser like the vinegar mixture.

Soak in Hot Water

For tougher stains and buildup, you may need to soak your cooking grates in hot water. Fill a large bucket or tub with hot water and add a few drops of dish soap. Place the grates in the water and let them soak for 15-20 minutes.

Results This will help loosen any stubborn residue, making it easier to scrub off with a grill brush.

Tips and Tricks for Cleaning Different Grill Grate Materials

Different grate materials sometimes require different cleaning methods. Knowing which to use is an essential part of learning how to clean grill grates.

Cleaning Cast Iron Grill Grates

Cast iron grates are known for their superb cooking properties, particularly their ability to hold and disperse heat effectively for cooking all types of meat and veggies. They’re also known for their durability, holding up over years of use.

One problem with cast iron is that it can rust easily.You should clean cast iron grates after every cooking session by using high heat and then brushing off any grime and debris. After cleaning your cooking grates, it’s important to season them before your next use. This will help prevent them from drying out and rusting and as an added bonus, it will create a non-stick surface for your food to grill on. To season your grates, lightly coat them with cooking oil and heat them on the grill for 10-15 minutes.

Cleaning Porcelain Grill Grates

Porcelain-coated grates are fairly common in grills. When cleaning, though, you’ll want to take special care that you don’t accidentally chip or damage the porcelain coating.

You’ll want to clean porcelain grates with baking soda, water, and soap. The golden rule with porcelain grates is to be gentle. Use non-corrosive cleaners and never use a scraper (only a brass bristle brush).

Cleaning Stainless Steel Grill Grates

While stainless steel is resistant to rust, that doesn’t mean it’s immune. Regular cleaning is still essential to preserve the life and healthiness of your stainless steel grates. Fortunately, stainless steel is the most common and durable grate material. You can clean stainless steel grates with any of the methods above, including grill cleaners or a combo of baking soda and soap or vinegar. Or our tried and true method for cleaning stainless grates is with a griding tool a stainless cup attachment. This handy tool eliminates the elbow grease required when using a brush or scrubber. This tool is only used on Stainless Grates.

Grill Grate Cleaning FAQ

How often do I need to clean my grill grates?

Really, You should brush off your grates after every time you grill. How often you should deep clean depends on how frequently you cook. If you’re grilling once a week or more, you’ll want to do a deep cleaning every 4-6 months. If you only grill on occasion, onces a year will suffice.

What if I never clean my grill grates?

If you never clean your grates, they will rust and fall apart. In addition, you’ll compromise the quality and taste of any food you cook on that grill—and what’s the point of grilling if you’re not going to enjoy the result? Regular cleaning is good practice to ensure your grates’ long life and your food’s safety, healthiness, and flavor.

How do you remove carbon buildup from grill grates?

Any of the cleaning methods we tested will help you remove carbon buildup. The baking soda methods, grill cleaners and degreasers, and steam cleaning can all help you loosen and remove any burned-on carbon from your grates.

How do you remove rust from grill grates?

We often get asked how to clean rusty grill grates. The answer: that depends on whether it is surface rust or have the grates rust through. If the grates have rusted through or pitted, you will want to replace them with new ones as you do not want to eat anything grilled on rust. If it just surface rust, you can remove it with the stainless scrubber or if they are cast iron grates, use some vegetable oil. Porcelain coated grates will only rust when the porcelain has been coompromised. With these types of grates, it is best to replace them when this occurs.

When should I just replace my grill grates?

There is a point in every grill’s life when it’s best to replace the grates. But how do you know when that is? Here are a few key signs:

-The rust is really bad. If rust doesn’t go away after cleaning, it’s probably penetrated the metal too deeply to be removed.

-If your coated porcelain or ceramic grates are chipping, it’s probably time to replace them.

-The grates won’t clean. Sometimes, after years of use, the debris and grease just won’t come off, forcing you to replace your grates.

Other Maintenance Tips for Your Grilling Equipment

While cleaning your cooking grates is essential, there are other maintenance tips you should follow to keep your grilling equipment in top shape.

Clean the Drip Pan

The drip pan (grease tray) is located underneath the cooking grates and collects grease or food particles that fall through firebox. It’s important to clean this regularly as grease will eventually rust out the tray and this can be a difficult part to find from many brands. Simply remove the drip pan and clean it with hot, soapy water. Let it dry before putting back.

Check for Gas Leaks

It’s important to regularly check for gas leaks. You can do this by spraying a mixture of soap and water to the gas line and connections. If you see any bubbles form, this indicates a gas leak and you should have it repaired before using your grill again.

Store Your Grill (if it is used Seasonally)

When not in use, it’s important to store your grill properly to protect it from the elements. If only used seasonally, store it in a covered area and vented, such as a garage or shed. If you must leave it outside, invest in a grill cover to protect it from rain, snow, and other weather conditions. Give your grill a deep cleaning before storing for the winter.


Cleaning your cooking grates is an essential part of maintaining your grilling equipment. Not only does it ensure the health and safety of your food, but it also improves the taste and performance of your grill. By following these tips and tricks, you can keep your cooking grates in top shape and consistently enjoy delicious meals.

If you’d like more advice on how to clean a grill grate—or anything else grill-related—feel free to reach out to our team at the BBQ Depot. We’d love to help you find and care for the grill of your dreams. You can contact us at 1-877-983-0451. We can’t wait to hear from you!

by Tracy Hollander on 9th Oct 2023
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