We Tried 4 Methods for Cleaning Impossibly Dirty Grill Grates — And We’re Still Blown Away by the Winner
Outdoor grills tend to bear the brunt of the workload during these warmer months. They help us keep the heat out of our kitchens and get those classic summer entrées (burgers! Dogs! Steak! Veggies!)) on our plates. If you’re constantly using your grill, though, the grates can get messy. Like, really messy. Very quickly. A good scrape-down with a sturdy brush before and after you grill is a good habit to get into, but you really need to give the grates a more thorough cleaning once in a while to keep them in tip-top shape. (And no, you can’t put them in the dishwasher!) So what’s the best way to do the deep-clean? I tried four popular methods and rated each one below.
How We Tested the Methods for Cleaning Grill Grates
I needed four grill grates, but my grill only has three. I grabbed those and borrowed three more from my neighbor. I figured it was best to have extras and I even did some bonus testing (more on that later). My neighbor’s grates were equally as dirty as mine and I promised to return them in better condition than they were given to me in. (Don’t you want to be my neighbor? I borrow things, clean them for you, and return them!) Then I got to work, taking pictures and detailed notes for myself.
Ratings: Each method received a rating. A 1 was given to the least effective method, and a 4 went to the most effective. Along with the rating you’ll find notes on how easy or difficult the method was, how much elbow grease it took, and how much time it took to successfully complete.
Grill Grate Cleaning Method: Aluminum Foil
- Total time: 15 minutes
- Rating: 1
The method: Crumple up a ball of (good) aluminum foil, then use the ball to scrape warm-but-not-hot grates clean.
How it went: I found this method to be an excellent way to get down into the grooves and knock big chunks and flakes off your grates … before using one of the other methods. I loved it because I was able to mold the foil to the shape of the grates to get down in between each one. It didn’t do a great job at removing grease — which wasn’t surprising, and why I like this method in tandem with another method. Just keep in mind that using excessive force can strip away the enamel, so proceed with caution!
Grill Grate Cleaning Method: Vinegar + Baking Soda
- Total time: 12+ hours
- Rating: 2
The method: Remove cooled grates from the grill. Put them in a garbage bag and add 2 cups of vinegar and 1 cup of baking soda. Close up the bag and let the solution soak for 8 hours or overnight. Then, rinse the grates and scrub off any remaining food bits, using a ball of foil or a scrubby sponge.
The results: This is one of the methods that Arm & Hammer recommends and it’s fairly effective! The soak helped the bits wipe off and was fairly tough on grease. I’m docking this method a bit, though, because it’s not really the most effective in terms of instant gratification. You have to have the foresight to do this the day before you want to grill, and it still does require a bit of time and effort on your part when the soaking part is over.
Grill Grate Cleaning Method: Store-Bought Degreaser
- Total time: 20 minutes
- Rating: 3
The method: I used Mean Green Super Strength Cleaner & Degreaser, which says to spray on the surface, wipe clean, and rinse thoroughly. The label also says not to let the stuff dry before rinsing, so this is definitely not one of those spray-and-sit situations.
How it went: This was one of the most hands-on methods and, by far, the messiest. It did yield great results, but it took a lot to get to that point. While I was very happy with the grate after the cleaning, I did have lots of grease splatter marks (from all the scrubbing with the brush) on my shoes and pants! I’d be willing to put in the effort if there wasn’t an option that topped this one, which brings me to this next method …
Grill Grate Cleaning Method: Baking Soda + Liquid Dish Soap
- Total time: 40 minutes
- Rating: 4
The method: Remove cooled grates from the grill. Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and approximately 1/2 cup of baking soda. In a bowl, mix up a paste of Dawn dish soap and baking soda. Apply the paste to the grates, making sure to get in all the nooks and crannies, and let the grates soak for at least 30 minutes. Then scrub, wash, and rinse.
How it went: The paste did an absolutely fantastic job of removing oil and getting the tops of the grates clean. I honestly wasn’t expecting such dramatic results! It didn’t work so well on the chunky burnt-on parts down in the grooves. When used in combination with aluminum foil, however, this method is really great, and helps to avoid using an aerosol or any harsh chemicals. This is the only way I’ll be cleaning my grates from now on!
Update: Cleaning Grates with Easy Off
I’ve used Easy-Off in many tests before and it works really well, so it always wins. I mean it’s right there in the name: EASY! I almost didn’t try it in this test, because I know that the harsh chemicals are a turn-off (pun not intended) for some people. But then my editor wrote about how it’s her new favorite method and I gave it a try. Here’s how I did it and how it worked for me.
- Total time: 90 minutes
- Rating: 4
The method: Remove cooled grates from grill and place them on a trash bag outdoors, or in a utility sink in a well-ventilated area. Brush the grates to remove as much gunk as possible. Spray the grates with Easy Off, allow to foam, and let sit for 40 minutes. Brush down the grates, rinsing frequently. Be sure to rinse thoroughly before putting them back on the grill.
How it went: The Easy-Off works as it’s meant to, loosening grit and grime, making it much easier to wipe away. It took me two sessions to successfully remove the grime from the grill grate. The first time cleaned the top of the grate, but didn’t loosen the stuff that was really stuck down in between. After another 40 minutes, I was able to easily wipe down most of what was left over. There was a tiny bit of gunk left, which I was able to easily get out with some aluminum foil. This method was the easiest (definitely the easiest on the enamel!), but again, I know it’s not for everyone.
How do you clean your grill grates when they need a deep, deep clean?