This Is How Often You Need to Clean Your Grill (It’s Not as Often as You Think!)

updated Jun 29, 2021
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Open grill, heating up
Credit: Joe Lingeman

If you aren’t grilling yet, what’s stopping you? There’s nothing better than preparing simple meals outdoors — especially ones that are extra delicious, thanks to the smoky flames of the grill. If grungy grill grates are keeping you from the grilled tofu, charred vegetables, seared steaks, or classic BBQ chicken you’ve been looking forward to all year, I’m here to help.

Here’s the thing: Grilling recipes usually have instructions to start with a clean, oiled grill. So it’s no wonder that you might assume every grill session requires an extensive scrubbing and scouring. But we’re here to say that if you’re cleaning your grill grates more than twice a season, you’re cleaning your grill too much.

Credit: Danielle Centoni

The Only Two Times You Need to Clean Your Grill

Your grill only needs a deep clean twice a year: at the beginning and end of your high grilling season. Let me explain. As grilling season approaches (ahem, now), don’t even think about firing up the grill until you’ve given every inch a once-over — especially if you are using a gas grill. After ignoring your grill for months (or weeks if you live in an area of the country where you can grill year-round), pollen, leaves, and even small bugs or spiders can take up residence in the inner depths of your grill. Check all of the parts of your grill, from propane connections to drip pans, heat shields, and grill grates. Take the time to wipe down the inside and outside of the grill, make sure connections are secure, and replace drip pans or heat shields that are rusted or otherwise unsalvageable.

Grill Grates Deserve a Deep Clean

Everyone’s grill grates collect stuck-on grease and grime from all the grilling you do each summer. Starting with smooth grill grates is an important ingredient to every grilling recipe, so we recently tried several popular methods of cleaning grill grates to find the best and most effective options. Two methods restored our grill grates. The first option involves using a paste made of baking soda and soap, and the second relies on the grease-busting power of oven cleaner. With these two easy and effective cleaning options, there’s no reason to grill on dirty grates.

There’s no need, however, to break out the scouring scrub after every grilling session. For ongoing maintenance during the summer, scrub the grill grates with a sturdy grill brush after each use while the grill is still hot to easily remove the greasy debris.