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How To Clean A Grill Without Destroying It Completely

Photo: Danny de Jong (Unsplash)
SqualorJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She’ll be here every week helping to answer your filthiest questions. Are you dirty? Email her.

In my efforts to clean things outside of the daily/weekly types of things, I decided that my gas grill needed a thorough cleanse. I armed myself with rubber gloves, old scrubbing sponges, and a can of Easy-Off. I sprayed all of the parts (grates, flare up protectors, firebox) and let them sit for 10 minutes per the instructions on the can. After letting them sit, I wiped them down with the sponges, using a good amount of water. I decided, after waiting some time to make sure the fumes were gone, to light her up to hopefully burn off anything lurking. Within a few minutes, the grates and protectors had this weird grayish film on them and the burners were burning orange flames instead of the blue flames I’d hope to see.

Did I just wreck an entire grill, or is this something that I can re-clean? Any idea if the burners just have residue from the Easy-Off, and if so, will they just burn off and return to working normally? Any help is appreciated.

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So let’s start with the good news: The burners will be just fine. The orange flames are, as you suspected, a result of Easy-Off residue lingering in the ports that’s burning off.

The grates, on the other hand, may have suffered less reversible damage. Gosh, I really hated typing those words! But part of the job is delivering sometimes unwanted news, and I can at least offer these two points of information by way of solace: -1- I once ruined a non-stick baking sheet when I tried to clean it using Easy-Off (and … you know, I’m me. I’m supposed to be an expert when it comes to this type of thing!); -2- a quick check of replacement grill grate options shows that if it’s the case that the Easy-Off ruined your grates, it won’t be too, too costly a mistake.

Before you completely give up on those grates, however, you might want to try doing a deep cleaning of the grill. Here’s how that’s done, no oven cleaner required — and actually here’s the point at which I say this: don’t use oven cleaner to clean a grill!

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  1. Remove the grates, set them aside and use your grill brush to push the debris that’s inside the grill into its bottom tray.
  2. Remove the tray and dump all that debris into the trash, then use a damp rag to wipe out the inside of the grill cabinet.
  3. Scrub the tray and grates with hot, soapy water; if there’s a lot of stuck-on food or greasy buildup, use a soap impregnated steel wool pad like Brillo or S.O.S.
  4. The exterior of the grill can be wiped clean with soapy water or a gentle cleanser like Bon Ami, which is safe to use on both stainless steel and enamel — if you need more scrubbing power, opt for a non-scratch Dobie Pad, and don’t use steel wool to avoid abrading the exterior’s finish.
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Now then, those of you with especially inquisitive minds are probably asking how often to perform this type of deep cleaning. And, as with so many things in life, there is no one answer! Because the answer, of course, depends very much on how and how often you’re cooking on the grill. But I can give you some things to consider so that you might make the most informed possible decisions vis-a-vis the care and keeping of your precious grills.

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If you grill regularly, doing a deep cleaning every 10-20 uses will keep it in good working order. More average grillers can stick with a deep cleaning once or twice a year — I’m going to STRONGLY suggest twice a year and here’s why: seasonal grillers tend to put their grills in storage during winter, and giving it a good cleaning both before it goes into storage and then again when it comes out is a very good and sanitary thing to do. Beyond that, as long as you’re diligent about brushing your grates before and after each use, your grill will remain in good working order.

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About the author

Jolie Kerr

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast Ask a Clean Person