Keep your grill going for years by learning how to clean your grill’s stainless steel grates the easy way. Armed with little more than an onion and a brush, you can improve your grill’s performance and flavor in just minutes. This is how.
Look after your grill and your grill will look after you. Nowhere is this more true than with cleaning your backyard grill’s stainless steel grates. It might not be fun, but cleaning your grill grates is the secret to extending their shelf life, preserving your grilled food’s flavors, and keeping those pesky flare-ups at bay.
With the right tools, you can make cleaning BBQ grill grates a breeze. From expert tips to common mistakes to avoid, here’s how to clean stainless steel grates in no time.
Why You Need to Clean Your Grill’s Stainless Steel Grates
When you use your grill regularly, a normal accumulation of food and residue builds up around your grates. Cleaning them ensures all the burnt-on bits are thoroughly removed—and this also makes the food you’re cooking on the grill taste that much better!
In addition, you’ll also want to ensure the appearance and longevity of your grill. Apart from making it look worse for wear (which may not be the best if you’re cooking for others), the build-up can lead to rust and corrosion—despite stainless steel being a relatively sturdy material.
Plus, grates that haven’t been cleaned in a while can be a fire hazard due to the accumulation of grease, food pieces, and debris. Make cleaning your charcoal grill or propane grill a habit and you’ll keep it performing for years.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Grill Grates: 3 Different Ways
There are several ways you can clean stainless steel grates. The most heavy-duty techniques include using a pressure washer or a steam cleaner, which you can buy. However, we’ll be going over the more DIY-friendly options—soaking and scrubbing or brushing your grates.
Why make things complicated? Using little more than half an onion and a fork, you can clean your grill grates quickly and safely without the need for any chemical-based cleaning products.
You Will Need:
- 1 onion, halved
- A fork or a meat shredding claw
How to Clean Grill Grates with an Onion:
- While your grill is still warm, stick the onion half on a fork (this will act as your handle, allowing to clean the grates without burning your hands)
- Apply the cut side of the onion to the warm grill grates and slowly rub it along the surface
- Repeat as necessary. The aim is to clear the area where your food will sit of as much grime and residue as possible.
- Season the grates by applying a thin layer of canola oil to the grates to help create a non-stick surface for your next grill session.
Why does this work? The enzymes and acids found in onion juice are great at breaking down grime and residue, while they also have antibacterial properties that help sanitize your grill grates.
This is best done as a ‘light’ clean after each cook, but if you need a more serious clean, you’ll want to try our more heavy-duty solutions below.
Soaking & Scrubbing
You Will Need:
- A container large enough to hold the grates
- Vinegar and baking soda (the natural option)
- Liquid dish soap or stainless-steel grill cleaner and baking soda (the detergent option)
- A heavy-duty synthetic scrubbing pad (avoid steel wool)
- A garden hose
- If you’re going for the natural option, skip this step. Otherwise, fill up your container with enough hot water so it covers the grates.
- For the natural option, mix a 2:1 ratio of white vinegar and baking soda and pour this over the dry grates. For the detergent option, pour in ½ cup of liquid dish soap or stainless-steel grill cleaner and stir in ¼ cup baking soda.
- Let the grates soak in the water or vinegar–baking soda mix for 1–2 hours
- 4. Then, without draining the container, use your heavy-duty scrubbing pad to clean the surface and every corner of the grates.
- Rinse with your garden hose until the grates are completely clean
- Dry off the grates with paper towels or a cloth
Burning & Brushing
You Will Need:
- A metal scraper
- A grill brush (avoid carbon, steel, or iron brushes. Choose aluminum, brass, or stainless steel)
- Your grill
- A microfiber cloth or paper towel
- Warm up your grill to a high temperature, aiming for at least 450-500°F (230-260°C). This will help burn off grease and leftover food debris.
- Using heat-proof gloves, remove the grates from the grill
- Then use a metal scraper to gently scrape debris and burnt-on food. The heat from earlier should make it relatively easy. However, be cautious to apply gentle pressure to avoid scratching the stainless steel grates. If the residue remains, use a grill brush to scrub until it is removed. No cleaning solution should be used here.
- Repeat the reheating and scrubbing process a few times if there are spots with extra debris.
- Use a cloth or paper towels to thoroughly dry your grates
- Use paper towels to apply a thin layer of canola oil to the grates. This will help season the grates, preserving them and preventing food from sticking to them in future.
Common Mistakes & How to Avoid Them
Using Abrasive Materials
Using abrasive materials like steel wool or hard wire brushes can damage the surface and finish of your grates. Instead, you should use safe DIY cleaning solutions like vinegar and dish soap, or choose cleaning products designed to tackle stainless steel.
Not Drying the Grates After Cleaning Them
It’s important to rinse your grates thoroughly to remove any cleaning solution. Then, dry them completely with paper towels or a cloth as remaining moisture can contribute to rust and corrosion.
Tips for Maintaining Stainless Steel Grates
- It’s a good idea to keep a periodic deep cleaning schedule so you don’t forget when it’s time to give your grates a thorough clean. We recommend once or twice a year as a minimum (more if you love to use it regularly). Write a note in your calendar, or incorporate it into your routine—like once at the start of spring, and once at the end of summer.
- For regular cleaning, a simple wipe-down with a damp cloth at the start and end of every use can help take away food debris or built-up charcoal. If left on, debris can harden and make it more difficult to remove once you deep clean. Make sure to also remove the charcoal ash!
- Investing in a good grill cover can help protect your grates from pollen, tree sap, and other environmental debris—but make sure the cover isn’t trapping in humidity. We recommend using a cover made from a durable but breathable fabric, like polyester, to help circulate air and prevent condensation.