How to Properly Clean a Charcoal Grill

How to Properly Clean a Charcoal Grill

Things to Remember

Cook Properly

One of the best ways to ensure that you can clean your charcoal grill without too many problems is to make sure that everything cooks properly. If you burn the meat or use the wrong kind of sauces and spices, you can easily get things stuck to the grill which discolors the grill and is really tough to get off. Avoiding burning and improper cooking sets you up for a successful cleaning session and a lot less scrubbing! Not sure where to start? Check out these 7 tips for cooking success.

Clean Shortly After Cooking

Obviously, you’ll need to let certain things cool before getting in there with a deeper clean, but don’t wait too long. As soon as the grill has cooled down enough, you should scrub the whole thing down. While de-ashing your grill can sometimes be a whole process, having a grill basket and Kick Ash Can™ can take a lot of the hassle out of it.

This means that you’ll still need to clean if you’re tailgating! It’s easy to get caught up in the game and the action and want to save the grill cleaning process until after the sporting event, but that’s a great way to ruin your grill in the long run. Longevity is key to building a dynasty in sports, and your tailgate will benefit from a long-running grill that holds down the position.

hot grill

Photo by Danny Gallegos on Unsplash

Clean Before You Cook

One great way to keep your grill clean is to clean it before you use it. You don’t have to do anything extensive, just take your grill brush or quality wood scraper like these from Juniper Scraper and scrub it down really quickly. Wood Scrapers are the safest solution on the market. Metal brushes can leave bristles behind and that is terribly dangerous if they get stuck to food and consumed. One of the ways that things stick to your grill for a really long time is that they have been on the grill for a while, and then you fire it up after a couple of weeks of downtime, and the food that was still on there from the previous section is now welded to the grill. It’s easy to miss something when you’re cleaning it after using it, so also clean it before you use it!

Simple Grill Cleaning After Each Use

While it is super important to clean the grill after every use, this usually doesn’t require too much effort if you have the right equipment. All you really need for some simple charcoal grill cleaning is a high-quality grill brush. You’ll be tempted to buy the cheapest brush you can find, but this will be a mistake. Spending a little bit more on the brush will allow you to get a deeper clean each time you grill, which prevents you from having to do very many deep cleaning sessions. Additionally, the higher-quality brushes will last you longer!

Simply take your brush while the grill is still warm, but not hot, and scrub down the grates or basket vigorously. The goal here is to remove any of the debris and color that could stick and build upon the grill.

Deep Cleaning of a Charcoal Grill

Cooking food over an open fire is perhaps the oldest true cooking technique that we have as human beings. Charcoal grills can get buildups of carbon, rust, and ash that can get really gross and even pose a safety hazard for the food — or at the least an aesthetic hazard for anyone looking at the grill! You should deep clean your charcoal grill at least a couple of times a year if you use it pretty often. If you aren’t grilling often, then you might be able to get away with only a single deep clean per year.

Cleaning a Charcoal Grill

If you’ve got a basket, like the Kick Ash Basket, then it will be really easy to clean. Here are the tools and grill cleaning tips that you’ll need to clean your charcoal grill:

  • Aluminum foil: Nope, this is not to cook with. You’ll ball up the aluminum foil to scrub down the grill and get any debris off the grill’s grate.
  • Putty knife: A putty knife will be key because it will help you scrape the gross black stuff off the bottom and top of the grill. These flakes are usually grease that has cooked into the grill or carbon build-up. It’s really nasty, and you definitely don’t want it on your food. The putty knife will be able to scrape things off but shouldn’t damage the grill.
  • Grill brush: This is the absolute, essential piece of grill cleaning equipment that you cannot go without. While you can use things other than a putty knife and aluminum foil in order to scrape dirt off of your grill, you can’t really replace the work that a good grill brush is going to do.

After you’ve gathered those supplies, you’ll start by cleaning both the grill and charcoal grates. If you have a basket or grate that can be removed, definitely remove it to get some better leverage and angles with the brush. If you have a charcoal grill that has a grate for the charcoal as well, also scrub that. While you’ve been (hopefully) giving your grill a quick scrub after each use with the brush, you’ll want to give a little more elbow grease into this round of cleaning.

Next, take your aluminum foil — which is also great for cleaning pots — and make a generous ball out of it, allowing the aluminum to remain a bit loose. Use the ball of aluminum to scrub the grates and the grill, taking off any extra debris. The aluminum foil provides some excellent leverage for those spots that resist the power of your brush. After scrubbing with aluminum foil, scrub once more with a brush to take out the finer pieces that the aluminum foil loosened up. If there are any really stuck pieces remaining, use the putty knife to take them out.

Next, put your hand inverse into a plastic bag and reach into the grill, wiping out any of the dirt or debris that is at the bottom of the grill. Finally, use soap and water to clean the whole outside of the lid and grill with a bit of soap and water.


Photo by Agustín Ljósmyndun on Unsplash

Empty the Ashes

As long as you have a good ash can under the grill, this will be really easy to do! Keep in mind that grilling ashes are generally not super good for alkaline soils, so you might not want to dump them on top of plants. The best way to get rid of ashes is to either put them in an old paint can or wrap them in foil which already had food on it. If you are a serious griller, you will likely produce WAY more ash than that; we recommend a 4-gallon steel bucket.

Cleaning the Ceramic

We typically let the grill burn for 30 - 60 minutes at about 500-600 F after long cooks. That way, all the gunk and grease from pork butts or briskets burns off, almost in the way a self-cleaning oven would remove food leftovers. Super high temperatures are a popular way to restore the bright white ceramic color. However, that isn’t good for the grill seals or even the metal bands holding the lid to the base. Interested in learning more about this? Reach out and we can do a segment on grill cleaning tricks!

Cleaning a Public Charcoal Grill

Everything that we covered in the simple charcoal grill cleaning section applies to this section, except it’s recommended that you clean the grill both before you’ve used it and after using it. You don’t know who used the grill before you, and you’ve also got no idea when the last time that a public grill was cleaned. Best to be safe and stay healthy, cleaning the grill before you toss any meat onto it. For more quick and easy cleaning tips, check out this post on BBQ cleaning tricks you can do during a commercial break!