You Absolutely Have to Clean Your Charcoal BBQ

You Absolutely Have to Clean Your Charcoal BBQ
Photo: stockcreations, Shutterstock

I have always been resistant to cleaning things that are outside. Outside is where the dirt lives — the dirt’s “home turf,” if you will. But now that I live in a house that comes with its own little piece of outside, I’m seeing that cleaning these out-of-doors spaces is necessary, especially now that I am doing a fair amount of cooking in my yard.

In addition to sweeping the patio (a scam from which I cannot escape) and tending my garden (lazily and somewhat poorly), my most common outside chores revolve around my Weber Kettle.

A dirty BBQ is — in a word — gross. It’s so gross that it puts weaker men (such as this one) off the cooking method entirely, possibly because these men are used to women cleaning up after them. In any case, a clean grill is important. Dirty gas BBQs are a bit more dangerous than their charcoal counterparts, but grease fires can happen anywhere there is grease, and gunky grates and bowls can make your food taste bad and — if left dirty long enough — lead to all sorts of bacterial buildup. Luckily, cleaning your charcoal grill is not hard. (If you have a dirty gas grill, read this.)

Scrub the grates at the beginning of each cook

There’s nothing quite like a cleansing fire. Rather than attempting to clean your grates while they are cold and sticky, let them heat for at least five minutes each time you fire up your grill, then give them a good scrub with a wire brush, some wadded up foil, or another grill cleaning implement of your choice. The high heat will char the stuck-on residue, and it will flake right off. Do this every time you grill and you will never have to deal with an unwieldy amount of buildup.

People are not perfect, however, and I would never judge you for letting an unwieldy amount of buildup accumulate. I have never let that happen (because I have only had my grill for a few months), so I haven’t had a chance to test unwieldy buildup cleaning methods, but The Kitchn tested four different gunky grill cleaning procedures, and found that both Easy-Off and a mixture of baking soda and dish soap worked exceedingly well, so give those a try if the hot hot heat doesn’t cut it.

Don’t forget the bowl

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

After a long smoking session or a particularly hamburger-heavy gathering, the bowl of your charcoal grill (the part under the grates) will be in need of some attention. You don’t need to clean your bowl after every grilling session, but once every week or month is a good idea, depending on how much you grill. If it starts to look and smell greasy (you know the aroma), go ahead and give it a bath.

Start by getting all that ash into the ash trap. The Weber has a neat little sweeping blade system, but I’ve found that it can miss some spots, and I usually have to brush lingering ash into the holes with my grill brush or a paper towel.

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Next, get a bucket of warm, soapy water, and give that bowl a scrub. Use a steel wool pad if you encounter any stubborn residue.

Photo: Claire LowerPhoto: Claire Lower

Wipe away the soap with a wet rag, and resist the urge to get your grill “perfectly clean.” You’re just going to fill it with ash again, and this is clean enough.

Show the outside some love

I don’t know what your outdoor environment is like, but mine contains a lot of dust and pollen, and that stuff likes to accumulate on my beautiful charcoal baby. A Swiffer or microfiber cloth is usually enough to spiff her up, and a little glass cleaner is all it takes to restore her shine, and I do love how she shines.

Log in to comment on this story!