We are passionate about grilling around here. If you love it as much as we do, you know how important it is to keep a clean grill.
It doesn’t just keep it looking as good as it did when you first got it; it also reduces the likelihood of rodents, possums, and critters, gathering at your grill for food and shelter – and no one wants that.
From a flavor standpoint, you want your barbecued meats to taste like, well, barbecued meat. Cleaning stainless steel grates after every use reduces the chances of them rusting and getting grimy – unless earthy, iron-flavored food is what you’re after.
Do you need us to sell you on why you should keep your grates clean?
That being said, there’s a method to the madness. A right way and wrong way to do it, if you will. Here’s everything you need to know about how to clean stainless steel grill gates properly.
The Wrong Way to Do It
Cleaning is just cleaning, right? Wrong.
Specific cleaning tools and techniques could end up doing more harm than good, not just to your prized grill but to your health as well. Before we get into how to clean stainless steel grill grates the right way, here are a couple of things you need to be wary of.
Don’t Use a Wire Brush
There’s a story we came across a while back about a four-year-old boy who got hospitalized after he accidentally swallowed a metal bristle from a wire stainless steel grill brush. Yikes!
While a wire brush is marketed explicitly to barbecue grill owners, we don’t recommend using them to clean your grates. There’s always a chance that some of the metal bristles from the grill brush may fall off without you noticing, latch onto your food while you’re grilling, and end up in your body. It’s simply not worth a trip to the ER.
There are several other safer alternatives you can use that work just as well. One option would be to crumple up a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and shape it into a ball. Then, use a pair of tongs to grab it, and voila! You have a safe tool to clean your grates with.
Alternatively, you could also use a wooden grill scraper or a stainless steel BBQ scrapper instead. The best thing about it is that the block will start to develop groves that fit your stainless steel grates perfectly after a while of using it.
Now, if you live on the wild side and insist on using a wire brush, ensure you double-check and even triple-check your grates for any stray bristles from the wire brush that might make their way into your food. Be sure to run a damp cloth across the grates once you’re done scrubbing. You can never be too safe.
Steer Clear of Steel Wool
Here’s the thing. Steel wool is an excellent grate cleaning tool – for cast iron grill grates. It’s pretty effective in getting all that nasty grime off. However, it may not be safe to use on stainless steel grates, and here’s why.
Stainless steel has a fine finish. Steel wool leaves fine scratches that ruin this pristine finish which, after a while, makes it harder to clean the grates. Food particles and grease become wedged into those minute crevices, making them virtually impossible to get rid of. Ensure that the clean tool you choose keeps your stainless steel grills in mint condition.
Put Down the Bleach
Last but certainly not least, you want to steer clear of using harsh chemicals on your grill grates. Mixing stainless steel and chlorine is a recipe for disaster. Sure, it will get the job done and get those stubborn grease stains out.
However, like steel wool, bleach also damages the finish of stainless grill grates, which is counterintuitive in the long run. Not to mention how difficult it is to get rid of that lingering pungent bleach smell.
How to Clean Stainless Steel Grill Grates the Right Way
Now that you know what not to do with your stainless steel grill grate, let’s dive into how to clean a stainless steel grate – the right way. When it comes to keeping your grates and grill rack clean, there are two things you need to keep in mind.
- The easiest way to clean your grids is while they’re still hot, right after you’re through with barbecuing. Besides, it gives you something to do while you let the meat rest. Don’t put it off till later.
- If that sounds too ambitious – especially when you’re trying to fight off hunger pangs – and would rather clean your grates at a later time (or date), ensure that you preheat your grill first. 500°F for 15 minutes should do it. Then, use a scrubber or scraper to brush away any remnants from your previous barbecuing session.
With that in mind, you can use any of the two techniques below to clean your stainless steel grates.
Method 1: The Heat-Brush-Rinse Technique
Wrap your stainless steel grill grates in heavy-duty aluminum foil, close the lid on your grill, and crank up the heat to 500°F. Let those babies cook for 15 minutes to burn off grease and any food debris. Then, use a nylon grill brush, a metal scraper, or a crumpled-up ball of aluminum foil with a pair of steel tongs to scrub off the brittle carbon. Once you’re satisfied with the results, give the grates a good rinse to wash off any remaining debris.
We’ve come across some techniques online that recommend placing your stainless steel grill grates in your home oven and turning on self-cleaning mode. While it may seem like a good idea, in theory, do not attempt this. For starters, it will ruin your oven. Not to mention the fact that the amount of smoke it generates will most certainly set off your fire alarm.
Always heat your grilling grates in the grill.
Method 2: Good Old-Fashioned Soaking
If you haven’t cleaned your stainless steel grate for a while, scraping the surface may not be enough to eliminate the burnt grease and carbon debris. That’s where a good old-fashioned soak comes in – to loosen the dirt and grime. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Aluminum foil and a pair of tongs
- A metal scraper or nylon grill brush
- Special purpose grill cleaner
- A tub that’s wide enough to fit your grates
- Hot water
- Baking soda
- Use the heat-brush-rinse technique we outline in Method 1 above to burn off the grease and food particles. Let the grates cool before you proceed to step 2 below.
- Pour in half a cup of special-purpose grill cleaner into a tub that contains 2-3 inches of hot water. High-quality dish soap will also suffice. If you prefer not to use soapy water, you can soak them in all-purpose vinegar Don’t dilute the vinegar.
- Next, add a quarter cup of baking soda and mix it into the water/vinegar until it completely dissolves.
- Drop-in your grates and leave them to soak in the baking soda solution for at least 2 hours. We recommend leaving them in the baking soda solution overnight if there’s time.
- Use a nylon grill brush or a heavy-duty griddle cleaning pad to brush away any lingering carbon or burnt-up grease stuck to the grates. Any grime should come off effortlessly at this point.
- Give them a good rinse before drying them with a paper towel.
Now you have a clean grill ready for your next grilling session.
What to Do After Cleaning Your Stainless Steel Grill Grates
One of the primary perks of using stainless steel grates is how low-maintenance they are. Unlike cast iron grill grates that need to be seasoned to keep it in good condition and prevent it from rusting, steel grates don’t require any of that.
As long as you dry them thoroughly with paper towels after cleaning them and keep your grill moisture-free, your steel grates will remain pristine. If you live in a humid area, ensure you have a weather-resistant cover on your grill when it’s not in use.
The rule of thumb to live by when barbecuing on stainless steel grates is – Oil your food and not the grates. We often see people doing the reverse, which is wrong for two reasons.
First, oiling the grates with cooking oil is completely pointless since the vegetable oil won’t adhere to the surface. It simply falls into the fire below, which doesn’t serve the purpose you had intended it to.
Second, even if – for some reason – the cooking oil did stick to the surface of the grids, the heat from the fire below will burn it all off the stainless steel surface after a short while.
Oiling your food instead not only prevents it from sticking to the surface of the grill; it makes the cleanup process afterward so much easier. You won’t have a ton of sticky grime on your grates to scrub off.
Roll Up Your Sleeves and Get to Cleaning
There you have it – how to clean stainless steel cooking grates the right way. We always recommend washing your grates after every barbecue session. It saves you loads of time and doesn’t require as much elbow grease compared to the effort needed to get rid of grime build-up. We hope you found the tips in this guide helpful.
Want to see the Weber Spirit and Genesis gas grills go head-to-head? Check out our blog for the ultimate gas grill throw-down.