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Chefs and grilling experts across the country use these tools to keep their own grills spic and span
Summer is prime time for grilling, and if you want the tastiest burgers and juiciest steaks, it’s important to keep your grill properly cleaned. It doesn’t matter whether you have a gas grill, charcoal grill, or even an electric indoor grill — you’ve got to keep the grates clean and the interior free of grease and debris to get the best results and stay safe while cooking.
The good news is that it’s not hard to clean your grill — it should only take a minute or two each time you cook. However, you do need the right equipment to get the job done right. “For cleaning my grill, high heat and a good grill brush is what makes the difference,” says Kevin Hoffmann, executive chef at Vinyl Steakhouse in NYC. “After cooking, I let the grill top get as hot as possible and hit it with the brush. After, I wipe it with a mute oil, such as canola oil, so it doesn't rust.” In addition to a good grill brush, you may also want to invest in a cleaning spray, which can help cut through built-up grease on the grates or inside the grill body.
To help you sort through all the options out there today, we asked grilling pros what grill cleaners they use on their own grills, and we put together this list of expert-recommended products to add to your arsenal.
Here are the best grill cleaners, according to grilling experts.
Best Overall Grill Brush: Kona Safe/Clean Grill Brush
The looped metal bristles scrape off tough debris, and you don’t have to worry about them falling out.
For best results, the brush should be dipped in water for a steam-cleaning effect.
A good grill brush is a must-have, no matter what type of grill you use, and this one comes highly recommended by Shannon Snell, pitmaster at Sonny’s BBQ. This Kona grill brush has looped stainless steel bristles that are highly durable and strong enough to scrape off baked-on food and grease, and you don’t have to worry about the metal flaking off and potentially ending up in your food.
This grill brush also has a long handle, making it comfortable to use. “It’s 18 inches long, which is a great feature that helps avoid burning your hand as you brush your grill,” says Snell.
Pro Tip: For best results, use it while your grill is still hot and dip the brush in water as you clean—when it touches the hot grill, the water will steam, helping to loosen up debris.
Price at time of publish: $20.95 (orig. $49.95)
Type: Brush | Dimensions: 18 x 6 inches | Material: Stainless steel
Best Bristle Grill Brush: Traeger BBQs Grill Brush
The stiff nylon bristles are safer to use than metal, and dual handles provide a sturdy grip.
This brush should be used when your grill is cold, as the bristles can melt.
If you prefer a grill brush with bristles, this one comes recommended by Hoffmann. It has a durable stainless steel handle, and the nylon bristles are stiff enough to scrape gunk off your grill (but still safer than metal bristles). Plus, it has a second handle on the back of the brush head (allowing you to get more leverage for tough, stuck-on messes) and a metal scraper on the front edge.
Pro tip: This Traeger grill brush is designed to be used when your grill is off to protect the nylon bristles from the heat, and you can replace the brush head when it wears down, saving you from having to buy a whole new tool.
Price at time of publish: $29.99
Type: Brush | Dimensions: 15.75 x 5.9 inches | Material: Stainless steel with nylon bristles
Best Wire-Free Grill Brush: Grill Rescue BBQ Grill Brush
This brush doesn’t have any bristles, and you can replace its cleaning head as needed.
It relies on steam for a thorough clean, so you’ll need to keep water nearby.
Want to avoid bristles all together? You’re not the only one! “I prefer to use a product like Grill Rescue that utilizes a strong cloth pad and water to create steam that cleans your grill," says Carey Bringle, founder of Peg Leg Porker in Nashville. This popular grill brush has a unique fabric head that’s made from aramid — the heat-resistant fabric used in firefighter gear.
Pro tip: When dipped in water, it’s great for cleaning hot grill grates, and the tough material can even be put through the dishwasher for easy cleaning. You can also buy replacement heads for the brush and reuse the same handle.
Price at time of publish: $59.95
Type: Brush | Dimensions: 15 x 5.5 inches | Material: Polypropylene handle with aramid head
Best Soft Grill Brush: Pit Boss Soft Touch Palmyra Head Brush
Softer bristles won’t chip enamel-coated grill grates or other more delicate materials.
The natural bristles may not be abrasive enough for heavy-duty cleaning.
Certain grate materials, such as enamel-coated cast iron, are more prone to scratching and chipping, which means you’ll need a softer bristled brush like this one. While the brush features natural palmyra fibers, which come from palm trees, it’s still sturdy enough to remove food and grease from your grill.
“The bristles are stiff, like you'd want from a grill brush, without being metal,” explains Wes Wright, founder of Cookout News. “There have been too many cases of metal bristles falling off of brushes and ending up in food, which is really dangerous. The bristled head is also replaceable on this brush, so it will last a long time.”
Price at time of publish: $19.13 (orig. $20.30)
Type: Brush | Dimensions: 17 x 5 inches | Material: Stainless steel and palmyra bristles
Best Grill Scraper: Cuisinart CCB-500 Griddle Scraper
The wide blade easily scrapes grease and food off grill grates and flat griddles.
This tool isn’t able to clean in between grates as well as a regular grill brush.
A grill scraper is another useful cleaning tool to have handy, especially if you have a griddle. This model is recommended by Leslie Klemm, culinary director at The Pharmacy Burger in Nashville, as it has a wide 6-inch blade and a knob grip that lets you apply more pressure to the surface. It’s perfect for removing burnt-on food from your grill or griddle.
Pro tip: Klemm recommends cleaning right after you cook for best results: “Cut your grill off and begin scraping with water right away. The hotter the grill, the better,” she says.
Price at time of publish: $15.95
Type: Scraper | Dimensions: 16.5 x 6 inches | Material: Stainless steel
Best Grill Cleaning Spray: Traeger All-Natural Grill Cleaner
The spray makes it easier to clean the interior and exterior of any outdoor grill.
You may not want to use this cleaner on the grates of your grill, as residue can end up in your food.
You should periodically clean both the exterior and interior of your grill to keep the appliance in good condition, and that’s when this cleaning spray comes in handy. “For cleaning the exterior of the grill and tough grease inside of the grill — excluding the cooking grates — I'd recommend Traeger's All Natural Cleaner,” says Wright. “It works well without using harmful chemicals that could end-up in your food.” This industrial-strength cleaner is made using natural ingredients, is non-toxic, and will make it easier to clean grime, grease, and other debris off of your grill.
Pro tip: While it’s great for cleaning the interior and exterior of your grill body, most experts say you should avoid putting sprays on the cooking surface — after all, you don’t want any cleaning solution to end up in your food.
Price at time of publish: $14.99
Type: Spray | Volume: 32 fl. oz.
Best for Deep Cleaning: Bar Keepers Friend Powdered Cleanser
The abrasive formula can help remove years of grease and grime from your grill’s interior and exterior.
It’s not good for everyday grill cleaning, as it’s very strong and needs to be rinsed thoroughly.
If you haven’t given your grill a deep clean in many years, you might need a stronger cleaner to cut through all the grease and grime. “For deep cleaning, I use soap, Barkeepers Friend, and an abrasive sponge,” says chef David Figueroa, co-founder of Melinda's Hot Sauce. “I rinse them off with the hose, and stubborn spots may get a dose of degreaser." This powder is highly abrasive, using oxalic acid to remove rust, tarnish, mineral deposits, and stains from most materials. And it works. Its effectiveness even got a shout-out on a recent episode of The Bear.
Pro tip: Bar Keepers Friend is great for stainless steel grills, but you’ll want to use it sparingly, as it can scratch delicate surfaces.
Price at time of publish: $6.96 (orig. $16.93)
Type: Powder | Volume: 12 oz.
Best for Grease: Goo Gone Grill and Grate Cleaner
The cleaner helps minimize smoke and flare-ups by removing grease from grill surfaces.
Because it uses chemicals, you may not want to use the cleaner on surfaces that come in contact with food.
Sometimes scrubbing isn’t enough to get rid of grease inside your grill, but this Goo Gone grill and grate cleaner can help. The gel spray is effective at removing caked-on food and grime, as well as grease, and it will minimize the amount of scrubbing needed to get your grill clean. All you have to do is spray the area down and let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe away the debris with a cloth.
This cleaner is ideal for surfaces like your grill’s burners, heat plates, and grease tray, as well as the exterior. While it also can be used on food prep surfaces, you need to be sure to rinse them thoroughly after cleaning to remove the chemicals before cooking on the grill again.
Price at time of publish: $11.29 (orig. $12.98)
Type: Gel spray | Volume: 24 oz.
Best for Indoor Grills: OXO Good Grips Electric Grill Brush
Its densely packed bristles get into the grooves on indoor electric grills.
The compact design isn’t large enough to use on outdoor grills.
If you have an electric indoor grill or even a panini maker, this small brush is perfect for cleaning those tricky grooved surfaces. It has densely packed plastic bristles to get into nooks and crannies, and there’s also a heat-resistant silicone blade on the front edge to help wipe down the surface. The bristles are soft enough that they won’t damage non-stick cookware or grates, and the whole thing is compact enough to stash in a drawer in between cleanings.
Price at time of publish: $16.55
Type: Brush | Dimensions: 4.2 x 2 inches | Material: Plastic and silicone
Best Ash Vacuum: Stanley Ash Vacuum
The vacuum makes it easier to clean out charcoal or pellet grills that don’t have a removable ash drawer.
This tool won’t provide much value for those with propane grills.
It’s important to regularly clean ash out of charcoal and pellet grills, and this special vacuum can make the task much quicker and easier. (It also comes in handy if you have to clean out your fireplace, pellet stove, or fire pit!) The metal tank and tube are designed to suck up ashes and other fire residue, even if they’re still slightly warm, and it can hold up to 4 gallons of debris. It includes a washable filtration system that keeps dust out of the motor, and a flip-up handle makes it easy to carry out to your grill.
Price at time of publish: $58.94
Type: Vacuum | Dimensions: 11.6 x 11.6 x 14.8 inches | Capacity: 4 gallons | Power Cord: 8 feet
How to Pick the Right Grill Cleaner
When it comes to cleaning your grill, there are several types of products you may want to use. Grill brushes are the most popular, as they tend to be the most quick and effective way to remove food and grease from grill grates. No matter what type of grill you own, a high-quality grill brush is a worthwhile investment for your cleaning kit.
In addition to a grill brush, you may want to invest in a grill cleaning spray, which can help remove tough messes. However, most of our experts recommend using sprays only on the interior components and outside of your grill — not the grates.
Finally, there are cleaning tools like scrapers, which are ideal for griddle surfaces, and ash vacuums, which are handy for cleaning out charcoal grills.
The best grill cleaner for your needs will largely depend on what kind of grill you own. For those with gas grills, a good grill brush is often enough for everyday maintenance. However, if you have a grill that burns fuel, such as a charcoal or pellet grill, you’ll also need to regularly clean out ash from the body. In these situations, a special grill vacuum, like the Stanley Ash Vacuum, will make the job much easier.
You’ll also want to consider the type of grates in your grill. Stainless steel grates are often the easiest to care for, as you don’t need to worry about them getting scratched or rusty. Cast iron grates are very durable, but they need to be regularly oiled to keep them in good condition and prevent rust. If you have enamel-coated grates, you’ll want a softer bristle brush (or one with no bristles at all, like the Grill Rescue BBQ Grill Brush) to prevent the coating from chipping.
There are a few important safety considerations to keep in mind as you shop for a grill cleaner. All of the experts we talked to recommended avoiding grill brushes with metal bristles, which can fall out during use. This can be quite dangerous if the bristles get stuck in your food, and there are plenty of non-bristle options available today that will clean your grill just as well.
When it comes to grill cleaning sprays, you’ll want to look at the ingredients, as well as the directions for use. While many are technically safe to use on grill grates, our experts recommend against it. If not completely rinsed off, the cleaner could end up in your food, and even if it’s non-toxic, you don’t want to ingest the substance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the best way to clean a dirty grill?
To clean a dirty grill, you’re going to need a sturdy grill brush, such as the Kona Safe/Clean Grill Brush, and a container full of fresh water. You can clean your grill before or after use — if you clean it before, let the grill heat up for several minutes before you start to clean, and if you clean it after, do it while the grates are still hot.
The process is simple: Dip your grill brush into the water, then begin scrubbing back and forth along the grates. The water should sizzle and steam, helping to release baked-on food and grease. You may need to employ a scraper, such as the Cuisinart Griddle Scraper, if there are stubborn bits that won’t come loose.
In addition to cleaning the grates after every use, you’ll also want to clean out the grease trap — some grills have disposable liners that make this easier — and oil the cooking surface. “I also use disposable rags and vegetable oil after cleaning to re-season,” says Figueroa.
Will Dawn clean grill grates?
Dawn dish soap is great for removing grease, and it can come in handy if you need to deep clean your grill grates. You’ll want to remove the grates from the grill and scrub them using a mixture of Dawn and warm water. This can be done with a stiff brush or sponge, and you may need to use another cleaner like Bar Keepers Friend if there are extra-tough stains. After the grates have dried, be sure to oil them to keep the surface conditioned and prevent food from sticking the next time you cook.
What can you use instead of a grill brush?
If you’ve misplaced your grill brush but need to clean off your grates, there are a few items you can use in a pinch. “For day-to-day grill cleaning, I use a ball of wadded-up aluminum foil and lots of elbow grease,” says Figueroa. This works the best if your grill is warm, but you’ll need to be careful to keep your hands safely away from the grates as you scrub.
Believe it or not, onions are another effective tool for cleaning grill grates. All you have to do is cut an onion in half and rub the cut side over the grates. It will loosen up stuck bits of food and also provide a little extra flavor to whatever you’re cooking.
Take Our Word For It
Camryn Rabideau is a freelance writer and product tester, and over the course of her career, she has tested close to a dozen different grills and smokers, as well as a variety of grill brushes and other cleaners. She also spoke to the following grilling experts for their recommendations and insights on how to best clean different types of grills:
Kevin Hoffmann, executive chef at Vinyl Steakhouse
Shannon Snell, pitmaster at Sonny’s BBQ
Carey Bringle, founder of Peg Leg Porker
Wes Wright, founder of Cookout News
Leslie Klemm, culinary director at The Pharmacy Burger
David Figueroa, chef and co-founder of Melinda's Hot Sauce
Using their insights, as well as her own grilling expertise, she compiled this list of the best grill cleaners available online and included pro tips to help you use the tools efficiently.
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Read the original article on People.