Here's how to get your gas grill spotless—no chemical cleaners necessary.

By Katie Holdefehr
Updated October 07, 2020
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From grilled weeknight dinners to big family barbecues, many of us spend our summers hanging out around the grill. To stop food from sticking and prevent grill flare-ups, it's important to learn how to clean a grill, both quick-clean methods for when you're in the middle of cooking and more in-depth cleaning routines for the end of summer. No matter if you're clearing off the grill grates or deep-cleaning your grill, there's no need to turn to chemical grill cleaners. In fact, it's likely there are unexpected grill cleaning supplies already in your pantry. Hint: you can even use pantry staples like an onion (yes, an onion!) to remove stuck-on grime.

From fast grill cleaning hacks to a complete end-of-the-season sprucing, here's how to clean a grill so it lasts for many summers to come. As always, start with the easiest, least harmful cleaning method before working your way to the more involved techniques.

How to clean a grill, gas grill with food cooking on it
Credit: Getty Images

How to Quick-Clean a Grill With an Onion

When cleaning the grill grates, almost every method starts with the same recommendation: get the grill piping hot. This will help loosen debris and remelt stuck-on BBQ sauce, making it easier to scrub off. Once the grill is hot, reach for your trusty stainless steel grill brush and start scrubbing—or, if you want to avoid the potentially dangerous bristles getting into your food, grab an onion instead. Cut the onion in half, then use a grill fork to rub the onion cut-side-down on the grates to remove stuck-on residue. Because this grill cleaning method may impart some onion flavor to the grates, reserve it for when you're grilling savory dinner dishes, rather than when you're grilling peaches for dessert.

How to Clean a Grill With Just Tin Foil

If you're grilling packets of fish or wrapping up corn, you likely already have a box of tin foil sitting next to your grill. When it's time to clear off the grates, tear off a piece of foil and roll it into a ball. Hold the tin foil boil with tongs and rub it over the grates to knock off debris and cooked-on food.

How to Clean Grill Grates With Coffee

For a deep cleaning (and if you aren't worried about removing any "seasoning" that's built up over time on your grill), you can turn to the coffee cleaning hack. Here's how it works: Brew a pot of coffee and pour it into a large container. Remove the grates from the grill (note: do this when the grates are cool), and submerge them in the coffee. Let sit for one hour. The acid in the coffee will help break down stuck-on sauce and grease. Thoroughly rise and dry the grates before replacing them.

How to Deep-Clean a Gas Grill

At least once a year, depending upon how often you use your grill, you want to give it a serious scrub down. The end of summer is the perfect time.

What You'll Need:

  • Grill brush
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Bucket large enough to hold the grill grates
  • Vegetable oil
  • Stainless steel polish (optional)
  • Microfiber cloths

Follow These Steps:

  1. Fire up the grill so that it's hot. This will help loosen stuck-on food bits and sauce.
  2. Using a grill brush, scrub the grates. You can also dip the brush in a container of water with a small quirt of dish soap. The steam the water creates will help remove stubborn residue.
  3. Turn off the grill to let it cool down, then disconnect the grill from the propane.
  4. Once the grill is cool, remove the grill grates and burner shields. Dunk them in a bucket filled with warm water and a small amount of dish soap. Give them a scrub with the grill brush, then rinse with a hose.
  5. Disconnect the drip pan underneath the grill, empty it out, then give it a scrub in soapy water as well. Rinse thoroughly.
  6. Clean out the cook box: Place a bucket underneath the grill to catch the debris. Wearing gloves, clear out the cook box, pushing the debris so it lands in the bucket below.
  7. Give the inside of the grill lid a quick scrub with the grill brush, then wipe with a damp paper towel. If you see what looks like peeling paint on the underside of the lid, it's actually a harmless buildup of carbon that can be scrubbed away.
  8. Replace the burner shields and grill grates. To reseason the grates and prevent food from sticking, apply some vegetable oil to the grates using a paper towel.
  9. Clean the exterior of the grill: If you have a stainless steel grill, apply some stainless steel polish to a microfiber cloth and buff it onto the surface, working in the direction of the grain. For a ceramic or painted steel grill, wash the outside with soapy water.

Tip: If you're not planning to use your grill during the winter months, invest in a durable, waterproof cover that will prevent rust and keep it protected from the elements.