Beyond purchasing the right grill and grilling accessories, an essential part of barbecuing is cleaning up after you cook. Though some may think that letting burnt food build up will add flavor to future cookouts, leaving leftover food on your grill doesn’t season it, says Matt Abdoo, executive chef and partner at Pig Beach BBQ, which has locations in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida. In fact, doing this can alter the taste of whatever you’re cooking in a not so great way, he says.
When it’s time to clean your grill or BBQ smoker, products like brushes, scrapers and polish can make the job easier and more efficient. To help you determine what you need, we asked grilling experts about their favorite tools, as well as how, why it’s important to clean all parts of your grill and how often you should do it.
Our top picks
- Best overall/editor’s pick: Grillart Bristle-Free Brush and Scraper
- Best pick for the outside of a grill: Weiman Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish
- Best rust protector: Bar Keepers Friend
How we picked the best grill cleaning products
We interviewed grilling experts about what types of products can help you keep your barbecue clean. They recommend keeping the following factors in mind when shopping:
Your grill grates: When picking out a brush or scraper, it’s important to keep in mind what your grill grates are made from, says Abdoo. Stainless steel brushes are great for cast-iron grates, but may scratch porcelain-coated grates. For those, Abdoo recommends something with brass or nylon bristles.
Materials: Whatever your grill brush is made of, make sure it can hold up to high heat, says Abdoo. Stainless steel is a good choice for this very reason. If you are using a nylon brush on porcelain-coated grates, you’ll want to wait for the grill to cool before cleaning it—otherwise, you risk the brush melting onto the grate, he says. Other materials that will work to clean a grill include wood and silicone.
Ingredients in grill cleaners: As for cleaning solutions, you may be better off skipping the chemicals, says Elizabeth Karmel, a chef, grilling expert and creator of a weekly cooking newsletter called “What’s For Dinner?.” Glenn Lyman, a personal chef on the chef’s panel for Lynx Grills, shares similar advice: While oven cleaners and commercial cleaners work well to clean grill grates, these products can damage your grill’s surface or pose health risks after you cook food on overused grates, he says. Only use cleaners with chemicals to clean areas that do not come in contact with food, says Lyman.
Highly rated products to clean your grill
There are many tools designed to help clean your grill. Here are some highly recommended products we rounded up based on our conversations with experts.
Grill brushes and scrapers
This stainless steel grill brush can withstand high heat and it’s bristle-free so you don’t have to worry about anything breaking off while you clean, according to the brand. The Grillart’s head features bristle-free, flexible stainless steel scrubbers that clean between grates, as well as a built-in scraper. It has a 4.3-star average rating from over 8,800 reviews on Amazon.
The Grill Rescue Brush is another bristle-free option that uses steam to remove dirt and grime from your barbecue, according to the brand. To use the brush, make sure the grill’s temperature is at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then dip the brush head in water and use it to scrub the grill’s grate. The dishwasher-safe brush, which has a 4.4-star average rating from over 3,600 reviews on Amazon, also features a built-in scraper. Replacement cleaning heads are sold separately.
If your grill’s grate is ceramic- or porcelain-coated, you should scrub it carefully with nylon bristles, says Abdoo. The Char-Broil Grill Brush, which has a 4.5-star average rating from over 10,800 reviews on Amazon, has nylon bristles to do exactly that. Plus, once you wear out the head, you can replace it with a new one. Extra features include a scraper, as well as a back hook on its handle for hanging.
If you need to remove rust, grime or stubborn food from your cast iron grill grate, try scrubbing it with steel wool. A scrubber like this can cut through grease and food that’s burnt on to the grate. Scotch-Brite Steel Wool is also long-lasting and durable, so you can use it all season long, according to the brand. This option comes with a pack of three scrubbers and has a 4.7-star average rating from over 24,900 reviews on Amazon.
This wooden grill scraper conforms to the contours of each grate’s surface to clean it, according to the brand. When you first use it, set the grill on high heat and use firm pressure to slowly glide the paddle front to back on the grate — the brand says this will create unique grooves on the scraper’s head that will make it easier to scrape off built-up debris. The Great Scrape Woody Numb has a 4.5-star average rating from over 580 reviews on Amazon.
Made of recycled materials, the chemical-free, nontoxic block has a rough texture to slough away caked-on grime on grill grates. This set comes with two cleaning stones and a handle you can attach to make scrubbing easier. It has a 4.3-star average out of over 760 reviews at Walmart.
Other grill cleaning supplies
So you can avoid burning your hands while scrubbing a grill grate’s crevices, consider wearing gloves. These gloves are constructed from multiple layers of padding and fabric and can help protect your hands against temperatures up to 932 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand. They're also water-resistant, and available in four colors and two sizes depending on how high you want them to go up your arms. The gloves have a 4.6-star average rating from over 17,200 reviews on Amazon.
If you’re looking to make the outside of your grill shine, try a stainless steel cleaner — the same one you might use for indoor appliances, says Lyman. Spray this citrus-scented cleaner directly on the exterior of your grill and wipe it away using a microfiber towel. The cleaner will eliminate fingerprints, grease and dirt buildup, according to the brand. The spray has a 4.7-star average rating from over 5,100 reviews on Amazon.
Bar Keepers Friend is a safe and effective product you can use to protect the outside of your stainless steel grill against rust buildup, says Lyman. In addition, the product’s bleach-free formula can remove tarnish, mineral deposits and stains from surfaces, according to the brand. Plus, you can use this on kitchen and bathroom sinks, bathtubs, showers, faucets, backsplashes, toilets, tile, grout and more, according to Bar Keepers. Bar Keepers Friend has a 4.6-star average rating from over 3,00 reviews on Amazon.
Why it’s important to clean your grill
It’s common for people to add fat to foods while barbecuing, like butter on steak or oily marinades on chicken. If you don’t clean your grill after it gets covered in grease, it can cake on grates and cause flame flare-ups the next time you cook. “Leftover foods and marinade bits will also burn and create a very bitter flavor, as well as gritty texture and cause food to stick on grates,” says Abdoo.
“Having a clean grill really helps to prevent flare-ups while cooking. If you don’t clean your grill grate, residual fat will drip into the grill,” says Wolf. A dirty grate may also prevent your food from directly touching the grates, meaning you won’t get those nice grill marks, says Karmel.
How often should you clean your grill?
You should thoroughly clean your grill twice a year: once at the beginning of grilling season and once at the end, according to Lyman. If you grill year round, schedule your deep cleans around the warm season, or whenever you're likely to use your grill the most, he says. The grill grates, however, require cleaning after every use.
You should also be cleaning your grill before and after cooking, says Abdoo. Once you are done, clean it with the appropriate grill brush so that leftover food doesn’t sit on it for too long,” he says. “Then, the next time you fire up the grill, allow it to get really hot then use a stainless steel brush to remove any of the leftover bits that have turned to carbon before oiling your grill to begin cooking.”
Cleaning different parts of your grill
Different parts of your grill may require different products, and you’ll need to clean some areas more thoroughly (and more often) than others.
Lid and inside of the grill
People often neglect to clean the inside of their grill’s lid, an area where soot can build up and flake off if it’s not upkept. Bad idea. “All of the grease that accumulates on the grill's hood will eventually burn and potentially fall onto your food creating a very bad taste,” says Abdoo. “Also, if left unclean for too long, it can potentially create an environment for a grease fire.” To clean this area, use a grill brush (similar to our recommendations above) to scrub the area where you notice dirt beginning to accumulate. Lyman also suggests cleaning the inside of your grill by scraping the sides, lid and bottom with a plastic putty knife. Avoid using metal tools, which can scratch the grill and cause premature rusting, according to Lyman.
Clean your grill’s grate everytime you cook while it’s still hot, according to our experts. A hot grill grate makes grease and grime easier to remove, says Lyman. “Some people like to turn off or shut down their grills immediately after grilling. People think they’re saving propane, but in reality, you’ll have to burn more when you start up your grill the next time to get the grates clean. If you clean it right away, you’ll be ready to grill at a moment's notice,” he says.
To clean like a professional, bring your grill to its highest temperature with the lid down and allow the heat to burn off any dirt or grime for a few minutes. Then, use a grill brush to scrape off any excess char or food. You should also use a grill brush to clean the grate before you cook, but if you thoroughly clean the barbecue after cooking, your next cleaning will require little effort, says Abdoo.
The underside of the grill grates are also often overlooked when it comes to cleaning. “People let this go all the time because they don’t see it,” Lyman says. To clean this part of the grill, he suggests turning your grates over and putting them into the grill upside down a few times every season. Then turn on the heat for about 15 to 20 minutes before scraping off soot and dirt with a brush before turning off the heat.
Outside of the grill
You can clean the outside of your grill with any cleanser you’d like after it’s completely cool—just be sure to use a tool that won’t scratch the surface like a sponge or cloth, says Abdoo. If your grill is made of stainless steel, you can use stainless steel wipes on it, he says. Lyman suggests rinsing the outside of the grill off with water afterward you clean, making sure you don’t leave any soap behind, and drying the outside with a cloth.
Cleaning gas versus charcoal grills
While Lyman says you can clean grill grates on gas and charcoal grills with the same tools, he notes that charcoal grills can be a messier endeavor.
Gas grills often have more parts to clean than charcoal grills, like burners, ignitors and rotisserie attachments, according to Lyman. These parts of gas grills can be “a haven to spiders and other pests and can cause trouble with gas flow and air circulation, causing inconsistent heat,” he says. Lyman recommends using a blower to get rid of any bugs and spider webs that you find on your grill.
How to get rid of rust
A common issue people face when caring for grills is rust, which is a result of moisture on exposed metal surfaces, says Lyman. A rusty grill is generally avoidable if you take care of it with products like Bar Keepers Friend, but once you notice rust — especially on your grill grate — you should get rid of it before it becomes a bigger problem.
Soak rusty grill grates overnight in a salt and vinegar solution (mix two parts vinegar to one part salt) and then use steel wool to scrub it down, says Abdoor. Afterwards, coat the previously rusted area lightly with Crisco and heat the grill to 200°F for an hour to season the grates, says Karmel.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Matt Abdoo is an executive chef and partner at Pig Beach BBQ, which has locations in New York City and Palm Beach, Florida.
- Elizabeth Karmel is a chef, a grilling expert and creator of the weekly cooking newsletter “What’s For Dinner?”.
- Glenn Lyman is a personal chef on the chef’s panel for Lynx Grills.
Why trust Select?
Zoe Malin is an associate updates editor for Select on NBC News.
Bethany Heitman is a contributor at NBC Select and a journalist who regularly covers topics like beauty, home and lifestyle. For this story, she interviewed four experts to gather their guidance on how to clean your grill and the best products to use.