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Proper Grill Maintenance and Cleaning

Proper Grill Maintenance and Cleaning

Pellet grills and smokers can fill the air with a tantalizing aroma sure to leave your entire neighborhood salivating. While seasonings, proper technique and the quality of your food selections all play a role in crafting the perfect dish, caring for your grill is necessary to make sure your foods not only taste good but are being cooked safely.

Properly caring for your car by regularly servicing the engine, rotating the tires and cleaning the exterior can keep your vehicle in optimal driving condition. Similarly, caring for your grill ensures it can continue working correctly for many backyard barbecues still to come.

Why Grill Maintenance and Cleaning Matters

Cleaning and maintaining your grill is about more than making it look good as new (although that can be an added bonus). Proper grill maintenance and cleaning helps your grill continue operating safely while extending grill life and protecting your mouth-watering flavors.

The benefits of cleaning and caring for your grill include reducing soot float and build up, eliminating grease and even preventing corrosion. While these may seem like simple details, addressing them has a great impact on the consistency of your grill’s performance and its serviceable life.


Routine Maintenance and Cleaning

Properly cleaning and maintaining your grill begins with understanding what and how to clean the individual parts and how often. By understanding the specific needs of your grill you can establish a consistent care routine to ensure the grill is operating in prime condition.

Simple Maintenance: Every Use

Whether you regularly test out your grill-skills or like to save those delectable flavors for special occasions, there is some maintenance and cleaning that should be done each time you plan on turning up the heat.

Check for Grease Build Up

Many of the meats as well as other food selections that you might cook on your grill contain high levels of fat. While this means a great deal of flavor, it also promises a high amount of grease. 

An over build up of grease can lead to flare ups, off flavors in your food selections and even prevent heat from circulating through the grill in some instances. To avoid these potential issues, check for grease build up each time you use your grill.

Clean the drip pan inside the grill to keep grease from building up. Consider using a Traeger Drip Pan Cover or aluminum foil for ease of cleanup and change these when the drip pan is more than half full. Depending on the item you are grilling and the amount of fat and grease that it contains, you might continue checking the drip tray every so often as you cook to ensure the grease does not overflow and result in a potentially dangerous situation or harm to your grill.


Clean and Inspect Grates

The grill grate serves an important role in crafting your mouth-watering masterpieces and not just for artistic grill marks. The grill grate allows your meats and other grill-worthy foods to be rendered by the open flame while keeping it away from the ash or coals that might be feeding the fire. 

Because the grate is in direct contact with the foods you are cooking, it is very important to clean them both before and after use. Your foods will leave residue on the grates that will need to be scraped off. This will provide a clean grilling surface and eliminate potential impacts on your flavors each time you grill.

Clean your grates using a grill brush or stone. These are specially designed to remove cooked-on residues while not harming the grates surface. Bristle free cleaning brushes are a great option but if you are using a wire brush be sure to inspect cleaned grates for any wires that may dislodge–these can be very dangerous if ingested.

Also read our article on how to choose wood pellets to find the best flavors on a pellet grill

Deep Cleaning: Every 3 to 5 Uses

A regular deep cleaning on your grill should be done every 3 to 5 uses depending on your food selections and their grease content. If you grill regularly this maintenance might need to be done weekly or if you grill only occasionally this might only be a monthly occurrence.

Clean from the Inside Out: Scrape, Vacuum and Scrub

As you cook, food residue will build up on the grates, shelf brackets and sides of the grill’s interior. This residue along with the ash or charcoal from the heating source will collect in the barrel or main body of the grill. This needs to be cleaned out so the grill performs safely and produces the best results.

1. Scrape the Grates, Shelf Brackets and Sides

Start cleaning the interior of your grill by scraping each grate using a BBQ Butler Bristle Free Grill Brush, BBQ Grate Scraper or 3-in-1 cleaning tool to remove burnt-on residue from both sides. Clean the grates allowing the residue to fall into the barrel of the grill for easier removal later. Once you’ve cleaned both sides of each grate, remove and gently scrape any loose residue from the shelf brackets and sides.

2. Vacuum the Grill Barrel

After you have dislodged the cooking residue inside the grill, you will need to remove the ash and soot that has built up in the barrel. Do this using a shop vac or vacuum hose scraping loose any residue that may remain stuck to the bottom.

3. Scrub For an Extra Clean Grill

Once you have removed all residue and soot from the inside of the grill, the last step is to scrub. You can wipe the sides, shelf brackets, and barrel down with a rag and grill safe cleaning spray by Traeger to collect any remaining soot. You can also use grill safe wipes from Q-Swiper to clean the grill’s cooking surfaces and remove grease on the exterior of the gill.



Grease Bucket and Drip Tray

Although you should regularly check for grease build up, every three to five uses you should thoroughly clean the drip tray and replace the foil insert on the grease bucket. Also consider using a drip tray liner to reduce grease buildup inside the grill and for easier cleanup.

This is very important for grill maintenance and safety as grease build up can not only cause harm to the grill, but could contribute to potentially dangerous situations such as grease fires.


Seasonal Care for Pellet Grills

Pellet grills are growing in popularity for the flavors and versatility that the grills offer. The enticing flavors can be hard to resist even when temperatures drop. If you simply can't resist and find yourself itching to use your grill during the colder season you might consider a few additional maintenance items.

Insulated Blankets

Cooler temperatures will force your grill to work harder to maintain adequate cooking temperatures. This leads to more strain on your heating source so faster burning of pellets that results in more debris build up. 

You can help your grill perform better in the cold by using an insulated blanket. This will help maintain cooking temperatures and reduce pellet burning. You will also want to consider more frequently cleaning the debris from your grill due to increased ash and soot build up.

Read Winter Pellet Grilling Tips for fantastic flavors all year

Considerations for Gas, Charcoal and Pellet Grills

Gas, charcoal and pellet grills all differ in appearance and of course, in the heating element or source that they use to prepare and cook your food. These differences might add a few additional items to your maintenance list.

Gas Grill

Most gas grills use propane or natural gas heating that can become clogged or corroded over time. These will need to be cleaned regularly or even replaced to ensure safe and consistent performance of the grill.

Pellet Grill

The wood pellets that serve as the grill’s heating source can add rich flavors to your food but will also increase maintenance. Because the pellets are being burned, debris builds up and will need to be cleaned inside the barrel. The pellet hopper will also need to be constantly monitored as running out of pellets can cause your grill to shut down incorrectly.


Charcoal Grill

A charcoal grill is pretty basic and sticking to the recommended maintenance processes should be fine for the grill. However, take into consideration the additional ash and debris that you will need to clean from the grill due to the charcoal heating source.

Stick to the Basics

Not every grill looks the same and while gas, charcoal and pellet grills all differ in the heating sources that they use, the process of keeping your investment clean and safe is ultimately the same.

Ask IFA’s Grill Experts

Caring for your grill is a regular endeavor that makes an incredible difference in your grill’s performance, safety and longevity. Whether you’re been grilling for years or simply started, protecting your investment will require a little work and of course elbow grease. 

If you find yourself unsure how to care for your grill or simply need some “seasoned” advice, we are always happy to help. Find the tools, equipment and helpful tips you may need by stopping in at your local IFA Country Store.

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Information for this article was provided by Nate Zilles, Asst. Manager, Vernal IFA Country Store; Bart Keller, Asst. Manager, Draper IFA Country Store; and Dan Jensen, Outdoor Cooking Manager, IFA.