How to Clean Your Grill or Smoker


Ray Lampe, Dr. BBQ

Cleaning your grill and or smoker is very simple but also very complicated. A lot of us feel that you shouldn’t clean it too often because some of that leftover smokiness is a good thing. But of course, you don’t want your grill to get funky either, so you do have to clean it at some point.

Let’s start with the cooking grids. I think these need to be cleaned regularly because of course we don’t want some old food remnants getting on the food we’re cooking today. I don’t worry about it after I’ve finished cooking. I’ll just save this task for the next time.

Step 1 – The first thing I do is fire up my grill no matter which one I’m using to get it hot. I go prep the meat and maybe have a drink and by the time I get all that ready everything will be nice and hot. Then I scrape the grills with a traditional BBQ brush. I know there’s a risk of getting a bristle into your food so I’m very careful to make sure that doesn’t happen, but I’ve yet to find anything that works as well. It’s also important to get a new one a couple times a year so you’re not using a greasy old one.

Step 2 – Once the grills are clean it’s always a good idea to oil the cooking grids or oil the meat. In most cases I find oiling the meat is the preferred way to go.

Step 3 – Most grills and smokers have a built-in grease collection bucket or drawer and in some cases the grease just gets incinerated by the fire. This is pretty straightforward, if your grease bucket is 2/3 full it’s time to empty it. It’s usually a good time to take it in the house and wash it really good then too.

Cleaning the inside of your grill varies widely depending what kind of grill you have.

Ceramic Kamado

If you’re using a ceramic kamado all you really need to do is clear out the ash every now and then. If you find that you’re only cooking low and slow it’s a good idea to run it up to a high temp once in a while to burn off any grease that may have accumulated in the lid. It’s pretty much the same for a kettle grill. 

If you have a big smoker, well you’re going to have to sort that one out yourself because they’re all a little bit different. A power washer may need to be involved. 

Gas and Pellet Grills

Gas grills and Pellet grills are both popular these days and they have their own cleanings strategy. Occasionally you’re going to want to take the deflector plates out and clean them. That may involve some degreaser and a power washer. While you have your grill apart it’s a good time to vacuum out any ash that builds up in the bottom as well as grease and maybe an errant chicken wing that got down there.

How often should I clean my grill or smoker?

Whatever you’re cooking on, I think it’s a good idea to keep it clean and that means once a month or so if you’re cooking a lot and at least a couple times a summer if you’re not cooking as much. It’s all kind of personal preference and the best thing to do is look at your manufacturer’s recommendations for your specific grill.

The more you cook the more you’ll need to clean it, so I hope you’re cleaning yours a lot!