A dirty grill makes for a really unappealing backyard barbeque, but cleaning it can be a real chore. And if you don't use the right tools, you could scratch or damage your expensive BBQ grill. Here's a rundown of what you need to carefully care for your grill and get it properly clean between rounds of burgers, hot dogs and chicken.
A good scraper can get much of the hardened drippings off the grill without a lot of effort. The problem is that newer grills have porcelain or other non-stick surfaces that can literally get scraped off if you put a little too much elbow grease into cleaning with the wrong tool.
To be safe, never use metal scrapers on grills that have any type of coating. Even plain metal grills can be chipped or damaged with a metal scraper that's used with a little too much power.
Instead, consider a wood scraper. Look for one made of a hardwood like oak for durability. The wood won't scratch your grill and is still hard enough and shaped properly to remove much of that hard, stuck-on stuff that gets on your grill. For best results, you should coat the wood scraper with a food-grade mineral oil to protect the wood over time.
Wire grill brushes are sturdy and do a good job of getting the grill clean. But it is possible for the bristles to come off and get stuck to the grill. If they come off on the cooking food, these thin strands of metal could be ingested and cause internal damage. If you choose to use one on a grill that does not have a non-stick coating, rinse completely after you clean and go over the grill one more time with a soft cloth or dish towel.
There are alternatives to wire grill cleaning brushes, if you have concerns. Some types of brushes have the same handle as a traditional brush but allow you to insert a scouring pad or steel wool pad. These may be gentler on the grill while still cleaning to your specifications.
Nylon bristle brushes are available for grills, and they can get a mild to moderately dirty grill clean. They don't, however, have the durability of a wire grill brush.
A tool that uses a square or rectangular pumice stone or similarly synthetic abrasive material can be just enough to clean the grill without causing damage. These tools have a plastic or wood handle with a place to snap in or secure the cleaning stone.
The cleaning blocks have enough abrasion to get all the stuck-on food drippings off the grill. If you use it for awhile, you can actually wear grooves in the block that can make cleaning even easier. You'll still want to check your grill manufacturer's recommendations if your grill has a non-stick coating.
Some people successfully use non-brush methods for getting the grill clean. Onions, for example, have enough moisture to help loosen food and an enzyme that helps break down stuck-on particles. You can find tools to help you hold a halved onion and apply it to the grill, or just apply it to a cool grill.
Other methods include using white vinegar and soaking the grill or applying a baking soda paste and scrubbing with a cloth or soft brush.
However you choose to clean your BBQ grill, having the right tools that fit your preferences can make a dirty job a bit easier.