The ultimate guide to cleaning your BBQ

There’s nothing quite like the summer entertaining season in Australia. Good friends, some fresh Aussie fare and a few drinks combine to create lazy evenings and perfect weekends.

Running a clean outdoor kitchen is critical. You want to be party-ready at all times, but spending hours slaving over the cleaning is no one’s idea of a good time.

So how can you keep the BBQ slick and sanity with minimal effort?

We’ve compiled Australia’s top tips on everything from brushes to beer and potatoes. Here’s how to clean a BBQ properly without breaking a sweat.

Find your nearest BBQ gas retailer

What happens if you cook on a dirty BBQ?

There are a few reasons why cooking on a dirty BBQ is a terrible idea. The one at the top of every entertainer’s mind is committing the worst food foul – food that smells and tastes like last week’s left-behinds. Fishy snags or snaggy haloumi, anyone?

For health and hygiene reasons, you want to keep it clean because overflowing grease traps or animal fats building up on the grill are known to attract vermin. Also, a drip tray full of oil is a fire hazard, and burning oil under a BBQ can be extremely dangerous.

From the hip-pocket perspective, a BBQ that’s not well maintained may not live for long. You should be able to get at least 10 good years out of your BBQ, minimum. And lastly, leave it long enough and it’s inevitable that you will end up spending a very long time cleaning it – because it will eventually need some love.

When to clean your BBQ

A quick wipe down with a paper towel has its place, but a bit of extra elbow grease is better. You should clean your BBQ:

  1. When you buy it
  2. After you BBQ
  3. Quick once-over before firing it up again
  4. Once-yearly deep clean

1. When you buy a gas BBQ

Here’s how to prep your new toy:

Remember, you’re cooking food on this thing for the first time.

Remove any manufacturer’s labels and protective plastic film.

Give the grill and flat plates a scrub with a cloth and warm soapy water.

Soap up and polish focusing on the parts exposed to high heat. You can use warm soapy water for this, or if you are lucky enough to have a stainless-steel BBQ – then you can use a special detergent for stainless steel BBQs. Polish with a cloth or paper towels and you should be ready to roll.

Rinse and dry it thoroughly – you don’t want your first ever cook-up tasting like soap.

Rub grill plates with oil and turn it on per manufacturer’s recommendation (around 15-20 minutes) and wipe it down with a clean cloth. (If you’re really keen, you can complete this step twice.)

Why dry and oil your BBQ?

It helps keep rust at bay so your plates are ready to cook when you are.

2. After you BBQ

Immediately after BBQ cooking:

Before joining your BBQ guests, turn off the gas and, while it’s still hot, scrape down the plates with a metal BBQ scraper to remove any burnt bits and built-up grease. Don’t let anything cool down and harden. (Try not to use anything bristly on your BBQ either – a soft cloth or sponge is better on the finish.)

Next, remove the plates and drip tray and get washing. Most reputable makers of BBQs suggest using warm soapy water. No need for harsh chemicals.

Before getting stuck in you should look at your manufacturer’s instructions – the plates may be able to go straight into your dishwasher.

Remember to give washed plates a rinse with warm water once clean to remove any soap residue – then dry them, oil them, and wipe the excess away so they’re ready for next time.

What to clean every time

Clean thoroughly: Grate, flat plate, warming racks and wok burner

Clean pretty well: Drip tray, inside of the hood

Wipe down: Knobs and doors, hood exterior, side table, wok cover

3. Quick once-over before firing it up again

Before you get cooking again, this step should take you no more than two minutes – assuming you did a thorough job of cleaning your BBQ after its last use.

Lift the lid and check for BBQ excess and debris that may still be on the plates.

Wipe it down lightly with a cloth soaked in warm water.

Dry the plates and you’re done.

4. Once-yearly deep clean of your gas BBQ

It’s strongly recommended to do an annual deep clean your BBQ. The effort is slightly more than what you’d do after BBQ cooking and is designed to help you maintain your appliance’s shelf life.

Here’s what to do.

Heat it for 15 minutes and give the plates a scrape for any missed excess.

Disconnect the gas.

Let the plates cool.

Remove all plates, char grill plates, flame diffusers and warmer racks.

(Got the manual? This will help you remember how to put everything back together!)

Place the above into a trough/bucket of warm soapy water.

Use a sponge or cloth to clean.

Rinse with warm water and dry.

Oil the plates.

Wash and dry the body of the BBQ.

Put everything back in place and burn BBQ for 15 minutes on high heat (including the hot plates).

How to clean rust off your BBQ grates

They are a few different ways you can do this.

Below is the scrape/soak/scrape method. If you can’t remove your BBQ grates, you could apply a paste directly to the grates – so that’s scrape/paste/scrape.1

  1. Scrub grate with a wire brush.
  2. Mix 1 cup of dishwashing soap or vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda together into a goopy paste.
  3. Fill a trough or bucket with water.
  4. Add the paste to the water, stir, and add your grate.
  5. Soak for an hour to help the paste loosen the rust.
  6. Remove grate and scrub with a wire brush again.
  7. Rinse with hot water, allow to dry completely, oil it, and you’re done.

Cooking hacks for cleaner BBQs

If your chief household BBQ chef is somewhat of a Messy Marvin, show them these BBQ cooking hacks.

Cooking oil on the food
No need to throw cooking oil all over the plate. Just lightly on the food. (It’ll help stop the food from blistering, too.)
Patience
Patience is everything, particularly with meat. If you try to turn it too soon, the meat will stick and cause you grief
Fish
Delicate foods like fish need an aluminium foil baking tray or foil pouch, or they’ll stick and make your BBQ smell. They may also leave grime on the cooking surfaces
Roasts and marinades
Seal the meat on direct heat then pop it onto a metal rack on top of a foil tray for tidier cooking
Foil watch-points
We’ve mentioned foil above, but bear in mind that you should never cover the whole plate with aluminium foil – it restricts the heat flow
Clean both sides of the plates and the grill gratesDon’t forget all the bits that have dropped through to the other side
Drip tray cleaning
1. Scrape it down after each use
2. Lay down foil and remove after each use (check manufacturer’s instructions)
3. Lay down foil and sprinkle it with clean kitty litter (not the paper kind!) or Fat-sorb – this might last you 5-10 BBQs
BBQ wipes
Wipes are an easy way to keep your BBQ looking fresh between big cleans or before guests arrive. Don’t rely on wipes for the full clean, as you’ll go through too many (soapy warm water is best)   
   
Paper towels
These are great for absorbing fat in those hard to reach nooks and crannies.
Can’t bear cleaning?
You can lay down a washable Teflon sheet on the cooking surface before heating it, which helps to avoid getting the plate dirty. (Note: Teflon is avoided by some due to health and environmental concerns)
Public BBQs
If it’s a grill plate, scrunch up some foil, grab a set of tongs and give it a scrub.
If it’s a flat plate, throw half a stubby of beer onto it and scrape.
Or, as above, you can lay down a Teflon sheet

The main tools for BBQ cleaning

Here’s a simple checklist of what you need in your BBQ cleaning kit. If you have a cupboard under your BBQ, most of these should fit right in.

  • Trough or bucket big enough for your hotplates
  • Metal scraper
  • Gloves
  • Scouring pads
  • Wire bristle brush (for rust only)
  • Aluminium foil
  • Paper towel
  • Cotton cloths
  • Non-paper kitty litter or Fat-sorb

Chemical or natural BBQ cleaning products?

A quick Google search will confirm this, but there are loads of natural products that people use to clean their BBQ cooking surface without the need for harsh chemicals.

Most manufacturers recommend soap and water anyway without the other stuff. The fewer chemicals near your food, the better for everyone.

  • Vinegar and baking soda – above you’ll see how good these can be for lifting grime and removing rust
  • Coffee bath for grill grates and utensils – just brew it up and soak in the sink or a bucket
  • Onions – rub a half onto a hot plate, they’re known for bacterial qualities
  • Lemons – slice in half, rub in salt, and wipe over grill to help sterilise it
  • Potato – slice in half and rub on BBQ to create a non-stick surface

Need gas to power your BBQ?

Our 9kg and 4kg Quick Swap BBQ gas bottles are perfect for outdoor living.

References

1 (Wikihow) Clean rusted grill plates

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