When it comes to grilling, perhaps no one at Murdoch’s knows the art better than Marc Robitaille. Marc manages the Murdoch’s store in Livingston, Montana. He’s also on a competitive BBQ team called Brougham BBQ and has placed in state competitions.
Marc’s BBQ chicken earned 3rd and 4th place in past cook-offs. Since becoming a Murdoch’s store manager a couple of years ago he hasn’t had the spare time that he used to put toward the competitions, but his teammates (father, brother and friend) continue to fire up the grill.
Here are Marc’s expert tips for how to clean a grill. These work for charcoal and propane grills.
1. It starts with how you cook.
Oil the grates. Marc says he never puts food on his grill without oiling the grates. First, get your grill up to your desired cooking temperature. Then, he recommends a vegetable oil or peanut oil because of their high smoking points. The smoke point is a temperature at which an oil starts to smoke and burn, which will add a burnt flavor to food. The smoke point of vegetable and peanut oil is around 400 – 450 degrees F. In comparison, extra-virgin olive oil and butter smoke around 325 – 375 degrees F. More info about cooking fats.
Apply the oil using a paper towel. Place the paper towel on top of the oil bottle and tip it upside down. Don’t be afraid to soak the paper towel. Wipe the oil onto the grates, being sure to get the edges of each grate where juices drip. It’ll be hot, so use tongs.
When it comes time for cleanup, you’ll have less mess to fuss with.
2. Clean your grill after every use.
Burn it off. Immediately after taking your food off the grill, turn up the heat to the max if you have a propane grill. If you have a charcoal grill, add a splash of lighter fluid and cover it. Let the heat burn off any remaining juices or food bits. About 10 – 15 minutes does the trick. This makes the mess less sticky because you’re charring and breaking it down.
Give it a scrape. Use a grill brush to remove any remaining mess on the grates. “There is really no truth to the myth that a dirty grill is just better seasoned,” Marc said. “The stuff left on the grill is a buildup of carbon, and a buildup of carbon doesn’t taste good.”
Get a good brush. Grab a brush that is capable of cleaning the sides of the grates as well as the surface. Also, be sure to read your grill’s user manual. More often than not, it will specify what material the brush should be made of to avoid damaging any manufacturer coatings that might be on your grates.
3. Deep clean your grill once a year.
Take out the grates. Soak the grates in hot water to loosen up the charred bits and pieces. If you have a charcoal or propane grill, scrub out the grill cavity. Marc’s secret to cleaning his charcoal grates is a pressure washer.
Spring clean. Marc recommended doing this in the springtime, especially if you store your grill outside in the winter. Use a grill-cleaning solution for your deep clean. Often, grill manufacturers will sell a cleaner that they recommend for use on their grills. Marc said he likes to stick with these because they are often formulated to be gentle on the grate metals (and coatings) but work well against carbon deposits.
Marc cautioned to stay away from oven cleaners. “They reek. They have really harsh chemicals,” he said, “and you have to remember that you’re putting your food directly on the surface where those chemicals just ate away a year of crap that fire couldn’t even burn away.”
Rinse everything thoroughly with clean water before putting the grill back together.
4. What kind of grill do you have?
Some grills are harder to clean. If you don’t keep up with cleaning your grill well, you might want to look at a different type of grill. In order of hardest to easiest:
- Hardest: Charcoal
- Medium: Propane
- Easiest: Electric/Wood Pellet. Since we only covered charcoal and propane grills, learn how to clean a Traeger wood pellet grill on its website.