Warmer weather is just on the horizon. This means the return of barbecues and cookouts with your favorite backyard accessory—the grill! My mouth is watering right now, just thinking about it!

Chances are, you haven’t thought about grill maintenance since the end of last summer. It’s not fun to grill in the snow and ice in the dead of winter, after all. Has your grill been sitting untouched for months? You’ll need to give it a thorough once-over and a good cleaning before you invite the neighbors over for burgers. Throughout the season, it’s also a good idea to keep up with regular grill cleaning and maintenance. This way your grill will stay in top shape all year long.

Whether you have a gas grill or a charcoal grill, this is your complete guide to cleaning and maintaining your grill all year long. Read on for the differences between the two grills and our comprehensive list of cleaning practices.

Gas Grill Maintenance

Gas grills use propane or natural gas as a fuel source. They are more expensive than charcoal grills, but they are easier to clean, maintain, and are faster to cook with. But just because they’re easier to maintain than charcoal doesn’t mean they don’t require any maintenance!

Pre-Season Cleaning and Check

If your gas grill has been in storage for the winter, take it out and inspect it thoroughly. Remove any spiderwebs or other insects that might have made their home inside the lid or grates.

If you didn’t clean off your grill before storing it, give it a good scrub before firing it up for the first time. Use a new, wire grill brush to brush off any debris from the grates. If your grill is extremely dirty, you’ll want to give it a thorough cleaning. If your grill grates and barrier are made of aluminum, you can remove them to soak them in hot, soapy water to remove dirt and baked-on food. Make sure everything is fully dry and back in place before you fire it up.

For cast-iron grates, the cleaning method will be different. Cast iron can rust if the grates are not dried properly. Instead, heat up the grill for 15-20 minutes to burn off any residue that is stuck to the grates. If anything is left over, use your grill brush to scrub the remaining residue off.

Next, check the hose for leaks. Connect the propane tank, turn on the valve, and then spritz the hose with a mixture of water and dish soap. The hose could have a leak if bubbling occurs.

Regular Cleaning/Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance throughout the season are the keys to keeping your gas grill in top shape. Each time you fire up your grill, follow these steps to get the best possible experience:

  • Pre-heat the grill for 10-15 minutes. This will loosen food debris that could be stuck to the grates.
  • Use your wire grill brush to brush debris off the grates.
  • Empty the drip tray.
  • Regularly check the inside of your lid for carbon buildup. Brush off any flakes that have accumulated.

End of Season Cleaning and Check

If you’re planning to put your gas grill away for the winter, your end-of-season maintenance will look very similar to your pre-season maintenance. Scrub any residue from the grates with your grill brush. Then you can thoroughly clean your grates with the method that best fits your grate material. Either remove aluminum grates and the drip tray to soak in warm, soapy water or pre-heat and scrub tough debris from cast-iron grates. Brush out the interior of the grill to remove any residue, as well.

Before packing your grill away for the winter, you should inspect the burners to make sure they aren’t clogged. With the grates removed, turn on your gas grill and watch the flames that come from the burners carefully. If the flames are uneven, your burners need to be cleaned. Turn off the grill and let it cool completely before removing the burners. You can then use a pipe cleaner or small, wire brush to clean the ports along the side of the burners. Gently tap them on the ground to remove debris from inside the burner.

You should also wash the exterior of your grill before putting it away for the winter. Once everything is thoroughly dry, reassemble your grill, disconnect the gas supply, and store the grill under a cover in a cool, dry place until the next grilling season. And don’t forget to store your propane tank separately in a safe, ventilated area!

Charcoal Grill Maintenance

Charcoal grills, just like the name sounds, use charcoal as a fuel source instead of a gas like propane. They tend to be less expensive than gas grills, and some grill enthusiasts will say the food will taste better when cooked with a charcoal grill. They do tend to take longer to heat up and temperature control is more finicky. However, if you have the patience, owning a charcoal grill can be rewarding. But you still have regular maintenance tasks to perform each season to keep your charcoal grill in top shape.

Pre-Season Cleaning and Check

Bring your charcoal grill out from storage at the beginning of the season and inspect it for debris. If your grill was put away dirty at the end of last season, this is where things will start to differ from the gas grill pre-season maintenance.

Build a fire in your grill and let it burn for about a half-hour. This will bake off any gunk stuck to the grates or inside of the grill. Use your wire grill brush and a scraper to remove any remaining debris off the grates. Turn off your grill and let it cool completely before giving it another, thorough brushing and scraping.

If your grill grates are made of aluminum, you may also want to soak them in warm, soapy water for a couple of hours. While the grates are soaking, wash the inside of the lid and bowl with soapy water and a sponge. Rinse everything thoroughly and reassemble your grill.

Finally, before firing up your grill to cook for the first time this season, you’ll want to grease the grates with vegetable or olive oil to prevent food from sticking to the grates. You could also use bacon fat or cooking spray. Just be sure to do this while the grill is cool so that the lubricant has time to dry.

Regular Cleaning/Maintenance

Keeping your charcoal grill clean throughout the season is the best way to maintain it. Follow these steps below each time you grill and periodically throughout the season for maximum effectiveness:

  • Empty the ash receptacle regularly to prevent accumulation in the air vents. Clogged air vents can make it more difficult to control the grill temperature.
  • Clean the inside of your lid every few weeks to prevent ash, smoke, grease, and other buildup from accumulating. Use a paper towel when the grill is cool to wipe off the excess buildup.
  • Clean the cooking grate after each use while the grill is still warm with your grill brush. It’s easier to remove food accumulation when the grates are still warm.
  • Oil the grates before putting your grill away after cooking. This will prevent food from sticking the next time you fire up your grill and prevents rust.

End of Season Cleaning and Check

Like with a gas grill, your end-of-season maintenance will look like your pre-season maintenance. Remove all the ashes from your charcoal grill and give it a thorough cleaning. Heat the grill to burn off the residue from cast-iron grates. Soak aluminum grates in warm, soapy water. Then wash the bottom of the bowl and the grill lid.

When everything is dry, replace the grates.  Make sure the grates are well-oiled, then cover your grill with a weatherproof cover and store it in a cool, dry place. When you bring it out at the start of next season, your pre-season maintenance will already be half-done!

Fire It Up, Grill Master!

Whether you’re cooking with a gas grill or a charcoal grill, keeping up with maintenance throughout the season is the key to delicious cookouts every time. Are you looking to add a new grill to your patio this year? Or do you need help with supplies and maintenance? The grilling experts of Cincinnati Pool and Patio are always here to help. Check out our grill selection online or contact us with questions!

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