If you’ve left your grill out over the winter, even if it has been covered, you could find rust, debris, and gunk waiting for you when the weather changes.
Thankfully, there are some simple steps that you can follow to get your grill back to working condition, and ready for a summer of cooking and entertaining. Here are the most effective ways to clean a barbecue grill after it was left out during the winter.
Getting Rid of Grill Gunk
The dark gunk that collects in your grill can become corrosive over time. If you start cooking after the winter without cleaning out the sludgy deposits, they could even ignite, making your grill unsafe.
You’ll be happy to learn that this gunk is relatively easy to clean, although it can be quite messy. We recommend disassembling as much of your grill as possible for this step, following the manufacturer’s instructions.
At the very least, remove the hood and the cooking grates to get full access to the firebox inside. Soap and water do the trick when cleaning out gunk.
Mix standard dishwashing detergent with some warm water in a bucket. Agitate the water until there are plenty of suds, these will help to break down the grease.
Clean each part individually using plenty of your cleaning solution. Do this on a warm day under sunlight. This will help the drying process.
Clean all walls and corners of the firebox using a sponge, making sure that all of the greasy residue is gone.
Follow up by rinsing all of the surfaces, and then patting it all down with paper towels or a clean rag. This takes care of the grill interior, leaving you with just a few more steps.
Cleaning the Exterior of Your Grill After the Winter
Large exterior surfaces can look worse for wear when you get your grill ready for the spring and summer. Cleaning is as simple as wiping down the surfaces to remove any grease, dirt, and debris.
You can again use a solution of water mixed with dishwashing detergent. Use a sponge or clean rag to wipe all of the surfaces using the solution.
Avoid using any abrasive brushes or sponges that could damage the surface.
When clean, wipe down the entire exterior with a clean and damp rag. Allow the grill to dry in the open air.
Cleaning the Cooking Grates
The cooking grates will suffer the most while the grill isn’t in use. Stainless steel grates could have hardened debris that needs to be scrubbed off thoroughly. Cast iron grates are likely to rust over the winter.
Cast iron is easier to clean than you might think. You can clean the grates using steel wool and kosher salt, or even a hardwire grill brush and scraper. Be sure to get all of the debris and rust so that the surface is safe to cook on.
If you don’t have enough kosher salt, household dishwashing detergent and warm water will do fine. Rinse off the grates with clean water after you’re finished, before patting everything down with a rag or paper towels.
Stainless steel grates can be cleaned with detergent, water, and a wire brush. Steel is easier to clean and pieces of debris should dislodge easily.
If your steel grates are particularly dirty, rest them in a tub of warm soapy water before scrubbing. Steel grates can be dried in the sun or by hand and they’ll be ready to use.
Cast iron grates will need to be seasoned to protect them from rust.
Seasoning Your Cast Iron Cooking Grates After the Winter
When you’ve cleaned the rust and debris from your cast iron cooking grates, you’ll need to follow these simple seasoning steps.
- Apply a liberal amount of vegetable-based cooking oil to a paper towel or clean rag.
- Coat all areas of the cooking grate and rub the oil in. All surfaces should be shining. You may need to repeat the process for the oil to absorb into the porous metal.
- Fire up your grill to a medium-high temperature with the grates on. Close the hood.
- When the grill starts to produce smoke, lower the temperature, and open the hood.
- Continue to heat the grates until they stop producing smoke.
Let the grill cool off and it’s seasoned and ready for cooking.
Should You Use Cleaning Products on Your Grill?
When you need to clean a barbecue grill left out during the winter, you might consider cleaning products instead of a soap and water solution.
There are commercial products available, just be sure to follow all instructions and take note of the materials the product is intended for.
This Goo Gone Grill Cleaner is a popular option for grates, racks, interiors, and exteriors, and it works on all metals except aluminum and imitation stainless steel.
Whether you use a cleaning product or the traditional method, you can quickly clean your grill in the spring, getting everything ready for delicious meals in the warmer days ahead.