“Start with a clean grill. Keep it clean by brushing with a wire brush after preheating, and again after cooking. Make sure to oil your grates and your food before putting it on the grill to keep it from sticking.”
Emeril Lagasse, Celebrity chef, restaurateur, Cookbook author and TV personality
BBQ lovers and pitmasters, this one’s for you! We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you clear away all the grime and grease on your beloved grill this summer!
As chores go, cleaning your bbq isn’t nearly as bad as, say, cleaning your garage! And in any case, a clean bbq means savory, mouth-watering food for you and your guests all summer long.
This guide is designed for both the casual griller and the bbq aficionado. Whether you use an electric grill or prefer an old-fashioned charcoal griller, you’ll find everything you need to know about cleaning and maintaining your favorite smoker!
Check it out, and keep visiting Fire Food Chef for more useful guides, tips and reviews of the best in barbequing!
Official Fire Food Chef BBQ Smoker Cleaning And Maintenance Guide
“If summer had one defining scent, it’d definitely be the smell of barbeque.”
Katie Lee, cookbook Author, novelist, TV food critic
There’s nothing like the smell of a bbq firing on all cylinders! As the food slowly roasts over an open fire or exposed heat, wafting over fences and through open windows, our most primal urges are awakened.
Like our early homo sapien ancestors 2 million years ago, we’re still drawn to the smell of a smoking bbq for more than just the food. An old-fashioned cookout can bring community, friends, and family together for good times, but safety should always be our first priority.
By cleaning and maintaining your grill on a regular basis, you’ll not only extend the life of your grill, you’ll also serve great-tasting food untainted by grime, grease, and soot.
Use your bbq smoker often enough and you’ll eventually notice a build-up of grease, hardened food, and residue on your grates, lid, and other surfaces.Carcinogenic residue can accumulate on cooking surfaces, ultimately contaminating your food with undesirable flavors and bacteria.
You might find our BBQ 101 Guide helpful if you’re just starting out.
Some common problems with smokers include:
Soot build-up: health risk, bad for lungs and anyone with respiratory issues, byproduct of burning coal or wood, produces carbon monoxide, black carbon, heavy metals
Carbon build-up: creates a layer of insulation around the grates, sticks to food, and ruins the flavor of your food
Scale build-up: combustion by-products, creosite, carbon, soot and schmutz along the sides and hood of bbq, can reduce heat distribution by decreasing the reflectivity of interior surface
The best way to ensure healthy food and a safe cooking environment is a thorough cleaning. This includes:
Your neighbor may swear by the “foil incineration” method, but if you’ve read the manual for your grill, you’d know better!
The “foil incineration” method, as it’s sometimes referred to, is a popular way of cleaning grills, but poses serious safety risks. Typically, foil is wrapped around the cooking grates. The barbeque is then turned to its highest setting for about 20mn. Heat trapped by the foil reduces the build-up on the grates to a brittle ash that is then easily scraped off for cleaning once it cools.
Several major grill manufacturers, however, warn against this cleaning method. Weber, for example, cautions against this method, which can “…trap gas and become a fire hazard…blocking the airflow (which) causes very high heat that can damage valves, burners and supply lines”.
In addition, repeated use of this method over time can warp your grates, leave cracks in ceramic igniters, and wear out metal burners. The trapped heat can melt hoses, gas lines, and, worst of all, combust. Propane tanks are especially at risk, as the intense heat inside the enclosed cart exceeds the temperatures required for safe storage.
You’ll definitely want to choose a on open outdoor space for cleaning your bbq.
With that in mind, let’s get started!
Equipment You’ll Need:
A crumpled ball of aluminum makes a great tool for scrubbing grimy metal cooking grills clean!
1) Remove the grill and charcoal grates.
2) Soak the grates in hot, soapy water for 10mn to soften grease and dirt build-up.
3) Using a grill brush or scouring pad, scrub away the dirt. A putty knife is handy for removing stubborn carbon build-up.
4) Rub the grates with a ball of aluminum foil to remove any remaining debris.
5) Empty the ash catcher and brush away any debris at the bottom of the grill.
6) Use a putty knife to scrape off grease and carbon residue.
7) Wipe down the lid and grill exterior with a damp cloth and mild dishwashing soap.
8) Reassemble your grill
Check out our complete review of the year’s top charcoal smokers!
Equipment You’ll Need:
1) First and foremost, be sure to turn off or unplug your electric grill.
2) Scrape off excess food and build-up from crevices and grill surface using a rubber spatula. Do not use a scouring pad, which can damage the grill’s non-stick surface.
3) Using a damp sponge and dishwashing soap, thoroughly wipe down the grill surface.
4) Wring out your sponge repeatedly as oil and grease gather.
5) Remove the grill plates to access and remove the drip tray.
6) Soak the dip tray in hot water and dishwashing soap to loosen oil, grease, and burnt food build-up.
7) Next, wash and wipe down the dip tray with a damp sponge.
8) Remove any other detachable pieces and wash individually or in your dishwasher.
9) Once all the pieces are dry, reassemble your grill according to your grill manual instructions.
We’ve also got great reviews of the best electric smokers that might interest you!
Cleaning an outdoor smoker like the 40” MASTERBUILT 20075315 is relatively easy thanks to the modular design of today’s models.
1) Again, always make sure your electric smoker is switched to the off position. It’s also best to plug your grill out of any outlet before you begin cleaning.
2) Remove cooking grill grates and soak in hot water and dishwashing soap for 5 – 10 mn, depending on how grimy they are.
3) Next, use a damp sponge or scouring pad to scrape and remove grime from the grates. Soaking them in soapy water beforehand should make this relatively easy. Be mindful of scrubbing too vigorously, or you’ll risk warping them.
4) After rinsing, use a ball of aluminum and scrub any remaining debris from the grates away.
5) Depending on your model of electric grill, you can remove the liner, which is an insert directly beneath the grill grates.
6) Soak, wash and rinse the liner clean of any grease and grime, using a damp sponge. A rubber spatula should help you scrape off any stubborn build-up.
7) Wipe the exterior and lid with a damp or moistened cloth. Avoid using a dripping sponge while cleaning the lid in particular. Disinfectant wipes are another alternative that you can use to clean the knobs and handle as well glass lids. Dry with a lint-free cloth.
8) Remove and clean any detachable parts from the grill.
9) Finally, reassemble your electric grill, and enjoy!
For a quality electric smoker that’s easy to maintain, read our Char-Broil Deluxe Digital Electric Smoker review.
Equipment You’ll Need:
1) Turn off your pellet grill. If cleaning immediately after use, let the pellet grill cool completely both inside and out.
2) Next, remove the cooking grates, drip tray, and flame deflector, and chimney dome.
Soak the removable parts in a solution of dishwashing soap and hot water to loosen the grease and grime.
3) Scrub all the removable parts with a scrubbing pad until clean. Then, let air dry.
4) Remove the grease bucket and dispose of any solid debris.The grease bucket will likely contain a lot of grease residue so you should clean it separately under running water. Otherwise, you’ll be cleaning it in greasy water!
5) Using a long-handle bristle brush and cleaning soap of your choice, scrape the chimney interior. You can also attach a scrubby to the end of a long-handled spoon if you don’t have a bristle brush that can reach inside the chimney dome.
6) To remove ash and dirt from inside the firebox, use a small handheld vacuum.
7) Carefully wipe the firebox interior with a lightly damp scrub pad. Avoid immersing the interior in water and don’t use a dripping sponge. Water can seep into electrical parts and cause serious damage!
8) Use a damp cloth or disinfectant wipes to clean the temperature probe, which can usually be found on the left side of the cooking chamber.
9) Clear away anything obstructing the smoke holes.
10) Wipe away any grime and dirt from the exterior surfaces with a dampened cloth or scrubby. You can use a spray cleaner on any stainless steel parts, or an aluminum ball to scrape away gunk.
11) Finally, you’re ready to reassemble your grill!
Find the right pellet smoker for you with our best pellet smoker grills review.
Equipment You’ll Need:
1) First, be sure the gas supply is turned off. Remove the propane tank and store in a cool place while cleaning the grill.
2) Next, remove the cooking grates and burner covers. Soak them in hot water and dishwashing soap as needed to soften grime and grease build-up.
3) Scrape away debris from the grates and burner covers using a grill brush. Let air dry when finished.
4) Using a scrub pad, scrape away any hardened debris from the bottom of the grill’s interior, sides and hood. If you’re using a sponge, avoid dripping excessively into the grill while cleaning the interior and hood.
5) Use a toothpick to remove any debris that may be lodged in the holes of the gas burners. Make sure to clean under the burners thoroughly, where food debris tends to accumulate and harden.
6) If your grill has a drip pan, remove this and scrape away any charred remains with a grill brush or scrub pad. A grill brush or metal spatula can be used to scrape away the debris instead if the drip pan isn’t removable.
7) Wipe the interior thoroughly with a damp cloth to remove any leftover dirt. Then, wipe down the exterior surface as well.
8) With the grates clean and the interior free of debris, you can now reinsert the grates and burner covers.
BTW, here’s a helpful review of the best gas smokers under $200!
In this section we’ll take a look at a few ways to maintain your BBQ smoker over time. After purchasing a brand new grill, go through the owner’s manual and familiarize yourself with its unique features and recommendations for proper maintenance.
If you’re planning to refurbish/repair a used grill or smoker, you can troubleshoot and resolve most problems by following the directions below.
For more serious problems such as gas line cracks or damaged digital/electric components, refer to a professional or the warranty on your grill. If your grill doesn’t come with a warranty (or you’ve misplaced it), don’t attempt to repair malfunctioning parts on your own. You could inadvertently cause a fire by failing to reassemble the parts properly.
Your burners take a lot of wear and tear over time. They should be cleaned carefully after use, rather than allowing grease to harden and build. The average burner has a lifespan of 3 years. If you notice corrosion or damage, replace them right away.
Venturi tubes direct the flow of gas or propane from the tank to the burners in your grill or smoker. An opening in the fuel line allows air to enter so that a flame is created. This gap or aperture can attract insects and spiders. You can insert an aluminum screen can keep critters out without obstructing airflow to the tubes. Most modern venturi tubes, however, already include some kind of protection.
Excessive smoking isn’t healthy for you or your food. It’s usually a sign of grease build-up inside. Regular cleaning should fix this problem.
Inspect fuel lines and hoses for any cracks that may need sealing or replacing.
You may need to adjust the venturi shutters that regulate gas flow. Locate the venturi tube adjustment screw. Turn the gas on low, then loosen the screw and adjust the shutters until the flame turns blue. Once it’s set, turn the gas off and tighten the screw.
Most electric smokers and pellet grills are designed for even heat distribution. Natural gas or propane grills, however can get damaged. One or more burners may be clogged. You can use a toothpick to remove clogs in the gas line. Adjusting the venturi shutters should also help in this case.
You shouldn’t attempt to adjust the regulator settings, but a clogged vent hole can cause irregular air flow. A worn or damaged O-hole on the fuel hose can also cause gas to escape. You can easily clear away any debris clogging the vent hole but a damaged fuel hose should be repaired or replace immediately.
Over time knobs on your control valves can get stuck due to grease and grime build-up. A simple cleaning should fix the problem. Valves are complex with several components
specifically designed for your model. If the control valves are unresponsive, it’s time to invest in a new smoker or grill.
Between the cooking grates and burner you’ll typically find a tray installed that’s used to capture drip from food. Also known as a radiant, this plate is made of either metal, ceramic briquettes or lava rock. They are designed to aid in heat distribution as well.
Lava rocks are porous and need to be replaced frequently. Ceramic or metal, however, should be cleaned regularly and will not need replacing as often.
So now that you know how to clean and maintain your smoker, you might be considering what type to purchase. Lucky for you, we’ve combed through thousands of products and reviews online to make your selection process easier.
If you search online, you’ll invariably come across the same major brand names: Primo, Weber, Cajun, and Kamado to name a few. While aesthetics are important to your decor, there are other more important factors that will determine which brand and type you decide on.
Features: Removable parts for easy cleaning, see-through lids, and temperature controls are great features that will make maintaining your smoker much easier.
Performance: Even heat distribution and temperature variance controls are crucial to any quality bbq. Read online reviews from real people to get a sense of how reliable your smoker will be.
Durability: More features can also means a higher risk of something breaking. Low-grade parts and painted steel can deteriorate quickly after only a few uses.Smokers made of 304 stainless steel, for example, are costly but highly durable.
Price: Your budget isn’t the only factor when purchasing the right smoker brand. Consider how often you plan on using it, as well as how many people you plan on serving on average. A small charcoal grill, for example, is portable and inexpensive, but not ideal for serving large families or events with lots of people.
All of our bbq smoker recommendations have been selected from leading brands like Weber.
Innovation and convention are finely balanced in the Rec Tec 700’s sturdy design to give pitmasters all the tools they need to keep patrons and guests salivating!
You really can’t get better than the state of the art Rec Tec 700. Durable, feature-rich, and suitable for any grilling occasion, this grill twill make anyone fall in love with the art of the barbecue.
Every feature is built with bbq lovers in mind. from the remote wi-fi capabilities to the rollerblade-style wheels fitted for easy carriage, this grill does it all well! The 40 lb. hopper and
over 1700 sq in of cooking area give you plenty of room to maneuver.
Read more of our Rec Tec 700 Bull review.
This easy to clean, extra large-capacity unit is, in our opinion, the best electric smoker out there for its mid-price range. It’s as easy to clean as it is on the eyes, there’s enough room to cook 12 whole chickens -or a whole lot of burgers!
Patented side wood chip loading system – add chips without opening the smoker door
Integrated thermostat temperature control for even, consistent smoking
Full viewing window
Read our more detailed 40” Masterbuilt review here.
This popular Weber model packs one heck of a punch for its size. Considered a classic in design and functionality, the Weber Kettle Premium is proudly made in the US, and remains a fixture of the traditional American cookout.
We really like the aluminum vents which help control air flow, giving you the option to grill or smoke your meat. Its sturdy porcelain enamel bowl handle holds up under high temperatures, which means your investment will last for years to come!
Check out more of our Best Charcoal Grill reviews here.
30-in diameter cooking grill
4 chrome-plated smoking racks
717 sq. inch of cooking area
Stainless steel burner
Type-1 regulator and hose
Removable porcelain-coated wood chip tray and water pan
Built-in temperature gauge and touch-wire handle
This 2-door gas smoker from Masterbuilt is easily our favorite after examining hundreds over the years. One of the largest of its kind, its high-capacity cooking space allows for several dishes going at once, with temperature gauge to help you monitor your culinary masterpieces.
The main drawback is the lack of wheels, which means you’ll have to lug the 66 lbs yourself.
Read more of our review of the best gas smokers under $200.
We’re constantly reviewing new bbq products and services to bring you the latest and best. Use this guide to help you find a smoker that suits your needs and your budget, or share it with someone you feel will benefit.
If you’ve got a suggestion for a quality smoker or grill, we’d love to hear your feedback! Thanks for visiting Fire Food Chef and happy grilling!
William Clay is a BBQ enthusiast dedicated to sharing his grilling (and overall cooking) expertise with FireFoodChef's readers.