How To Clean Stainless Steel Grill Grates – Making Them New Again

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Stainless steel grill grates on a Weber kettle-style grill
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The first advantage of using stainless steel grill grates is that they can withstand highly intense heat. And unlike cast iron, they’re not prone to rust or corrosion. Another benefit is that they don’t have any coating that can chip off and leach into your food.

However, if food particles get stuck on your stainless steel grates for so long, they carbonize over time and are tough to remove as a result.

That can really ruin your meal. Therefore, you need to care for them regularly to ensure they’re in good shape for many years to come. Good thing is that stainless steel is very simple to clean. 

Below, I will show you how to clean stainless steel grill grates properly, starting with the tools that we need for this job.

Tools We Need

Here is the list:

  • Grill brush – either a metal scraper or your regular wire grill brush. Be careful with the wire brush though. I’ll touch on that later.
  • A cut off cardboard box – you can use the box that comes with the grill.
  • A large heavy duty garbage bag – a big container also works. 
  • Dawn dish soap or the equivalent – grill cleaners work too.
  • White vinegar and baking soda – for soaking the grates if the grimes are severe. 
  • Aluminum foil – heavy duty or regular is fine.
  • Clean cloth, paper towel, or any sponge scouring pad – for cleaning and drying later on.

A Word Of Caution

Wire Brush

Some of the bristles from the wire brush can fall off without you noticing it. They then get into your food and end up inside your body. 

No bueno, amigo!

Because of that, I’d recommend using other tools if you can. Besides the metal scrapper mentioned above, here are a few other tricks/tools that I use. 

  • Crumple up a sheet of aluminum foil into a ball. Use a tongs to grab it and that’s your new BBQ brush. Simple and easy.
  • If you can find a long block of hardwood, you can also use it to clean your stainless steel grates. Depending on how often you use it, this block of wood will slowly develop grooves that are customized just for your grates. 

That being said, if you insist on using your wire brush, be extra cautious. Carefully double check your grates for any bristles after scrubbing them. Better yet, only use the brush after you’re done cooking. 

Tip: You can run a lemon or onion half across the grates to clean off any bristles. A damp cloth will do the trick as well.

Steel Wool

Many people recommend using steel wool to clean cast iron grill grates. However, is it also safe to use on stainless steel? 

The majority of stainless steel grates have a fine finish. If you use steel wool, it could scratch the finish. In fact, that makes it harder to clean the grates in the future since food particles will stick to those tiny crevices. 

Bleach

Similar to steel wool, bleach will damage the finish of your stainless steel grates. Besides, it is also a harsh chemical. It will for sure get the job done but less chemical is always better.

How To Clean Stainless Steel Grill Grates

After Cooking

The best way to care for your stainless steel grill grates is to always clean them right after cooking. 

The grill is still hot and those food particles are at their easiest to remove. It’s also a great way to pass the time while you’re waiting for the meat to rest. Furthermore, it means that you don’t have to clean the grates before your next cook.

If you wait until the grill cools down, it will be harder to clean the grates since the food debris harden and become a pain in the rear to remove. It also contributes to the dulling of the grates’ finish.

So with your best grill brush, start scraping the grates after removing your food. If you run into any stubborn pieces, dip a bit of vinegar into a paper towel or clean cloth.Then wipe it on your grates. The acidity of the vinegar will dissolve the burned food and disinfect your grates at the same time.

Now, for the hard-to-reach bottom surface of the grates, you might need to use a U-shaped scraper. Oftentimes, food down there gets burned off but it’s always good to double check. 

Once the grates are cleaned, close the lid, turn off all the burners or shut off the vents as in the case of a charcoal grill, then let everything slowly cool down.

U-shaped Chargon metal scraper to clean the underside of stainless steel grill grates

Deep Cleaning

Sometimes, your stainless steel grates need a deep cleaning, especially if you’ve been neglecting them for a while and the remaining food particles become these stubborn grimes and cruds .

Here is the process to do so.

Step 1 – Get a cut off cardboard box and a heavy duty garbage bag. Line the bag inside the box. Mix some white vinegar and baking soda together. Put your grates in the bag. Pour the mixture and make sure the grates are fully submerged. Leave it there for a few hours or overnight. You can also use a large enough container if you want.

Now, there is another alternative to this first step. You can wrap your grates in aluminum foil. Heat up your grill, either gas or charcoal, to about 450F. Put the foil-wrapped grates inside the grill and leave it there for 20 minutes.

Both methods will slowly break down all the leftover gunks on the grate, either by acid or heat. 

Step 2 – Take the grates out of the bag or leave them inside the grill with the foil removed. 

If you choose the first method from step 1, put the grate in your kitchen sink if it’s big enough. Then with some Dawn dish soap (or the equivalent) and hot water, start scrubbing off any remaining residue with a scouring pad.

If you choose the second method instead, follow the process I outlined in the “After Cooking” section.

Step 3 – Once all the cleaning and scrubbing are done, rinse the grates one last time and hang them somewhere to air dry. You can also use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry them. Or let them cool down alongside the grill. 

Now, you might notice some discoloration but that’s properly due to the heat. The grates are still functional. 

After the grates are dry, you’re ready to grill again.

Here is a video from My Kitchen Vlog showcasing a process that is similar to mine. He uses oven cleaner and degreaser instead of white vinegar and baking soda. The result is the same. 

Another Cleaning Method

If you have the time and mean, high pressure garden hose is another way to clean your stainless steel grates.

Lean them against a wall in your backyard. Use your garden hose and start spraying off any stuck-on food particles. 

Dry the grates off. Then you can start cooking or store them away.

Do You Need To Season Stainless Steel Grill Grates?

Unlike cast iron, you don’t have to season your stainless steel grill grates often. As long as you keep moisture out of your grill, your stainless steel grates will be fine.

You can do so by always keeping a cover on your grill when not in use, especially if you live in a humid place. Also make sure to dry the grates completely before putting them back to the grill. Last but not least, remember not to use any abrasive or harsh cleaners such as steel wool or bleach to clean them.

Other than that, the one thing to keep in mind that you should oil your food but not your grates before cooking. There are two reasons for that.

Firstly, the oil won’t stay on the surface of the grates, it will fall down to the fire below. Secondly, even if the oil stays on the surface, the heat from cooking will eventually burn it all off. 

Oiling your food will prevent them from sticking to the grates and make them easier for you to clean and care for later on.

Summary

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to clean stainless steel grill grates? If so, please share in the comments section down below. I’m always looking to learn something new. 

And if you find this article helpful, please also share this to your friends and family. 

Happy cleaning!

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