Reviewed by Michael Smith on July 23, 2014


National Cancer Institute

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Video Transcript

Damon Meharg, WebMD Video Producer: Get ready for those mouth-watering outdoor dishes by making sure your grill is clean and safe… Burned residues from charred meat can contain cancer-causing agents. So keeping a clean grill doesn't just help the food taste better, it may also be better for your health.

Damon Meharg, (cont.): For charcoal or gas grills, the post-cooking cleaning begins with a wire brush down. Once that's done, and the grates have cooled to the touch, remove and place them in warm, soapy water to soak. If you're like me and have let a proper cleaning go for too long, soap and water probably isn't going to do. You're probably going to need a spray-on oven cleaner.

Damon Meharg, (cont.): After your once-over with a wire brush, spray the oven-cleaner on the grate and then place it in a thick plastic trash bag to let the chemicals go to work. You'll need to wear gloves and make sure you do the job in a safe, well ventilated area away from plants, pets and children. Whether oven-cleaner or sudsy water, the grates will need to soak for at least a couple of hours.

Damon Meharg, (cont.): While the cooking grates soaks, remove spent charcoal and any other debris…using a shop VAC for the ash-dust you can't remove by hand. Make sure the embers have completely died before you start. If you have a gas grill, take care to disconnect the fuel tank and place it away from your working area before you begin.

Damon Meharg, (cont.): Next, remove the heat plates and clean them with a wire brush. You can also spray them down with some oven-cleaner if the job calls for it—placing them in the same bag as your grate… You may need to replace the heat plates or burner if they've rusted out… Dry-brush down the inside of the grill and then remove the sooty residue with the shop VAC. WOW! What a mess! If the gunk won't come off with a brush, you can spray the inside down with some more oven-cleaner. In the case of a charcoal grill a final rinse after brushing the inside works great.

Damon Meharg, (cont.): After giving the oven-cleaner enough time to work, wipe down the inside with a wet rag to finish up. It's not necessary to get the casing to shine—the goal is to get rid of any particles that might smoke or burn when the grill is fired up… what a difference a little elbow grease and new burner made for this baby!

Damon Meharg, (cont.): Then, give the unit a thorough inspection, checking the lines for dry-rot and to make sure there isn't anything blocking the flow of gas or obstructing the burners. Whether they've been soaking in water or in oven cleaner, the grates will need one final brush-scrubbing and a good rinsing—you'll want to make sure you've removed all oven-cleaner residue from the racks. Do this in a utility or kitchen sink with a garbage disposal so the oven cleaner chemicals don't end up in ground-water runoff. If you're a stickler for detail, you can touch up any scratched paint on the outside of your grill with paint specifically designed for high temperatures.

Damon Meharg, (cont.): Finally, it's a good idea to heat the grill up to burn off any remaining residue before you place any food on the grates. It can take several hours, but having a safe clean grill is worth your time and effort. For WebMD, I'm Damon Meharg.