With a long and glorious grilling season ahead, it’s time for me to literally and figuratively dust off (er… de-gunk) my grill grates to make way for incoming hot dogs and hamburgers. Not only does cleaning improve the flavor of the food, but it also prolongs the life of your grill and helps food from sticking so you can achieve perfect grill marks on even the flakiest of salmon filets. For me, it’s a necessary step to starting out summer cookout season on the right foot.
If you also have a grill in need of some TLC, but nary a tool for cleaning it, do not fear—I’ve got a tried and true technique that requires one simple pantry staple and a pair of tongs.
Why You Shouldn’t Use a Grill Brush
Think you need a grill brush to get your grates clean? Surprisingly, no! In fact, both the American Medical Association and the US Department of Agriculture warn against the use of wire grill-cleaning brushes, as the bristles have a bad habit of coming loose and sticking to the grates and, even worse, to your food. Accidentally ingesting one of those bristles is no fun, so it’s best to steer clear of these brushes altogether.
The One Item That’s More Effective and Safer
Instead of a grill brush, turn to your pantry and grab a box of aluminum foil. Cut yourself a large sheet and ball it up—I like mine to be about the size of my palm. This shiny little ball, along with a pair of heat-proof tongs, is all you need to get your grill grates spick and span. Here’s how it works:
To use it, I simply grip the ball with my tongs and scrub the grates back and forth to remove any caked-on grime. I usually notice a difference after a few scrubs—this stuff works quickly! Foil won’t deteriorate or shed debris and its malleable texture helps it meld perfectly to the shape of the grates for optimal scrubbing. It’s also safe to use on both charcoal grills and electric grills.
This method (and any grill-cleaning method) works best when the grill is still warm before the grease and food particles have a chance to harden and become stubbornly stuck to the grates. It’s good to get in the habit of cleaning your grill before and after cooking, the latter not long after the grill has been turned off. Always exercise caution when cleaning a grill that has recently been used, even if it is turned off or if the coals have stopped burning.
If your grill is in need of a more heavy-duty clean, head over to this article on how to clean a grill for grilling expert Mike Lang’s tips.