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Tips from the Experts

How to Deep Clean Your Charcoal Grill

Been a while since your last cookout? With these cleaning tips, you can get your charcoal grill back into fighting shape in time for summer.

You know when it’s time to start grilling again. The weather is warmer, the birds are chirping, and as you open the window, you smell the tantalizing aroma of someone else’s cookout in the distance.

But if you haven’t used your charcoal grill in a while (our winner is the Weber Performer Deluxe), it can be a little intimidating to start up again. Anybody who’s opened the lid for the first time after a long winter knows the feeling of dismay: Maybe it isn’t as clean as you remember, or you see a few patches of rust on the grates. 

Don’t worry! You’ll have it back in working order in no time.

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I talked to Dustin Green, director of the Weber Grill Academy, to get some tips on how to get your grill sparkling clean and ready for your first barbecue of the season. (Not a charcoal person? We’ve got tips for how to deep clean your gas grill, too.)

What You’ll Need

How to Deep Clean Your Charcoal Grill

  1. Empty any old charcoal and/or ashes. Hopefully you did this after your last cookout, but if not, do so now.
  2. Clean the inside of the grill. First, use a grill brush to scrape any built-up carbon (black, flaky paint-like material) on the inside of the lid. Then use a plastic scraper to clean any gunk or buildup from the inside of the grill bowl, paying attention to the blades. 
  3. Inspect and wash the outside of the grill. If any surface rust has built up around the welded joints, use grill cleaner or nonacidic oil such as WD-40 to remove it. Then wash the exterior of the grill (warm, soapy water works just fine).
  4. Inspect and clean the grates. Check to see if any rust has accumulated here, too. If it’s fairly superficial, don’t panic: You can scrape it off with the grill brush as you heat and clean the grates. If the rust is deeper or it looks like the grates have totally corroded, you may need to replace the grates. No rust? Terrific. Just scrub the grates with your grill brush the next time you heat the grill, then hold a wadded-up paper towel moistened with a little oil in your tongs and apply the oil to the grates.

How Often Should I Deep Clean My Grill?

Green recommends making a regular practice of deep cleaning your grill. Ideally, you’d repeat this process every three months, depending on how long your grilling season is. As he put it, “A clean grill equals better performance. Better performance equals better food. Better food equals smiling faces and full stomachs.” 

How Can I Maintain My Grill Between Cleaning Sessions?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Always clean the grates after every use and empty any ashes from the bowl or ash catcher. To prevent rust from forming, keep your grill as dry as possible. Store your grill in a dry place such as a garage or a shed. If that’s not possible, get a tight-fitting waterproof cover that will help protect it from rain or snow.

With these basic techniques, you’ll be able to enjoy your charcoal grill for many years to come.