It is important to take the time to clean the stainless steel grill grates on your barbecue to reduce the chance of food poisoning from leftover particles stuck to the surface. Charred food can also leave residue on anything new you cook, potentially changing the flavor you've worked hard to create.
Fortunately, these grates aren't hard to clean, especially if you keep up with the task regularly. One safety note: Never use steel wool or metal brushes on your grill. The tiny bits of metal can get stuck in food and end up causing problems if ingested.
Step 1 - Give Your Grill a Hot Deep Clean
If you haven't cleaned your grill for some time, a deep cleaning may be necessary to remove all the grease and baked-on food that can't be scrubbed off.
Remove the grates and turn on the barbecue. Next wrap the cooking grates tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil with the shiny side out. Put on oven mitts and place the wrapped grates on the grill. Close the lid and leave them there for 15 to 30 minutes. The dirtier they are, the longer you'll need to leave them.
When the proper time has elapsed, turn off the barbecue, open the lid, and allow the grates to cool. Unwrap the foil and follow up by washing the surface with soapy water and a soft sponge.
Step 2 - Clean Thoroughly Once a Week
If you use your grates regularly, especially during summer, it's important to give it a good cleaning once a week. For these sessions, you should wait until your grill has completely cooled.
Mix some mild dishwashing detergent in warm water in a pail. You can use whatever concentration you prefer, just make sure that the mixture is a little sudsy.
Use a paper towel or a soft sponge to rub the mixture over the grates. After the wipe down, empty the pail and refill with cool water, this time to rinse the surface of the grates. Leave the grill lid open to allow the grates to dry completely when you've finished.
You can use grill-specific cleaners to help you get the best clean possible, but avoid polishes—even stainless steel polishes. These can warp and discolor the grill, and can potentially make their way into food. If you've used a polish in the past, make sure to thoroughly clean your grill before you cook next time.
Step 3 - Perform Monthly or Annual Vinegar Cleanings
To keep your stainless steel grill grates looking shiny and new, give them a good cleaning once a month. If you only use your grill sparingly during the summer months, you can get away with completing this step just once a year.
Combine one part water with one part distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle. Coat the grates and the interior of the grill with the mixture, and close the lid to allow it to sit for one hour to break down any burnt particles.
Wipe the surface clean with damp paper towels. Then, rinse the surface with cool water to make sure no remnants of vinegar are left which could make your next meal cooked on the grill taste sour.
Step 4 - Clean After Each Use
Remove the food and allow your grill to cool after you're done cooking your meal. Some people like to clean their grill while it's still a little warm—it's a personal preference, just be careful not to burn your fingers!
Take a gentle grill cleaner and a soft cloth and wipe down the grill. You can also just use a little soap and water with a soft cloth.
To help keep your grill from accumulating grime, wipe a paper towel coated in one tablespoon of vegetable oil over the grates after each cleaning. This will reduce the chance of food sticking next time you use your grill.
To protect the outside of your grill, consider getting a grill cover or keeping it in a shed during the winter months.