How do you clean your grates?

Discussion in 'Wood Smokers' started by bbq addict, Mar 20, 2009.

  1. bbq addict

    bbq addict Smoke Blower

    It's finally starting to warm up enough and I'm starting to get the itch for some good (smoked) food. When I opened up the smoker I was appalled at what a bad job I did cleaning the grates. It's mostly just cooked on rub/sauce but that can't taste good now!

    So, how do you clean your smoker grates? I'm looking at 1/4" steel grates...
  2. geek with fire

    geek with fire Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Depends on what kind of smoker. In my CG (cast iron), I just heat it up over 300. When the grates get hot, I scrub them with a wire brush. When the big chunks are gone, I brush on crisco and let it cook for about an hour. This is the long clean. For the quick clean, just wire brush before a cook.

    When I cook in the drum (wire grates), I use my bernzomatic torch to heat up the grates and scrub them with a wire brush. I suppose you could heat it up like the CG, but since the drum is so efficient, it takes it forever to settle back down once it hits 300. And the wire grates clean easier and faster than the cast iron, and you don't have to worry about breaking up the season coating.

    And what is this "warm enough" bit. Don't you know yer suppose to keep that thing lit all year? ;->
  3. bbq addict

    bbq addict Smoke Blower

    I was thinking about using some oven cleaner and taking the grates to a car wash, spraying them with the cleaner and then rinsing them off with some soap and a high pressure sprayer...bad idea? Here's a pic of what I'm working with.
  4. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I'm still a fan of Simple Green. Spray the grates down, or better if you can soak them in a tub with some simple green, and after a while of resting (depending on how dirty) you should be able to scrub them off with no problems. That stuff works wonders, and it is non-toxic and biodegradable.
  5. m1tanker78

    m1tanker78 Meat Mopper

    Run down to Harbor Freight when they put their wire brushes on sale. Buy about 10 of them. Brush the heck out of the grates then fire up the smoker and put the grates as close to the heat as you can. Let 'em get nice and hot then scrub each one with 1/3 of a white onion. I use 3/8" steel bar grates and that's all I ever do to clean them. Ok, maybe once a year I'll detail 'em - scrape them down in between and underneath and all that. Sometimes I skip the wire brush but the onion is pretty much mandatory. If no onion, use lime. If no lime, use some other citrus fruit with the least ammt of sugar.

    I'd personally stay away from the commercial oven cleaners since my grates aren't chrome plated.

  6. bbq addict

    bbq addict Smoke Blower

    Busted! [​IMG] Yeah, during the winter months I stick to the little ol' ecb and the stuff I froze when I could really cook...[​IMG]
  7. vtanker

    vtanker Meat Mopper

    Why do you use the onion? I have used potato on the grill to keep food from sticking and have heard of using a half of lemon to clean but I dont understand why use citrus or onion. What effect does it have.

  8. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Saw a guy during a competition who used an onion to continually clean and wipe his grill, claimed it was a great idea but I don't know why.

    You know one thing that works well (we used to do it in restaurants for cleaning the broiler/grill) we would crank up the heat and lay sheet pans over top of them to trap in the heat, heat them up till they start to glow and then scrape them and cool and wipe, they came out perfectly everytime. Only thing is that temp got at least to 500 degrees if not most likely more and if you went too far or left them on for a long time the grates can start to warp. Just a thought and an idea if you have a way to highly heat the grates I do know that once the gunk turns to ash you have no problem cleaning it off.
  9. geek with fire

    geek with fire Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Again, it depends on the type of grate. For me, if it is cast iron, I wouldn't get soap anywhere near it unless I was going to strip the seasoning off completely and re-season it; even then, I'd go really light on the soap. Cast iron is such a porous material and traps flavors.

    For wire, and usually stainless, a mild cleaner might not hurt.
  10. petesque

    petesque Smoke Blower SMF Premier Member

    Other than heating up my grates and brushing them I have never cleaned a grate. Its un-american and not needed. haven't you seen the grills in the parks. I would not put anything like soap on my grill/smoker.

  11. fire it up

    fire it up Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Not saying to spray soap or anything in the smoker, just remove the grates. Clean and spray or wipe then season.
    I dunno, myself I clean the smoker after each use, or if I got lazy from eating all the good food I just clean it early the day I am getting ready for my next smoke.
    Task #56, clean as you go (it was a dumb restaurant rule)
    But that's just me.
    One time I cleaned my grates but not the sides of the smoker, smoked some things and it was good, but just had a bit of a strange flavor. Although that was the very first time I had used apple wood. Usually I use hickory but that time I mixed apple with it. Not saying that the apple was the strange taste so I figured maybe the stale build up of smoke on the sides of the smoker.
    You have to figure the build up inside goes bad, sour, bitter, stale, something. When you fire it back up again the heat and smoke would naturally pick up any residual flavors leftover.
  12. rivet

    rivet Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    1) Fire up the grill. Hot.
    2) Get the grates as close to the fire as you can, and let them heat up real good.
    3) Take some fatback and run it over the grates, along their run. Get them nice and greasy; watch your hand.
    4) Let the grates burn off.
    5) You're set. Anything else is window dressing.
  13. m1tanker78

    m1tanker78 Meat Mopper

    Hi Vic, I use onion because that's what I saw my dad use when I was young. Pretty muche everyone around here uses onion to clean their grates. Out of all the natural stuff I've used, onion seems to clean STEEL grates the best. Especially when they've been sitting in the elements for a while and they rust. The aroma also lets the neighborhood know I'm about to smoke some food [​IMG] . After I'm done with the piece of onion, I throw it on or near the coals to accompany the smoke flavor.

    I've never tried or hear of using a potato. I'm going to give that a try some day. I'll still have a piece of onion handy to throw on the coals [​IMG] .

  14. forluvofsmoke

    forluvofsmoke Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Get it hot enough to melt the grease (300* will do) and run a grill brush over the grate. Then, I turn it over and knock the bulk of the drippings off with a brush as well.Take a damp (no soap) cloth and wipe off the nasties. I don't clean grates until I'm prepping to grill/smoke (all my rigs are in outdoor windy conditions here).

    Good smoke to ya!

  15. mulepackin

    mulepackin Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    As many have said heat is one of the best ways of cleaning the grates. If you have a self cleaning oven, and your grates will fit in it, I would brush off the thick loose stuff and run them through a cycle. Wipe up the dust when you are done. You'll be amazed how well that works.
  16. the iceman

    the iceman Smoking Fanatic

    If all else fails, try a Cold Water wash...

    Meet Coldwater...

  17. bbq addict

    bbq addict Smoke Blower

    Iceman, I'll definitely have to give that a shot! Thanks.[​IMG]
  18. div

    div Smoking Fanatic

  19. I used to own a carwash, and i hated when people would do that, it makes a mellufa hess. (it does work well though)[​IMG]

    now, i do it too[​IMG]

    i use the presoak (or tirecleaner) first, then turn to high pressure soap, then rinse well. bad part about it is that it does strip most of the seasoning off, so reseason again once youre done or they will rust[​IMG]
  20. dewberry

    dewberry Fire Starter

    simple green is amazing
    if you spray it on a gas soaked surface it will make it non flamible alsp

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