How to Clean Smokers and Grills

Clean smokers

Soon it will be spring then summer for the best grilling and smoking times of the year. If you cleaned your grill and racks the last time you cooked, you’ll be ready to go. However, if you did not clean up, now is the time to do it. No one wants to eat freshly cooked meat on a grill rack laden with bacteria and germs. This guide will give you some easy ideas for how to clean smokers and grills.

Many people use their smokers all year long while others only grill during the warmer months.

Best Methods to Clean Smokers and Grills

Because you are the neighborhood and family grilling guru, you of course seasoned your smoker or grill when you bought it. The reasons are to remove what’s left over on the metal when manufacturing. The oil you applied to season it permeates the pores of the metal keeping the metal from developing rust.

If you have a new grill, go ahead and season it with olive oil, canola oil, or any cooking oil. If you are using a smoker, close the damper half way and let it smoke at 225-degrees F. for up to 3-hours.

With a propane, wood, or charcoal grill, do the same thing. Fire it up and let the oils penetrate into the metal for a few hours. The heat will do the work without closing a lid these units may not have.

Charcoal grill

You won’t need to season the racks again unless you’ve used harsh chemicals to remove cooked on food debris.

To clean off dirty racks, use a metal or plastic putty knife and a metal grill brush to gently remove stuck on food bits and grease. Remove grease and carbon build up inside a horizontal smoker and firebox.

Check for rust inside and outside of your unit. If you find it, remove it, sand it, and repaint with a high heat barbeque paint.

Oil the hinges and handles to prevent rusting.

Another less laborious method to clean the racks is to put them in your self-cleaning oven and run it for the entire cleaning cycle. Your oven can probably use a good cleaning anyway.

You can also soak the racks in detergent water with a little ammonia in the bathtub and always have ventilation or fan when using ammonia. Let them soak all day and use rubber gloves. Ammonia is not good on your hands.

You can use steel wool soap pads such as Brillo® to remove stubborn spots. These soap pads are excellent for cleaning and putting the shine back into your stainless-steel pots, pans, and skillets too.

This is a filthy cooking rack that I would never want to cook my food on and eat it!

Cooking rack

A few simple maintenance chores to do to cut the excessive cleaning to a minimum is to clean the ashes from your grill or smoker after each use when they are cool. Never put coals or wood into a cardboard box or paper bag! They will burn!

Put them into a metal bucket spray with water until totally cooled about 3- to 4-days. Coals can stay hot inside for a long time even though you don’t see it. Ashes with water causes rust so be sure to clean the firebox out too.

Line your bullet-style vertical smoker water pan and ash pan with thick heavy-duty aluminum foil that will make cleaning up so much easier and quicker.

Wrought iron log gratesI call grates the wrought iron log grates that hold wood like in a wood stove or fireplace. I call the metal you put your food on racks because they are similar to oven racks. Wipe cooking oil or a spray oil on your cooking racks and your food will never stick.

To clean the grates, use oven cleaner wearing rubber gloves.

Final Thoughts for Cleaning Smokers and Grills

When you keep up with maintenance, you will preserve your grill for years to come. They are an investment so treat them lovingly.

Feel welcome to leave a comment or ask a question below and I will reply to each message. Happy cooking!


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