What is the proper way to clean a charcoal grill?

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. At no cost to you, I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Maintain the optimal condition of your charcoal grill by being familiar with the various cleaning methods. 

The longer days signal the approach of barbecue season. It’s a good idea to review how to clean your charcoal grill before you start cooking. A charcoal grill can be cleaned using any of the following techniques. 

Always wait until the grill has cooled completely before cleaning it to ensure grill safety. 

How To Clean a Charcoal Grill 

Cleaning and maintaining a charcoal grill are just as critical as it is for a gas grill, and now is an excellent time to get started.  

After all, grilling is a year-round activity that enhances the flavor of any season, but there are some particularly delicious grilling days coming up as the holiday’s approach. 

Nothing beats gathering everyone for a bold, delectable grilled meal. Therefore, to prepare your charcoal grill for the holidays, use this simple checklist to ensure that it is in tip-top shape for cooking the most festive feasts. 

What You Will Require: 

  • Grill brush or coarse cleaning brush 
  • Aluminum foil 
  • Paper or plastic bags 
  • Putty knife or bristle brush 
  • Fork (optional) 


1. Collect all necessary cleaning supplies 

A grill brush, foil, paper or plastic bags, and a bristle brush or putty knife are required. Additionally, you may need a fork. 

2. Clean the grill grate and charcoal grate 

After cooking is completed and the grate is still hot, use a grill brush to clean the grate of any significant debris. Remove the grill grate if possible. The heat will make it easier to remove some of the baked-on mess. 

If the grates are still a little grimy after brushing, soak them in hot water and dish soap for a thorough clean. Remove any remaining dirt with a good dish scrubber. 

Tips: Aluminum foil makes an excellent scrubber. Clean any remaining gunk or debris from the grate with it. 

3. Remove the ash 

With good ash can under the grill, this should be a breeze! When the grill has cooled completely, remove the grates and empty any ash or remaining coals into a metal container. 

For alkaline soils, it’s best not to put grilling ashes on top of your plants, as they’re not very beneficial.  A paint can or food-wrapped foil is the best way to get rid of ashes, but you can also put them in the trash.  

4. Clean the grill’s bottom and lid: 

  • Brush or wipe any debris from the grill’s bottom (for a public grill, place a hand in a plastic or paper bag to sweep the debris out of the grill and into a second bag). 
  • Empty the ash catcher if one exists. 
  • Scrape away any peeling black stuff with a bristle brush or putty knife (usually carbon flakes and grease). 
  • Wipe down the outside of the lid and grill with soapy water if desired on kettle grills. 

5. Reassemble the grill: 

Reassemble all the grill’s components; you’re now ready to grill! (If using a public grill, line the grates with foil and poke holes in them with a fork before lighting the grill.) 

While you are not required to follow each step every time you grill, it is good practice to start with clean grates each time to prevent any flame flare-ups. Additionally, store it in a garage or shed when not in use if you want to keep your grill looking its best. Further, you can invest in a grill cover. 

How to Deep Clean a Charcoal Grill 

  • To begin a thorough cleaning, remove the grill grates and any ashes from the grill’s bottom and ash catcher.  
  • Following that, spray oven cleaner on the grates and inside the grill. While the cleaner is soaking in, prepare a solution of warm water and dish detergent.  
  • Clean the grill’s exterior with a rag or paper towel.  
  • Clean the grill grates and inside of the grill with the same solution.  
  • When finished, rinse the grill thoroughly with clean water before wiping everything dry. 

Essential Notes on Charcoal Grill Maintenance 

  • Check your ash catcher: Check to ensure the catcher is not overflowing and empty as necessary before each grilling session. 
  • Brush the grill grates before grilling: After preheating the grill, brush the grates with a grill brush or a wadded piece of foil to remove any burned food from the previous grilling session. When the grates are hot, it is easier to loosen the bits. 
  • Oil the grate: Oil the hot grates before grilling to prevent food from sticking. 
  • Brush the grates one more time after grilling if you have time. 

How to Storage a charcoal grill 

Because charcoal grills lack sensitive electrical or moving parts, they do not require the same level of care as other grill types.  

Having said that, as previously stated, you should keep your grill out of the rain. Please protect it from the elements by storing it in a garage, shed, or covered area.  

If you lack that kind of space, then yes, you should cover it. Before storing the grill, ensure that all coals and ash have been completely extinguished. 

How To Clean a Charcoal Grill - FAQs

If you clean your grill after each use (which you should), the process will take between five and ten minutes. A thorough seasonal cleaning should take between 30 minutes and an hour (depending on the type of grill). 

Maintain charcoal grills in top condition by cleaning them thoroughly after each use and before and after each grilling season. After each use: Because charcoal ash accumulates at the bottom of the grill, you must clean it after each use. 

If you do not clean your grill, you risk contaminating fresh meats. Additionally, the leftover grease, fats, and meat pieces near the bottom of the grill will eventually smoke, imparting a new (or not so fresh) coating to your food. 

If you frequently grill, at least once a week, clean the grates thoroughly every two months. Additionally, twice during the grilling season, you should thoroughly clean your grill, which will help it cook more evenly and last longer. 

If the interior of your grill remains extremely grimy following the initially hot water and dish soap scrub, spray the degreaser all over the interior and allow it to sit for approximately 20 minutes to soften any accumulated grease. 

You can repurpose your previously used charcoal! Before reusing, look for larger chunks and remove as much ash as possible. Keep your used charcoal in a dry location. A small amount of new charcoal must be added to the combustion mixture when using old charcoal. 

The Preventive Approach

Almost everything we discussed in the section on simple charcoal grill cleaning applies here, except that cleaning the grill both before and after using it is highly suggested.  

The last time a public grill was cleaned, no one knew who used it before you, and you have no idea who did it before you. It would be best to always wash your grill before cooking anything on it. 

Cleaning your grates before each grill session can reduce the number of deep cleans required each season. A simple way to accomplish this is to run a high-quality grill brush along with the grates before cooking each time.  

Following that, preheat your grill—this will assist in preventing food from sticking to the grates. Another method for preventing food from sticking to the grates is to oil them. Dip a wadded-up paper towel in cooking oil and slide it along the hot grates using tongs. 

Why Trust Us

You will find what you are looking for at Largo Bar and Grill. From classic to luxury brands, you'll find both. We will help you to select appliances that fit your needs, budget and lifestyle. Whether you want to stop by to learn more — or plan to make a major purchase — we’ll treat you like family and assist you every step of the way. Shop with us today to receive friendly and experienced help along the way.