How to clean a BBQ - 16 ways to get your grill clean after winter

From using ketchup to coffee, follow our top tips to get your BBQ sparking clean after winter

At the first sign of sunshine, we Brits jump at the chance to dine alfresco and enjoy a BBQ with friends. But after a long, cold winter, our BBQ's probably aren't looking their best, which is why you need to know just how to clean a bbq.

An outdoor kitchen is the ultimate way to cook up a storm in the garden, even if you only have space for a small, portable BBQ. But no doubt the last time you saw your grill it was gathering dust in the shed, still caked in last summer's last grilled meals. If so, it's time to bite the bullet, put on a pair of rubber gloves and get scrubbing. 

Yes elbow grease is the first way to tackle things, but this will only get you so far. Depending on what state your bbq was in when you stored it away, you're probably going to need more than just your muscles, but you'll need to use the right methods for your variety of BBQ.

Declan Kingsley-Walsh, MD at Morsø UK (opens in new tab) advises, 'How to clean a bbq will very much depend on its material.  Cast iron can remain outdoors throughout the year and will therefore not rust like other materials such a metal. But it can also be easily cleaned using hot water and sponge, which you should also do after cooking once it has cooled down.'

How to clean a BBQ

This isn't just a step-by-step guide to how to clean a BBQ – we've also added a few hacks to help you keep your grill clean all summer long. Don't forget too to stock up on gas, coal and firelighters so that you're ready to start grilling as soon as the temperature rises. And even if you're looking for a new BBQ this summer, it's always a good idea to give it a good cleaning before you start cooking!

1. Start by checking all the parts

outdoor kitchen with table and chair with glass bottle

(Image credit: Future PLC /Colin Poole)

Dig out your BBQ from the shed or garage if it's a portable type, or uncover it if it stays outside, and check for any damage or rust. Check that none of the knobs have been knocked off, that hinges are still in working order and that all the grills and grates were put back properly. Brush away any cobwebs or spiders that might have made a home during the winter and give everything an initial wipe down with a damp cloth.

2. Add some heat 

bbq with grey outdoor kitchen white chair and potted plants

(Image credit: TBC)

If there’s still caked-on food left over from last year, light fresh coals in your barbecue and leave them to reach a very high heat. This will burn off a lot of the most stubborn remnants. Dan Cooper, Head Grill Master at Weber (opens in new tab) advises, 'Heat your barbecue up to the max for about 30 minutes – be wary that the dirtier the cooking grates are, the more it will smoke. Once the grill stops smoking it will generally have burned off most old residual grease and fat, then you simply allow the barbecue to cool right down.'

3. Clean the BBQ grill with newspaper and steam

Lynsey Queen of Clean (opens in new tab) has a neat trick with newspaper to clean a caked-on BBQ grill. Allow your barbecue to cool slightly, but while it’s still warm, lay a sheet of old newspaper across the top and generously spritz with water. Close the lid for half an hour to steam clean it. 

Lynsey explains, 'Grab one sheet of newspaper and pop it on the BBQ you've been using and just get a spray bottle of water and spray the newspaper. Pop the lid back on and what will happen is this will give your BBQ a steam clean. It will start to release all that grease, all that fat and all those bits from the food.  When you take the newspaper off it will be all greasy and dirty, put that away (in the bin). And you'll find the newspaper has done most of the work for you.'

4. Scrub the grill

bbq with porcelain coated rack grill with chicken

(Image credit: Future PLC /Emma Lee)

Use a grill brush with wire bristles to get rid of remaining food particles. If you have a porcelain-coated rack, it’s best to use a brass-bristled grill brush to avoid damaging it. No grill brush? Screw up aluminium foil into a ball and scrub the grill with it instead. Next, clean the grill with a dishcloth and hot soapy water.

If that doesn’t shift the dirt, you might want to try a household cleaner. However, some can be abrasive and toxic for a barbecue, so make sure you get a cleaner that’s specifically designed for the job, such as Jeyes barbecue cleaner, £3.50 for 750ml, B&Q (opens in new tab).

5. Clean with an onion

Believe it for not a brilliant BBQ hack is to use an onion for cleaning. 'An unlikely cleaning saviour, is an onion attached to a fork,' says the team at Home Essentials (opens in new tab).  'Whilst there is still heat in the grill, attach half an onion to the end of a fork and use it to rub over the hot bars. The water in the onion steams away any stuck-on food and uses its natural antibacterial properties to remove impurities.'

Onions have natural antibacterial properties and if you're cooking with charcoal, you can throw the used onion right into the coals when you're finished to add flavour to whatever you're grilling.

6. Get a BBQ gleaming with white vinegar

bbq dobbies grill with corn

(Image credit: Dobbies)

A favourite for cleaning inside the home, white vinegar is a great alternative to stainless steel cleaner. Use a left-over spray bottle and fill it with half white vinegar and half water. Spray it over the grill, wait five minutes before wiping it off with a clean, dry cloth.

7. Coat the grill in cooking oil

This method might sound counter-productive to cleaning, but it will help prevent food sticking and your grill from going rusty. Each time before you use the BBQ give it a good coating in sunflower oil, and rub it down the same way once you've finished. Your BBQ will thank you.

8. Tackle cleaning the BBQ base

bbq base stand with grill

(Image credit: TBC)

As soon as your barbecue is cool, tip away leftover ash into a bucket – it will collect moisture and be harder to clean later if you leave it. Use damp kitchen roll to pick up the final bits, alternatively an outdoor vacuum is an easy way to collecting any remaining bits. Then give the base a good wash using warm water and washing-up liquid.

9. Add ketchup to remove rust

Turns out tomato ketchup is not just for saucing up burgers and bangers! We have the Queen of clean Lynsey Crombie to thank for this savvy condiment cleaning hack! She says, 'Ketchup  is an amazing cleaner for removing rust!', ideal for the BBQs left out in the elements last summer. Simply apply a small amount to any areas of rust, leave for a few minutes and watch it work its magic.

10. Pour on a splash of beer

beer bottles with glasses

(Image credit: Charlie Richards)

BBQs and beers go hand in hand so if find yourself with a little beer leftover after a BBQ, pour it over the grill while it's still warm. Then give it a good scrub with a wire brush to get it sparkling. It's not a waste of good beer don't fear, it's a savvy way to get the grill gleaming.  'Use beer to clean your BBQ' advises Lynsey. 'Using your scrubbing brush pop beer onto the end,' she demonstrates while presenting on This Morning. 'The acid in the beer will help clean it (your BBQ).'

11. Soak BBQ tools in coffee

'Believe it or not, you can use coffee as a cleaner,' says the team at Home Essentials (opens in new tab).' Try soaking your grill and utensils in coffee (boiling water and coffee grains) for those tough stains that won’t budge. The acid in coffee will loosen up any dirt.'

12. Use tin foil to wipe clean

While you can use a specialist BBQ cleaning pumice stone, you can do just as good a job with the leftover tin foil you've been cooking with. 'If you've been using tin foil on your BBQ, screw it into a ball and just scrub away,' says Lynsey Crombie. 'That will start to lift off the food.' We love a good budget alternative to buying a cleaning tool!

13. Wipe the outside

bbq oven with wooden flooring

(Image credit: Morsø)

Using fresh warm water and washing-up liquid, wipe the exterior, then buff the metal shell with a dry cloth. If your barbecue is stainless steel, use a specialist polishing spray. It’s also worth giving your BBQ a light coating of mineral or baby oil to protect it from the elements. This is doubly important if you’re planning to keep your barbecue outside all summer long, and will give it a lovely shine.

'Weber has a great range of enamel and stainless steel cleaners that will leave your barbecue gleaming, says Dan. 'For the best shine I use a microfibre cloth for buffing. Once all this is done, you are ready and raring to go!'

14. Always cover up

To keep grime and dirt off all summer long. It may seem like a faff, but covering your grill to protect it from the elements will save you loads of hassle in the long run. Covers are available for most brands of barbecue. You'll usually have to pay extra for them, but they will ward off rust and keep out extra dirt between cook-outs.

15. Keep on top of things

Now that you've got your barbecue looking pristine, ensure it remains in tip-top condition by using a barbecue cleaning product after every use. HG Grill and Barbeque Cleaner,  £5.47 for 500ml at Amazon (opens in new tab) will do the job perfectly.

16. Cheat to clean a BBQ if time is against you

Try some speedy antibacterial wipes. We like double-sided Landmann Barbecue Cleaning Wipes, £17.99, for 40 at Amazon (opens in new tab). Alternatively, you can skip the scrubbing and give the BBQ a hose down with a pressure washer or if it fits pop the grill in the dishwasher.

How to do you clean a BBQ after cooking?

'Like everything else, your barbecue deserves a little maintenance once in a while and using the right products can extend the lifetime of your barbecue and keep it looking like new all year-round,' says Dan Cooper, Head Grill Master at Weber (opens in new tab).

'Once your barbecue has cooled down, remove all the grates and internal components, and use a T brush and scraper to clean everything. An initial burn off should have loosened hard to remove carbon deposits from the cook box, and this will make sure all grease channels are clear. I would definitely recommend using rubber gloves for this part! Once complete, place all clean parts back into the barbecues. Make sure you don't jet wash or put components in the dishwasher as this can cause some parts to rust.'

Wait for your BBQ to cool down a little, but before it becomes stone-cold, get to work with your chosen cleaning product. It might seem like a boring task to do straight away, but your future self will be thankful and it means you're ready to go next time you have friends over. If you have a charcoal BBQ, you're in luck as a little cleaning goes a long way. Start by softening the debris on the gates with a grill brush and bucket of soapy water, then give it a good wipe down to remove stubborn grease.

How do you clean the inside of a BBQ?

'If you haven’t used your barbecue for a while, it is very likely it will need a good and thorough spring clean,' says Dan. 'If not regularly maintained, barbecues in general tend to collect all manner of dirt and grime,
especially if left outside for a long period of time. Charcoal, pellet, electric and gas barbecues all require slightly different methods of cleaning depending on the individual components.'

'First off, it’s important to begin with the right tools. Weber (opens in new tab) sell a wide range of cleaning utensils and products as well as a selection of full cleaning kits. My personal cleaning arsenal always includes a T brush, barbecue cook box scraper, microfibre cloth, rubber or latex gloves, enamel, and stainless-steel cleaner sprays, and, finally, an onion.'

'Whatever type of barbecue you have I would always recommend, at the very least, once a year doing a deep clean. Do this when needed and you will have a season of hassle-free grilling.'

If you want to be super on top of things and really give your bbq a good clean after winter, tackling the very inside of a BBQ is a great practise to uphold.

'A lot of grease and food particles tend to end up inside the grill's interior, also known as the "grillbox",' say the experts at Jeyes. (opens in new tab) 'Empty and wash it out with a mild detergent and warm water solution. If the debris has already hardened up from the season before, use an old metal or plastic knife or old spatula to scrape the sides of the grill chamber.'

Additional words: Holly Walsh

Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.