For years, when I set out to clean grill grates I would grab my handy wire brush and scrub away at leftover food particles. 

a standard metal grill brush

We live in a more conscious world today, and it’s come to everyone’s attention as of late that metal grill brush bristles can fall off a standard grill brush and end up on or in food. In short, metal grill brushes are dangerous.

bristles from a metal grill brush can fall off and get into food.

No matter how you look at it, wire brush needles showing up in food is unacceptable. 

Today we bring you the ultimate grilling hack by teaching you how to clean the grate without a standard grill brush.

A Better Way to Clean Grill Grates

When it comes to making sure my grill is ready for the next cooking session, I don’t turn to the wire brush any longer. 

People have recommended that I cut an onion in half and use that to clean my grates. While it does work, it seems like a perfectly good waste of a great onion. 

(If you’re planning on sticking an onion on your fire anyways for flavor, then clean on. If you’re not into that kind of thing, then eat onions. Don’t clean with them.

A friend of mine cleans his grill with a potato. I didn’t say we were good friends, because let’s be honest, that’s next level strange. Potatoes are for fries and for smoking twice loaded with bacon. I like my potatoes covered in cheese, not charred bits of not great eats. 

For us here at The Barbecue Lab, we have a different favorite way of cleaning our grill grates. 

We use the same material that is utilized almost every cook to wrap and protect meat. A humble ball of aluminum foil.

ball of aluminum foil

Why Aluminum Foil?

A hunk of aluminum foil doesn’t shard like a grill brush can. The bristles of a metal grill brush will usually need surgical removal if ingested. Foil on the other hand creates a tighter and tighter ball the more you press and push against it. There aren’t any long sharp needles of metal to worry about with a ball of foil.

crumpling aluminum foil into a ball

The Cleaning Advantages of Foil

It might seem strange the first time you wad up a sheet of aluminum foil and go to running it across your grill grates. I think you’ll notice right away though that there’s a benefit of using a malleable cleaning utensil.

A ball of foil will conform itself to your grill grates and turn itself into a customized cleaning tool for your grill grate. This even works on cast iron grill grates in addition to stainless steel.

Unlike the metal bristle brush of old which never fit really well between the grates, foil will create channels that fit perfectly between the grates of the grill to make sure you’re getting 180 degrees to get your grills clean. 

grooves in a ball of foil

Will Aluminum Foil Work On My Grill?

The aluminum foil method works great on gas grills, smokers, pellet smokers, charcoal grill, portable grills and any other bbq grill. Electric grills and electric smoker grill grates are no exception, because carbon forms on grates no matter the heating method. 

Give Aluminum Foil Clean Grill Grates A Try

All I can say is don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I think you’ll find that being free from the fear of loose grill brush wires brings a level of calm to any outdoor cooking session. 

The deep clean that your grates get with a good scrub from a ball of aluminum foil will have you coming back for more, and keep your patrons safe in the meantime. 

Deep Cleaning Grill Grates

Maintaining your grill is important, especially if you want to combat the inevitable rusting process. We’ve used many different cleaning products on grill grates including oven cleaner and vinegar and baking soda. 

Cleaning methods for cleaning porcelain and cleaning stainless steel grates usually start with a good soak overnight. While there are multiple grill gadgets that you can use when cleaning bbq grills, Dawn dish soap and hot water is the first step we recommend when going for a deep cleanse.

Clean porcelain grates are fantastic to grill on, but trying to cook with leftover food all over is going to rob you of the great grill marks that they’re known for. 

Depending on what type of material your grill grates are made of, steel wool is a great abrasive scrubbing utensil to knock off all food residue. 

Washing your grill and burner tubes along with cleaning cast iron grates can be a messy endeavor, so bring along a trash bag or garbage bag to make cleanup easy. You’ll have old steel wool, aluminum foil and food particles to dispose of, so keep the patio clean and come prepared.

Keeping Rust Off Grill Grates

If you look inside the grill and see a few rust spots on your grill grates, it’s time to remove rust anyplace it might exist. 

To remove the rust, this is where a good wire brush comes in handy. Use the wire brush to scrub off the rust until you can’t see any more exterior brown rust on the surface. 

Once you have a clean surface, be sure to apply some vegetable oil to the spot where the rust was present. I don’t care if you’re cooking pork chops, hot dogs or grill potatoes, rust on your grill grates is bad news for your end food product.