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How to clean your barbecue

A guide to the best cleaning routine to keep your BBQ in tip-top shape.

barbecue on a deck

Cleaning and maintaining your barbecue is important to make sure it gets you through endless hours of entertaining. Following some simple instructions and spending a little time to clean your BBQ with each use will save you laborious cleaning in the long run, and it'll make sure your BBQ is in tip top condition each time you go to use it.  

Our resident home economist Fiona Mair has put together her tips and tricks to maintaining your BBQ. Fiona's been testing barbies for more than 15 years and knows a thing or two when it comes to keeping them clean.

How to clean your barbecue

CHOICE tips on how to clean your barbecue, and when and how often to clean it.

How to prepare your barbecue for first use

You've just set up your brand new BBQ – hopefully it didn't take you hours and you had a helping hand! But no doubt you're now ready to fire it up for the first time. Before you jump the gun to grill your snags and steaks, it's important to take a look at the manufacturer's instructions. It'll often list some requirements for preparing your BBQ for that first use. These requirements often ask you to:

  • Remove the protective coating on the hotplates. This coating is to protect them from rusting during transport and storage.
  • Wash the hotplates in warm soapy water and dry them thoroughly.
  • Season the hotplates. Some manufacturers recommend seasoning the hotplates by coating them with vegetable oil and turning on all burners on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes.

How to clean your barbecue after each use

When you're busy entertaining, it can be tempting to turn off the BBQ and walk away to enjoy your sizzling hot meat, promising yourself you'll return to clean it before dessert. If this sounds like you, then you'll know that when you eventually get back to the BBQ you'll spend twice as long getting it clean.

  • It's always best to clean the BBQ while it's warm. Quickly scrape down the BBQ with a non-scratch scrubber (while it's warm it'll be easy to scrape). 
  • Place a stainless steel bowl of water in the BBQ, turn the burner to low, close the hood and walk away to enjoy your meal. Now here's the important part – don't forget to return once you've finished eating. The steam created will make it easy to wipe under the hood, hotplates and side panels with a paper towel.
  • Don't wash the hotplate in an attempt to make it look like new. You actually need the fat/grease from the previous cook to protect your hotplate from rust.
  • Simply scrape food particles and excess oil from the hotplate. You can even wipe over with a paper towel but don't remove all the oil.
  • If you have to see the BBQ sparkly clean, remember you'll need to re-season the hotplates with oil to protect them from rust.
  • If you live near the ocean your cast iron hotplates will be more prone to rusting. You may want to consider a BBQ with stainless steel or enamel hotplates instead.
  • Check the drip tray. If necessary, remove and replace the foil and fat absorbent material.

Cleaning the outside of your BBQ

Keeping the outside of your BBQ clean is equally as important as the inside. An exterior with an enamel coating will be much easier to wipe over and keep clean. A stainless steel exterior can be difficult to clean and more prone to rusting and tea staining (a brown discolouration that appears where the surface is hottest, like inside the hood), despite how well you protect it from the elements. Here are our tips.

  • Clean stainless steel exteriors with hot water and vinegar or a stainless steel cleaner.
  • Reduce tea staining by washing regularly with warm soapy water or a stainless steel cleaner.
  • Keep your BBQ under cover away from the elements.
  • Use a BBQ cover.
  • For fat splatters and fingerprints, use an all-purpose cleaner or warm soapy water.
  • For the side tables, hood and warming rack, clean with a sponge and warm soapy water or an all-purpose spray. Do not use an oven cleaner.

 Tips to minimise mess

  • Keep on top of it. Clean your BBQ after every use.
  • Never cover hotplates with foil.
  • If you're cooking a roast or marinated meats use a foil baking tray to minimise mess.
  • If you're cooking fish, seafood or other delicate foods, cook them in foil pouches.
  • Have you considered using Teflon-coated sheets? You can buy these in various sizes. They cover your hotplates and can be cleaned in the sink after use.
  • Line the drip tray with foil and cover with a fat-absorbing material or kitty litter. Alternatively, you can line the drip tray with small foil trays.
  • If you're cooking meat you only need to lightly coat the meat in oil before cooking. There's no need to oil the whole hotplate.

 How to give your barbecue a yearly clean

It's a good idea to give your BBQ a good clean and service once a year. Here are the steps to doing this yourself:

  • Remove all parts inside the BBQ.
  • Disconnect the gas supply and any electrical connections.
  • Clean the hotplates, char grill plates, flame diffusers and warmer racks by placing all parts in a tub of warm soapy water. Alternatively, you can use a BBQ cleaner.
  • Dry all parts thoroughly; coat them with cooking oil and burn off if necessary.
  • Stainless steel parts can be soaked in warm water and laundry powder for one hour before scrubbing with a scourer. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
  • You can use a pressure cleaner, but care needs to be taken to avoid burners and gas connection areas. You'll also need to use a degreaser first.
  • Leave the BBQ to dry thoroughly in the sun before assembling again.
  • Once assembled and the gas is connected, turn on the BBQ for 15 minutes and season the hotplates as recommended in the manufacturer's instructions.

If you're not up to the task there are some mobile services that'll come out to provide servicing, maintenance, cleaning and any repairs.