how to clean a pellet grill | Family Cuisine

The grills are easy to clean, and the pellets can be removed with a vacuum cleaner.
how to clean a pellet grill | Family Cuisine

As the weather gets warmer, you start daydreaming about rich smoked brisket and barbeque pulled pork. If you own a pellet grill or smoker, summertime probably means endless cookouts and family dinners on the patio. However, before you grab your tongs and spatula, you first have to get your pellet grill ready for the season with some cleaning.

Cleaning your pellet grill keeps your food tasting great and your BBQ operating properly. In this article, we will show you the best way to clean a pellet grill from its shiny exterior to its greasy grates. Use these pellet grill maintenance and cleaning tips to keep your smoker in top shape all season long.

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How To Clean A Pellet Smoker | How To Clean The Smokestack | How To Clean The Drip Bucket | How To Clean The Outside Of Your Grill | How To Clean The Inside Of Your Pellet Grill | Maintenance Tips

Why Cleaning Your Pellet Grill Is Important

why cleaning your pellet grill is important

Every time you use your pellet grill, it collects ash and grease. Over time, ash and grease build-up impacts how well your pellet smoker functions and can even shorten the lifespan of your grill. Here are a few reasons why cleaning your pellet smoker regularly is so important:

  • Keeps food clean: The more pellet ash that collects in your smoker, the more ash will circulate inside the smoker while you are cooking. A dirty smoker means your food will be dirty, too. When you are working on perfecting your baby back ribs recipe, you don’t want pellet ash to unintentionally become the secret ingredient.
  • Better temperature control: Keeping the inside of your pellet grill clean also allows better airflow, which results in better temperature control. If the ash builds up too much in the burn pot, it can reduce airflow through the burn pot and prevent an even burn that can affect your grill temperature, or even cause the fire to go out. Whether you are making smoked chicken wings for the hundredth time or trying out a new recipe, proper temperature control lets you produce the best results with your pellet grill.
  • Proper grill function: If you neglect to clean the burn pot in your pellet grill, ash build-up will eventually prevent the grill from lighting. While this can be annoying if you were about to start grilling for all of your friends at a cookout, giving your grill a thorough cleaning will usually return it to perfect condition. However, in the worst case scenario, a filthy pellet grill can become a serious problem — if your grease drain tube becomes clogged, it will back up into the grill, or it could cause a grease fire the next time you operate your grill. You’ll be left with scorched food, as well as ruining your top-notch wood pellet grill.

If you want to keep your pellet grill in top condition for years to come, proper BBQ maintenance and cleaning are essential.

How Often Should You Clean Your Grill?


How often you should clean your pellet grill depends on how often you use it. If you are a grill enthusiast and find yourself flipping burgers every night, you may want to perform a thorough clean about once a week. If you only grill every few weeks, you can clean your grill less often.

In general, you will want to deep clean your grill multiple times throughout the grilling season. Ideally, it’s best to keep up with your pellet grill maintenance. Being a procrastinator will only make the next cleaning worse. Smaller cleaning tasks can be performed every few weeks or weekly, depending on your grill use. Here is a basic grill cleaning schedule for how often to clean your grill:

  • Every few weeks: The grease drip tray inside your grill and your grill’s burn pot should be cleaned every few weeks. If your BBQ has an ash collection tray, it should also be emptied frequently. How often you clean the inside of your grill will depend heavily on how often you grill. Aim to clean the burn pot and grease drip tray about every three to five times you grill. Your pellet grill’s smokestack should be cleaned about every few weeks as well to ensure proper airflow.
  • Every time you grill: Every grilling session should begin or end with a good scrub of the grates. Cleaning dirty grill grates keeps your food tasting delicious and helps prevent excessive grease build-up. Our father’s always told us, “it’s just extra flavor” but that was because they cooked with propane and needed flavor. Grill grates also need to be cleaned while the BBQ is hot, so it is often easiest to clean the grates when you already have the grill on to cook. The grease drip bucket, grease drain tube, and exterior of the grill should be cleaned with every grilling session as well.

Helpful Hint: For easy cleanup, place heavy-duty aluminum foil, or get a pellet grill drip pan liner, on your drip tray.

To deep clean a grill, perform all of the cleaning tasks described above, taking extra time to really scrub and remove all grease build-up and scaling on the inside of the smoker. If you keep up with regular pellet smoker maintenance throughout the season, your grill will be more reliable for the next time you go to use it. Please consult your pellet grill manual for exact maintenance procedures or cleaning schedules.

What Can You Use to Clean Your Pellet Grill?


To clean your pellet smoker, you will need tools for scraping grease, removing ash and washing the surface of your BBQ. In general, you want to use a scraper that is not metal and not too abrasive so it will not scratch the surface of the grill. Use gentle cleaning cloths that are not so nice that you do not want them to get ruined from grease and smoke — because they will. Disposable soft rags are often a great choice for that reason.

Here is the complete list of what to clean your grill with:

  • A brush or scraper: A griddle scrape, plastic putty knife, wooden paint stirring stick or non-metallic bristle brush all work well. You may want to have a few small brushes to reach the nooks and crannies in your smoker, as well as larger brushes to quickly remove scaling from the walls of the chamber.
  • Rags and paper towels: Soft cleaning rags are perfect for wiping down and polishing the outside of your grill, while paper towels are often best for messier tasks like cleaning the grease bucket and grease drip tray.
  • Cleaning solution: For cleaning the outside of your pellet grill, stainless steel cleaner will make your grill shine or use a bbq grease cleaner. Biodegradable cleaners or non-toxic bbq degreasers are a great option for cleaning the inside of your grill. If you prefer a homemade grill cleaning solution for cleaning your pellet grill, warm water, and regular soap works well. We find using a bbq grease cleaner is best, but be sure your grill is cold before using.
  • Utility vacuum cleaner: A utility vacuum cleaner or shop vac is the easiest way to remove ash build-up from inside your pellet smoker. If you do not have a shop vac, you can use a handheld vacuum cleaner instead. An ash vac is a helpful tool as well. An ash vac is designed for finer ash particles and is heat resistant in case you get a hot ember in the vac.
  • Nitrile gloves: The higher gauge, nitrile gloves are an optional tool. It’s up to you if you want to keep your hands clean or if you don’t mind the rough look of sooty fingers.

The exact tools you choose for cleaning your grill will depend on your preferences and what you have available. Giving your pellet grill a good clean does not require any fancy tools, and you can often get the job done well with materials you already have around the house.

How to Clean a Pellet Smoker

How to clean a pellet smoker

Depending on the model of your pellet smoker, the process for cleaning your grill may differ slightly. However, this guide will provide the basic knowledge you need for how to clean your pellet smoker effectively.

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Before cleaning your pellet smoker, turn it off and unplug it. Aside from cleaning your pellet grill grates, which can be done when the grill is hot, all other cleaning tasks should be performed when your pellet grill is cold and disconnected from the power source. This prevents burns from hot surfaces or grease and protects both you and your pellet grill from harm.

You should also empty the hopper before performing any cleaning tasks that require water, soap or another liquid cleaner. If your wood pellets get wet, they can expand and clog the auger. To remove the pellets, simply use the quick dump and catch the pellets in a bucket.

Cleaning your pellet smoker can be a messy task if you haven’t done it in a while — if you just power-washed your patio and don’t want to risk getting grease on it, you may want to pull your grill into the driveway or garage before diving in.

After cleaning your pellet grill with any degreaser, make sure to burn it off for around 45 minutes at a high temp (above 400). Your pellet grill manual will provide exact procedures for burn off temps and times. It is often easiest to perform deep cleaning for the inside and outside of your pellet smoker at the same time.

How to Clean the Smokestack

how to clean the smokestack

With your grill completely cold, remove the cap from the smokestack. Using a brush or wooden scraper, scrape the inside of the smokestack to remove any residue. Use a rag or paper towel to wipe out any remaining soot and ash. Clean the chimney cap using a soft cloth with cleaner or bbq degreaser. Dry the cap completely before putting it back on the smokestack.

How to Clean the Grease Drip Bucket and Drain Tube


To clean the grease drain and bucket, remove the bucket when the grill is off. Use your scraper to remove any grease from the drain opening at the bottom of the grease drip tray. Scrape the inside of the drain tube that connects to the grease bucket and remove the excess grease with a paper towel.

Helpful hint: use a drip bucket liner or make your own with aluminum foil for fast and easy clean up.

Clean the grease bucket by scrubbing out the grease with a wooden or plastic scraper — because grease can be really messy, it is best not to use your nice nylon brush for this task. Empty the grease into a container you can throw away or directly into the trash. Grease cannot be poured down the drain or into a gutter. Make sure the grease is cooled entirely before throwing it away, as grease is flammable.

After dumping the grease bucket, you can also wash it with cleaner or soap and water. How dirty your grease drip bucket is will not affect how well your pellet grill functions, but if you empty your grease bucket often, it will be a lot easier to clean the next time.

If your pellet grill’s grease bucket is exposed to the weather, be sure to remove it after use, as rainwater can overflow the bucket causing grease to be spread on your deck.

How to Clean the Outside of Your Grill

For spot-cleaning the outside of your grill, you can simply use a dry cloth to remove grease marks, dust and dirt quickly. To perform a deep clean, use a soft cloth with soap and water, stainless steel cleaner or a bbq degreaser. Follow these steps to clean the outside of your BBQ:

  1. Make sure your grill is cold before spraying any cleaner on the outside of your grill.
  2. Apply your cleaner using a soft cloth or spray bottle. If spraying cleaner onto your pellet grill, be very careful not to get any inside of your grill. Avoid spraying stainless steel cleaner onto plastic components as it can cause them to degrade more quickly.
  3. Allow the cleaner to sit for at least 30 seconds to break down any dried grease or food residue.
  4. Wipe the cleaner off with a clean cloth or paper towel. If cleaning a stainless steel BBQ, wipe in the same direction as the grain. If your smoker has a painted surface, wipe in circles.
  5. Repeat this process as necessary until all of the dirt and grime is removed.
  6. Using a wet cloth, wipe down the surface of the grill to remove all remaining cleaner or soap residue. Do not rinse your pellet grill with a hose or bucket as water can get into the grill or hopper and cause damage its electrical components or ruin the pellets.

Always unplug your pellet grill from its power source before cleaning it with water or liquid cleaner and allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before your next grilling session. Empty your wood pellets from the hopper before cleaning and check that there is no water or cleaner in the hopper before putting the pellets back in.

How to Clean the Inside of Your Pellet Grill


It is often easiest to clean the inside of your grill at the same time as the outside because your grill will already be unplugged, cold and emptied of wood pellets. Cleaning the inside of your pellet smoker involves several steps to ensure proper pellet grill maintenance, including cleaning the grease drip tray, vacuuming and scraping the burn pot and scrubbing the grill grates.

1. Grease Drip Tray

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To clean the grease drip tray, first remove the grill grates and any extra cooking racks. Use a griddle scraper to scrub grease off of the surface of the tray and remove the scrubbed grease using a paper towel. Wipe the grease drip tray clean using a cloth or paper towel. If you want to clean your grease drip tray with soapy water or liquid cleaner, remove the tray from the BBQ first. Dry the tray completely before putting it back into your pellet smoker.

2. Burn Pot

Regular pellet grill ash clean-out keeps your smoker operating in top condition. A clean smoker provides even cooking and produce the best tasting pulled pork, ribs, and grilled veggies — or anything else you want to cook.

To clean your burn pot, first remove the grease drip tray and heat deflector to access the burn pot. Pay attention to how they are installed so you can put them back in when you are done. The burn pot will often have a lot of ash build-up and debris that you will need to remove. The simplest way to clean your pellet smoker’s burn pot is with a vacuum cleaner or ash vac. Use the hose to suck out all the ash and then wipe away any remaining ash or soot using a clean rag.

When deep cleaning your pellet grill after winter, you can take this a few steps further and scrub the interior walls of the smoker to remove any accumulated grease or dirt. After vacuuming the ash, use a scraper with a flat edge to dislodge scale from the sides of the smoker chamber. Scrub the loosened dirt with a non-metallic brush and wipe the fire pot with a clean cloth.

You can use a damp cloth to wipe the interior of the grill, but never put water directly into the burn pot. Use caution not to damage the electric elements and allow the grill to dry completely before use. Once your burn pot is clean, replace the heat deflector, drip tray, and grates.

If your grill is equipped with an ash container, now is a great time to empty it. Ash collection systems make it easy to remove ash build-up and allow you to clean your burn pot less often, as they collect much of the ash that normally builds up inside your pellet smoker.

3. Grill Grates

Cleaning your pellet smoker grates every time you use your grill keeps your food tasting delicious and fresh so your cookout guests are always satisfied. There are two ways to clean your grill grates; cold or hot. Follow these steps for how to clean your grill before or after use:

Cold Method (Before Cooking):

  1. Ensure your grill is unplugged and cool:
  2. Remove grates from grill and clean with bbq degreaser or soap and water. Some pellet grills may have dishwasher safe grates. If not, they can be cleaned in a sink or with a pressure washer or garden hose. If they are painted, be careful with using a pressure washer.
  3. Scrub the grates thoroughly: Use a brush or spatula to scrub the grates to remove any residue that remains.

Hot Method (After Cooking):

  1. Set your grill to the highest temperature: Grill grates are easiest to clean when they are hot — and your grill will do most of the work for you. After you cook, turn your grill to the highest temperature and allow it to heat up completely.
  2. Do a burn off: Wait 10 to 15 minutes to let your grill burn away the remaining food and grease on the grill grates. Performing a burn off loosens any stuck-on grease and makes it easy to scrape off the ash.
  3. Scrub the grates thoroughly: Use a brush or spatula to scrub the grates to remove any residue that remains. Because the grill will be hot, it is best to use a long-handled brush or scraper. You may also choose to clean your grill grates while wearing an oven mitt or grill glove to prevent burns.

BBQ Maintenance Tips


By now you’re probably itching to head outside and get your grill cleaned for the season, but here are just a few more pellet smoker cleaning tips for how to keep your grill clean all summer long:

  • Keep the inside of your grill dry: A pellet grill contains electrical components — such as the digital controller, auger motor, igniter and fan — that can be damaged by water or moisture. Avoid using water or liquid cleaner inside your grill as much as possible, and if you choose to use a liquid cleaning solution, apply it carefully with a damp cloth. Never spray or dump water directly into your pellet smoker or the smokestack.
  • Use tin foil for easier cleaning: One of the best BBQ cleaning tips is to use tin foil to make your job easier. If you do not want to scrub out your grease drip tray and grease bucket all the time, you can line them both with heavy tin foil. Whenever your grease drip tray gets dirty, you can simply remove and replace the foil. When adding tin foil to your grill, clean the tray first before wrapping it in foil.
  • Purchase a grill cover: A pellet grill cover will protect the outside of your grill from dirt and rain that can damage grill components. Grill covers are particularly helpful for preventing your wood pellets from getting wet and clogging the auger.
  • Store your grill in a dry place: While you will certainly keep your grill outside and ready to go all summer long, you should aim to keep it out of the rain and away from moisture as much as possible. Try to pull your grill under cover on rainy days, such as onto your porch or into your garage. During winter, store your grill inside if possible to keep it away from snow, moisture, and animals
  • Use high-quality wood pellets: BBQ pellets already offer the benefit of producing less ash than charcoal or firewood because they burn more efficiently. High-quality cooking pellets made from 100% wood will produce even less ash to keep your grill clean all summer long.

By following these pellet grill cleaning and maintenance tips, you can keep your pellet grill in top condition for years to come. Regularly cleaning your pellet grill lets you enjoy the best-tasting food, whether it is grilled, smoked, roasted or barbequed.

Choose BBQ Pellets From Energex


Now that your pellet grill is cleaned and ready for the season, it’s time to start cooking. High-quality BBQ pellets create the ultimate grilling experience, while also helping keep your grill clean. BBQ pellets made from 100% hardwood produce less ash build-up in your BBQ while providing the rich, smoky flavor you love.

Energex is proud to supply Ol’ Hick cooking wood pellets made from 100% hickory and 100% applewood. For even more flavor, our Jim Beam Bourbon Barrel Cooking Pellets are made with genuine Jim Beam bourbon barrels to take your grilling or smoking to the next level. Ol’ Hick BBQ pellets heat up quickly and clean up easily, making your grilling season fun, easy and full of flavor.

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