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Pellet Grill Cleaning & Maintenance

The pellet grill is a technically complicated machine that is equipped with plenty of electronics which is why one should know how to properly clean a pellet smoker in order not to have problems with the electrics when trying to start the grill.

Of course I have to admit without a doubt that everyone has to clean a pellet grill. It is an activity that consists of multiple stages depending on how dirty particular elements of the grill are. There’s plenty of activities that you have to perform regularly after or before each cooking, but there are also responsibilities that one only has to fulfill once or twice a year depending on how dirty it is.

Fortunately it is an easy task, all you have to do is control how dirty the grill is once in a while in order to quickly make a decision to clean it when need arises.

Why Clean a Pellet grill ?

Well… to make it clean, but let’s think deeper about that.

Would you like to cook food on a very dirty grill where the grates are covered with few weeks worth of grease and food remains? It’s not just about how it looks, but mostly about the flavor of food and proper functioning.

Pellets generate ash, which can also clog plenty of holes in the grill, which might have a negative impact on functioning of the entire grill.

A regularly cleaned grill not only looks great, but also works much better. On top of that, by cleaning a grill regularly and keeping it in a great shape, you significantly extend its lifetime.

How to clean a Pellet Smoker & Grill

Like I mentioned above, it is an activity that consists of several stages depending on how dirty the grill is. The below instructions might differ slightly depending on what grill model you have but everything will be similar enough for you to figure out on your own what to do with a pellet grill that differs significantly.

How often to clean a pellet grill? That also depends on what exactly you want to clean and obviously on how dirty individual elements are.

In order to answer as many of the most asked questions as possible, I split the cleaning into several stages so that it is easier for you to understand what, where and how often to clean your pellet smoker.

Proper and Regular Cleaning – How and When ?

First I’d like to once again point out that the pellet smoker is a device that is equipped with plenty of electronics. It means that the grill has to be always dry on the inside and most of the time it cannot be cleaned with a lot of water as it may get the electric elements wet. As everyone knows, electronics hate humidity which is why it is very important that the grill remains dry.

If you cleaned your grill without knowing it and water got into important electric components of the grill, then your only solution is not to touch the grill for at least 24 hours and wait for it to get all dry. Then before you start it, make absolutely sure if there isn’t any water.

Cleaning the grill grates – regularly before or after each cooking

clean grill grates benefits

It is a very important activity that has to be performed regularly. After each cooking, there are grease and food remains left on the surface of the grill grates, which have a bad impact on the flavor during the next cooking if the grates are dirty.

It is the best to clean the grill grates before each cooking ( you can also do it after you’re done cooking ). Before the cooking, however, all you have to do is warm up the grill up to at least 200-300 degrees F, close the lid and wait for about 10 minutes for high temperature to burn the grease and food remains. Then grab a brush in your hand and clean the grill grates thoroughly of any remaining stains.

That’s all, as you can see, it is a very simple activity that should really be performed regularly. Do not use any chemical agents or water, just warm up the grill and clean the grates with a brush, and the temperature will burn off the remaining stains – I assure you that there is no better way to clean grill grates.

Cleaning other important elements inside the grill

Among such elements are the Fire Pot and the Drip Tray. Most grills are equipped with a special ash removal system, monitor the state of the ash container and empty it when it’s almost full.

On the inside of the pellet grill, on the other hand, make sure that the Fire Pot and the Drip Tray are clean once in a while, just check after few parties how the drip tray looks as well as the area below it.

Drip Tray

drip tray pellet grill

In order to get to the drip tray, you need to remove the grill grates.

Once you take them off, you will get access to the whole drip tray that is likely very dirty. During each cooking, the grease from the food goes down straight to the drip tray where over time a lot of it gets accumulated.

The dried-up grease is hard to remove which is why it will help to use a special griddle scraper. Use the scrapper to get rid of the grease on the tray, and then wipe the surface with paper towels and you’re done.

A tip!

You want to get rid of the grease accumulating during each cooking in a much easier and faster way? All you have to do is put on thick tinfoil all over the drip tray’s surface. Thick tinfoil is durable, immune to high temperatures and cheap.

This time, the grease and food remains will fall down onto the tinfoil that only has to be replaced with a new one once in a while. That way you will save yourself a lot of time and won’t have to get your hands dirty scrubbing old dried-up grease.

Fire Pot

use vacuum to clean pellet grill

Then after the drip tray is clean, you can move on to cleaning the fire pot. All you have to do is remove the drip tray and the heat deflector in order to get access to the bottom part of the grill where the pellets are burned. This is where a lot of ash gets accumulated, which once in a while has to be removed so that it doesn’t cause problems with functioning of the grill.

The easiest way to get rid of all ash fast and easily is to use a vacuum cleaner.

It should preferably be a smaller, convenient vacuum cleaner that will let you remove ash from the entire interior of the grill. After you’re done, just put all the elements back where they were ( heat deflector, drip tray and grill grates ).

Cleaning the exterior of the grill – every few months

You want your grill to shine on the outside like it was new? All you have to do is clean it once in a while with a damp cloth, and then wipe it with a paper towel and make sure it’s dry. Don’t use big quantities of water for cleaning, the best thing for that is a damp cloth.

How often to clean it ? There is no fixed rule here, just clean your grill when you feel like it’s dirty. Grills are definitely cleaned more often by those who keep their grill outside without a cover, which makes a grill get dirty much faster. I recommend buying a cover that will protect the grill not only from getting dirty but also from harmful influence of rain and sun. A good cover will keep your grill clean for much longer.

Remember not to clean the inside of the grill with water – the above instruction only refers to cleaning the outside of a grill.

The Grease Container ( The Bucket )

You would never want to get burned with hot grease, which is why you should start by making sure that the grill is cold before you get to cleaning the bucket.

Remove the bucket and check out the drainage on the bottom part of the drip tray, clean it of the remains of dried-up grease using a gentle tool so that it doesn’t scratch the surface of the tray. Then empty the bucket of grease, which is where you could also use a wooden or plastic scrapper in order to get rid of the dried-up grease fast and easily. In the next step, clean the bucket and hang it back where it was.

It is an activity to be performed once in a while, usually when there’s a visible problem with grease drainage or there’s simply a lot of dried-up grease in the bucket already.

grease bucket

The Chimney – 1-2 times a year

You’ll be surprised when you see how very dirty the chimney can be after few months of cooking on a pellet grill. Once in a while you should remove the chimney’s cap and clean the inside of the chimney with a brush and wipe it with a damp cloth.

Thorough cleaning of the entire pellet grill – 1-2 times a season

deep cleaning pellet smoker

If you hate cleaning then the best solution will be to perform a thorough cleaning of your pellet grill right after the end of bbq season or simply once a year ( alternatively more often if you really cook a lot on the grill ).

Such thorough cleaning of a pellet grill is a combination of all the above methods.

Remember about one very important thing – if you’re cleaning your grill with water then make sure several times that it is 100% dry. To make sure, leave the grill for at least 24 hours to dry and before starting it again carefully check the inside for any water left. Why? The pellet grill has plenty of electronics that breaks down upon contact with water which makes it important for the grill to always be dry.

Before cleaning, unplug the pellet grill from the socket and empty the pellets container. Then remove the ash from the container if your grill is equipped with an ash removal system.

Open the lid of the grill and remove the grill grates, then take off the drip tray ( you can also clean it using the above method ), the next task is to remove the heat deflector which will give an access to the bottom inside of the grill. Now you can clean the bottom chamber of the grill around the fire pot of ash using a vacuum cleaner.

Thorough cleaning requires cleaning of the internal walls of the grill, for that purpose grab a gentle wooden or plastic scrapper and scrub off the remains of grease and other stains from the internal walls of the grill. Then wipe the walls with a damp cloth and dry them with a paper towel. ( Do not use metal scrappers and brushes as that way you can easily and quickly scratch the internal walls of the grill ).

After cleaning the inside of the grill, make sure that there’s no water anywhere and put all the elements back where they were ( heat deflector, drip tray, grill grates etc ).

Now you can clean the external part of the grill, just grab a damp cloth and clean the entire grill and then wipe it with paper towels in order to collect the excess water and remains of dirt.

If you used bigger amounts of water then make sure that you wiped it with paper towels so that the water doesn’t get trapped inside the grill. It is necessary after each cleaning for the grill to be 100% clean so that there are no complications when trying to start the grill after the cleaning. ( It is the best to wait for at least 24 hours until the grill dries ).

How to take better care of a pellet grill?

You should definitely buy a grill cover and keep the grill in a dry place. A good cover protects your grill from harmful influence of external factors like weather or anything else. 

It keeps your grill in a great condition by protecting it from getting dirty which means that you won’t have to do a thorough cleaning of the grill that often.

It is not an expensive investment, and it’s very profitable especially for those who keep their grill outside.

take care of a pellet grill

You need to know that if the grill is kept in humid conditions ( especially without a cover ) then the pellets inside the container might be wet. You can’t start a grill with wet pellets as it might result in blocking the spinning spiral, the purpose of which is to add pellets to the fire in order to maintain the temperature you chose.

So remember about the basic activities like cleaning the grill grates and ash removal and once every few months clean the less important elements of the grill. That way you will extend the lifetime of your grill significantly and will be sure that the grill will continue functioning properly. Let me remind you once again not to clean the inside of a pellet grill with water and to get a very important cover.

However if you are looking for new pellet grill I recommend you read my article where you can see what I thought of the best pellet smokers for beginners and advanced bbq masters. In any case, remember to keep your grill clean! In this way, you will extend lifetime of your grill, which is very important if you invest a lot of money.