Pellet grills have taken over the barbecue world thanks to their ease of use.
While you can leave a pork butt or brisket smoking overnight while you sleep like a baby, you’ll still need to regularly clean your pellet grill to keep it running well and avoid potentially expensive issues.
Cleaning a pellet grill doesn’t have to be a chore, and if you make it a habit every few cooks, it will only take 10 – 15 minutes to complete.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to clean and maintain your pellet grill for long-lasting and efficient performance.
What you need to clean a pellet grill
If not maintained, the performance of the grill can suffer, causing more dirt and ash build-up with less than ideal combustion.
There are some items that help make cleaning a pellet grill much easier. In the long run, it’s worth investing in grill cleaning tools, especially if you’re an avid cook.
I’m cleaning the Z Grills 700D4E in this example, but the instructions will be the same for any pellet grill.
Recommended items for cleaning a pellet grill:
- Grill brush – If your grill grates are porcelain-coated, you want to make sure you use a nylon bristle grill brush. Steel bristles can scrape and remove the porcelain coating.
- Heat resistant gloves
- Warm water
- Mild dish detergent
- Metal or silicone scraper
- Rag, cloth or paper towel
If you don’t have access to a shop vac, you can use a small brush and dustpan to remove most of the ash in the cooking chamber, but you won’t be able to clean out all the ash, especially the ash in the firepot.
We highly recommend using a shop vac for ash removal.
How to clean a pellet grill step by step
Next, we’ll go over how to clean your pellet grill to keep it in good working order.
1. Clean the grill grates and heat diffuser
You should be cleaning the grates after each use, getting any leftover food particles burnt off and ready for the next cook.
To burn off any food stuck to the grates, turn the grill to the highest setting and close the lid. Let it run for about 10 minutes, burning all the food particles into carbon.
I try and do this at the end of each cooking session after I take my food off while I’m getting everything ready. Just remember to turn your grill off when you’re done!
After a ten minute burn-off, follow the steps below:
- Open the grill lid.
- Turn temperature down to 300°F.
- Scrub grates with a grill brush, back to front.
- Use a wet, wadded up paper towel or dedicated grill cloth held in tongs to deglaze hard stuck-on food then brush again.
- If your grates are cast iron, oil them with a greased up paper towel held in tongs.
With the grill open, the process is similar for the heat diffuser:
- Remove grill grates and set aside (use heat-resistant gloves for this task or remove them before starting the ten minute burn off).
- Wipe diffuser down with a wet sponge, deglazing any stuck-on foods.
- Use a metal or silicone scraper for hard-to-get-off particles.
- Wipe down again with wet sponge or paper towel.
- Turn off the heat.
You might want to wrap a metal scraper with a paper towel to prevent scratching the heat diffuser. Most pellet manufacturers recommended wrapping the diffuser with foil for easy disposal and clean-up.
2. Cleaning the pellet grill cooking chamber
With the grates clean, it’s time to deep clean the cooking chamber.
Pellet combustion leaves small amounts of ash throughout the cooking chamber, and can build up over time. This can cause issues with your grill from bad airflow to the inability to ignite.
To prevent this, we’ll remove all internal components, clean up any ash and stuck-on grime, and wipe down the inside.
Follow the steps below to clean the cooking chamber of a pellet grill:
- Make sure the grill is completely cooled down and unplugged.
- Remove grill grates and set aside.
- Remove heat diffuser and other internal components and set aside.
- With the cook chamber and firepot exposed, use a shop vac to clear the built-up ash
- Vacuum out the firepot.
- Make sure the igniter rod is free of debris or stuck on material.
- Wipe down the cooking chamber with a paper towel or cloth. If it’s especially grimy, you can wipe down with a wet sponge and mild dish detergent. Be sure to wipe dry afterward.
- Be sure all components are dry before reassembling in reverse order of removal.
3. Cleaning the exterior of a pellet grill
With the interior clean, we only have the exterior left to do. The ash and splatter can do a number on the outside of a pellet grill if not maintained.
Follow the steps below:
- With the lid closed, wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth – wipe along the grain to prevent streaking especially in stainless steel models.
- If grease persists, use a non-caustic cleaning spray or light detergent and quickly wipe off with a cloth or paper towel.
- Wipe dry with a separate clean cloth.
If using a separate cleaner, be sure it doesn’t contain bleach and that it is non-caustic. These cleaners can strip the outermost coatings of the grill parts and cause corrosion and other damage.
Wrapping it up
If you use your pellet grill regularly, it’s a good idea to do a full cleaning once every 2 months or so to keep it running smoothly. If you notice any dips in performance, perform a full cleaning then test again to see if the built-up ash was the cause.
If you only cook occasionally, once-a-season cleaning may be all you need to maintain the grill and keep it in good working order.
Whatever the case, it’s good to get in a good cleaning cadence with your grill to protect your investment and extend its working life.