How to Clean a Pellet Grill
Pellet grills are designed to basically run themselves, with precise temperature settings and even pre-programmed recipes on high-end models. Unfortunately, they don’t come with a setting for self-cleaning — that’s all on you.
Though it may seem like a chore, cleaning a pellet smoker isn’t all that difficult or time-consuming. In fact, we encourage you to get in the habit of cleaning at least your grill grates after every cook so leftover food debris and grease don’t eat away at them.
To do so, turn your pellet grill to its highest heat setting, close the lid, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. The high heat will convert all the stuck-on, caramelized food into carbon, which is much easier to scrub off the grates. Once this 10-minute “burn-off” process is complete, just do the following:
Turn the grill to a moderate temperature setting of about 250–300 degrees Fahrenheit
Open the lid and let the temperature come down
Using either a grill brush or loosely wadded ball of paper towels held in tongs, scrub each grate back to front once
Go back over any particularly sticky spots with the brush or foil
It’s safe to use a stainless steel brush on grill grates made from the same material, but be sure to have a nylon-bristle brush handy when cleaning porcelain-coated grates. This is because the stiffness of stainless steel bristles can damage the porcelain coating on your grates.
You’ve got the grill grates taken care of, but there’s far more to cleaning a pellet smoker than just the cooking surface. Who’s ready for a deep clean?
Deep-Cleaning a Pellet Grill
As with any other grill, it’s crucial to make sure the unit has completely cooled and is disconnected from its fuel source before attempting to remove and clean internal parts (that means your pellet grill must be unplugged). Barely lit embers and hot ash can hang around the body of your pellet smoker after the shutdown cycle, so it wouldn’t be unwise to give your grill a whole day to cool down before starting the deep-cleaning routine.
Your grill grates should already be cleaned, so take them out and set them aside. Next, remove the heat diffusers and other internal components, placing them off to the side as well. This will give you access to the entire grill body and the fire pot, both of which need to be cleared of ash. To do this, either scoop the ashes into a non-combustible container, or use a shop vac or specially designed ash vac to pull them all out of the grill. It’s extremely important that the fire pot is thoroughly cleaned because ash can coat the hot rod ignitor, creating a layer of insulation that makes lighting your pellet grill needlessly difficult.
Cleaning the internal components of your pellet smoker is easy as scrubbing with hot water, mild dish detergent, and a sponge. If your heat diffusers are particularly grimy, go at them with your grill brush before using soapy water. The soapy sponge can also be used on the interior of your grill if you choose, but make sure your pellet hopper is empty so your fuel doesn’t get wet and become unusable. Make sure all inner components are completely dry before returning them to your pellet grill in reverse order of how you took them out.
Now all that’s left is the exterior of your pellet smoker, which may be covered in dust and grime. Simply wipe the exterior with a damp towel, being sure to wipe with the grain if your unit has a stainless steel exterior. Never use chlorides, bleach, or caustic cleaners on any part of your pellet grill — these chemicals can do serious damage in the form of corrosion. And, as usual, check your owner’s manual to see if you should be following any specific cleaning instructions in addition to what’s listed here.
If you’re an avid griller, it’s a good idea to perform a deep clean on your pellet grill once every 2–3 months. Occasional outdoor chefs, on the other hand, may be able to get away with an all-over clean once a year. Either way, establishing a routine for pellet smoker cleaning will help extend the life of your unit and protect your investment.
We’ll get with our manufacturing friends to see if they can start working on a self-cleaning model. In the meantime, you keep taking care of your pellet grill!