Longer grill lives, more cookouts, better-tasting meals, and fewer repair bills are just a few benefits of learning how to clean and maintain your wood pellet grill.
Whether you grill, smoke, or convection bake, general use will leave food debris, grease, and ash over time.
Left unattended, this can result in annoying and expensive consequences, such as uneven cooking, rust, corrosion, and, in some cases, even the structural integrity of your grill.
Fortunately, regular cleaning and maintenance will help avoid all of this, which is exactly why we’re covering the topic in detail today!
Common mistakes to avoid when cleaning your pellet grill
Before getting to the nuts and bolts of cleaning and maintaining your pellet grill, it’s worth first going over common mistakes to avoid.
Here are some big ones you’ll want to avoid:
- Not letting your grill cool down completely: While some parts of your grill can be cleaned while hot (grates with a brush, for example), attempting to deep clean it while still hot can result in serious injury or damage to your grill.
- Using the wrong tools: Abrasive tools like wire brushes with hard bristles can damage the surface of your grill grates or even leave dangerous metal bristles behind.
- Using harsh chemicals: Harsh chemicals, such as bleach or chlorine, can damage the exterior of your grill, create toxic fumes that are harmful to inhale, and get into the food you cook.
Tools and cleaning agents you’ll need
With those common mistakes out of the way, let’s take a look at what tools and cleaning agents you’ll need to properly clean your pellet grill.
Here’s a basic checklist of everything you’ll want to gather:
- Grill brush (with durable, non-damaging brushes or bristles)
- Dish soap (or other non-toxic cleaning agents, ideally made with natural ingredients)
- Bucket of warm water
- Separate buckets for debris (such as ash) and non-debris (such as emptied wood pellets)
- Paper towels or reusable cloth, some for washing and some for drying
- Rubber gloves
- Shop vac or regular vacuum (to remove ash from the fire pot and other internal components)
This list will apply to most Traeger grills, but be sure to check your specific grill’s owner’s manual for any specific cleaning instructions or recommendations.
How to prepare your pellet grill for a deep clean
Other than collecting the right materials, you want to prep your grill for as effective and safe a clean as possible.
First, empty all pellets from your hopper.
Ensure your grill is turned off, disconnected from a power source, and completely cool to the touch.
You may want to move your grill before cleaning; you might want to avoid getting debris on your patio or wherever else you usually do your grilling.
Finally, if you don’t know already, familiarise yourself with how wood pellet grills work. This will help you more methodically take apart and put back together everything.
How to clean the inside of your grill
With your cleaning materials at your side and your grill properly prepared, now we can get to cleaning, starting with the inside of your grill.
Inside your grill, outside of your grill’s cover (which you can simply apply soap and water to), you’re going to want to focus mainly on cleaning the following areas:
- grease drip tray
- fire pot
- grill grates
For help removing or gaining access to these areas of your grill, refer to your owner’s manual.
Cleaning your grill grease drip tray
Remove the grill grates and other cooking racks in your grill to gain access to your grease drip tray. Then, remove it from the grill.
Once removed, clean the tray using any combination of vacuum, soapy water, washcloth, and grill brush that makes the most sense. Let it dry completely.
Cleaning your fire pot
Remove the grease drip tray and heat deflector to access the pot. Carefully remove all the ash from the firepot using a vacuum cleaner, ash vac, or any other convenient method.
Afterward, use a clean rag, paper towel, or scraper to remove any remaining ash, soot, or dirt. Avoid using water to clean your fire pot, as you want to avoid adding moisture anywhere along your grill’s pellet-to-firepot process.
Also, if your grill has an ash container, now is a great time to empty it.
Cleaning your grill grates
Now the part of your grill that takes the biggest beating: the grill grates. These are the only part of your grill that can be cleaned while hot (for example, giving them a good scrub down with a brush after a cook).
But if you want to do a deep clean, it’s still best to clean them cold. For this, you’ll have to remove them from your grill.
Then, you can throw them in a sink with soap water, hose them down with your garden hose, or wash them in whatever other way makes sense.
If your grates are painted, you should take a more gentle approach when washing them, such as letting them soak in a cleaning agent and washing the debris off with a softer dish sponge. For non-painted grates, a hard scrubbing with soapy water in your backyard ought to do the job.
Cleaning your smokestack
Despite its role in helping ensure proper ventilation and prevent fire hazards, one area that often gets missed in grill deep cleans is the smokestack.
To clean your smokestack, remove the cap from the top of the stack and detach it from the grill if possible. Brushing in a downward motion, use a chimney brush or a long, flexible brush to scrape off any residue or ash buildup from the inside walls of the stack.
Next, use a rag or paper towel to remove any remaining residue. If you notice stubborn buildup that won't come off with a brush, you can use a shop vac to suck out the debris.
Once you have removed all the debris, wipe the cap and reattach it to the grill.
How to clean the outside of your grill
The inside of your grill is where the magic happens, but that doesn’t mean the outside of your grill shouldn’t get equal TLC!
To help keep your grill looking its best next to the rest of your outdoor decor, simply wipe it down with a damp towel, or with a cleaning agent if it’s particularly dirty. Be sure to wipe with the grain if it’s stainless steel.
If you’re using a cleaning agent, avoid using harsh chemicals like chlorides, bleach, or acidic cleaners, which can cause corrosion. If there is any stubborn grime or buildup on your grill’s exterior, use a mild degreaser or stainless steel cleaner.
How to maintain your pellet grill between cleans
If that sounds like a lot (we promise you, it’s not!), we’ve got good news; the better you maintain your grill, the less you’ll have to roll up your sleeves for a deep clean.
Here’s an easy maintenance protocol to follow:
- Clean your grates after each use: Turn up the heat after your cooking is done, wait 10-15 minutes for debris to burn off, and give your grates a good scrub before calling it a night.
- Check the fire pot and internal components for any ash buildup before each use: Doing this can help you avoid the debris build-up that necessitates a deep clean.
- Empty the drip tray every few cooks: This never lets grease build up to a point where it’s a problem. (You can also line your drip tray with aluminum foil for easier cleanup).
- Cover your grill between uses: With the help of Traeger grill covers, protect your grill from the elements and help prevent rust and corrosion.
- Properly store it outside of cooking season: Keep your grill in your garage, back shed, or other inside storage areas to protect it from seasonal elements.
Following this protocol will help keep deep cleaning to a minimum, keep your grill in perfect working order, and maintain its value down the road.
Get started with wood pellet grills today
That’s that! Hopefully, now that you know how to clean a pellet grill, you can confidently enter the grilling season.
To learn more about pellet grills, including how to pick one that best suits your lifestyle, needs, and budget, read through our Traeger buyer’s guide.