In many cases, a pellet grill is quite a significant investment, hence, if you own a pellet/grill smoker you want to keep it in the best condition possible. Not only so its working at peak efficiency to produce the best-flavoured food possible, but also for safety reasons. Grease fires can be avoided through proper cleaning/inspections as I discuss in my article on when to clean a pellet grill. Furthermore, for the pellet burner within the grill to work effectively you need to clean out excessive dust (fines) which have built up to make sure the firepot air inlets are clear. Therefore, with this post, I wanted to cover some of the best tips and videos I’ve come across on how to properly clean a pellet grill/smoker.
In many cases, a pellet grill is a significant investment. Therefore, you want to know how to properly clean your grill to get the most out of it and to be able to use it safely: Image – Amazon.com
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
While I have a lot of experience and knowledge about making and using wood pellets as you can see through my about page, I’m no ‘pellet grill master!’. However, I’ve now burnt literally hundreds of tons of wood pellets in my pellet boiler since 2007. I manually clean/service that boiler myself every year. So I know how important it is to properly inspect pellet feed augers, burn pots and temperature probes.
Therefore, while I’ve referenced several videos below from various pellet grill experts on how to clean the cooking surfaces of the grill/smoker, I’m also going to be providing feedback on how and why its important to clean out the pellet hopper, auger, burn pot and temperature probe. Please feel free to use the Table of Contents below to jump to either the quick guide or deep clean guide on how to clean a pellet grill.
Quick Guide on How To Clean A Pellet Grill
Now, its unlikely you would need to be cleaning your grill to a significant extent after every use. Most likely a quick wipe down with a suitable degreaser and you would be able to use your pellet grill 5-6 times before it needs a more invasive clean. Once or twice a cooking season you will want to do a full-on/deep clean, that’s covered further down in the post.
However, in between, you should still be giving the grill a quick once over, as a quick clean is better than no clean at all. Therefore, the first video I want to reference on how to clean a pellet grill is a video that is less than 2 minutes long is from Traeger. As many people still consider Traeger’s the best pellet grills available. Though the general cleaning process is applicable to any other brand/make of pellet grill.
In the video above you will see that Traegers own all-natural degreaser is used. From the various videos I’ve seen and the reviews I’ve read, it does appear to be a pretty good food-grade and non-abrasive cleaner. I’ve referenced it in the past in my post on the best Traeger grill accessories. However, there are other grill degreasing agents available which I’ll discuss below. For this quick guide I’ll reference the steps covered in the video above:
- Equipment Required
- Shop/Ash Vaccum Cleaner
- Paper Towels and Degreasing Agent/Grease Cleaner
- Nylon Grill Brush, Scouring Pad and Disposable Gloves
- New Drip Tray Liners and Grease Bucket Liners
- Spray the grill racks and chimney interior with the grease cleaner.
- Remove the grill racks and rub down with a scouring pad.
- Then wipe down the grill racks with paper towel to remove the grease.
- Fold up and dispose of the old foil drip tray liner.
- Then remove the drip tray and burn pot heat baffle.
- Use a shop/ash vac to clean out the bottom of the pellet grill.
- Then use the nylon brush to clean inside of the chimney/flue.
- Spray the interior and exterior surfaces of the grill with grease cleaner.
- After a couple of minutes, use paper towels to clean off the grills surfaces.
- Then reinsert the heat baffle and drip tray.
- Insert a new drip tray liner and grease bucket liner.
- Finally, put back in the grill racks and you’re done!
Traegers own brand grill cleaner will do a good job of cleaning your grill. However, there are also cheaper alternatives referenced below: Image – Amazon.com
Problems With Traegers How To Clean A Pellet Grill Process
As a quick video on how to clean a pellet grill that only needs a light clean, I think the Traeger video above is sufficient. However, if the grill needs a deep clean I don’t think it provides enough detail. Furthermore, the order of the cleaning process is not ideal for a grill thick in grease, which I’ll discuss more below.
The video also doesn’t reference cleaning the pellet hopper/auger or giving the burn pot sufficient attention. Finally, the video doesn’t reference why a nylon brush/scouring pad should be used and never a metal grill brush. Therefore, below I’ve included another video that goes into a lot more detail on how to properly clean a pellet grill/smoker.
Detailed Guide On How To Deep Clean A Pellet Grill
After watching probably about 10 different videos on how to clean a pellet grill the best/most comprehensive video I found was from the YouTube channel Hey Grill Hey. Susie Bulloch has done a great video on the cleaning process she goes through and importantly the dos and dont’s of cleaning a pellet grill.
If you’re not careful, using the wrong cleaning agents/brushes could not only damage the grill it can actually damage you and your family. So please watch Susie’s video below. After I’ll discuss the various steps with a few more of my own points.
So there are a couple of differences you will notice between Susie’s video and the quick cleaning video above from Traeger. If your pellet grill is really dirty another essential tool is a putty knife or paint scraper. With thick layers of grease your not going to be able to simply wipe that off. Sure if you use loads of grease cleaner you could eventually.
However, that will cost you quite a bit in grease cleaner and take a long time too. So before you spray any grease cleaner, get a putty knife/paint scraper and remove all the thick layers of grease from around the interior of the grill. Start at the top and move to the bottom, it will all fall on the drip tray which you will later remove and clean.
5 in 1 paint scrapers can be useful to remove thick grease on the interior surfaces of the grill. But be very careful not to scratch any surfaces: Image – Amazon.com
Never Use A Metal Grill Brush On Porcelain Grill Racks
As Susie discusses in the video above, never use a metal grill brush on porcelain grill racks. Most pellet grills/smokers do have porcelain-coated grill racks which protect the grates from rust. However, if you use a metal grill brush you will likely damage that porcelain finish which will cause rust to come through on the grill racks.
Once rust starts to come through it will eventually push off the rest of the porcelain coating. As Susie notes in the video, its best to use something not too abrasive like a nylon brush or light duty Scotch-Brite pads to clean the grill grates along with some grease cleaner.
If you are going to use Scotch-Brite pads to clean your pellet grill racks make sure they are the non-scratch type to protect the porcelain finish: Image – Amazon.com
Remember though, you can only use nylon brushes/Scotch-Brite on cold grills. They are after all plastic, on a hot grill they will melt. If you want to clean off food/grease from the grill rack while cooking Susie’s tip of scrunched up foil between some BBQ tongues is a good idea.
Now, Susie does put her grills in the dishwasher for a thorough clean. If your separate grill pieces are small enough to fit that is one possible option. However, personally the approach I would use it take a large flexible plastic work bucket such as the one below. Fill it with warm water, spray the grill racks with grease cleaner and leave for a few minutes. Then into the bucket and with the nylon brush/Scotch-Brite pad wash over the grill rack surface with the warm water.
A large 12-gallon flexible tub such as this filled with warm water will be perfect for cleaning even the largest grill racks: Image – Amazon.com
The Wood Pellet Grill Thermometer
Now, depending on your make and model of pellet grill the size and location of the thermometer within your grill will vary. However, its typically a small probe about an inch in length. When you are removing the grill racks you need to be very careful to not hit the thermometer, you could damage it.
Then when you come to use the grill in the future you will be confused why the grill is not regulating its temperature properly. However, you will also need to carefully clean the temperature sensor. A quick spray with grease cleaner and a wipe with some paper towel will do the trick.
Cleaning The Drip Tray And Grease Chute
As discussed in the video above, whether you do/want to use a drip liner will depend on how you cook on your grill. Some pellet grills like Susie’s Camp Chef SGX have vents in the drip tray so you can flame grill. Some other pellet grills have sliding panels in the drip tray to expose or close off direct flame contact with the food.
In these instances, tray liners or a foil liner cannot be used. Hence, cleaning is not simply a case of disposing of the old tray liner and putting in a new one. If you do have the clean the drip tray as shown in the video then start with scraping off the thick layer of food/grease with your putty knife/paint scraper.
If you don’t flame grill and can use a drip tray liner it will make your life easier when it comes to cleaning. However, its still very important to inspect the chute to the grease bucket: Image – Amazon.com
This next bit is very important, make sure that the route the grease follows from the drip tray into the grease bucket is clear. Otherwise in some circumstances, if the grease falls down onto the burn pot you’ll end up with a grease fire. Now, Traeger in 2018 had to recall their Scout and Range portable BBQs due to a design fault leading to grease fires. So its an issue that needs to be taken seriously with every pellet grill.
Tips When Using A Shop/Ash Vacuum Cleaner
You are going to want to use a shop/ash vac to clean the ash out the bottom of the grill, but also to vacuum out the pellet hopper, auger and burn pot. I’ve come across various videos of problems with pellet smokers which in several cases are likely due to a lack of inspection/cleaning of the burn pot and auger feed system. The only way you can properly inspect those areas of the grill is after you have sucked out all the ash, dust and any remaining pellets.
Bucket head shop vacs appear to be quite popular as an alternative to a dedicated shop/ash vac for cleaning a pellet grill: Image – Amazon.com
After using an ash vac on my pellet boiler for over a decade there is an important tip I want to give you. After every time you use it, open it up and shake/rattle the filter. As the ash is so fine, it quickly blocks up the filter and you lose suction. Therefore, its very important to get that ash off the filter after each time you use it. Don’t be too rough with the filter though, you don’t want to break it. I just lightly tap it against the inside of the vac several times and that does the job, and I’ve been using the same vac filter for nearly a decade now.
Best Grease Cleaners For Wood Pellet Grills
Several pellet grill brands such as Traeger produce their own grease cleaner. Through reading the reviews its very good at being able to clean grease off the interior and exterior surfaces of the grill. However, its also quite expensive in some cases. The reality is you can get that same performance from several other degreasing agents which are also all-natural and safe to use on cooking surfaces.
What you want to look for is a citrus degreaser, also commonly referred to as orange cleaner. Now, some of these citric acid-based cleaners have a few ingredients not really suitable for cleaning food cooking surfaces. Therefore, you need to check that before you make your choice. A typical example of a suitable product that is safe to use on a pellet grill can be seen in the image below.
Zep is a suitable citrus degreaser which can be used on grills/stovetops. In a multipack such as this, you are getting a much better deal than with a stove branded cleaning product: Image – Amazon.com
Conclusions On How To Clean A Pellet Grill
If your pellet grill just needs a quick spruce up, the Traeger video above on how to clean a grill is sufficient. However, if you have been using your grill to the point where there are thick layers of food/grease on the interior surfaces, I personally would follow Susie’s cleaning process.
When you are vacuuming out the pellet hopper, auger and burn pot if you are finding a lot of fines (dust) that may be a sign of another issue. For instance, you may need to start sieving your pellets before you load them into the hopper. Furthermore, you always need to remember to protect your BBQ wood pellets from moisture to stop them going bad.
Wood pellets that have lost their integrity/density do reduce combustion performance. Ultimately that will mean you cannot control the burn in the pellet grill as precisely as you normally would. Therefore, poor quality pellets can lead to inferior quality food from your grill.
Thanks for reading, I hope you have found this post on the various best tips on how to clean a pellet grill helpful/useful. I have lots of other posts you may be interested in therefore please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.