In many cases, a pellet grill is quite a significant investment for many people. Hence, when you own a pellet/grill smoker, you want to keep it in the best condition possible. Not only so it keeps 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 ash to make sure the firepot air inlets are clear but also so the hot rod can ignite the pellets properly on your next cook.
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Introduction On How To Clean A Pellet Grill/Smoker
When it comes to how to clean a pellet grill, it really needs to be broken down into two main stages. The first is how to clean the cooking chamber/body of the pellet grill/smoker of grease/food & smoke deposits.
The second stage is how to clean the internal components that make a pellet grill/smoker work. Both stages are important to understand, and both can impact how well a pellet grill/smoker functions and how safe it is to use.
These are the various stages of the cleaning process, which I’ll go through below.
- Tools For The Job
- Quick Video Guide On How To Clean A Pellet Grill/Smoker
- Start Cleaning With The Scraper
- Cleaning Your Cooking Grates
- How To Use Degreaser & Non-Scratch Scouring Pads
- Cleaning The RTD Temperature Probe
- Grease/Drip Tray Cleaning & Replacement Liners
- Vacuuming The Burn Pot & Ash Build Up
- Vacuuming The Bottom Of The Pellet Hopper
- Re-Seasoning Your Pellet Grill/Smoker
1: Tools For The Job
Before you can clean your pellet grill/smoker, you need to be set up for the job. First off, you’re going to want some disposable gloves, as cleaning out grease and ash is a messy job.
You’re also going to want some strong paper towels, some non-scratch scouring pads, and a degreasing agent that is not only food safe as it will be used to clean the cooking chamber but one that won’t damage the paint finish on your pellet grill/smoker.
Avoid using metal BBQ cleaning tools where possible due to the possible damage they can cause. Ideally, use a plastic BBQ scraper, a Nylon grill brush and some scouring pads for loosening up the grease/food & smoke disposits.
Finally, you are going to need a shop vac/ash vacuum cleaner for cleaning out the pellet grill burn pot etc of ash. It will also come in handy for cleaning out fines/dust from the bottom of the auger in the hopper.
2: Quick Video Guide On How To Clean A Pellet Grill/Smoker
If you’re just looking for a quick guide on how to clean a pellet grill/smoker, the video below from Traeger is about as concise as it could be. However, if you’re after more detail along with why its important to clean certain components and what can happen if you don’t, keep reading.
While I’ve included the Traeger video above, I want to make it perfectly clear this article is not just applicable to Traeger owners but any pellet grill/smoker owner.
It doesn’t matter if you own a Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grill, Weber or any other brand. The information I’m providing below is applicable on how to clean any pellet grill/smoker.
3: Start Cleaning With The Scraper
One of the best rules to apply when cleaning a pellet grill/smoker, well, any BBQ for that matter, is to start at the top and work to the bottom. The reason is, if you do it the other way around, you’ll be making grease/dirt etc fall onto areas you have already cleaned.
Right, before you get out the degreaser and start spraying it everywhere and trying to wipe up the grease/smoke disposits with a paper towel, you just use the scraper on its own.
As stated above in Tools For The Job, you want to use a plastic scraper over a metal scraper to avoid potential damage to painted surfaces on the inside of the lid/interior of the cooking chamber.
So get the scraper, lift up the lid on your pellet grill/smoker and start to scrap off any thick disposits of food/grease along the inside of the grid but also on the back of the cooking chamber and on the sides.
4: Cleaning Your Cooking Grates
That residue from using the scraper will have fallen onto the cooking grates. You’ll now want to get your Nylon grill brush to push those residues through the grates onto the drip pan/grease tray below.
At the same time, you need to go over the cooking grates to knock off food residue etc, that has built up on them. For this initial brush-over, don’t spray the grates with the degreaser. Doing so will just smear those large pieces of food residue/grease around.
Once you have gone over the cooking grates with the Nylon grill brush dry, you can then spray on some degreaser and give them another brush to get them even cleaner.
Some people actually place their grates in their dishwashers for a final clean. However, depending on the size/weight of your cooking grates, this might not even be possible.
For instance, if your pellet grill/smoker has porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates putting them in the dishwater is probably not going to work out.
5: How To Use Degreaser & Non-Scratch Scouring Pads
If you want to carry out a ‘deep clean’ after you have cleaned off the large deposits of grease, food and smoke residue, you then want to grab the degreaser and some non-scratch scouring pads.
Liberally spray the inside of the lid, the back and the sides of the cooking chamber with the degreaser and let it work for a few minutes to penetrate and soften up the remaining residue.
Then go over the lid/interior of the cooking chamber with a scouring pad. Again though, don’t just use any scouring pads. Make sure you get the non-scratch type to avoid damaging the paint finish.
Once that’s done, give the area a spray over again with the degreaser and then get your heavy-duty paper towels and start to wipe it up.
Don’t be stingy on the paper towels. Once its dirty, chuck it. Wiping a dirty paper towel with grease around the cooking chamber is pointless. You’re not removing the dirt, you’re just smearing it around.
6: Cleaning The RTD Temperature Probe
Within the cooking chamber of every pellet grill/smoker, there is a temperature sensor, also known as the RTD probe. It is this probe that lets the control panel monitor the internal temperature to regulate the feed of pellet fuel into the burn pot to achieve the set temperature, hence its got a very important job.
Well, if the RTD probe is covered in a layer of grease, food, and smoke residue, it can cause this temperature sensor to not read the internal temperature accurately. Hence, you do want to give the RTD a spray with the degreaser and a wipe with a piece of paper towel.
However, you need to be very, very careful when cleaning the RTD probe. Inside is a thin wire that can be very fragile to bumps and knocks. A damaged RTD probe can be a cause of random temperature swings.
RTD probes are common components to fail, as I discuss in my articles on Traeger error codes, Pit Boss error codes, Camp Chef error codes etc. So when cleaning the RTD probe, you need to be very careful.
7: Grease/Drip Tray Cleaning & Replacement Liners
You’re now going to want to remove the cooking grates and put them to one side. You’ll now be looking at the grease/drip tray covered in all the dirt/deposits you have just cleaned off the lid, sides of the cooking chamber and the cooking grates.
If you have an existing grease/drip tray liner or layer of foil, clean-up will be pretty quick. Just fold it up, put it in the trash and put in a new liner/piece of foil.
However, if your pellet grill is fitted with direct flame access, you won’t have been able to use a liner/piece of foil as it would have blocked the flames from getting to the cooking grate. Therefore, what you are left with is a very dirty grease/drip tray.
In this scenario, my advice is to take out the drip tray and stand it up vertically in a large flexible plastic bucket and scrap the contents off. While I recommend a plastic scraper for cleaning the cooking chamber/lid, for cleaning the grease tray, a metal scraper may be the better option.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to use your scraper to clean along the chute that directs the grease into the grease bucket. If this is blocked, not only will grease pool up in your pellet grill/smoker, making a right old mess, its also a safety risk and potential cause of a future grease fire.
You’ll also want to change out your grease bucket liner at the same time. While you can obviously get branded replacements, save yourself a few coins and just get the generic option, they are just little aluminium foil buckets after all.
8: Vacuuming The Pellet Burn Pot & Ash Build Up
With the cooking grates and grease/drip out of the way, you are now down into the bowels of the beast. The first thing you will likely see is a heat deflector placed above the burn pot. Knock off any ash that’s on the heat deflector and remove it.
You will now be able to see the burn pot, and now its time to get in there with suction to remove the ash buildup in the base of the burn pot. Now, if you own a Camp Chef or certain other pellet grills with quick ash removal systems, you have an alternative means to remove ash from the pellet burn pot.
I’m sometimes asked why its so important to clean out the ash from the burn pot? Well, if too much ash builds up, it can mean the hot rod igniter is covered in ash and not able to ignite the pellets. Ultimately this can actually lead to the much more dangerous scenario of a pellet grill explosion.
An explosion can be the result of the ash insulating the hot rod, so it struggles to start a fire. Hence the pellets produce a lot of smoke before they finally ignite. Well, that smoke contains flammable gases (carbon monoxide), so when the fire is finally established, it also ignites the smoke, and the result is a big boom.
As I stated above in Tools For The Job, ideally, you’ll have an ash vac as opposed to just a standard vacuum/shop vac. The reason being its the safer option. However, with any vacuum, you should only be carrying out this job once the pellet grill/smoker is completely cool.
After sucking out the ash from the burn pot, you’ll also want to give the base of the pellet grill/smoker a quick go-over with your plastic scraper and vacuum to suck up those residues as well.
At this point, the internal components have all been cleaned, and you can put them back in, the heat deflector, followed by the grease/drip tray and finally, the cooking racks.
9: Vacuuming The Bottom Of The Pellet Hopper
After sucking out the ash from the burn pot before you put your vacuum away, I would encourage you to use it on your pellet hopper to suck out excessive fines/dust, which may have built up in the bottom of the auger.
To do this, you are first obviously going to have to empty the hopper of pellets. If your pellet grill/smoker has an emptying chute on the hopper, that will make it relatively quick/easy. Otherwise, you’ll need to get in there and scoop out the pellets.
As I discuss in my best Traeger accessories article, I highly encourage every pellet grill/smoker owner to sieve their pellets before loading them into the hopper to avoid small particles going into the hopper.
10: Re-Seasoning Your Pellet Grill/Smoker
Throughout the cleaning process, you have been removing old food residues, grease and smoke deposits from the interior surfaces of the cooking chamber. Well, after the cleaning process, to make it easier for you to clean up in the future, you are going to want to re-season your BBQ.
In my article on how to season/burn-in a pellet grill/smoker, I go through the process in detail. Essentially, you are going to want to get a high-temperature food oil spray and use it on the inside of the cooking chamber and heat up the pellet grill/smoker.
The cooking oil will then carbonize, and the effect is twofold. First, it will make it easier to clean off the cooking chamber in the future. Second, if your cooking chamber is starting to show signs of rust/corrosion, the carbonized oil will help to slow down the corrosion process.
Final Thoughts On How To Clean A Pellet Grill/Smoker…
At the end of the cleaning process, spray over the exterior of your pellet grill/smoker with the degreaser and wipe it down with a piece of paper towel to keep it looking good.
Whether you use grease tray liners/foil is a personal preference and depends if your pellet grill has direct-flame access functionality or not.
What I would recommend though, for everyone is if you’re cooking large pieces of fatty meat, cook it on the upper racks and place a water pan on the main cooking grate below it. Not only will the water pan aid in keeping the meat moist, it will also collect most of the falling grease.
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.