Whenever we grill, we’re essentially playing with fire. It’s fun, I cannot deny that, but it also poses a few hazards, especially when you consider the amount of flammable grease that’s involved.
The thing about grease is that it has the tendency to build up on walls and pool in places inside your gas grill. Should you choose to leave the grease there and not clean it off, it can get heated to a higher temperature than it can withstand and start a fire.
Now, a grease fire is nothing to be excited about. It spreads fast, splatters all over, and can be extremely difficult to put out. All of this, of course, is provided you have a Class B fire extinguisher, the only kind that’s capable of putting out flaming fat, at hand.
With that in mind, it isn’t surprising that manufacturers have been coming up with new and new ways, ahem… “innovations” to prevent grease buildup and make cleaning easier so that their customers are happy and their makes and models stand out in the hardware store.
One of those “innovations” is the grease tray.
When to Clean Your Grease Tray
A decade or so ago, gas grill manufacturers began adding removable grease trays to their appliances. The grease tray is a sloped tray, usually made out of stainless steel, with a hole in the middle.
On most grills, the tray slides in and out for convenient removal. It catches the fats and juices that drip off the meat during cooking, channeling them to a cup or disposable pan that attaches, with one mechanism or another, under the hole.
The question is, how often should you clean it?
To minimize the risk of a grease fire, clean your gas grill’s grease tray after each and every use. Wipe off the grease with a few paper towels, then use soapy water or oven cleaner.
Google the topic, and you will come across mixed advice. Some will advise you to do this every three to five uses, but I reckon this isn’t enough. And this ain’t good ol’ doomsday-preppin’ Sammy being overly cautious as he is, no it isn’t.
This, fellers, is coming straight from manufacturer’s mouths… okay, manuals:
- The owner’s manual for Weber Genesis II grills, for example, says that you should clean the grease tray “each and every time you grill to prevent fires.”
- “The grease tray,” says an owner’s manual of one Char-Broil model, “must be emptied after each use.” The manual goes on to say that you should “clean the grill often, preferably after each cookout.”
- “The full-width grease tray,” says a KitchenAid gas grill manual, “collects grease and food particles that fall through the grill. Clean often to avoid grease buildup.”
- “Check the grease tray frequently,” a Nexgrill owner’s manual advises, “and don’t allow excess grease to accumulate and overflow out of the grease tray.”
How to Clean Your Gas Grill’s Grease Tray
Turn off your gas grill. For safety reasons, make sure that all burners are set to the off position and verify that the valve on the propane tank is closed. Before proceeding to the next step, wait 20 to 30 minutes for your grill to cool down completely.
Pull out the grease tray and lay it on a working surface such as a flat stone, the patio floor, or your driveway. Wipe it down real good with a few paper towels, removing all of the excess grease. Some folks use an old spatula for the purpose; also does the job.
This is where some move on to other tasks, such as cleaning the burners or scrubbing the grate. Others, yours truly included, are move thorough, and use oven cleaner: spray the dirty side of the grease pan with Easy-Off Heavy Duty Oven Cleaner (yellow cap), wait for 1-2 minutes, then wipe it off with a few paper towels.
Alternatively, you can use soapy water. Just don’t soak the grease tray. These trays are not made of the highest quality steel, and many of them are prone to corrosion and rust.
Grill manufacturers like to sell grills, not spare parts, so it’s a good idea to extend the life of your grease tray as much as you can.
Never Clean the Grease Tray Again?
In the forums I follow, I have come across one or two folks who said they wrap their grease trays in aluminum foil. By doing so—they claim—all they have to do to clean them up is change the foil.
Frankly speaking, I haven’t tried this technique myself. So I can’t tell you with certainty just how well it works (or doesn’t). That said, it does seem like a potentially helpful hack for grillers who want to reduce the amount of elbow grease required at cleanup.
If anyone’s eager to try it out, save this article in your browser and let the rest of us know how it went for you in the comments below.