How to Refurbish a Charcoal Grill

Your charcoal grill takes a beating from the elements and from the ash and grease that build up over time. Your charcoal grill (or the one your neighbor threw away) might look beat from the outside, but with some effort, you can bring it back to life.



Start With the Greasy Bits

Remove all of the cooking grates, grease catchers and any other internal
parts that will come out. Give everything a good soaking in
hot, soapy dishwater for about 30 minutes and then start scrubbing
all the old grease off. If your cooking grates are showing lots of rust,
it’s easy enough to replace them. Most home stores carry basic grill parts.

Get the Ash Out

Ash accumulation will cause steel to rust at an accelerated rate. Don’t let
ash accumulate in your smoker! Scoop out as many of the big pieces of
ash as you can into a trash bag. It’s an excellent idea to wear a respirator
and gloves when handling grill ash.

Use a Shop-Vac to Get It Really Clean

Once you’ve got all the big chunks out of your way, follow up
with your shop-vac to get the last of the dust and hard-to-reach bits. Do
not use a hose on your grill at any point, as you’ll just encourage more

Scrape Out the Grease and Charred Flakes

Using a plastic putty knife, start scraping all of the loose bits off the
inside of the grill. Try to remove any lumps of grease or anything that
comes off easily.

Use Steel Wool and Water-Based Cleaner

Using a water-based or citrus-based cleaner and some steel wool, scrub
the inside of your grill to get as much rust off as possible. Do not use
any solvents or toxic cleaners — remember, you make food in here! You’ll
be amazed at how easy it will be to remove rust with a little cleaner and
some elbow grease. After you’ve given it your best scrubbing, wipe the
inside down with a few paper towels to remove any excess.

Remove Handles, Accessories and Hardware

Unbolt any easily removed accessories that are in need of paint, or any
hardware that needs to be replaced. Give your accessories a good coat
of high-temperature barbeque paint, which is made specifically for barbecue
grills. Most home stores have it in the spray paint section. If you
notice any rusted bolts, you can easily replace those with a trip to the
home store.

Tackle Any Exterior Rust

The rust on the exterior of a grill is usually the hardest to address. You
may be able to remove it with a wire brush or a little sandpaper. If your
grill is as rusty as ours, an angle grinder with a ceramic paint removal
disc is the tool of choice. Remember to wear gloves, safety glasses and a
respirator when you’re using power tools to remove rust.

Give Your Grill A Fresh Coat

Once you’ve addressed the exterior rust, you can apply a fresh coat of
paint to the outside of the grill. Make sure to use high-temperature barbecue
paint. Do not paint any of the insides of the grill or any surfaces
that come in direct contact with flames. Grill paint is for exterior use only.

Reinstall Hardware and Accessories

Once you’ve given your grill a few coats of paint and it’s had time to dry,
you can reinstall the accessories. Make sure to replace any hardware that
you’ve removed as well. This is also a good time to replace things like the
thermometer or to put a new set of wheels on if your grill needs them.

Season the Inside

Now that you’ve scrubbed your grill back to the metal surface, you’ll
need to season it. Give your grill and all of its internal parts a good wipe
with some cooking oil (canola in our case). Make sure to coat any inner
surfaces that you scrubbed clean. You should clean your grill out after
every use plus at the end of each season. Thoroughly clean it out once a year.

Heat It Up Before Use

Build a strong fire in your grill so that the oil will bond to the inside surfaces
and keep the insides from rusting. This also will burn off anything
that you might not have wiped out of the inside of the grill. Get it good
and hot and let it cool off once before cooking anything. After that, have
fun and enjoy grilling season.

Learn More

How to Refurbish a Gas Grill

Pro Tips: A Guide To Tricky Grilling

Next Up

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After a few years, your gas grill can start looking worse for the wear. You might be tempted to trade it in for a new one, but with a little work and some new parts you can make your grill look and work like new.

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