Everyone who owns a flat top, whether it’s Camp Chef, Blackstone or Char-Griller, needs to learn how to clean it, properly. A flat top grill (aka griddle) is a versatile piece of outdoor cooking equipment and can last a long time, provided you take good care of it. If the cooking surface gets dirty, it can have bad effects on your food and the grill itself.
The cooking surface of your flat top grill can become covered in grease over time. Even worse, if it’s exposed to moisture and not properly taken care of, you might remove the cover to your flat top grill and find it has begun to rust.
Regardless of what kind of condition you find its cooking surface in, you want to take the best care of your flat top grill as possible. After all, a dirty flat top grill won’t produce the best possible food. Here’s how to clean a flat top grill, whether you’re dealing with normal use or rust. In this guide I’ll we cleaning my Camp Chef 600 grill. I love it because they include the traditional flat top and grill grates, so I have the best of both worlds.
In this guide, we’ll talk about:
- How to clean a flat top grill when it’s dirty from normal use
- Cleaning a flat top grill that’s been sitting for a while with food debris on it
- Best way to clean a flat top grill with rust on it
Why Do I Need To Clean My Flat Top Grill?
After cooking a meal, the last thing any of us really wants to do is apply elbow grease to our flat top grill to get all the debris off. We want to go enjoy our food. However, if we leave food debris and grease all over the cooking surface, we can run the risk of problems in the future.
1. Better Tasting Food
If you leave old food and grease on the surface of the flat top grill, it can affect the flavor of food cooked in the future. Yes, cooking on the flat top grill adds to the seasoning of the cooking surface. However, anything extra beyond that can turn rancid or burn, making your next meal taste awful. A clean flat top grill is a great flat top grill.
2. Keeps Food From Sticking More
Even though we season our flat top grills to make them non-stick, food gets left behind during the cooking process. If you don’t clean that up promptly, the next time you go to cook, even more food will stick on the surface. The last thing we want is more food not ending up on our plates en route to our stomachs.
3. Prolongs The Life Of Your Flat Top Grill
The more food and grease that sticks on your flat top grill, the more likely you are to have problems. Flat top grills are a fantastic cooking device that you don’t want to replace in a year or two. Not properly cleaning your flat top grill can lead to rust or other types of damage to the cooking surface.
What Do I Need To Clean My Flat Top Grill?
Now that we’ve determined why we need to clean a flat top grill, we need to figure out what we need for cleaning a flat top grill. You don’t need a lot of expensive cleaners or tools, but you do want to make sure you have the right tools.
One of the most important tools you can have to clean a flat top grill is a scraper. It helps with chopping food, transferring food, and in the case of cleaning a flat top grill, scraping away debris.
Just like when you cook, you want to protect your hands from a hot cooking surface. While cleaning a flat top grill will be done with the grill off, you’ll be working with at bare minimum a warm flat top grill. Good heat-resistant gloves will help protect you from burns. Yes I know we aren’t wearing gloves in the pictures, but you should. Haha.
3. Water (And Occasionally Dish Soap)
Sometimes, you’ll need water to help clean a flat top grill. Whether it’s to help loosen debris or to make sure the cooking surface is clear of anything, water can be a big help. Sometimes for a big mess, you might even need dish soap in the water. This also applies when cleaning your flat top grill prior to seasoning it the first time.
4. Paper Towels Or Cloth
Whether you’re wiping away excess oil for seasoning, drying the flat top grill after using water, or just generally wiping the cooking surface clean, you’ll need paper towels or a cloth you’re willing to sacrifice to grilling. Just be aware that some of the cleaning processes will cause you to go through a lot of paper towels.
5. Grill Stone
A grill stone is a large, rough cleaning block designed for use on grill grates or a flat top grill. This is for when you have a major caked-on mess or, heaven forbid, a rusted cooking surface. It will help dislodge the worst caked on food ahead of re-seasoning your flat top grill.
Save yourself some money and buy this complete kit that has everything you need to clean your flat top.
How To Clean A Flat Top Grill
The first thing you should do before cleaning your flat top grill is assess the mess. How dirty is it? Did you leave some food debris from the day or two before? Has grease and food been sitting on it for weeks or even months? Or did you pull the cover back and find out that the cooking surface has rusted?
Once you’ve identified how bad your mess is, you can then figure out what level of cleaning your flat top grill needs. If it’s a very recent mess, you can probably expect to spend a little effort and have your flat top grill ready in no time. If food is crusted on and there’s viscous oil and sticky grease, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and apply some serious elbow grease.
If you find rust, then you’ll be spending a couple of hours working on cleaning your flat top grill to restore it. The good news is that your flat top grill can survive rust as long as it hasn’t rusted through the entire cooking surface.
What’s The Best Way To Clean A Flat Top Grill?
If at all possible, you want to clean a flat top grill immediately after cooking. It’s the easiest time to clean any left-behind food and excess oil. With the cooking surface still warm (but the grill off!) you can also add a small amount of oil to help keep the seasoning in good shape.
We all know things happen though. So we will also cover how to clean a flat top grill that has sat dirty as well as what to do with a rusted grill.
Cleaning a flat top grill right after a cook
Turn the grill off. While the cooking surface is still warm, scrape it with your scraper to get all the leftover bits of food off. Work your way down to the grease tray for easy collection. If you find that you are having a hard time getting some stubborn debris off your flat top grill, put some hot water on it to loosen the debris then scrape again. NEVER use cold water as it can cause warps or cracks to form.
After you have cleaned your flat top grill, pour a small amount of cooking oil on the cooking surface and spread it around the entire surface. You should only use enough cooking oil to lightly coat the entire cooking surface.
How To Clean A Flat Top Grill After It Has Sat Dirty
Let’s all be honest with ourselves, we don’t always immediately clean up after ourselves. That applies to our grills as well. So how do you clean a cold and dirty flat top grill?
Turn your flat top grill on and let it run long enough for the cooking surface to get up to cooking temperature, then shut it off again.
Scrape the cooking surface down with your scraper, always working towards the grease trap. Once again, make sure you have plenty of hot or warm water to work with. Chances are there will be plenty of stubborn food debris, so you will need water to help loosen it up.
If you find that even regular water isn’t freeing up all the accumulated mess, this is when you want to get dish soap to mix with warm water. Scrub the cooking surface with soapy water to clean it, then follow the instructions two sections down to fully season your flat top grill again. The soap will get the cooking surface clean, but it will also strip all the seasoning away.
How To Clean A Rusted Flat Top Grill
There are few sights more disheartening than pulling the cover off a flat top grill and finding a once beautifully seasoned cooking surface orange and red with rust. Take heart because some surface rust will not ruin a flat top grill forever. Here’s how to get your flat top back to good as new.
First, start by heating your flat top grill. This will help loosen the surface level rust, making it easier for you to scrape it away. Once the surface is hot, turn the grill off and let it cool back down. Use your scraper to free as much of the rust as possible. Wipe what you can away with paper towels or a cloth.
Add enough oil to the rusted area (about five tablespoons if the majority of the surface is rusted,) and use the grill stone to sand the rust off. If you don’t have a grill stone, you can use sandpaper or even steel wool if needed, but we do recommend using a grill stone if at all possible.
Once all the rust has been sanded away from the surface, wash the entire flat top with warm, soapy water. This will ensure that the surface is ready to be freshly seasoned.
How To Season A Flat Top Grill
The first line of defense for keeping your flat top grill clean is good seasoning. Seasoning creates a non-stick surface on the griddle, allowing you to cook foods like eggs and pancakes without leaving most of the food behind. Not only does the seasoning help you cook, but it also helps you protect the griddle and clean it easier.
When you get a brand-new flat top grill, seasoning it is your top priority after assembling it and before you ever put food on it. The cooking surface will have residue from oils put on it during the manufacturing process to help protect it during shipment. You don’t want any of that touching your food.
You typically do not want to use soap on your flat top grill, but you need to wash the cooking surface the very first time. You might also wash it with soap if it’s been sitting unused for a while and it needs a deep clean.
Once you’ve washed the surface with soapy water and let it dry, crank the burners to high for 10-15 minutes. Once the cooking surface has turned brown, turn the burners off and put a thin layer of cooking oil on the surface. Make sure the entire cooking surface is covered evenly.
Crank the burners back on high and let the oil burn off. Yes, you want to see smoke. This normally takes about half an hour. The oil will burn off and start forming that non-stick surface. Repeat as needed to turn the entire cooking surface dark brown, between 2 and 4 times.
Once you’ve been using your flat top grill for a while, you can help improve the seasoning by wiping the cooking surface down with oil while it’s still warm after cooking.
How To Keep Your Flat Top Grill Clean
Now that you’ve cleaned a flat top grill, how do you keep it clean? There are two main ways to help protect the cooking surface.
- Clean your flat top grill after each use. We covered this earlier, but it is the best line of defense against messes. Scrape the cooking surface clear, wipe it down, and reapply a very thin coat of oil to reseason, all while the flat top is still warm.
- Store your flat top grill properly. Keeping the cooking surface away from moisture is key to preventing rust problems. Cover your flat top grill and store it in a dry place if possible. Keeping it properly covered is crucial to extending the life of your grill.
- Q: How Do You Clean A Flat Top Griddle Without Chemicals?
A: If the mess is bad enough, use warm water with dish soap. Some people will even use vinegar or lemon juice to break down messes. Our process above can be followed.
- Q: Are There Flat Top Grill Cleaners On The Market?
A: Yes, there are food-safe flat top grill cleaners you can purchase. Blackstone has a degreaser cleaner available if you’re a fan of their products. There’s also Griddle Master Max, a food-safe griddle and grill cleaner.
Wrapping It Up
Taking care of your flat top grill can keep this versatile cooking appliance in tip-top shape for years to come. A clean flat top grill will keep your food from being ruined by old, caked-on food. The best way to clean a flat top grill is dependent on the mess, but remember that cleaning a flat top grill immediately after cooking on it is the best solution.
If you’re looking for a flat top grill, check out our roundup of the best flat top grills! If you have one already, share any cleaning tips in the comments!