How to Clean a Flat Top Grill: Fast, Easy, and Rust-Free

cleaning a flat top grill griddle

Just like regular grills, flat tops (or griddles) need some tender loving care, too.

After a while, grime builds up on the surface, leading to poor performance, weird tastes and smells, and an ugly sight to behold.

I’ll cover quite a lot here and will include not only how to clean a flat top grill but also how to remove any rust and prevent it from forming in the first place.

Here, I’ll discuss various methods of cleaning (vinegar, baking soda, brick,…), show some practical examples of cleaning various types of surfaces (cast iron, chrome, and stainless steel) and brands (Blackstone, Blue Rhino,…).

Note: The terms “flat top grill”, “flat top”, and “griddle” are used interchangeably here.

Go Straight to the Point

In a hurry? Don’t like long boring texts? Then skip the bull and go straight to it:

By Method

By Brand

By Material

Additional Reading

After Cleaning: How to Season a Flat Top Grill

Why You Should Clean Your Flat Top Grill?

You cook the food that you’re planning to eat and/or serve it to your guests.

cooking breakfast on blackstone griddle

Cooking on a dirty surface is a recipe for a disaster, be it food poisoning or weird tastes.

After a while dirt and grime build up which is a haven for various germs and bacteria that will find their way into your body.

Also, you could be eating days (or even weeks) old burnt particles of food. Nothing ruins a good BBQ than a juicy burger filled with burnt pieces of steak that were fermenting on the griddles’ surface for weeks.

Another good reason to clean your flat top grill is to increase its life span. A clean grill is a happy grill. It will also look nice.

How Often Do You Clean a Flat Top Grill?

After each and every use – this is the best and most effective method.

Unfortunately, cleaning takes time and time isn’t something we always have on disposal.

In this case, cleaning after every second or third cookout is still acceptable.

What to Be On the Lookout

If you notice any of these signs, consider giving your griddle some TLC:

  • Food tastes strange
  • The grill is beginning to smell
  • Grease is building up on the cooking surface and/or around the grease pan
  • Uneven heating
  • Food is starting to stick to the surface
  • Burnt food particles, burnt food particles everythere
  • Grease fires or flare-ups

What You’ll Need to Successfully Clean a Flat Top Grill

Here are the tools and supplies needed:

  • Gloves (optional but highly recommended)
  • Your favorite cleaning agent
  • A sponge, brush, scraper, or something similar
  • Warm water
  • Towels
  • Squeegee (optional but highly recommended)
  • Oil (you’ll need it for seasoning after the cleaning)

Strike While the Iron Is Hot

Always clean the grill when it is warm as the dirt, grease, oils, and debris are easier to dispose of.

Various Methods on How to Clean a Griddle Top

These methods work on most flat top grills, regardless of the brand and the griddle material.

If you’re not sure whether this method is suitable for your particular model, consult the manual or ask the manufacturer.

Vinegar

white vinegar

This method is quite common because vinegar is cheap, effective, and you can get it almost everywhere (most homes already have a bottle or two laying around).

Be warned that vinegar has a strong odor and some might find it a bit too strong, especially when heated up.

  1. Turn on the grill
  2. Mix equal parts of water and vinegar
    • Use an empty spray bottle if you have it. I found it to be the most convenient. If you don’t have it, use a bowl
  3. Spray the solution on the surface
    • Be generous
  4. Start brushing to mix the solution with the dirt
  5. Keep doing steps 3 and 4 until the surface becomes smooth and a thick black paste starts to form
  6. Rinse
  7. Wipe with a clean towel
  8. Repeat if necessary

Here’s another method (this one is great for those who aren’t big fans of cleaning as you’ll have to do very little scrubbing):

  1. Fire up the grill
  2. Set it to hot
  3. Spray a generous amont of the solution
  4. Turn off the grill
  5. Leave it for about 10 minutes
  6. Scrape the surface
  7. Turn the grill back on
  8. Pour a jug of water
  9. Scrape again

Grill Cleaner

Mesmerizing, isn’t it?

There are tons of grill-specific cleaners (3M and Stera-Sheen being among them) out there but all of them share the same procedure:

  1. Turn the grill on and set the temperature on medium or high
  2. Pour the solution onto the surface
  3. Brush the surface
  4. Drain with a squeege or scraper
  5. (optional) Rinse
  6. Wipe

Grill Brick

cleaning flat top grill with grill brick

A grill brick is a mild scrubber that resembles a brick.

  1. (optional) Pour warm water on the grill top to loosen up the grime
  2. Place the brick on the griddle
  3. Place a cloth on the brick
    • Alternatively, you can use gloves
  4. Gently scrub the surface by pushing it back and forth

What I really like about it is the simplicity: you only need the brick. Just place it on the griddle and off you go.

Baking Soda

bowl of baking soda

Personally, I like this method more than vinegar because it does not give out that vinegary sour smell.

  1. Liberally sprinkle baking soda all over the surface
  2. Pour water over it
  3. Turn the grill on and leave it for about 10 minutes
  4. Scrub or scrape the surface
    • Most of the work (if not all) already did the baking soda so there shouldn’t be any grime left

Lemon Juice

sliced lemon

This method is pretty similar to vinegar:

  1. Turn on the grill
  2. Mix equal parts of water and lemon juice
    • Use an empty spray bottle, if you have it. I found it to be the most convenient. If you don’t have it, use a bowl
  3. Scrape the residue as much as you can
    • You don’t have to be thorough, though
  4. Spray the solution on the surface
    • Be generous
  5. Start brushing to spread the solution
  6. Keep doing steps 3 and 4 until the surface becomes smooth and a thick black paste starts to form
  7. Rinse
  8. Wipe with a clean towel
  9. Repeat if necessary

Dish Soap

bottles of dish soap

Who doesn’t have at least one bottle of dish soap at home?

If it can remove tough greasy stains from dishes, then it can clean a griddle too.

The process is the same, as well:

  1. Add soap to a wet sponge
  2. Wipe the surface

While it does a tremendous job of cleaning, I’ve noticed that if the surface was really dirty and there were lots of baked-on food, I had to add a bit more elbow grease.

Onion

sliced onion

The procedure is the same as you’d do it on a grill grate:

  1. Cut an onion in half
  2. Grab one half with a fork, tongs, or even your hands if you’re daring enough
  3. Rub the onion (flat side down) on the griddle

Why an onion? It’s cheap, has antibacterial properties, is acidic, and the grill will smell oniony once your fire it up next time.

Coffee

barista pouring coffee

If you thought an onion was a weird choice, then you’re in for a surprise.

It sounds strange but a cup of joe is a potent cleaning agent because of its acidic nature. Just look at what it does to your bowels.

  1. Pour a pot of coffee over the cooking surface
  2. Let is soak for about 20 minutes
  3. Scrape or brush
  4. Rinse

You don’t have to fire up the grill for this one.

Beer

pouring beer into glass

Beer contains alcohol and bubbles, making it an effective cleaner.

  1. Warm up the grill
  2. Cover the entire surface
  3. Start scrubbing

Water

cleaning blackstone griddle with water

Jup, you read it right. Just plain water.

Always use warm water. If you use cold, you run the risk of warping the surface.

  1. Turn on the grill
    • Set the temperature to low
  2. Begin scraping until the grill warms up
  3. Pour warm water and wait a few seconds
    • Be careful of the steam
  4. Brush
  5. Rinse

This method works great for grills that aren’t very dirty.

Warning: If you set the temperature to high, you risk injuring yourself when the water starts boiling.

Oil

pouring oil on flat top grill

As the saying goes: “Fight fire with fire”.

It sounds counter-intuitive at first but warm oil will soften up the oil and grease already present on the cooking surface.

  1. Fire up the grill
  2. Pour a small amont of oil
  3. Scrub
  4. Wipe with a cloth

Salt

salt in glass salt shaker

Again, it sounds a bit counter-intuitive (putting salt on metal) but it actually works – pretty well, to be frank.

It’s abrasive and softer than metal, that’s why it cleans well and doesn’t scratch the surface.

  1. Sprinkle salt on the surface
  2. Add water or oil
  3. Scrub with a pad or a towel
  4. Scrape away the gunk into the grease tray

Without Grill Cleaner/Chemials

Grill and griddle cleaners can be expensive and contain certain chemicals that aren’t either eco-friendly or good for your body.

In this case, try any of these methods:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon juice
  • Onion
  • Coffee
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Beer
  • Salt

These methods are 100% eco-friendly and won’t do your body harm if accidentally ingested.

How to Clean Various Brands of Flat Top Grills

In most cases, you can use any method described above.

Let’s take a look at some practical examples:

Blackstone

cleaning blackstone flat top grill griddle

A really easy way of doing this is:

  1. Turn on the grill and set it to hot
  2. Scrape the surface to remove as much gunk as possible
    • You don’t have to be thorough
  3. Pour your favorite cleaning agent (if the surface isn’t that dirty, you can use plain water)
  4. Wait a minute or two
  5. Brush/scrape
  6. Wipe with a clean towel/rag

Blue Rhino

blue rhino flat top grill griddle
  1. Turn on the grill and set it to low
  2. Gently scrape the surface
  3. Pour water
  4. Scrub with a grill brick or sponge
  5. Wipe with a clean towel

Nexgrill

  1. Preheat the griddle on low temperature
  2. Scrape off any visible debris
  3. Pour water
  4. Scrub the surface
  5. Wipe clean with a towel

How to Clean a Flat Top Grill by Material

Cast Iron

cooking on cast iron griddle

Cast iron requires special treatment because it’s sensitive. If you’re not careful enough, you might damage it beyond repair.

Avoid harsh chemicals, detergents, and strong abrasives.

The best and safest method is to use plain water and a sponge:

  1. Turn on the grill and set the temperature to low
  2. Scrape the surface
  3. Pour water
  4. Brush
  5. Wipe

It’s really important to season it immediately. If you don’t, it will rust.

Stainless Steel

cleaning stainless steel griddle

Stainless steel is much more forgiving than cast iron and here, you can try any cleaning method mentioned here, including vinegar, grill cleaners, and brushes.

You need to clean the surface thoroughly and let any moisture evaporate. Otherwise, the grill will start to rust.

I’ll explain the vinegar method because it’s the easiest (you can substitute it with grill cleaner or lemon juice if you don’t like the smell of vinegar):

  1. Turn the grill on
  2. Set the temperature to medium or high
  3. Mix the same amounts of vinegar and water
  4. Pour the mixture
  5. Leave it for at least a couple of minutes
  6. Scrub the surface
  7. Drain
  8. Rinse
  9. Wipe

Chrome

chrome electric griddle

Chrome flat tops are pretty similar to cast iron when it comes to scrubbing: avoid using abrasives.

That’s why the safest and most common method of cleaning chrome surfaces is the same:

  1. Turn on the grill and set the temperature to low
  2. Scrape the surface
  3. Pour water
  4. Brush
  5. Wipe

Got Rust? Here’s How to Clean a Rusty Flat Top Grill

Over time your flat top might get a rust spot here and there.

Fortunately, a few brown spots aren’t a reason to panic and you can still use the grill as you did before.

The issue becomes when it starts looking like this:

cleaning a rusty flat top grill

Again, fortunately, there’s a way to fix this and save precious money in the process.

Method 1: Dissolve It

Here, the trick is to let others (i.e. the cleaner) do (most of) the work for you:

  1. Warm up the grill to loosen the rust
  2. Let it cool down
  3. Scrape as much as you can
  4. Pour vinegar/coke (the black one not the white one)/lemon juice
    • Be generous and cover every square inch
    • I recommend vinegar because it’s the most accidic
  5. Let it sit for a least a couple of hours
    • You can also leave it overnight
  6. Scrub to remove any remaining pieces of rust
  7. Rinse
  8. Wipe

If there is still some rust remaining, you can repeat the process or continue with the next method.

Method 2: Sand It Down

This method requires much more elbow grease and time than the last one but you have more control over the process.

For this, you’ll need something abrasive like:

  • Steel wool
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Angle grinder
  • Drill with a wire wheel
  • Orbital sander

The last three are the most convenient but are also the most expensive.

All you need to do is sand down the entire surface until the rust is gone. Then clean and season it.

How long will it take depends on the amount of rust and the tool you’re going to use.

Here’s how to do it with an angle grinder (stop at 2:55):

Method 3: Oil and Brick

An unusual method but it’s recommended by the folks at Blackstone, so it deserves a shot.

Here’s the short version:

  1. Fire up the griddle and set the temperature to high
  2. Turn it off after 20 minutes and leave it to cool off
  3. Scrape
  4. Add 3-4 tablespoons of oil and scrub with a grill stone
    • Use steel wool or medium grit sandpaper if you don’t have one
  5. Wipe with a clean towel
  6. Add another 3-4 tablespoons of oil and wipe the surface again
  7. Repeat the previous step until the rust is gone

How to Clean a Restaurant/Commercial Flat Top Grill

Most commercial flat top grills are either stainless steel or chrome.

Now, if you have a stainless steel one, you’re spoiled for choice as you can use most of the methods described above but if you have a chrome one, you have to be more careful and avoid anything and everything abrasive.

For daily cleaning, plain water or soapy water does the trick.

For a more thorough clean, I suggest a water-vinegar solution, lemon juice, or grill cleaner.

How to Clean a Plancha Grill

Planchas aren’t exactly the same as flat top grills but when it comes to cleaning them, they are identical.

You can use any method described above. My recommendations are:

  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Placha-specific cleaners

You’re Not Out of the Woods Just Yet

Cleaning is only half of the job.

The next step is just as crucial as the cleaning itself: seasoning.

seasoning griddle

Seasoning not only makes the surface nonstick but also protects the metal from rust.

Here’s how to season a flat top grill:

  1. While the grill is still warm, pour a bit of vegetable oil
    • Keep in mind the saying “less is more”
    • The type of oil isn’t that important as long as it’s vegetable: peanut, canola, coconut, olive, linssed, flax seed,… all of them are just as good
  2. Spread it around with a towel
  3. Push the excess oil into the grease tray
  4. Crank up the heat to high
  5. Turn of the grill once you see smoke

Alternatively, you can use griddle-specific seasonings like the one from Blackstone. There are also some that look like stick deodorant.

Both look cool and do the job surprisingly well but I don’t use them personally because I’m happy using plain cooking oil.

Conclusion

When it comes to cleaning a flat top grill, you’re spoiled for choice.

In this cleaning guide, I have included all of the cleaning methods that I could think of.

Some are better than others and it’s up to you to decide which one will be your go-to choice.

Experiment a little and have fun.

If you’re planning on cleaning your griddle with all of these methods, you’ll have to cook a lot to make it dirty. Now you have a great excuse to spend more time cooking outdoors.

Which method do you like the most?

About Mario 139 Articles
I am the owner of the Kitchen Guru Ideas. I've set up this site so I can share my kitchen tips and hacks that have been passed on to me from my parents and grandparents and show you how a wonderful experience cooking is and not just a way to save money. Even in this hectic lifestyle, there is time to prepare and most important enjoy a home-cooked meal.

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