How to Clean a Flat Top Grill (Step by Step Guide)

March 21, 2022

You can clean a flat top grill using either a routine or deep cleaning process.

I actually learned how to clean a flat top grill at my first job working at a fast food restaurant. What I learnt there has stuck with me since, even as I moved onto bigger and better things. And, now it is my turn to teach you.

Here is your guide to cleaning a Blackstone flat top grill, restaurant flat top grill, or any flat top cooking surface.

What You Will Need

Now, the tools that you will require will depend on the level of cleaning that you are undertaking.

For Routine Cleaning

  • Grill Scraper: it is important to look for a scraper that can be used on a flat top grill as most of these tools are designed for barbecue grills. I would suggest look for a griddle scraper instead.
  • Cleaning cloth

For Deep Cleaning

  • Grill Scraper
  • Grill pad: I would suggest getting one with a handle so that it is easier to use and is less rough on your hands.
  • Grill brush or grill brick
  • Grill screen
  • Cleaning cloth

A Note About Grill Brushes

I have to mention that brushes are slowly losing flavor as they aren't always the safest option. When used to clean grill grates, the wires on the wire brush can break off, eventually getting into food. Now, obviously, this is more likely with grill grates rather than a griddle top grill.

Despite this, you may want to look into using a grill stone or a grill brick instead. These can be more effective to clean a flat top grill too.

What Grill Cleaner Should You Use?

People tend to have mixed views about what cleaners you can use on a flat top grill. Many people do prefer more natural options rather than a commercial grade cleaning agent. After all, the last thing you want is to use chemicals on the same surface that you prepare food.

family enjoying a bbq meal

When it comes to natural cleaners without chemicals, you can choose from vinegar and water, baking soda, lemon juice, soda water, and hot oil.

Vinegar Solution

Mix equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. For a more effective solution, you can try warm water.

Lemon Juice Solution

If you don't like the smell of vinegar or simply find it too strong, you can try lemon juice. Add one part lemon juice to two parts water in a spray bottle. Use real lemons and not a faux version - you require the acid level to be quite high here.

Soda Water and Lemon Juice

Mix one part of juice with four parts of soda water in a spray bottle. Only add the soda just as you are ready to clean the flat top to preserve the carbonation.

Unusual Cleaning Solutions

There are some pretty unusual practices here too. The thing is, most chefs do not want to use any harsh ingredients and this can even include food-based acids as well. This is because these components eat away at the seasoned surface. Thus, every time you clean the grill, you then have to season it all over again and this isn't a fun practice.

This is why you will find some people sprinkling coffee grounds on their flat top grill. You can let this sit for a while, use a grill brush to tackle any grease or food and then wipe the grounds away.

Another trick involves using beer. Simply pour the beverage on top and clean off the food particles before wiping it down. These options are certainly worth a try if you are willing to try some unorthodox methods.

I find natural cleaners to work quite well. Their efficacy does depend on the state of your grill, though. If it has been a while since you have cleaned your griddle and there is a lot of built up grease and food debris, then you may need something a little stronger.

This doesn't automatically mean that you need to go straight to harsh cleaners, however. First try regular dish soap and other gentle cleaners before considering something stronger.

The most important thing with such solutions though is making sure to rinse every trace of the detergent off once you are done. You may want to rinse the grill surface out a few times before drying it. Otherwise you risk transferring these chemicals to your food.

A Note About Cleaning Flat Top Grills

Before you clean a flat top grill, make sure to read your owner's manual first. To begin with, you need to know the surface material of the grill - do you have a carbon steel, cast iron, or stainless steel flat top?

Remember, each make and model are going to have specific manufacturer instructions. Following these will prevent you from damaging the surface. This can be especially important in maintaining your warranty.

Cleaning Methods for a Flat Top Grill

Here are your options for cleaning a griddle surface:

Routine Cleaning

If you have just been using the flat top grill, don't turn the grill off. Instead, leave it on and turn it up or down to medium heat. In case the grill has been turned off, turn it on and let it heat up for a bit.

Be very careful as you clean your flat top grill. The surface will remain hot so make sure to keep hands, fingers, and arms away from the surface. You may want to wear heat proof gloves just in case.

Pour your chosen detergent onto the cooking surface. Add more to areas with more stubborn grease or grime. Use your scraper to scrape away the pieces of food stuck to the grill, but don't use more force than necessary.

Once the food residue has been removed, turn off the heat. Once the surface cools, spray water and use a cleaning cloth or paper towels to wipe down the debris. You may want to repeat this step with a fresh cloth or paper towels until you have a clean flat top grill.

Once you are done, make sure to clean the grease tray and drip pan as well. For these components, you can use soap and water as they aren't elements that come into contact with your food.

Deep Cleaning

If the grill is not hot, turn it on to medium heat and give it a few minutes to heat up. Then, spray your detergent and use your griddle scraper and dislodge any food debris from the surface.

Next, slowly pour warm water over the surface of the grill. Only ever use warm water as it prevents thermal shock. This can crack, warp, or damage the grill if you aren't careful. Take a step back after pouring the water as it will sizzle and steam for a bit.

Turn the grill off and get started again once the water has cooled. Then, use your grill pad and screen to scrub the surface clean. If you are meeting resistance with any dried food or grease, use a grill brush or grill stone. With a little bit of elbow grease you should be able to dislodge any stubborn spots. Just make sure not to scratch the surface while you are doing so.

Rinse the surface of the flat top grill thoroughly. If you notice any places where there is dried food, repeat the above cleaning process again. Use a clean cloth or a few paper towels until the area is completely dry.

How Do You Care for a Cast Iron Flat Top Grill?

With this type of flat top grill, you have to be very careful. Don't use soap or any other cleaning agent. In fact, it is best not to immerse this surface in water for more than just a little while at a time.

It is because of this that I would suggest cleaning your flat top surface every time that you use it. Do this while the grill is still hot and it will be much easier to manage.

Try sprinkling some salt onto the salt and using a clean cloth to rub off any dried or burnt food particles. This will ensure that you don't mess with the delicate balance that you have created on the surface of the grill.

If it does need some cleaning, I would suggest spraying a little bit of water at a time and then tackling the food debris. Make sure to wipe the surface as you go so that the water doesn't stay on it for too long.

Make sure to re season the grill once you are done.

How to Re-Season a Flat Top Grill?

A routine cleaning may not require you to re-season your grill, but a deep cleaning certainly will. It is important to cover this step before using the grill again or you may find food sticking to it.

Here are your guidelines for re-seasoning any flat top grills:

grilling meat on a flat top grill

The best tip I can give you here is to only apply a thin layer of oil at a time. Re-seasoning takes several steps, causing the oil layers to build up on top of each other. However, each layer needs to be thin.

Due to this, I would suggest putting a neutral vegetable oil into a squeeze or spray bottle. This way, you won't accidentally pour too much on the cooking surface.

First, heat up the grill. Once it is hot all over, apply a thin layer of oil over the flat top grill. Then, wad up a paper towel and place it in between tongs. Use this to spread the oil over every square inch of the surface.

Turn the heat off and cool completely. Then, turn the heat back on again and repeat the process with the oil again. Cover the entire surface. Turn the heat off and allow to cool once more. Then, repeat this one more time and you are all done!

How Often Should Clean a Flat Top Grill?

As someone who has worked in the restaurant industry for a long time, I was trained to clean a flat top at the end of every day. This, of course, is for hygiene purposes.

At the same time, being consistent makes keeping a grill clean really easy in the long run. You are also less likely to have to undergo the hassle of a deep clean. At the very least, you can put off the deep clean for a longer period of time.

What I like to do is to clean as I near the end of my cooking session, while I still have a hot grill. I use the scraper to dislodge any food that has gotten stuck to the surface. Once the grill has cooled down, I wipe it down with paper towels.

If it is feeling a little grimy, I might use a wet sponge, but make sure to re-season the grill at least a little bit afterwards.

OK, so lets imagine that cleaning the flat top grill every time you cook is a bit much. How often should you clean your grill?

Well, this depends on how often you use it. If you use your flat top grill quite often, then clean it after every few uses. In case you rarely use the grill, I would suggest cleaning it after every use or the food will get dry and stuck to the grill. Not to mention, there is higher risk of mold and rust.

What about deep cleaning a flat top grill? Well, if you clean it often enough, then you will only need to rely on this cleaning method every few months.

In general, pay attention to how the food cooks on the grill. If it appears that the food is sticking to the surface, then it means that it is time to clean it. The same goes for if you notice that the flavors of food are being transferred to each other.

Is There a Best Way to Clean Flat Top Grills?

With so many solutions and tools available to you, it is only natural to wonder if there is one method that is better than the rest. Well, I wouldn't say so - it is all about which option is easiest for you and which one gives you the results that you are looking for.

Even if you were to ask seasoned chefs about how they prefer to clean a flat top grill, you will find that the method varies from one person to another. It is all about preference.

My recommendation would be to try out different options and decide which one you prefer.

Tips on How to Clean a Flat Top Grill

As mentioned, try to clean right after cooking, while the grill is still hot. To avoid having to re-season the grill too often, squirt some oil onto stubborn food debris. Let it sit and heat up for a bit. Then, use your scraper to scrape it off. Blot away the excess oil with paper towels.

So now you know how to clean your flat top grill! Yes, it can seem like quite the process in the beginning but after a couple of tries, you have will have your method down pat. Then, it will not feel like much work at all. Plus, you will have a clean and efficient grill to work off of!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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