The Grilling Mistake That Could Make You Sick

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When warm weather hits, there’s nothing more satisfying than the smokey aroma of the grill searing your meal. You’re practically drooling while waiting for the food to finish, and once the thermometer reaches the correct temperature, it’s time to dig in. You enjoy your dinner thoroughly, but then it happens. The food you’ve worked so hard to prepare has given you food poisoning.

You thought you did everything right, but you might have missed one crucial step. You forgot to clean your grill before you started cooking.

Keep Yourself Healthy by Keeping Your Grill Clean

One of the lesser-known grill tips is to clean your grill before using it for your next meal. Not doing so can result in you and anyone you’re cooking for coming down with food poisoning. When you take the time to clean all the residue off your grill before cooking, you’re lessening your chances of ending up sick.

Leftover food bits from grilling typically sit from one grill session to the next. The food then becomes a magnet for bacteria. Leftover food can also attract animals or birds, which is an opening for even more bacteria to join the party. So here you have a bacteria-infested grill that you’re now putting your fresh dinner on. All of the germs your grill picked up in between uses is now on the surface of your perfectly grilled pork chop.

How to Clean Your Grill

Cleaning a grill is easier than it may sound. Let your grill preheat for 10-15 minutes and use a wire cleaning brush to scrape off any residue left from your previous grilling. The heat then will help sanitize the rack from any other bacteria. Making sure your grill is preheated before cooking will help ensure your meat won’t stick to the bars. Rubbing a paper towel drenched in vegetable oil is great for grilling vegetables and fruits. By being preventative, you’re making your work in the future just that much easier.

If you struggle with keeping your grill clean and would prefer not to risk your family and friends, there are some great electric smokers to choose from. While there is certainly quite a bit of work in properly smoking meat, there’s not as much of a risk of bacteria hanging around. Which smoker would be right for you ultimately depends on your wants and needs?

Other Ways to Clean

There are a number of other ways that one can make mistakes while grilling. Not marinating your meat beforehand can cause your meat to dry out and thawing your meat out at room temperature can cause bacteria to build. You should always thaw out your meat in a quality refrigerator. Thawing out your meat can take up quite a bit of space, so having a counter-deep refrigerator can give you more room. But having bacteria added to your meal because you didn’t clean the grill is ultimately one of the easiest mistakes to avoid.

Depending on what you use, there are quite a few ways to clean your grill before cooking. There are differing opinions on whether you should heat the grill before cleaning or after. What kind of brush or other cleaning tools to use? What difference is there in cleaning a gas or an electric grill. Here are some of the pros and cons of each.

  • Cleaning a cold grill: Not heating up the grill before cleaning means that you can remove the grates to clean. By removing the grate to clean the insides, you’re able to reach the bottom of the grill and clean out all the food bits gathering below. This helps your grill cook more efficiently and prevents clogged burner tubes.
  • Cleaning a hot grill: By preheating the grill before you clean, the stuck food is much easier to scrape off. You can use a wire grill brush to go over the racks and quickly clear off any debris.
  • Tools to use: There are plenty of options to use when picking out the tool to clean your grill.
  • There are wire brushes (although many chefs warn about loose bristles getting stuck in your food), wooden scrapers, and grill bricks that can help you scrape away the residue. The wooden scrapers are great for charcoal grills because it shapes into the grooves of your grill, making the cleaning much more effective. Same with the grill brick, it shapes to the bars in your grill to clean the tops and sides of the rack.
  • Cleaning a gas vs an electric grill: Cleaning an electric grill is much easier since you mainly have to focus on getting food debris off and not the flame crusted bits. A gas grill, while arguably more flavorful, has smoke and flame crusted food stuck to it. Touching any bit of the rack or the inside of the gas grill will blacken whatever touches it. Regardless, cleaning both grills is about the same, just one with less char present.


Cleaning your grill is essential to your health, and it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Using products that are specifically designed to help you clean your grill with ease can be beneficial for easy upkeep. And while you should do a thorough clean occasionally, it’s not necessary to remove the racks and clean the barrel every time. Doing a thorough clean every few months and a scrub down of the racks each time will help keep your grill bacteria-free and your food flavorful.

Risking food poisoning is never worth it. Taking the time to clean and sanitize your

cooking area may sometimes be time-consuming, but it’s better to take the time and be preventative than to take the time out to deal with sickness. Cleaning your grill can be one of the easiest cleans to prevent bacteria. Just be cautious with cross-contaminating raw meat with your cooked meat and be sure to clean all food left behind on the grill. I promise your

friends and family will thank you, and you won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of poisoning your neighbors at the community BBQ.

Resources – Daily Burn, Real Simple