In this Instructable I'd like to show how to clean a grill using citrus fruit.
Step 1: The Dark Side of Grilling
These pics show a typical grill after cooking; these greasy debris probably look very familiar to you. I typically used a wire brush to clean the grill until I heard about how the wire bristles can sometimes break off and find their way into your food undetected. There's several news stories about this problem, here's one to check out:
After learning about this risk with the wire bristles, I wanted to figure out a better way to clean our grill.
Step 2: The Citrus Solution
As I was thinking about natural cleaning agents that might work on the grill, the idea of citrus occurred to me because it is already used in a lot of cleaning products. Then, I thought that maybe the whole fruit itself could be used as the scrubber, since there are plenty of natural fibers inside the fruit that might be able to remove the grill build-up. One of the obvious problems with using a whole fruit, however, is that they are very soft and don't last long against a hot grill. I solved this problem by freezing the fruit first, which made the fruit structure very solid and also frozen; perfect for scrubbing the hot grill. After some experimentation I found that grapefruit work best, and they should be cut as shown in the picture (down the center, parallel to the stem) to maximize the durability and minimize the quantity of fibers shed during the scrubbing. I learned that if you cut them perpendicular to the stem, they wear out quicker and leave more fibrous debris on the grill. Something else that worked out really well is that the grapefruit I used were way past prime, and not good for eating. So this is also a good way to make use of something that most often gets thrown away. I should point out that oranges also work pretty well, but the grapefruit just seem to clean better. This may be due to the higher acid and lower sugar content in the grapefruit.
1. Find a grapefruit, preferably one not suitable for eating.
2. Cut in half like shown in the picture.
3. Put in freezer.
4. Use when fully frozen.
Step 3: Preparing the Grill
I like to set the grill on medium heat until it gets to around 300 degrees. On this grill it takes a couple minutes. Then I turn all the burners down to low.
Step 4: Grapefruit Grilling
If the grill is really hot I use a pair of tongs to scrub the grates. With the grill at 300 degrees, burners on low and the frozen grapefruit acting as a heat shield, I can typically scrub the grates by hand. This gives me more control and allows me to push down harder, which helps make the cleaning more effective. Obviously it is critical to not touch the grill with your hand! The melting grapefruit juice really sizzles on the grill at this stage, and its satisfying to see how clean it gets after a few passes.
Step 5: Grill Marks
Just like on a nice steak, the grapefruit scrubber gets some bold grill marks. The cool thing about these particular grill marks is that they actually melt into the fruit. This results in a wrap-around effect that scrubs the sides of the bars as well. These frozen grapefruit are really tough; I've cleaned the grill 3 times with this half of a grapefruit and it's probably good for two more. Just put it in a bag and toss it back in the freezer!
Step 6: Results!
Here's a couple pictures of the grill after cleaning. There's no more greasy residue on the grates and its ready for cooking. Any leftover fibers typically stick to the underside of the grate or on the crossbar, and quickly dry up and burn from the grill heat. If there's a lot of carbon build-up, it's a good idea to scrape the grates with a metal blade first. I have found frozen citrus to be a safe, effective and green method of cleaning our grill and I hope it is useful for you as well. Happy Summer!