Grilling is a fun, delicious, and healthy way to prepare all sorts of meals, but it comes with its fair share of prep if you want to prevent food from sticking to the grates. While sprays and oils are common, it’s important to note that they’re highly flammable and sometimes not the best choice at high heat. Instead, grilling experts say you might rummage around your kitchen for a spud. Yes, apparently you can keep your grill nonstick if you clean it with a potato.
Not entirely convinced (considering not everything you read on social media is true), I reached out to two grilling experts for their two cents on the topic. Keep reading for what they had to say about the potato cleaning hack for the perfect nonstick grill.
How to clean your grill with a potato to make it nonstick
According to Chef Tony Matassa of BBQGuys, using a potato to keep your grill from sticking does in fact work. The starches of the potato create a natural, nonstick layer on grill grates.
To properly prep your grill with a potato, follow Matassa’s steps, below:
1. Heat up your grill
A hot surface will ensure that the potato can cling onto and pick up the gunk that’s caked onto the grill.
2. Slice a potato into halves or fourths
“You may need more [or less] potato depending on the size of your grill,” Matassa says.
3. Use tongs or a grilling fork to hold onto your potato half or chunk
This will prevent burns by keeping your hands far from the hot grates. Wear an oven mitt for extra protection.
4. Press the cut side of the potato into the grill, rubbing up and down across the grates
“Rub the fresh-cut side, directly on the cooking grids; using a new slice as needed,” Matassa says. “This will coat your grids with a microscopic layer of starch.”
How to maintain your nonstick grill
Cleaning your grill with a potato works, but it’s not the only way to keep your food from sticking to the grill grates. McCormick senior culinary director Chef Kevan Vetter says that the most effective way to keep your grill clean and nonstick is to clean it regularly before and after you cook on it.
“After cooking on your grill, and before turning off the heat, take a grill brush and scrape away any bits left on the grill grates,” he instructs. “Before cooking on the grill the next time, scrape the grill grates again while the grill is cold, use a paper towel with a little vegetable oil on it and wipe the grates down to lightly oil them.” Then, turn on your grill and cook at your desired temperature.
While this technique works if followed regularly, Vetter admits that once marinades and other scraps cling to grill grates for long periods of time, a deeper clean may be necessary. “If your grates are very dirty, you can remove them and allow them to soak in some hot water with a grease-fighting dish soap to help loosen up the baked-on dirt,” he says. (This technique is best reserved for steel grates rather than cast iron.) “Scrub with a sponge scrubby, dry thoroughly, and apply a light coating of vegetable oil before firing up the grill the next time.” Or, if you prefer the nonstick potato grill hack, do that instead of reaching for vegetable oil.
If you’re concerned with not only the nonstick nature of your grill but how clean it is, too, Matassa points out that there’s an onion grill cleaning hack as well. “Again, the fresh cut side is the portion that should be applied to your preheated cooking grids,” he says. “With the onion, its essential oils will be coating your grids instead of starch.”
More cooking tips for a cleaner grill
Some grilling practices make for more clean-up than necessary. Ahead, learn how to make grilling less of a chore so that it can remain a favorite summer pastime.
Use an onion to scrub the grill grates
Did you know that you can use just half of an onion and a grill fork to scrub your grill grates clean? The heat of the grill paired with the natural antibacterial properties of the onion help to break down any stubborn char or sticky sauce.
Opt for a mid-range temperature (not too hot, not too cold)
According to Vetter, grilling at lower temperatures can make food more prone to stick. “The most important thing to keep food from sticking is to have a clean grill and to properly maintain appropriate heat control while cooking,” he says, noting that he likes to cook between 500 and 600 degrees Fahrenheit. “Be sure that your grill has come to desired temperature before cooking. Heat that is too high will burn your seasonings and your meat.” With this in mind, he says to get a grill with two zones. “A high heat zone and a moderate zone will allow you to adjust the cooking to ensure even and proper cooking,” he explains.
Let your food cook a touch longer
Part of what causes sticking is not letting your food cook quite enough. “If you find that your food has gotten a little bit stuck on the grill, give it another minute or two to form better grill marks on the food,” Vetter says. “One reason for sticking is that grillers want to flip too early and the food hasn’t gotten to the point where it can naturally release from the grill.”
Pick the right marinades and seasonings
Vetter says that some grilling accouterments are designed for specific temperatures. “McCormick Grill Mates Seasonings and Marinades are perfect for medium-high to high heat cooking and our Grill Mates Rubs are perfect for low and slow cooking like ribs, pork butts, or cooking chicken using the reverse sear method of starting the chicken at 275°F and finishing over high in the last few minutes of cooking,” he says.
As a general rule, Matassa says that “any spice rub that contains a lot of powdered herbs or food starch as one of the ingredients can have a tendency to stick to the cooking grids more than most.” He adds that sugars are likely to caramelize if used over 300°F, so it’s best to use sugary marinades at lower heat settings.