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Is there a better method for oiling grill racks?

Mr travelmad478 and I are preparing to grill tonight, and for the thousandth time, preparing to waste a bunch of oil and probably spill it as we dump it on a paper towel that we'll then use to wipe down the heated grill racks. We're racking our brains for a better method, but coming up short. Our first idea of using one of those squeeze bottles with a sponge on the top (usually meant for dish soap) was quickly discarded when we figured the sponge would just melt right onto the grill.

Has anyone found a better way?

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  1. I'm glad you asked this. We use the same paper towel method, wasting oil, and I would love to find another way to do it.

    1. Lets see....What if your grill surface is really, really clean, well brushed etc, and is very, very hot.
      Now brush a small amount of oil on your meat/vegetables at some point prior to grilling....
      Would that work for you?


      4 Replies
      1. re: Uncle Bob

        Try this.....Take a 3 inch ramiken put in a tablespoon of oil, fold up a paper towel so it fits the dish, grab it with 16 inch tongs, soak, rub on grill, throw out paper towel, wash and put away ramiken and tongs.....Whew!!!!!!

        1. re: ospreycove

          Just what the OP was wanting to get away from...paper towels etc. ~~ Oiling the product itself works perfectly ~~~ Personally I rarely find a need to do either.


        2. re: Uncle Bob

          We do put oil on the food when it makes sense, but it isn't always possible. For instance, tonight we had flank steak made with a dry rub. You can't oil that. We do brush the grill, but it's not possible to have the bars as clean as if they were brand new. So I still need a good oil-the-grill method.

          1. re: travelmad478

            Oil (or not) prior to the rub ~~ The grill surface doesn't need/have to be brand new clean...just clean and Hot! ~~~ When a piece of meat is placed on a heated grill surface they will seize each other with the intensity of newlyweds...Do not disturb!!! At the proper time they will release. Turn the meat over. They will embrace once again!! When they let go for the second time the honeymoon is over...it's time to get on with other business....Flank steak at this point is probably ready for the table...Thicker cuts..rib-eye, T-Bone, Porter house etc may need extra time away from direct heat to finish.....As I stated previously...I rarely find the need to oil the meat or grill surface.

            Have Fun!!

        3. We use a spray can of olive oil, from the oils section of the local store. Have never had a problem.


          1. You could keep pieces of fat trimmings in the freezer I guess for such a purpose. I use them with tongs when I have them instead of oil.

            1 Reply
            1. re: King of Northern Blvd

              Yes, my Father's method a nice piece of beef fat on a long 2 prong fork, works great!!!

            2. Wish I could take credit for this but I saw it on FNW. Cut an onion in half, stick a bbq fork in it , dip in a small bowl containing oil and rub the grill after its hot. Works perfectly and adds flavour!

              1 Reply
              1. re: beekeroc

                I don't get this onion method--seems like a waste of 1/2 an onion to me. And I might not want onion flavor on what I am grilling.

              2. Like Fish Tales, I use a can of Pam and spray the racks. Just be carefull to not spray onto the burning coals, you don't want to ignite the spray as it is spraying out of the can and turn it into a flame thrower ala James Bond.

                1. Hot (like Africa hot) grill that's clean as the day is long and you shouldn't have need for oiling your grill.

                  1. Maybe there's something I'm not getting, but one paper towel and one tablespoon of oil hardly seems that wasteful to me.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: jaykayen

                      I don't care about the paper towel. But it's always way more than a tablespoon of oil, and half the time we end up spilling as much as we use, because it's not that easy to dump oil onto a piece of paper towel. I'm not going to get into the specifics here, but we are not clumsy people and still find this task aggravating.

                      1. re: travelmad478

                        put the oil in a small bowl. dip the paper in the oil. wipe. reapeat

                        1. re: thew

                          I use a paper towel rolled into a tube and tied with a little bit of twine. This is soaked in a little ramiken of vegetable oil. The grates are oiled several times allowing the oil to polymerize between applications. Oil is cheap compared to having your food stick to the grill grates. Using a paper towel makes for easy clean up. The ramiken is easy to wash. I would not want to launder an oil cloth towel.

                          1. re: travelmad478

                            Hmmm Pouring oil directly on a paper towel pad, must work wonders on the pavers or deck.......

                            1. re: travelmad478

                              I have a hard time understanding what is so difficult about pouring a little oil on a folded up paper towel. Wad it up, cover top of oil bottle with it, invert a few times to coat. You don't need to drop oil from 2 feet. If you are that clumsy, use Pam. If you are scared to use Pam straight on the grill, hold the paper towel in tongs and spray the towels, then wipe. Or buy a little squeeze bottle with a narrow opening to use for soaking the paper towels.

                              1. re: ESNY

                                ESNY...Better not to use Pam on a Hot grill, if spilling could be a problem a blow torch would be worse....lol

                            2. re: jaykayen

                              I am with you on this. I put a tablespoon or two of oil in a small ramekin and dip the paper towel into the ramekin with the bbq tongs I will use to swab the racks. Does not seem wasteful to me.

                              Seems like the OP is having a problem bc they pour the oil right from the bottle onto the paper towel. I can see how you would end up wasting oil and making a mess, too.

                              I also recommend, as others have, that you thoroughly clean the grill grates both before and after each grill session. Not sure how to do this with charcoal bc we have gas, but here is out technique: before grilling, preheat until really hot. Clean grates with wire brush, then oil. After grilling, close lid and crank to high. Get really hot and clean grates with wire brush.

                              1. re: DMW

                                A note of caution here. After grilling, I agree to turn up to burn off the excess, but be very careful. We had a grill get too hot and it actually melted the knobs off the unit as well as "burning" the inside. Ended up having to buy a new grill. And we were watching it so it wasn't like we cranked it up and left it. It just happened really fast!

                            3. I've got a silicon brush which I have been using on a hot grill for at least a couple of years and it is still unscathed. It's made by OXO, looks rubbery but withstands great heat. I've tried the onion method but never felt I got as even distribution of oil on the grid as I do with the brush. And with the paper towel method I feel like I use a lot more oil than the brush, which doesn't soak anything up.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: JaneEYB

                                Now that sounds very interesting--I may have to try that silicone brush. The oil sprays (used carefully!) are also a possibility, although the whole concept of Pam kind of makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

                                1. re: JaneEYB

                                  +1 on the silicone brush. I've been using one for several years to do this task. The brush is supposed to be OK up to 600°. So far mine is holding up fine.

                                2. Fish is the only thing I'd be concerned about oiling up, which is probably why I don't do it often. On the rare occasion that I do, I use a soaked and oiled alder or cedar plank - so I don't have to worry so much about sticking.

                                  For all other meats - pork, beef, chicken - I never oil the grill. I bring the coals (heat) up to temp, put the the grate on to heat, scour with a bbq grill brush and that's it. I generally give the bare (no skin) part of chicken a light coat of oil, but for beef and pork, I put it on the grill as is.... seasoned of course.

                                  I grew up around a lot of grill "masters" and never saw any of them pre-oil the grate surface. If they were alive today to see it done on tv, I imagine the resulting comment would be "pshaw!"

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: blynk

                                    I grew up around a lot of grill "masters" and never saw any of them pre-oil the grate surface. If they were alive today to see it done on tv, I imagine the resulting comment would be "pshaw!" ~~~

                                    Hahaha! Or either "Aw Shucks" and that would have been in/around "polite company!! Yes!

                                    1. re: Uncle Bob

                                      Ditto. the meat will detach from a hot grill when its ready.

                                      1. re: jen kalb

                                        And shouldn't be turned a moment before it reaches this lofty goal!

                                  2. As others have noted, I also keep large fat trimmings in the freezer to *oil* the frying pan or *grease the grates* before grilling. For the latter, after the grates are well heated and after scraping with a wire brush, the fat is applied to give it a cleaning to remove carbon bits so they won't stick to any food.

                                    In commercial kitchens, it not unusual to see an old cotton towel ready to be discarded, but instead used in combination with a stainless steel vessel slightly filled with vegetable oil.... the rag is folded into a four ply square and kept moist with the vegetable oil. Before something is put on the grate, the oiled rag is used to clean the portion of the grill where the food item will be placed......the rag will ultimately be completely black, but it is used/reused until it no longer serves its purpose...even if it means more than one day.....

                                    1. This very similar question was posted http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7257... at the beginning of the month, even the idea of using a sponge.

                                      I found that a hot, wire brushed grill never needs oiling. Maybe I've been lucky.

                                      1. I find that the only time I need oil is for fish or pizza. If it is fish, instead of oil, I usually prefer to use one of those "flip baskets" that you place the fish in and lock it (can also be used for burgers as well). If it is pizza, I oil the dough liberally before placing on grill. I have also used Pam, but I spray it at an angle so that it is not straight down over flames.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: boyzoma

                                          boneless chicken breasts always need an oiled grill for me--even if there is oil in the marinade.

                                        2. I think part of the problem is that you are trying to pour oil onto a paper towel. An easy to way to fix that is to fold the papertowel, place it on the opening of the bottle, and then tilt it several times so that the oil "touches" the paper towel. I keep my oils in smaller oil bottles with nozzles on top so I can pour small quanities of oil. Then I just fold the paper towel, bend it so I have a indentation in the center, and pour a few drops of oil -- it spreads through the towel on its own. You definitely don't want or need to soak the papertowel.

                                          The only time I oil the grates is if I'm making fish or shrimp (lowfat items that won't release their own oils). I don't oil the grates for other items.; Veggies are tossed with oil and S&P before grilling, and most of my meat marinades contain some form of oil, either in the marinade itself or natural fats in the meat.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: boogiebaby

                                            We already do what you're saying as far as folding the towel, putting it on the bottle opening, tilting it etc. Sometimes it works fine, sometimes we end up spilling it. The squeeze bottle concept seems like a good solution.

                                            As far as the debate over oiling the grill vs. not oiling it, well, YMMV. I find that some items (or some preparations) tend to stick if there's no oil on the grates. When I can oil the food rather than the grates, I do. Sometimes it's not possible.

                                            1. re: travelmad478

                                              Yeah, chicken with a yogurt marinade is a perfect exactly of food that will stick if the grates aren't oiled. I just try to clean them well, oil them well (with a paper towel dipped in some oil which is in a small bow) and I don't give it much thought beyond that. The onion approach is something else I'll do, but usually if the onion would go in the garbage anyway. Any added onion flavoring in my experience is minimal to non-existent.

                                          2. Those silicon brushes mentioned by a few posts above are wonderful. The ones I have by OXO have a cool design, featuring a row of flexible slats punched through with holes, which is then sandwiched between silicon "bristles". I suppose this design allows the brushes to hold onto greater amounts of liquid -- oil, or basting liquid, etc. Good luck with oiling your grills, let us know if you find a solution you like! Personally I'm in the no-oil camp.

                                            oh, and the Weber website recommends that you NOT burn off and clean the grates after cooking, only before. They say the food/oil residue helps season the grates, and so suggest that you just preheat before cooking and brush the grates clean with a wire brush before putting the food on.

                                            1. After grilling, I do not clean the grill. When I next use the BBQ I steel brush the grill and then use a small piece of a disposable rag dipped in vegetable oil and use tongs to clean the grill.I find that this not only oils the grill but cleans it as well. As for the rag any old towel cut down to size will do but I use a product called "Jiffy" cloth which is a semi disposable cloth.This is kept in a small bowl or remikin soaked in oil which is stored under the BBQ.The cloth can be reused a couple of times.

                                              1. I am flattered that Uncle Bob quoted from "The Great American Barbecue & Grilling Manual"--- "meat is placed on a heated grill surface they will seize each other with the intensity of newlyweds...Do not disturb!!! At the proper time they will release. Turn the meat over. They will embrace once again!! When they let go for the second time the honeymoon is over...it's time to get on with other business"--- but I would have been pleased had he given attribution.

                                                Have fun, Smoky

                                                2 Replies
                                                  1. re: SmokyHale

                                                    Duly noted...I was indeed remiss in my duties...Maybe I can buy you a cup next time I'm in your neck of the woods......


                                                  2. I've been recently experimenting with using a saturated salt solution rather than oil. It's a little cumbersome but really cool - just add enough salt to water until it doesn't dissolve any more, then dip your grill brush in the solution and spread over grates. Let dry and repeat until a nice crusty white layer forms over the grill. It works!

                                                    1. There are several web sites that provide grilling recipes and tips: Two of my favorites are:
                                                      The Weber Nation site requires that you become a ‘member’ in order to access the classes. That’s no problem. Just give provide your name, e-mail and a password; and tell them what kind of Weber grill you are using. In addition to having access to some very good classes, they send out an occasional grilling recipe.

                                                      1. The onion can be cut in half and then scored in a crosshatch pattern that will pick up and deposit more oil. It gives no significant flavor and can be grilled along with the other stuff when finished. If you do not want to waste paper towel you can save it in a plastic bag and use it to light your coal chimney next time.

                                                        1. They are a little pricey ($2.98 for 6) but there are these things called Grill Wipes that I use sometimes. They are kind of a disposable pad that is soaked in oil. For some reason these get my grill cleaner than the paper towel method but I grill a lot & don't want to spend the extra $$ everytime. Home Depot carries them.

                                                          1. When I oil the grill, I fold a paper towel to fit one fourth of a plastic sandwich bag, add the oil, seal and work the oil into the whole towel. At the grill I remove the paper towel from the bag with the tongs and oil the hot clean grill grates. After use I place the used towel back into the bag, seal and deposit the bag in the trash. No oil on anything but the grill and quick, clean disposal.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: big chuck

                                                              Haven't read every word, but I spray some Pam on. Works great.