Grill Brush Safety: Cleaning with or without bristles

Wire bristle grill brushes are perceived as a safety hazard, with no shortage of scary articles about adults and children that accidentally ingest a stainless bristle and wind up in the hospital.

While the idea of this happening is alarming, it’s completely preventable if you have the right cleaning tool, proper routine, and grill cleaning technique. It’s a hot topic in our training sessions too at Broil King and a space where we really innovate. Let’s find out what’s really going on here, and what you can do about it.

A Tale of Two Brushes

Pop quiz: how often do you replace your toothbrush? If you said every 3 months, you’re right! Toothbrushes begin to look dingy and start to lose their shape and bristles after a few months; the thought of continuing to put it in your mouth is pretty gross, right?

Same goes with your grill brush. Check it every three months.

When your toothbrush looks bad, it has to go, but when your grill brush looks bad, our research shows you keep using it, and that’s not safe. The wear and tear it experiences from brushing against heavy-duty cooking grates causes your grill brush to deteriorate in some unique ways. The average griller performs 1500 brush strokes a year, here’s how it can fail.

Worn out from…

Melted plastic. You’ve got that all too common ninety-nine cent plastic grill brush with the standard low-temperature plastic handle and head. At the factory, the bristles are bent in half and stapled into the head. In a hot grill, these staples gain wiggle room (or slide out completely) because of the intense heat, that frees up tufts or individual bristles to slide out.

What to do? If it’s melted at all, replace it.

The grime mat. If you’re not properly brushing a hot grill, you’re just smearing polymerized grime around. Brushing over that grime causes it to cake itself between the bristles. This grime mat can resist the brush enough to substantially bend the bristles. I like my cooking grates dry and ashen when I do a good burn off and brush. Ash is easy to brush and it doesn’t stick. Re-season your grates after a good burn off.

What to do? If your grill brush is caked with an unidentifiable black, tar-like material with bristles that meander in every direction, swap it out.

Wiggle room. Your bristles wiggle back and forth while you brush. Wiggle a piece of wire back and forth enough times and it snaps off, that’s the main grill brush hazard. If your bristles are snapping off, your brush is way past its life span. Remember how they come out though, the staple is locking that tuft in there, it’s not what fails. Those tiny bristles are wiggling and snapping off one at a time.

Beyond wear

When your grill brush is caked with gunk and worn out, it “smears” materials around on the grates instead of actually removing anything. You’re getting smear marks, not sear marks. This buildup shortens the lifespan of your brush, but more importantly, you’re not actually cleaning your cooking grates.

That sticky grime is exactly what a loose bristle needs to stick to before it transfers to your food, gross. And improper care and cleaning is the leading cause of cooking grate rot. When your cooking grates are caked with wet sugar, oil, and burnt foods, it also reduces the efficiency of your grill and can impart unpleasant flavors and aromas onto your food.

A clean solution

First, choose a quality grill brush alternative and check it every 3 months, replace it at very least once a year. More frequently if you grill often and your cleaning tool starts looking rough. Just because it doesn’t have stainless bristles doesn’t mean you get to slack on maintenance, a clean grill is safer to use.

Grill brushing tools needn’t be expensive! For about the same price as a quality toothbrush, you can affordably replace your grill cleaning tool as often as necessary.

At Broil King we’re testing our cleaning products well in excess of industry standards every day, we want to know what they can take. Innovation in this space is key too, that’s why you see new brush alternatives from Broil King year after year.

Broil King makes a wide variety of grill cleaning tools. We make:

  • Wooden grill scrapers are contoured for your Broil King cooking grates. They strip off caked-on ash and grime.
  • Nylon bristle low-temp brushes work like a stainless bristle brush but at low temperatures on your grill. Their bright color makes the bristles easily identifiable should any detach.
  • Coiled spring brushes which are a favorite of mine. Like a stainless grill brush with a lot more muscle to remove grime. These coils are tough and bash through baked-on messes.
  • Ice-block grill scrapers Ice quickly takes on the contour of your cooking grates and scrapes off grime like a wooden grill scraper. As it melts it rinses away ash and grime easily. The steam generated lifts and removes grease too.
  • Palmyra (palm fiber) bristle brushes. Wooden palm fibers can scrub like a stainless brush but when they fall out they can burn up easily in your grill. Like any of their bristled counterparts above their bristles are larger and easy to identify.

If you’re dedicated to the stainless bristle. A professional stainless bristle grill brush is still going to give you professional cleaning results, just be smart about using it. In the Broil King line, we carry a professional grill brush with heavy bristles (.25 mm vs. the standard thin .017 mm stainless steel). You can find this brush on our website, look for model 65229 the deep bristle grill brush.

Finally, it’s critical to thoroughly clean your grill after each use. Check out this post for an in-depth 12-step process of the right way to clean your grill.

Bottom line: the same care you take cooking in your kitchen should extend to your outdoor grilling space. Use a quality grill cleaning tool, replace it regularly, and properly clean your grill. It will extend the lifespan of your grill, cooking grates, and grill cleaning tool too — and will ensure your backyard barbecues stay safe and fun!

Ben – Culinary Director.

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