If you’re like us, you appreciate food prepared on your grill far more than you appreciate cleaning your grill. That’s why when we clean our grill, we want to get the most out of the work we perform. Below we’ll show you how we perform a deep clean and do some preventative maintenance on the Yoder Smokers YS480 or YS640 pellet grills. You may even learn some tricks and hacks you haven’t seen before.
Why Should You Deep Clean Your Grill?
A best practice with any grill is to occasionally break it down and do a deep clean. While you're cleaning it, you should also verify all parts are functioning as intended. This will help your smoker last for many years to come.
Any time you are deep cleaning, make sure your grill is unplugged and that the grill is cool to the touch. If you need to preheat the grill to brush the cooking surface, make sure to let it cool down again before cleaning. Gloves and eye protection are also recommended when working around chemicals or grill debris.
Clean & Soak The Cooking Grates
First, take care of any pieces that may require some time spent soaking, such as the cooking surfaces. We usually remove the grill grates, spray them with ATBBQ Grill & Oven Cleaner and then set them aside to allow the cleaner to soak. If the grates aren’t very dirty, you can usually just brush them clean; if they are extremely dirty, you can let them soak for a while before brushing. If you're soaking them, check them periodically to make sure they are still wet with the cleaner.
Getting your grates back to their original level of clean may take a lot of elbow grease. Cleaning them is important because your cooking grates are the part of your grill that touches the food.
Scrape Inside Walls, Smoker Door, and Heat Diffuser
Next, start at the top and work your way down the grill by using a metal scraper on the walls and any areas that could hold ash, grease, or food particles. When scraping, you want to remove the loose particles that buildup from your cooks. First scrape the underside of the lid and knock away any loose pieces of carbon/creosote or fats that may be hanging around. The goal is to get rid of anything that could possibly fall into food that is cooking. Then take your scraper and knock off any food or grease buildup along the walls in the cooking area of the main chamber. Be careful to stay away from the thermocouple and the thermocouple wire so that you don't inadvertently damage them.
While You’re There
You can also use this time to use a scouring pad to clean off any debris on your thermocouple. Cleaning the thermocouple will keep your grill temperature accurate and performing as it should.
Note: The thermocouple is the temperature probe that tells the control board what the cooking chamber is doing. It can be found on the back wall on pre-2015 models or the side wall on post-2015 models. Pre-2015 smokers that have had a thermocouple relocation performed or have had the ACS WiFi Conversion kit installed will also have a side wall thermocouple.
Moving On Down the Cooking Chamber
Now that you’ve cleaned everything above the cooking grates, you’re ready to work in the bottom side of the cooking chamber. This includes the diffuser and everything below it.
If you have a two-piece heat diffuser, use the edge of your scraper to clean off the edges under the diffuser access door. Next, scrape the entire heat diffuser and vacuum all debris off the diffuser. Once cleaned, your diffuser is now ready to be placed aside so you can clean the rest of the grill.
Clean and Vacuum The Firebox & Rest of Cooking Chamber
With the diffuser removed, work from left to right by starting with the firebox and working your way toward the grease drain. First, remove the burn grate inside the firebox and dump any ash from it. Using a metal brush, clean any carbon buildup in the holes as well. This is important to maintain proper airflow in the grill and ensure proper lighting. You can also gently brush the tip of the igniter to remove any remaining ash.
Note: The most recent version of the burn grate was introduced in 2019. If you think yours is older, you can replace it for better airflow and a stronger gusseted burn grate.
Now is a good time to look down into the pipe that is your grease drain and verify there are no obstructions. You can also dump your grease bucket now.
Check The Firebox
Now that the bottom of the grill is cleaned, make sure all bottom edges and the top edge along the chamber wall of the firebox are sealed with high temp silicone. Run your finger along all sealed areas. You should feel smooth, pliable silicone with no cracks or peeling edges. If your silicone is dry and cracking, replace it with new High Temperature Silicone.
Once you are sure the firebox is clean, replace the burn grate.
Clean Variable Displacement Damper Rods
If your grill has the moveable Variable Displacement Damper (found on YS640 models) in the bottom, you can take a scouring pad and scrub the rails clean. Make sure there is no rust or pitting on the rails so that your damper can move freely. There is no need to grease these rails because of their proximity to the fire; just make sure they are moving freely.
Once everything is moving freely, you can replace your diffuser and main cooking grates and second shelf.
Cleaning The Outside
Hang tight, you’re almost there!
To prepare the outside of the grill for cleaning, remove all shelves, grease shield, or thermal jacket from the grill. Clean them with all-purpose cleaner or stainless steel cleaner as you remove them and set them aside.
Wipe down the black paint on the smoker and clean with degreaser or a warm wet rag if needed. If you would like to touch-up some of the paint, take time to clean and prep for it. If you want to learn more about paint repair, we will be releasing another article on that soon. Keep in mind that you can purchase matching black paint from ATBBQ.
If you have a Yoder Smoker on a competition cart, we recommend cleaning and waxing the paint on the cart at this time. Did you know you can also ceramic coat the paint on a competition cart like you would treat the paint on a car? It’s another layer of protection!
Pro Tip - Keep the pellets flowing and the fire going by waxing the slides in your pellet hopper while you have the wax or ceramic coating out. We’ve found that a great hack is to make sure that pellets slide easily into the auger by waxing the stainless-steel slides that are inside the pellet hopper.
Finally, Check Your Airflow
Check to make sure your smoker always has proper airflow. Remember that the air goes in through the fans and out through the chimney. Look at your outer fan and make sure nothing is stopping it from turning. You can also gently blow some compressed air into the fan to clear any dust.
Extra Credit Work – While you have your pellets removed to wax the slides and you’re taking care of the outer fan, you can also remove the side panel of the grill and make sure your inner fan is clear as well.
At this point, all that's left is to clean the chimney. Loosen the thumb screw and remove the chimney. Look into both ends to make sure there is no buildup that will disrupt airflow. You can use a brush or push a towel through with a dowel rod or other long instrument to remove any debris. A clean chimney will ensure smooth unobstructed airflow and a better performing grill in the future.
And that’s it! Now you can fire your grill up. We recommend letting it burn at 400 degrees for an hour or so to burn any leftover cleaner or dust off, but after that, you’re ready to cook again. Depending on how often you use your grill, we recommend performing this service once every year or so for best performance.
For more information, check out Chef Tom's video on Cleaning The YS640 Pellet Grill.