Whether you use charcoal, cooking wood, smoking chunks or any combination thereof, your grill accumulate ash each time you cook on it. Unfortunately, you can’t just leave this ash sitting in the bottom of your grill. If you cook on a grill that’s filled with ash, some of it may end up on your food — and ash doesn’t have a particularly satisfying flavor. Regardless of what food you are grilling, it will have a chalky, bitter flavor if it’s directly exposed to ash.

Furthermore, allowing ash to accumulate may cause your grill to rust. Ash itself is very dry, but it will absorb moisture from its environment. As moisture soaks into the ash, it will encourage rusting, which can literally eat holes through the bottom of your grill. To prevent these and other related problems, you need to clean the ash out of your grill each time you use it.

Wait 48 Hours

Wait for at least 48 hours after using your grill to remove the ash. Even if your grill is no longer smoking, the ash may still be hot. And attempting to clean hot ash could result in either bodily injury in the form of burns or property damage in the form of a fire. You can make your grill cool down more quickly by completing closing all the dampers, though it’s still recommended that you wait a full 48 hours. By waiting at least 48 hours, the ash should be completely cool.

Clean the Ash Tray

Assuming your grill has an ash tray, you should clean it first. Also known as an ash pan, it’s typically found underneath your grill’s main fuel compartment. The ash tray purpose is to catch most of the ash produced by your grill. When the charcoal or wood burns above it, most of the ash will fall into this tray. To clean the ash tray, pull it out of your grill and dump the contents into a garbage bin or container made of a noncombustible material, such as aluminum.

Scoop Ash Out of Grill

After cleaning the ash tray, you should scoop out any remaining ash from your grill’s main fuel compartment. There are handheld metal scooping tools designed specifically for the removal of ash. Using one of these shovel-like tools, you can easily scoop out the ash and transfer it to a noncombustible container. If you don’t own a scooping tool, you can use an empty coffee container. Just scoop as much ash from the bottom of your grill as possible, and dump it into a noncombustible container.

Brush Out Any Lingering Ash

You won’t able to remove all the ash from your grill simply by scooping it. Some ash will inevitably linger in the corners and other hard-to-reach spaces. While trace amounts of ash shouldn’t cause any problems, you can easily remove it using a brush. You don’t any special type of brush. Just a standard medium-bristled paintbrush will suffice (assuming it hasn’t been used for painting before). Just run the paintbrush across the bottom of your grill to sweep out any remaining ash.

What Should I Do With Ash?

Now for the burning question: What should you do with your ash? One solution is to simply place your ash-filled garbage bin at the end of your driveway, along with your regular garbage bin, for local pickup. Most garbage collection companies accept ash and will gladly dispose of it. But ash is actually a versatile substance with many different practical uses, some of which may surprise you.

Ash is an environmentally friendly, nontoxic fertilizer that makes excellent plant food. Just mix it into a compost bin or sprinkle it directly into flowerbeds or around trees. Not only does it contain essential nutrients on which plants thrive, but ash also has a pH-balancing effect on the soil. If your soil is too alkaline, you can use ash to raise the pH to a more suitable level for your flowers or plants.

Another use for leftover ash is pesticide. If you’re having trouble keeping slugs, beetles or other common pests out of your flowerbeds, try sprinkling a perimeter of ash around your flowerbeds. Common garden pests such as these will go out of their way to avoid it. Therefore, you can create an invisible barrier around your flowerbeds using ash.

What About Unburned Wood

If you come across any unburned cooking wood or smoking chunks when cleaning ash out of your grill, consider saving for future use. The wood may have a charred exterior, but if it’s completely burned, you can typically reuse it. Just toss it into your grill or smoker, and you’re good to go!

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