Keeping your grill clean is a dirty job, but an important job not only because it makes the act of grilling itself easier and far more pleasurable, but cleanliness helps extend the life of your grill as well.
If you're a charcoal griller, like yours truly, the dirtiest part of grill cleaning is getting rid of the charcoal ashes. It can be a pain scooping out the spent coals and ash, lifting that bottom grate, removing the ash, scooping it into a bucket, getting hands super dirty if you're not wearing gloves, 'ash dust' flying....
A common practice is to line the bottom grate with foil, leaving gaps on the sides to allow air to vent. Then when the coals/ash cool and it's time to clean, you simply wrap the ash up in the foil liner and throw it all away.
There's a better way.
I was recently washing some dishes, to include a cookie sheet that had seen better days. The finish was starting wearing off, to the point where I didn't want to bake anything on it anymore. I was about to throw it away when it hit me, save it for the grill!
No more having to take the time to line that bottom grate with foil, no more foil breakage as I'm wrapping up the spent coals, spilling onto other parts of the grill and leaving a trail of charcoal dust from the grill to the trash can.
An old cookie sheet placed on the bottom grate of your grill leaves ample room for air to vent while keeping coals in place for some great heat while grilling and keeping ashes easily manageable for cleanup. The dirty job of cleaning up spent coals is a lot less dirty with the use of a cookie sheet/tray. Simply lift the tray off the bottom grate, dump the ashes, return the tray to the grill for reuse. Easy Peasy! About the only extra step you might have to do is scrap a little grease off the tray before returning it to the grill. The price is right too. Repurposing a cookie sheet cuts down on the foil use and beats the pants off what you might spend on a bunch of those disposable foil products to line your grill/manage coals with.
And here's a bonus tip from my grilling blog, GrillingGoodEats.com:
Grilling Tip #13: Don’t wait until the next time you grill to clean the grate. No, putting a lid on things thinking you’ll burn the food off just isn’t enough and if you’re a gas griller, all you’re really doing is wasting fuel. Clean your grilling grate when the grill is still warm. If you’re a gas griller, that would be after you shut the grill off and before you sit down to eat (clean the grate while the meat you prepared is resting). If you’re a charcoal griller, clean the grate after you’ve enjoyed that delicious meal. It’s easier to wire brush the grate clean when it’s warm, vs. trying to brush it clean when it’s cold, when the flame is high or when you just fired the grill up that next time…. And who wants smoke in their eyes right? Besides, a clean grill grate extends the life of it. Leaving the charred remains of burgers, steaks, fish, whatever, on the grate prematurely ages it, leading to rust. Yes, rust, even if you cover your grill or store it in the garage when not in use.