Happy “National Clean Your Grill Weekend!”
Okay, I made that up…but let’s face it, for a lot of folks today (and tomorrow) are when we pull the trusty ol’ Webers or gas grills out of the back of the garage to kick the tires and light the fires.
Shirt-sleeves, chilled adult beverages, lawn chairs, and lots and lots of beautiful smoke!
However, if your grill needs to come out of hibernation, here are my top 5 tips for spring cleaning and tunin’ her up for summer…
(In step-by-step order)
5. Kick the tires
At least once a year (and this is as good a time as any) I recommend disconnecting, cleaning, and reconnecting all tubes and hoses. Things swell, shrink, rot and rust in cold weather––and propane leaks can take all the fun out of that first bbq of Spring!
A good rule of thumb: if I see something that makes me think, “I wonder if I should replace that?” I should. Is there a loose wheel, or a squeaky hinge that’s going to bug you for the rest of the year? Take it apart and clean, tighten, or replace it now…you’ll be too busy cooking later.
Oh, make sure to sweep out and hose down your favorite grill spot on the deck or patio. Leaves, branches, pet toys, and other miscellany…in other words: tinder…have a habit of gathering in those corners over the winter.
“A little clean up now will make that first BBQ party of the year much more enjoyable. Making sure everything is in good working order will pay off big, later.” – Chef Chris
4. Clean the Interior
If you haven’t already, shut off, then disconnect the gas supply to your grill.
Remove the cooking grates and, using a soft wire brush, clean any loose debris from the insides of the body and lid. If your gas jets aren’t removable, I recommend covering them with a length of tape before you start cleaning. This helps minimize the chances of gunking up the holes with loose debris.
Scrape your “flavor panels” with a putty knife or scraper, and use a wire brush to remove ash. Remove the plates and brush any gunk off of burners with a wire brush. Brush all debris from inside the grill into the drip pan, and dispose of it.
Oh, and just one guy’s opinion: I never line my drip pans with aluminum foil. I know it makes for easier clean-up, but it can also prevent the grease from flowing properly, which can be a fire hazard (not to mention it can negatively affect the flavor of my food). Scrape out the pan with a putty knife or scraper, and all the debris should be scraped into the grease trap.
3. Prep the Grates
Now, I know this has never happened to you, but I’ve heard of some folks who open their grill in the spring and find the remnants of the meal they cooked on it last season. Lucky for them, cleaning these nasty, neglected grill-grates is actually easier than most people realize, and you can usually forego the brushes, a dirty sink and a bunch of elbow grease, if you start the day before.
Lay a plastic bag on the ground, top with damp newspaper, then lay your grate on top. Give the grates a healthy spray of oven cleaner, and cover with another layer of moist newspaper (dampening the newspaper keeps it from sticking to the grates). Follow this with another plastic bag. Batten down the edges so the whole mess doesn’t end blowing into the next yard.
The next day, hose down the grates thoroughly, and then wash off any remaining oven cleaner residue with hot soapy water. Rinse the grates again, dry, and coat lightly with vegetable oil, and you’re good to go! (Just a note: only use this method after checking with your owner’s manual. Some manufacturers warn against using oven cleaner on any part of their grill.)
Lastly, plan to fire up your grill for 30 minutes or so (on High) to burn off any possible remaining residue, before the first use.
2. Pretty up the Exterior
Let’s face it, we eat first with our eyes, and I’ve eaten more than one perfectly good steak that probably would have tasted a lot better if the grill hadn’t looked like it had been yanked out of the bottom of a drainage ditch just before cooking.
First things first, power hose the exterior to get rid of any dirt, crud, or creepy-crawlies. Next, use a bucket of hot, soapy water, an old towel, and maybe bristle brush, or a putty knife, and clean every nook and cranny.
You don’t want to use abrasive cleaners to clean any painted, porcelain or stainless steel parts. I’ve found that a mild dish-soap (the stuff made for hand-washing) works just fine. Porcelain enamel components must be handled with additional care (read your user’s manual, or contact the manufacturer).
Touch-up enamel, and high-heat spray paint is available from your dealer.
Exterior grill surfaces should be cleaned while warm to the touch, with warm soapy water.
1. The Test Run
My number one piece of advice, when gearing up for grill season, is to do a full blown test run…on a night when failure is an option.
The last thing you want, when the boss and his wife are ready for their rib-eyes, or you’ve got a house-full of hungry dinner guests, is to discover that the reverse glamfram widget in the secondary intake fluxuator has burned out and your grill won’t throw enough fire to thaw an ice-cube.
Plan a simple grilled dinner for the family, using all the burners, and any special accessories on your grill (have the local pizza-joint’s number on speed-dial, just in case), and make sure that everything works, from fuel, to ignition, to temperature control.
Makes notes of any issue that arise, or improvements you’d like to see, and make those upgrades before the boss is standing there with an empty plate!
Also, when you clean up your grill, be sure to clean up your cooking area as well. Patios and decks can gather a lot of debris (read: tinder) in the off season, so make sure you give them a good sweep before lighting the fires.
Speaking of which, have a great Memorial Day weekend, and sometime during all the fun, laughs, and great good, take a moment to reflect, remember and send up a thank you to the brave men and women of our armed services who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free.
-Chef Perry Simply