What would summer be without your grill? For many Americans, it is where countless summer meals begin, and it’s the focal point of barbecues, tailgates, and family reunions. However, before you cook up some juicy burgers and veggie kebabs, you should give your grill some TLC. Use these tips to prepare your grill for a summer of delicious cooking.
General grill care
Whether your grill is charcoal or gas, these are some general grill maintenance tips you should follow:
- Place a grill mat or splatter mat beneath your grill to catch grease, food, and debris and protect your deck or patio.
- Invest in a quality grill cover to reduce dirt, pollen, and dust from building up on your grill. Make sure it is water-resistant to help your grill stand up to precipitation.
- Find somewhere to store your grill inside at the end of the season. Even if you live in an area with mild winters, keeping your grill inside will protect it from the elements.
- Check your grill utensils for damage before the start of the season, and replace your grill brush annually.
It’s critical to focus on your grill grates while cleaning because they impact the quality of anything you cook on them. One way to help your food from sticking is to oil your food instead of the grates. If you apply the oil directly to the grates, most of it will burn off before you begin cooking. Choose an oil with a high smoke point, such as grapeseed, avocado, canola, or peanut oil. After cooking, use a grill brush to scrub any leftover food from the grates. Make sure you clean the grates before they cool to avoid food and grease hardening. If you’re looking for an alternative to cleaning your grates, use an onion! Cut a peeled onion in half, stick a barbecue fork into the center, and run the cut side along the heated grill grates. Onions have acidic enzymes that act as a natural cleaner and remove grit from the grates. Aluminum foil also works well. Simply crumple some foil into a ball, grab it with a pair of tongs, and run it over the warm grates.
You should deep clean your grill at least twice a year, but more frequently if you grill regularly. Use this opportunity to inspect for damage and rust, and read your grill’s manual for special cleaning instructions. You can typically clean both gas and charcoal grills with warm water and dish soap, but be sure to disconnect your grill from the gas source before cleaning. Throw on a pair of gloves, grab a scouring pad, and scrub the inside of the grill. Start with the lid and move to the grill body before rinsing with water and drying. If your grates look particularly dirty, soak them in a bucket of warm soapy water, and scrub away any built-up food and grease. Remember: charcoal and gas grills have unique cleaning steps you should follow.
Built-up ash from charcoal can block vents in the bottom of your grill and negatively impact cooking temperature. After cooking a meal, allow the charcoal to cool before removing the briquettes and ash. A convenient way to get rid of ash and coals is to keep a metal bucket or garbage can near your grill to store them. Once you fill the container and are sure there are no hot ashes, you can transport the contents to a garbage bag. Before deep cleaning your charcoal grill, remove any residual ash in the bottom of the grill with a brush or shop vac before rinsing away the rest.
Regularly inspect your gas grill’s flame tamers. These angled metal plates separate the cooking surface from the burners. Due to their placement, food and grease often drip onto them. If they appear particularly dirty, remove and scrub them in warm soapy water with a scouring pad. Dry them thoroughly before returning them to the grill. While deep-cleaning your gas grill, take time to check the burners. Use a wire brush and scrub side to side to avoid forcing debris into the ports. You can remove grime from the ports with a toothpick or metal wire.
While grilling is associated with your favorite carefree summer activities, it is important to practice a certain level of care while using your grill. Remember: Always follow the manufacturer’s cleaning, maintenance, and use instructions, and follow these tips for a safe grilling experience:
- Keep your grill at least ten feet away from your home, and make sure it’s on a flat, level surface.
- Never put your grill in a garage, breezeway, or under any flammable material, including dry leaves. Keep decorations like hanging baskets and umbrellas away from your grill.
- Never leave a grill unattended while in use.
- Use only charcoal starter fluid with a charcoal grill. Never replace it with other flammable liquids.
- Never turn on the gas with the lid closed. This causes gas to build up within your grill, and when you light it, it can cause a fireball.