BBQ Cleaning and Maintenance Tips
Dedicated cooks know that the return of good weather means the start of grilling season. If your grill has been buried under a blanket of snow all winter-or even if you use it all year “˜round-this is the perfect time for a thorough spring cleaning and annual tune up. These simple tips will keep you fired up all summer long.
Right Tool for the Job
First up, whether you’re cleaning a gas, electric, or coal-fired grill, you’ll need the right equipment to keep the home fires burning. Check the hardware or grocery store for a slim flexible venturi brush (great for getting into skinny spaces), and a stiff-bristle wire brush for heavy duty clean-ups. Brass bristles are a must; avoid steel brushes, which can scratch porcelain or nickel components. Look for well-made brushes with secure bristles and a good scraper on the end. Pitch the brush when it looks worn or loses bristles during cleaning.
Special barbecue cleaners are fine, but liquid dish soap and water or vinegar and water solutions will clean most components. Avoid all bleach and chlorine-based products, which are dangerous to use around flames. Also avoid abrasive cleaners and steel wool scrubbers which can scratch and lead to rusting.
Start with a cool barbecue and disconnect all fuel sources. Remove interior components-the warming rack, cooking grates, flame tamers, and burners-to newspapers spread over a nearby work surface.
Grease and smoke collect on the inside of the lid, leading to peeling layers of sooty carbon. Use your scraper to loosen the greasy build-up and ashes, and scoop out with a spatula and discard. Wash the inside of the barbecue with a mild soap and water solution, and rinse with clean water. Dry with old towels and wipe with vegetable oil to restore luster.
Brush off the burners, making sure that the tiny gas holes are clear. Gently poke clogs free with a toothpick or paper clip. Use your venturi brush to sweep away grit inside the burner, and shake out loosened bits through the gas inlet.
Spiders and other buggies love to winter in your fuel lines, making for an explosive situation. At least twice a season, clean the lines by inserting the venturi brush, 1-inch at a time, and withdrawing repeatedly to clear away the cobwebs.
Flame tamers-bent metal plates-protect burners from dripping grease and marinades. Clean them periodically to prevent grease fires and flare ups. Brush away loose debris, wash with soap and water, and dry thoroughly.
Briquettes or lava rocks help distribute heat evenly and help flavor food by vaporizing the drippings that fall on them. Replace them annually, or when they start to spread apart. Make sure to replace the grease pan, too, before it overflows to avoid a greasy mess.
To spruce up a dull lid, clean away surface dirt with soap and water, then give it a good scrubbing with half-and-half vinegar-water solution. Rinse well and air dry. Buff it with stove polish or apply a lick of high-temperature paint to keep it looking good as new.
Grills need love, too, and should be lightly cleaned every time you fire up the barbecue. Once the grill is good and hot, give burnt-on grime the brush-off with the stiff-bristle brush, using the scraper on any stubborn bits.
At the start of the season, give the grilles a thorough clean. Start with cool grilles, and brush away cooked-on food and grease. Wash with hot soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly. Don’t soak the grates for too long or they will rust. To prevent sticking and ward off rust, lightly spray the grill with cooking oil.
Now that everything is sparkling, reassemble your barbecue (you might want to check you manual for this task). For propane and gas grill owners, it’s super-important to check for leaks before fanning the flames. You should do this test after long storage of your barbeque, and every time the propane cylinder is refilled. Make a half-and-half solution of liquid dish soap and water, and ensure your burners are turned OFF. Open the gas or propane lines, then brush the soap solution over all weld joints on the propane tank, the propane valve, and all valve and hose connections (just hose and valve connections for gas grills). Growing soapy bubbles indicate a leak, which needs fixing pronto. Turn off fuel source, then tighten joints, and replace valves and hoses as required. Perform the leak test again to make sure everything is sealed up tight. Call in the pros if you can’t fix it yourself.
And if your tank is dented, gouged, very rusty or bulging, get it to your propane dealer for inspection. For electric grills, take a look a cords, plugs and connections for wear and tear, and visually inspect charcoal grills for rust and weather damage.
Ready, Set, Grill!
It’s the pits to run out of fuel part way through a good grilling session. Propane cooks can invest in a handy magnetic gadget that shows how full your tank is (Lee Valley makes a good one), or you can pour warm water down the side of the tank and use your hand to see where the water becomes cool, which indicates the fuel level. It’s also worth it to have an extra tank handy, just in case. Extra-long matches or a gas barbecue lighter are thrifty backups if your starter just won’t click.
Make sure to cover your like-new barbecue with a tarp or fitted cover to keep it clean, and you’re good to grill.
Article can be found on the Canadian Living website