If you are anything like me the old BBQ generally gets cleaned the next time it's pulled out. It is an interesting game to play remembering what you last cooked on it based on the remnants clinging to the grate and a bit of a microbiology lesson to as you scrub away what's now growing on the grill plate! Here are a few tips to help keep your BBQ in good knick and your reputation as a Grill Master intact.
Grates need to be cleaned completely after every use. This prevents food from sticking on your grill making it much easier to cook on. There are a lot of products on the market for cleaning your grate, but really any good stiff wire brush will do. Now, few people seem to know the best way to perform this little task. First of all, it is better done after you grill and not before. Once your grill has cooled down a bit, but is still warm, take your brush and clean off any remaining food particles. It is much easier to clean off food particles while warmth is still present and not after they have cooled and been allowed to harden on the grate. If you have a cast iron grate clean completely then, brush on some vegetable oil with a paper towel to keep your grate in proper shape. Bare cast iron needs to be inspected regularly because they are more likely to rust.
One of the great things about charcoal grills is that you clean it out after every use. However, many people don't take advantage of the situation and simply dump the ashes out. Keeping a good wire brush handy to sweep out the cooked on remains will make additional cleaning jobs much easier. And don't think that because you have one of those grills with the ash catchers that you don't have to do any cleaning. Everything you cook on requires cleaning. So every time you use your charcoal grill, clean the grate and brush out the ashes and cooked on foods. This will cut down on excess smoke and bad flavours. Periodically, get in there and really scrape out all that stuff that just seems to develop on the bottom of your grill. At least once a year, get out a bucket of soapy water and give it a really good clean. If you need to touch up the colour get a can of grill safe paint available from hardware stores. If you do this, your grill will last for many years and produce great results.
Like a charcoal grill, you need to clean your gas grill every time you use it. Make sure that the grates are cleaned after you grill and brush off the sides and lid after every use. Regularly you should lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. Regardless of whether its lava rocks, briquettes, or some variation of metal plates, it should get a periodic clean to remove cooked on grease and food particles. Take this opportunity to clean out the fat trap or replace the fat sucker product on the bottom tray. If this stuff catches fire mid-BBQ it's kind of difficult to put out without the aid of a fire extinguisher which will kind of ruin those $25/kg steaks you just slapped on there!
Once a year you need to do a good clean on your grill. This requires that you take portions of it apart. First, start by disconnecting the gas and then lift out the grill parts layer by layer. Once you get down to the burners, make sure you inspect them thoroughly. There shouldn't be anything blocking the flow of gas. If the burner is clogged it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling. If you can clean it, do so, if not, then replace it. If your grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes you need to make sure that these are not too heavily encrusted with cooked on foods. If they happen to be, replace them to avoid bad tasting smoke that dirty rocks can produce.
With everything out of the grill, clean it completely with hot soapy water and a scrubbing brush - Handy Andy or Selleys Sugar Soap work well. A mate of mine takes to his BBQ with a water blaster. If you want to try this I would recommend doing it at the end to wash away the soapy residue. Nothing beats elbow grease and soapy water - just ask my Mum! If the paint is coming off, or if your grill is showing signs of rust then you need to get busy with the paint mentioned above. Other than that, put everything back in, check to make sure that all connections are good, and then turn it on. Let the grill heat completely to get rid of any moisture and once it's cool re-oil the grates and plates with a little vegetable oil applied with a paper towel.
So there you are, get cleaning and then sit back and enjoy a long hot summer and a few cold beers!
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