If you’re like most new homeowners with outdoor space — or you’re about to be one soon — you’ve gotta get yourself a grill. Whether you’ve got a terrace in a condo building, a backyard patio or a small dedicated space in a driveway or side yard alley, a barbeque will make the warm weather months that much more enjoyable. Of course, some people grill deep into the winter, too, but you have to be more of a diehard BBQ fan than us to do that!
It really doesn’t matter if you’re grilling on a top-of-line model with all the bells and whistles or a less expensive starter set; with the proper care and seasonal maintenance, any grill can provide years and years of good grilling.
So, let’s look at some of the top things you should know when taking care of your grill.
1 – Baking the grate
Each time you use your grill — whether gas or charcoal — you ought to do a little grill maintenance. After getting a flame going, spend a second to clear the grill grate. We’re not talking about “cleaning” the grate — that’ll come later — we’re talking about scraping the part of the grill that deserves the most attention because it sees the most action.
Each time you fire up the grill, turn the heat way up for three to five minutes. This burns away any leftover food bits from your last cook. Then take a grill brush — we recommend investing in one with a long handle and stiff wire bristles — and apply a little elbow grease to clear away any charred remains. Once you’re done, the grill is good to go for another great summer meal.
2 – To oil, or not to oil?
Baking your grate is less necessary — and a whole lot easier — when it’s oiled before each use to prevent food from sticking when cooking. Some people do this just a few times per season. Others are meticulous grillers and do it every time. Go with what feels best.
To oil your grate, remember that a little goes a long way. Too much can cause a colossal flame when lighting, so be careful. Instead, just dip a paper towel into a small bowl of vegetable oil and wipe evenly over areas of the grill grate where you’ll cook any burgers or buns, etc.
If you’re cooking a protein or veg that’s been marinating in something oil-based, you might want to skip this step. Remember, it’s all about keeping the grate free from stuck-on scraps to make step one even easier.
3 – Avoid the urge to scrub the grate
When you’re done cooking up a feast, your grill grate will be dotted with charred bits of whatever you’ve been grilling. Naturally, you’ll be tempted — as most are —to clean it off immediately. Our advice? Don’t do it.
Keeping a dirty grate is a griller’s goal. Sure, get rid of any chunks of food that remain, but don’t scrub the grate. Cooked-on residue actually helps protect the grill from rusting between uses.
4 – Don’t clean the guts of your grill, either
If you’re the proud owner of a Staub or a Le Creuset skillet or dutch oven, you know the warnings that come with cleaning your pan. All those baked-on meals make the cast iron a family heirloom.
The same goes for your grill. The inside of your grill — if left untreated — gets better and better with every use. It’s called “seasoning.” A well-seasoned grill that sees a lot of action will hold a temperature more accurately than a new one. That’s why people who use a grill to smoke meats have a pretty sticky, grubby, but impressive setup.
That’s not to say you need to be unsanitary. Wipe your cooled-down grill with a dry paper towel to remove any fallen food and excess ash. If left in the grill, this stuff can collect moisture and morph into a rock-like mass that’ll be a mess to deal with. Just don’t scour the insides with soap and water. Save the scrubbing for the grill’s exterior, where it’s OK to keep it looking as new as possible.
5 – At the end of grilling season
Grilling is not just for summer anymore! Many people are cooking outdoors for far longer than they used to. But if you’re the type who puts the grill away just after Labor Day, you need to clean it.
Leaving food and grease in the grill over the winter traps moisture which can cause mold, or worse, corrosion. Also, stored grills with bits of food make great apartments for nesting mice and other tiny creatures.
Whether you haul your grill into the garage over the winter, or you cover it up and keep it outdoors, follow these steps:
- Remove the propane tank from the grill. Never store propane indoors. Leave the tank outside and away from the house.
- Clean and scrape all the interior surfaces, including the grates and the burners and push all the loose gunk into the grease tray or drip pan.
- Empty the drip pan and give it a good soak with a grease-cutting dish detergent and hot water.
- Do the same for charcoal grills, and empty the ash catch one last time.
- If the grill stays outside all winter, invest in a heavy-duty grill cover (not a cheap plastic one) to protect it until it’s time to fire it up again in the Spring.
So, get grilling!
Daily maintenance of your grill will keep you happy all season long. And maybe even turn you into a 4-season griller! When you take it out of storage, just scrape off the surfaces, turn the burners on high, and let the whole thing bake for ten to twenty minutes. Then you’re ready for another season of great grilling! Enjoy!