Are you someone who cares about grilling? Do you want to maximize the flavor and fulfillment of your food? In this article you will learn everything you need to know in order to keep your grill and equipment in prime condition!
While many people claim that a buildup of grease and carbon on your grates enhances the flavor, this simply isn’t true. It’s all too easy to forget about your grill once the meat is served. Beware that if you forget to clean your grill sufficiently, it not only tarnishes the quality of your food, it also means that you may have to fork out for a replacement in the near future if things get damaged.
The buildup of grease can become rancid and lead to dark smoke prevailing every time you cook – the type of smoke that won’t make your burgers taste good.
The best way to think of your BBQ is like a stovetop. If you spill something on top of it, then it’s best to clean it up. While it can seem like a chore, staying on top of things, being organized, and getting the cleanup done efficiently will elevate your barbecue experience time and time again.
How To Clean Grates
One of the best ways to clean your grates is to use a good old-fashioned, stiff wire brush. For optimal results, use it while the metal is still warm (but not piping hot), rather than waiting for it to become cold again.
The buildup of rancid grease on your grates will give your food some less than desirable elements to its flavor. The black crusty carbon buildup is also something you’ll notice if you forget to do a cleanup. It also produces a lot of smoke when heated.
While smoked meat does indeed taste amazing, you do need the right kind of smoke for everything to work. Not all smoke is created equally!
The best piece of advice to avoid unwanted buildup is to give your grates a quick and efficient cleaning after each and every use. This will not allow food to be stuck to them over long periods of time and cooking will be so much better.
While you may think the job is complete when you’ve finished serving the meet, just remember how much of a pain it will be next time you come to cook on your grill.
The cleanup can be difficult if it interferes with your eating time, so just be aware of this and plan accordingly. If your appetite allows it, you can always leave your food in a warm oven while you clean your grill.
Using a wire brush while the grate is still warm allows food remains to scrape off more effortlessly. If you’ve ever tried performing this task on a cold grate, then you’ll be fully aware of the brute strength and stamina required to pull off this task.
To take this technique a step further, try dipping the wire brush in some water and the warm grate will cause a steaming effect.
(Take care when using a wire brush, however, particularly if you’re using a relatively cheap model. Some of these use very flimsy wire that can come off during use, sticking to the grate. If you’re not careful, one of these bristles can end up embedded in food the next time you use it to cook, and even end up getting lodged in the throat or digestive system.)
While a quick cleanup sounds good in theory, it’s not always doable. Particular if you’re too busy enjoying a bottle of wine and some quality barbecued food that you’ve just cooked up. If this is the case and you’re now thinking of grilling, then you have to resort to a pre-grill cleanup. Here, put the burners on high and allow any remaining particles to burn off. Don’t put any food on the grill yet until the smoke has clearly subsided.
It’s also important to check your manufacturer’s instructions before using. If they have a recommended method of cleaning then you should follow it. Refer to the type of grate your barbecue has.
For example, a hard metal scraper may damage and chip away at the surface of a porcelain grate, causing food to stick during future use. If you use a heavy cast iron grate, on the other hand, a solid metal tool can be ideal for cleaning it, followed by a rub with some oil and a paper towel.
Regular cleaning and maintenance are highly recommended for cast iron. Keep the grill oiled and regularly inspect it for rust. Steel grates tend to be a much more affordable option and don’t tend to hold up so well. Regular cleaning is therefore essential to ensure it retains its non-stick properties. Another tip is to flip your grates the other way around if they are reversible.
Never use a dishwasher to clean your grates. While this may seem like an easy solution, it can ruin the quality of your grates and give you a lot of headaches in the long run.
If you’re about to put your grill away for the winter months, then it’s worth carrying out an end of season clean to make sure you can take it out in pristine condition when it comes to grilling season again. If made from cast iron, use a stiff metal scraper, otherwise, use a metal brush. Then, lay the grates on the ground and wash with soapy water and a cloth. Rinse and dry when complete. Avoid using bleach or any strong chemical products.
How To Clean A Charcoal Grill
While many people go for the easy option of simply throwing out the ash when it’s time to cook, it’s always best to give your charcoal grill a good cleaning after use. A lot of models come with a shelf that serves as an ‘ash catcher.’ Even though this can make life a little easier, it’s still necessary to do a little cleaning.
Start with the grating by following the methods and tips outlined above. Once you have a clean, separate grate, it’s time to take care of the rest of the unit.
Wait for the coals to burn out completely. It can be tempting to throw a jug of water on top of the still-hot coals in order to rush the process and get an instant cool down. However, this only makes even more of a mess. You wouldn’t want to give yourself even more work, right?
You can get rid of most of the ashes by tipping them out if your BBQ is small enough, or by collecting them by hand and using a dustpan and brush if the unit is too big. Then it’s time to focus on the smaller pieces. One of the best tools to use is a wire brush. Use this to sweep out all the remains. Be thorough, ensuring you also get rid of any food pieces that may have fallen through during cooking.
Every month or so, it’s worth getting in there with some soapy water for a more thorough clean. This is especially important if your grilling season is coming to an end and you plan on storing your unit indoors during the winter months. After wiping with soapy water, give it a good rinse and allow to dry.
Once you’ve finished the job, check the unit thoroughly to make sure there’s no rust. You can always consider giving any blemished areas a little touch up with some paint.
How To Clean A Gas Grill
Some gas barbecues have a ‘clean’ setting. While this isn’t a bad thing, it just allows remnants to be burned off. It’s by no means replacement solution for a thorough cleanup.
If you’ve spent a fair amount of your hard-earned cash acquiring a gas grill, it’s worth taking good care of it to make sure it lasts through many barbecue seasons and your food continues to have a nice and clean smoky flavor that you and your guests will enjoy.
While most people ignore (or throw away) instructions, it could be a good idea to check the manual to see if your grill manufacturer has any specific advice on cleaning and maintenance. If, like most people, the instructions are nowhere to be seen, then keep reading…
Once you’ve finished cooking, don’t turn the grill off. Enjoy a burger and allow the burner to continue for 10 – 15 minutes or so to allow all the carbon, food particles and grease to burn off sufficiently.
When you come back to turn off your grill, remember to also switch off the gas flow. Ensure the gas valve is switched to ‘off’. The last thing we want is for you to be wasting precious cooking fuel, or worse.
It’s best to take off the grates so that anything scraped off doesn’t end up being entrenched amongst the lava rocks. Clean them thoroughly using the grate cleaning methods outlined above.
If you’re going for a deep clean, then take the following steps:
- Detach the canister of gas from the barbecue unit
- Collect the stones (whether they’re lava rocks or some alternative). Give them a wipe with a cloth as you go along and leave them to one side
- Give the burner tubes a light clean with some soapy water and a towel
- Clean the top and bottom of the unit, including the lid. If needed, use a scraper or wire brush to take out any stubborn black pieces of carbon. Wash with soapy water and a towel
- Take out the grease tray and get rid of the remains. Use soapy water to make sure all the grease has gone. If you line the tray with sand before cooking, this makes life a whole lot easier. Never tip liquid grease directly down the sink. Always let it go hard first before throwing it away
- Give the sides and any other extra elements that your grill has (like a gas stove to the side) with soapy water and a cloth
- Give the unit an inspection to make sure you’ve gotten rid of everything. Now is also a good opportunity to check for rust. If you see anything you don’t like, consider giving it a touch up with some paint
- Reassemble your grill. Make sure you have a decent barbeque cover (that doesn’t have any holes) to make sure no rain gets in and causes rust
Now you’ve gone through these steps you can hopefully sleep a bit better at night, knowing that next time you have the urge to grill, you’ll have a nice, clean unit to work with.
While making it a priority to do a cleanup after cooking is essential, there are also a few things you can do before cooking:
- Firstly, line the grease tray with a layer of sand. This will capture and absorb any oil or grease that falls through during the cooking process, making the cleanup much easier to carry out.
- Then, when you’ve lit up, give it at least ten minutes before you think about putting any food on, to ensure anything you missed last time out has been burned off.
- Before putting food onto the grates, use a kitchen towel to wipe some oil onto the metal grates. This will help to prevent food from sticking – meaning you’ll have a better quality meal, and a much easier cleanup job afterward.
Be wary of anyone who tells you there are shortcuts or tricks to getting the job done. While you can feel free to give some of these a try, remember there’s no substitute for keeping on top of things and being proactive.
Take pride in your grill. Barbecuing isn’t about simply throwing a burger onto some hot coals and flipping it after a few minutes. It’s about being outdoors and performing a primitive ritual that can feed your entire family and friends. And, a big part of the ritual is to maintain and clean your grill.
So, if you take good care of your grill, it will take good care of you.