Grilling season is once again upon us and if you are like many other families out there you are just realizing that you forgot to clean your grill before putting it up for the winter. Sometimes we don't realize that the last time we grilled was going to be the last time for the entire year! Fortunately I have some tips for you to get your grill cleaned and ready for the summer cookouts.
Depending on your type of grill, you may be able to crank up the heat and turn the stuck bits of food into ash for easiest cleanup. Newer grills tend to be made from thinner materials, and the prolonged high heat can actually warp your grill pieces, damage built in thermometers, and cause other issues. A better approach is to remove the grill pieces and place them inside your oven and turn on the self clean function.
NEVER use harsh chemicals when cleaning your grill. Many people like to use oven cleaner to clean their grill parts, but this comes with a whole host of problems. Aside from the residue that can be left inside the grill, causing flavor issues over the course of the next couple of cookouts, it also has the potential to damage some stainless steel finishes and nearly all painted finishes. Also, depending on where you do the cleaning the runoff of the chemicals can kill your grass. Instead use a product designed to be safe and damage free. I personally like to use Weber Grill Cleaner Spray. It is citrus based and is non flammable, non toxic, and biodegradable. It will not damage your grill.
Be very careful using a wire brush or steel wool when cleaning. These tools will destroy your stainless steel finish if used on the exterior. If you have stubborn stains, use a green scrub pad and go with the grain of the stainless steel. Finish up with a stainless steel cleaner to get a nice shine. Make sure the cleaner has fully dried before cleaning as it is flammable!
Now that it is clean how do we keep it that way?
Place aluminum foil in the drip tray for easier future cleaning. If your grill has lava rocks, make sure you replace them once a year, as trapped grease will emit an odor. After cooking you meal, place an aluminum pie tray filled with water over the coals or over a single burner set to low and let it boil away while you eat. When you finish eating, go back out to your grill and wipe the grill clean with the cleaning brush. The moisture will have softened everything up and will make it easier to clean. Preheat and season your grill to ensure easy cleaning going forward. 20 minutes before you cook, turn on the heat and brush cooking oil over the grates. After 20 minutes wipe the grates clean. This has the same effect as seasoning your cast iron pans and will create a natural anti-stick coating over time.
Have a great summer and a wonderful time grilling!