Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Cleaning Part II: The Grill

Imagine digging into your fridge and grabbing some foul smelling ground beef then going to town to make some patties, or pulling out some hot dogs that are marinading in a dark brown sludge that smells like roadkill. Not exactly the ingredients you want to serve up to your friends or family... but generally we don't think about those things once they go on the grill. It's hot- so it has to be clean, right? To keep your food tasting as good as possible and your grill working to it's best it requires some maintenance. For this project we'll look at tackling the best part of our backyard- the grill and getting it ready for this year's cooking season.
Depending on how often you use your grill you'll need to preform maintenance on it at least once a year, more frequently if you're using your grill more than once a week. Maintenance extends the life of your grill and keeps rancid oils and drippings from ruining your cook out experience. Plan on working for 1-2 hours depending on how thoroughly you plan on cleaning. I didn't really think about maintenance prior to this, so it took me an hour and a half to clean my grill that hadn't been touched in the two years I'd owned it. 

Carbon buildup on the lid of my grill
Those peeling flakes that look like chipped paint aren't paint at all- they're carbon. Leftover ash that has built up all over the inside of your grill. Go at it with a paint scraper first and follow up with a blue scotch brite pad. This buildup can keep your grill from hitting the max temperatures that it used to be able to get when you first brought it home.

Take out the grill grates and heat deflectors. Use dish soap and hot water to clean off any residue. You'll probably need a wire brush on some stubborn spots too. If your grates show signs of rusting (i.e. if you have wrought iron grates like mine pictured below) use steel wool to get off all the rust. Coat the grates in a light cooking oil prior to returning to grill. This will protect the grates from rust and give you a slightly better "non-stick" coating.

Scrape out the basin under the burners. Use a trash can to collect all the ash. If you have a pull out basin, repeat the above step with the paint scraper and scotch brite pad to get the pan as clean as possible. 

Grill grates and heat deflectors pulled out, ready to be cleaned
Get the drip pan nice and clean (or better yet, just get a new one). I'll admit, I should've been more proactive about this part but it was out of sight and out of mind. If you want to know where the terrible smells that can get into your meat are coming from look no further. Hopefully you have a strong stomach because this may make you want to throw up. It's all the grease drippings and such that have fallen from your meat. Clean this out. You probably have a disposable drip pan. If you do- just buy a new one. 

At this point I hosed down the mess to get rid of any loose carbon flakes careful not to spray water near the burner tubes. 

Set the grill back up and set the burners on high for 15 minutes. This will cook off any leftover chemicals you may have used (only use household safe cleaners on parts that touch foods and rise off any commercial cleaners prior to this step) 

Your grill should look a little better- you probably won't get it back to factory condition, your food will taste better, and you've probably prolonged the life of your grill by another season. Now that the grilling surface is squeaky clean try out some original KTF burgers: The Frontiersman or El Bandito. Take care of the things God has given you and enjoy grilling season!

PS: If you're curious, I use a Weber Spirit E-310. Definitely the best backyard investment I've made. I had friends that were nice enough to get me Home Depot gift cards for our wedding, so I got this instead of froofy house decorations. For my review of the grill check out Amazon.

For details on cleaning grills that use something other than gas as fuel check out these tips.

You may also like:
Spring Cleaning Part I: Household Inventory

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