Has your beloved barbecue been buried under a pile of snow for much of the winter? Before you flip your first batch of burgers this spring, it’s a good idea to give your grill a deep clean. This will ensure it’s ready for another season of serving up sizzling goodness. Here’s what to do.
What you’ll need (and what to avoid)
Cleaning a barbecue is dirty work, so slip on a pair of rubber gloves before you get started. You’ll also need a wire brush or scouring pad, a sponge, a few cloths or paper towels, and a pail of warm, soapy water. If the inside of your barbecue is especially dirty, use a paint scraper or putty knife to get rid of any built-up grease and grime. Plastic or wooden tools are best, as they won’t scratch the metal.
With most barbecues, it’s best not to use oven cleaners or other harsh chemicals. Not only could they cause damage, they may also leave a nasty residue that affects the taste of your food.
High-pressure hoses are also a bad idea – they’ll blast grease everywhere, which attracts ants, and can drive tiny bits of debris deeper into burner holes.
Be safe with your wire barbecue brush
If you use a wire brush to clean your barbecue, make sure it’s in good shape. As brushes age and wear, the wire bristles can break off and stick to the grill grates. If that happens, there’s a risk those stray wires will get stuck on food and be accidentally ingested, leading to potentially serious health issues.
If your brush is old, dirty, warped or cracked, it’s always best to replace it. Test the wires on your brush by pulling on a few bristles with a pair of pliers – if they come out too easily, toss the brush in the trash and buy a new one.
How to clean
If you’ve got a gas grill, make sure to disconnect the propane tank for safety reasons before getting started.
Begin by soaping up the outside of your barbecue with a sponge, then rinse it clean and wipe it dry with a cloth or paper towel.
If your barbecue is made of stainless steel, be careful not to use abrasive sponges or cloths and remember to clean in the direction of the grain so as not to damage the metal. Avoid circular motions when scrubbing and wiping.
Once the outside is clean, open the lid and look for any black flaking or peeling inside. Most of this messy mix of carbonized grease and smoke can be removed with a brush or scourer. Scrub off anything left behind with warm, soapy water and a sponge.
Use a brush to clean any big pieces of debris off the grill grates and burner protectors, then lift them out and scrub them with a soapy sponge. If your grates are small enough, you may be able to fit them in the dishwasher – run them through on the pots and pans cycle. Finish up by rinsing the grates and burner protectors, then dry them well. You can also rub grates with a light coating of vegetable oil – this seasons them and helps prevent rust.
With the grates removed, use a brush, scraper or putty knife to clean out grease and debris from inside the barbecue. Use your sponge to wipe the cooking bowl clean, then dry it with a cloth or paper towel.
Vinegar – your secret weapon
If any part of your barbecue is coated with a stubborn layer of grease, here’s a good way to soften it up first. Fill a spray bottle with an equal mix of lukewarm water and vinegar and spray it on the problem area. Let the liquid sit for an hour, then scrub the area clean with a brush, scourer, or a ball of aluminum foil.
A final inspection
Before firing up your barbecue, take a few minutes to examine it for signs of wear and damage. First, make sure the burners are in good working order, providing an even flame throughout.
Second, reconnect your gas tank and coat the tube with soapy water, then turn on the gas. If you see bubbles starting to form along the tube, you may have a leak that needs to be fixed.
This is also a good time to look inside the burner tubes for signs of spider nests, which can cause dangerous blockages. Get rid of them with a pipe cleaner or blast them out with a can of compressed air.
Finally, check to make sure all handles are tightly attached and that the control knobs are fully functional. You don’t want future cookouts spoiled by faulty equipment.
Got tips on how to get your barbecue ready for a new season of grilling? Share them with us.