There are some die-hard grillers that either live in warm climes, or don’t see why a little sleet should stand between them and a juicy grilled steak. The rest of us throw a cover over our grills and wheel them into a garage or other storage spot once the temperature drops, to be wheeled out months later as the mercury climbs back up. But none of us can make the mistake of thinking that last year’s grill is ready to roll as soon as we fire it up. And Memorial Day – it’s here! Here are the things you need to do to clean your grill and get it ready for service again.
How to Clean Your Grill
Give It A Thorough Once Over
Be on the lookout for signs of rust, or cracks in the metal or any of the grill lines. Also over the winter it’s possible that some little critters may have found their way into the grill, and need removing. Get the least squeamish person in the family to do that.
Wipe Down the Outside
Amanda Haas, Cookbook Author and Traeger Grills Pro Team Member says: “Lots of grills are covered in grease, dust, and pollen when you lift that cover after a long winter of hibernation, so give the outside a thorough scrub down. Keeping it clean will extend the life of the grill and help prevent accidents due to sticky or greasy surfaces.”
You probably can get away with warm soapy water, but there are also specific products on the market for cleaning specific kinds of grills made from different materials. Ask you grill store specialist, or stop in one of the big box stores and someone will surely point you towards a good product to buy.
Don’t Forget the Inside of the Lid
Whether you use gas or another type of grill, the inside of the lid will likely have build up from the previous year, and not only a bit gross, it also can become a fire hazard. You will likely want to use a strong brush for this, possibly the same type of brush you use to clean the grill grates, or maybe a nylon brush depending on the grill material. This may take some elbow grease. I frankly don’t care at all about scratches inside the lid of my grill—I’m just happy when it’s clean. A paint scraper is also a handy tool for cleaning out build up gunk in your grill.
Clean the Inside of the Grill
Do all of the following with the gas off, if applicable.
Cleaning Gas Line Tubes
Clean the “flame tamers,” which are located right over the gas burners underneath the metal grilling grates. Use a skewer or toothpick or paper clip to make sure all of the little holes in the burners are open and unclogged. Tiny wire brushes made for this purpose are a great tool. After you clean the grill, test it, and peek to see if any of the holes are still clogged. Then once the gas is off give those openings an extra go-over to clear them.
Get Rid of Any Ash from Last Year
Empty the grill of all ash and any debris from the previous year (you will need to remove the grate to do this).
Make Sure That Grease Pan is Empty!
Ideally you would have emptied it at the end of last grilling season, but in case you forgot, this is a big one, as grease fires are a real hazard. You’ll want to check this about once a week if you grill regularly.
Check the Fuel Line
One smart insider tip for checking to make sure your gas line is uncompromised is to brush the outside of the gas tubes with soapy water (just mix some dish soap into a glass of water) , and then run the gas. If you see any bubbles along the tubes, that means there are leaks, and the tubes need to be replaced. If you see the bubbles at the point where the tubes connect into the grill or gas tank, these may just need tightening, so try that before replacing them.
Get the Grill Grates Sparkling Clean
You need to start the season with clean grates, both for sanitary reasons and also because you want to kick off grilling season with a beautiful clean grill and beautiful clean grill marks on your food. For a gas grill, turn all of the burners to high, shut the lid, and let the grill heat for 15 minutes. Open the lid and hopefully everything stuck to the grill will have burned off, and then all you have to do is give it a good scrub with a grill brush or grill scraper. Make sure no bristles stick on the grill rack from the brush. A wadded up piece of foil held with tongs also does a good job. You can give the clean grill grate a light brush with oil (vegetable oil is perfect) while it awaits your next grilling session.
You may need to remove the grates. Haas advises, “If it’s been awhile since you’ve cleaned your grill grates, remove them and take a nylon sponge or hard bristle brush to them along with some tough cleanser. Make sure to rinse and dry them thoroughly before placing back on the grill.”
Stock Up on Fuel
If you need a new propane tank, go grab it before you marinate those chops (and consider a backup tank so you never get caught short in the middle of a fleet of sausages—not the most fun summer entertaining experience).
If briquets, wood or pellets are your fuel of choice, lay in a supply of those. Jay Buzaid, owner of Powerhouse Appliances in New Milford, Connecticut for the last 42 years, says if your grill uses hardwood charcoal or pellets, you’ll want to take a close look at any unused fuel from the previous year. If there’s any mold, it all needs to be tossed. If it’s clean and dry, you can use it.
Buzaid says “In the summer extreme temperature fluctuations from hot to cold cause moisture to build up, and sometimes the hardwood pellets and charcoal get wet from condensation—especially if the grill is in the sun.” He tells customers that wet hardwood charcoal can be dried out, but recommends tossing wet pellets. You can prevent this problem with regular grill use, and take Buzaid’s suggestion about storing pellets in the manufacturer’s bag, which is designed to help them stay dry.
Make Sure Your Grill Is in a Safe Place
In a perfect world your grill should be at least 10 feet from your house, and not near an open window. If you can, situate your grill on a fireproof and stable surface like concrete or brick. If that’s not possible, make sure it’s in a place where you can monitor it at all times when the grill is going. And make sure there isn’t an overhang over the grill, to prevent the potential of fire, or carbon monoxide build up.
Check to See Your Grilling Tools Are Up to the Task
First of all—did you leave those tools lying on the grill under that cover all winter? Mmmm, been there myself. Take a long hard look at your tools, and if you think they aren’t shipshape consider investing in new ones. You can’t clean your grill very well with a worn down grill brush, and if you didn’t properly clean your basting brushes before the end of the season they may need replacing. Another tool to check on, or buy new, is an instant read thermometer . These are essential for measuring the internal temperature of meat, which is one of a good griller’s biggest secrets to success.
Grilling pro Haas loves long stainless steel tongs, an oversized spatula for flipping big pieces of food, a perforated pan for grilling veggies, and always keeps small kitchen towels around to protect hands as she put food on and off the grill.
So, now that you’re ready to grill, the only big decision left is…. what’s for dinner first? I usually start off the season with some grilled pizza, thick steaks and a bunch of burgers. What’s your kick-off grilling meal?
10 Great Grilling Recipes for Memorial Day:
- Simple Herbed Grilled Chicken
- Grilled Lemony Chicken and Baby Artichokes
- Grilled Provencal Chicken and Peppers
- Mexican Grilled Corn
- Grilled Lamb Chops and Onions with Herb Salad
- Grilled Cheeseburgers with Herb Sauce
- Smoky Sweet Thai Grilled Flank Steak Salad
- Grilled Pork Loin with Brown Rice Salad
- Grilled Mexican Rib-Eye Steaks
- Marinated and Grilled London Broil