Come Memorial Day, Americans light up - their grills, that is.
Before you light that match or turn on the gas in the spring, stop and think. That grill has been sitting out in the yard for six or seven months, accumulating dirt, insects, and rust.
Just as you wouldn't fry an egg in a dirty frying pan, you wouldn't throw a juicy steak on a dirty grate. Would you? I didn't think so.
Here's how to clean a grill and get it ready to glow for another season.
To get your charcoal grill ready to go, start by cleaning the cooking grate with a brass grill brush and warm soapy water. If you meet resistance, try rubbing it lightly with steel wool. Rinse and dry. (Lightly coat cast-iron grates with cooking oil.)
Never use oven cleaner on your grill. It can damage the finish, plus it's a bad idea to put a caustic substance on the grates where the food's going to go.
Remove last year's ashes. Then clean the inside and outside of the grill with warm soapy water. Rinse and wipe dry.
Now to keep that grill clean, treat it just like you would any other cooking surface.
If you wipe up spills immediately - before they get cooked on - cleanup will be much easier. (The grill will look nicer, too.)
After each use, while the grates are still warm, clean them with a wire grill brush. If you have cast-iron grates, oil them lightly after cleaning. Then remove the ashes.
If you're like most people, you've got a trusty, much-used gas grill sitting on your patio or deck.
And if you're like most people, you haven't cleaned that thing since you bought it.
Are you crazy? You're really going to light up a tank of propane without checking things out first? I didn't think so.
Here are some tips for cleaning and inspecting your gas grill before you fire up this summer. (Warning: Always check your manufacturer's directions before doing anything to your grill. There may be a specific way to clean your particular model.)
Before you fire up, read your owner's manual. Bring it outside with you for reference. Spread newspapers under your work area to protect your patio or deck.
Shut off the gas at the tank and remove the tank. (Follow directions in your owner's manual for removing the burner and pulling the gas or venturi tubes off the gas lines.)
Clean off any external dirt or grease with a cloth dipped in soapy water. Wipe the grill dry. Spider nests and grease can clog ports (or gas connections). Remove clogs with a toothpick, wire, or paper clip. Clear the venturi tubes with a non-wire bottlebrush.
Remove grill grates (or grids) and briquettes, and set them aside.
Wash the burner grates and drip pans with soapy water and a plastic scouring pad, and then set them aside. Cover the gas openings at the control panel with plastic bags and/or aluminum foil to keep them dry. Then clean the inside and outside of the grill with a brass bristle brush and warm, soapy water.
Rinse it with a garden hose, and then wipe it dry. Remove the plastic/foil covering on the gas openings.
Check the hoses for leaks or cracks. Make sure that there are no severe bends in the hoses. Hook up the propane tank. (If it's dented or very rusty, do not use it. There could be a leak. Replace it immediately.)
Check for connection leaks by painting the connections with a solution of half water and half soap. Turn on the gas. If any connections bubble, you've got a leak. Tighten the connections.
To clean the briquettes and grate, put them in the grill, flipped over so that the greasy side faces the burner. Close the lid and "cook" on high for 15 minutes.
When cool, remove them and scrub with a brass bristle brush and warm soapy water. Dry and replace. Oil grates to ward off corrosion.
Replace any briquettes that are disintegrating. (They usually need replacing once a year.) Then replace the burner grates and drip pans.
To keep your gas grill in top-grilling shape, after each use close the lid and turn the heat on high for 15 minutes. Scrape the grates with a wire grill brush. If the grates are cast iron, season them with oil.
Clean the grill every six months, or at least at the beginning and end of the grilling season.
Before storing a gas grill for winter, it's essential to winterize it. Clean the briquettes and grates by flipping them greasy side down, closing the lid, and firing up the grill on high for 15 minutes. Cool and wash with warm soapy water.
Turn off the gas at the tank and remove the propane unit. Clean the tank with warm, soapy water and wipe it dry. Clean the gas connections with a paper clip.
Clean the outside of the grill and check for chips. Sand and touch up chips with a paint designed for high temperatures.
If you store your grill outside, replace the propane unit, and cover the grill.
If you store your grill inside, keep the tank off of it. Store the tank outside (away from kids and dryer vents) in an upright position. Cover gas line openings with plastic bags to prevent bugs and spiders from nesting there.