IT'S GRILL TIME
A clean barbecue is key to great-tasting food
By Ven Griva
Copley News Service
Has this ever happened to you?
It's Opening Day of grilling season. You open the shed door and the bright sunshine spills in. In the swirling dust sits the barbecue grill just as you left it last fall - caked with a season's worth of grease, smoke and ash.
It's certainly tempting to roll that puppy onto the patio, set it on "incinerate" and let the heat take care of all that leftover grime. But if you want your food to taste better and your grill to last longer, there is a dirty and necessary job in store for you.
You have to clean that messy thing.
In "Black & Decker Outdoor Fix-It 101: Projects You Can Really Do for Yourself" (Creative, $19), author Steve Willson suggests you gather the following supplies for cleaning your grill:
- adjustable wrench
- bottle brush
- bucket filled with sudsy water
- curved-handle wire brush
- cotton swabs
- dish soap
- denatured alcohol
- garden hose
- putty knife
- rubber gloves
- scouring pad
You might also consider some rags, wearing an apron or old clothing and eye protection such as safety glasses or shop goggles, because the wire brush will send small particles of soot and grime flying.
For a gas grill, start by turning off the gas and disconnecting the lines. Inspect gas lines for cracks or cuts. Compromised gas lines should be replaced.
Remove the grill cover and wash it with soapy water and a scouring pad. Remove the cooking grates and clean them using the wire brush. Finish cleaning with soapy water.
Once you get down to the burners, disassemble and inspect them thoroughly to make sure nothing is blocking the flow of gas. If a burner is clogged, it will give you uneven heat and make for poor grilling.
Using a bottle brush, clean burners and burner tubes. Flush out any debris left in the burners and tubes with a garden hose. Check with a flashlight. If you cannot adequately clean the burners or tubes, replace them.
Locate your grill's electronic igniter if it has one. Clean the electrode with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. Test the igniter to see if is still working well. If not, replace it.
Next are the grill box walls, which are likely to be heavily coated with grease and food residue. Use a putty knife to remove most of the grime, then wash with a brush or scouring pad and soapy water.
If your gas grill uses lava rocks or ceramic briquettes they should be inspected to see if they are too heavily encrusted with cooked-on foods. Brush off briquettes or lava rocks. If they cannot be cleaned sufficiently, it is best to replace then because of the bad-tasting smoke they can produce.
If instead of rocks or briquettes your grill has a flame shield, it can be wire-brushed or scrubbed in the bucket.
Once everything is scrubbed and brushed clean, it's time to reassemble.
If yours is a charcoal grill, then remove the grill grates and clean them first with a wire brush and finish with soap and water. Remove the coal grate and brush out the insides. Using the curved-handle wire brush and a little soapy water, gently scrub the inside surfaces of the grill.
Whether gas or charcoal, when you are finished cleaning allow the whole grill to air dry. Before putting anything on your grill to cook, allow an extra 5 minutes of heating to make sure any cleaning residue has burned off.
One final note: To make your spring grill-cleaning less of an ordeal in the future, keep grill surfaces lightly coated with cooking oil or cooking spray.
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