Before the season really heats up, give your barbecue its annual checkup. Follow our how-to advice to get your grill up to snuff for that Memorial Day cookout.
Do A Grill Checkup... Stat!
Nothing announces the arrival of summer like firing up the grill. Unfortunately, nothing sours a summer party faster than a grill that won’t light, smokes too much, or cooks unevenly.
Don’t get caught with your tongs down! Before the season really heats up, give your barbecue an annual checkup. Follow our how-to advice to get your grill up to snuff for the big Memorial Day cookout.
Deep-Clean Your Cooker
A charred coating on a grate doesn’t add flavor, it’s just dirt, says Barry “C.B.” Martin, Char-Broil’s CGO—that’s chief grilling officer. Any shiny black flakes on the underside of the hood are unlikely to be chipping paint; they’re burned-on residue, a fire risk. Here, Martin’s step-by-step for gunk removal.
The Interior: Dry-scrub crud from grates, burners, and inside surfaces with a non-scratch sponge or a nylon brush. You can even use an emery cloth or a wire brush on uncoated steel or iron. Then wash surfaces with dish soap and water, rinse well, and dry thoroughly. Martin suggests reseasoning cast-iron or metal grates with oil as you would a similar pan, but there’s no need to coat chromed-steel or ceramic grates. Consider replacing these grates if they’re rusty or chipping.
Deep-Clean Your Cooker’s Exterior
Sponge off both stainless steel and enameled surfaces with warm soapy water and wipe dry. (To prevent streaking on stainless steel, go in the direction of the finish.) Use a high-heat spray paint to touch up surfaces that don’t come into contact with food.
Don’t Just “Burn It Off”
For cleaning after cooking, you shouldn’t turn up the gas, close the top, and walk away. Instead, run the burners on high for only 5 minutes—set a timer—before turning them off.
Then scrub the grates with a grill brush or a ball of foil pinched between tongs. If you don’t feel like cleaning right away, try this next-day trick: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water, coat the interior of the grill, close it, and let it sit for an hour. This softens residue for your brush without the need for heat.
Prep The Propane
Do a gas check—it’s essential for safe, efficient cooking, especially if a grill’s been idle.
Inspect the tank. Run a leak test. Coat the regulator, valves, and hoses with soapy water, then turn on the tank to pressurize the system. Look for bubbles, which indicate escaping gas. Tighten connections and try again; if there’s still a leak, replace the hoses or the tank, if need be. Next, if your grill lacks spider guards, use a bottle brush to clear out debris or insect nests from the venturi tubes, which connect gas to burners. Finally, fire up the burners without the grates in place and look for spots that aren’t flaming evenly. Once cool, clear any blockages in the burners with a paper clip.
Check Propane Tank Gas Levels
For grills without a built-in gauge, get a scale, like the Grill Gauge (about $11; Ace Hardware), or use a bathroom scale. Tanks list their tare weight (TW), or weight when empty. Weigh the tank and subtract the TW to gauge the gas inside. A pound of propane produces 21,600 Btu per hour; divide this by your grill’s max Btu output to see how many hours of cooking on high you’ll have left per pound of gas. It’s smart to keep an extra full tank on hand; store it upright and outdoors in the shade.
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