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Grill Cleaning and Maintenance - a Step-by-Step Guide

When you walk down the street on the weekend and sense a smoky aroma of barbecue coming from every neighbor’s yard, you know that it’s finally that time of the year again. Ah, the sizzling beauty of the grilling season! 

But when the barbecue is over, we’re all promptly reminded that every culinary season comes with its own set of cleaning challenges. For the summer, the primary point of contention is the cleaning and maintenance of the grill. Keep your grill in tip-top shape with this comprehensive cleaning and maintenance guide.

Why should I clean the grill?

Grill Cleaning and Maintenance

Of course, you’re aware that keeping your grill dirty will shorten the life of the equipment. But this is just one way through which a dirty grill is bad. A grill coated in a gloopy layer of grease, smoke residue, and burnt bits of food will also make the fresh food you prepare taste much worse.

Even more importantly, however, a poorly maintained grill is a fire hazard. The grease can catch fire, and the flames have the potential to spread outside of the grill.

On top of all that, there's the digestive issue. Eating food from an unclean grill can make you sick. Food buildup on the grill is a breeding ground for bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as listeria, salmonella, and E. coli. When you put fresh food on the grill, the bacteria can be transferred to the food, and this can lead to stomach issues.

Related Article: Grilling Season Mistakes - the Worst Foods to Grill

Learn to deep clean a grill

Grill Cleaning and Maintenance dirty moldy grill

Before you open barbecue season, take a little of your time to give your grilling equipment a thorough cleaning. Chances are, the grill has been sitting idle in a corner for months, and you don’t even remember the last time you cleaned it, so deep cleaning is in order. Follow these steps to meticulously clean a grill:

1. Disassemble the grill accessories and set them aside. Depending on the type of grill you have, these may include the grate, drip tray, burner covers and knobs, and grease catchers.

2. Give the inside of the grill a thorough cleaning. Scrape off any sticky residue with an old metal spatula or a putty knife from all sides and the separate accessories you’ve set aside earlier.

Grill Cleaning and Maintenance apply oil on grill

3. Soak a sponge or an absorbent cloth in some degreaser and thoroughly saturate the grill components with it. Wait for 5-10 minutes, then wipe down the accessories and rinse with clean water. Set everything out to dry. If you don’t have a degreaser at home, combine equal parts white vinegar and water to clean the grill.

4. Meanwhile, start cleaning the grill’s interior. Spray the degreaser evenly across the interior of the grill, but make sure to avoid the areas like gas burners that fuel flows through. Let the degreaser dissolve the black greasy residue for 5-10 minutes, or as advised on the product’s packaging, and then scrub it down well with a mildly abrasive sponge. Finish by wiping down the interior with a damp cloth soaked in water.

5. The outside of the grill needs cleaning too, but this job is usually much easier. Wiping down the sides and hood of the grill with a damp microfiber cloth is usually enough, but any greasy stains can be removed by more degreaser. If you have a stainless steel grill, you may want to use a specialized BBQ cleaner instead to avoid stains.

Grill Cleaning and Maintenance cooking chicken on a charcoal grill

6. Once the grill accessories are thoroughly dry, put the grill back together. Then heat the grill on high to burn away any cleaning residue and water. Keeping the grill wet can lead it to develop mold, so this last step is of the utmost importance.

If you’re using a charcoal or wood pellet grill, open the vents to promote airflow, and then ignite the fire and let it burn well. Once the temperature reaches 500°F, close the vents halfway and let the temperature rise to 520-560°F. Your grill will be clean once the smoke coming out of the grill changes from dark to colorless. Let the grill cool off for several hours or overnight, and only then gather and clean out the coals.

Regular grill maintenance tips

Now that your grill is all ready for a whole summer of barbecuing, you’ll surely want to keep it that way and make sure that it’s ready to prepare whatever delicacies you have planned for dinner. This is quite easy to do, just keep these things in mind:

1. Clean the grill grates with a long-handled wire brush after every use, and then dab a little oil onto a paper towel and wipe down the grates to prevent rust and food build-up.

Grill Cleaning and Maintenance cleaning grill with a brush

2. Deep clean the drip trays and grates every month. Baked-on residue can accumulate carcinogens, so cleaning the areas of the grill closest to the actual food, namely the drip trays and the grates, is a great idea for both your health and the taste of food.

3. Cover the grill when you’re not using it. Dust, rust, and warping or discoloration can all be prevented by simply sealing your grill from the elements when you’re not using it.

4. If you have a charcoal or pellet grill, vacuum out the ash after every 5-6 uses. Both a regular vacuum and a small portable vacuum will do the job just fine.

Grill Cleaning and Maintenance sausages sausages on a grill

5. For those using a gas grill, remove the burners from the gas supply line and unblock possible clogs in the gas ports with a dry wire brush, brushing from side to side. This should be done whenever the burners get clogged or once a month.

6. If you use a propane grill, store it outside or remove the propane tank before moving the grill indoors. Keep the propane tank itself outside and away from sunlight for fire safety.

7. Replace the grill brush annually.

H/T: Huffington Post, Home Depot

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