More to outdoor grilling than cooking

Warm weather is a sign to fire up the outdoor grill. To get the best from your grill, proper cleaning and maintenance are essential.

Whether you are a fan of charcoal or gas grilling, both require regular maintenance to ensure the best and safest cooking experience. Keeping your grill in good repair and ready for the next barbeque is easier than you might think with these tips from Michigan State University Extension. It only requires a wire brush, rags and cooking oil. Routine maintenance and a twice a year overhaul can extend the life of your grill, reduce waste by prolonging the grill’s life and save natural resources by using less gas.

Invest in a good wire grill brush. Brushing the grates before and after each use will prevent food and bacteria buildup. Make sure you clean both sides of the grates. After each grate cleaning, soak the brush in hot soapy water to eliminate food particles and bacteria so they aren’t reintroduced to the grate surface during the next cleaning. Hang the brush to dry with the brush upside down. This will extend the life of your brush. Keep your brush inside to prevent exposure to weather.

After cleaning, spray the cool grates with cooking oil to prevent rust. The grates also can be wiped with a rag covered with a small amount of cooking oil.

For gas grills next, clean the burners. These can become covered in grease and food particles which result in uneven heating. Make sure the burners are cleaned only when cool. Use the grate brush to scrub the covers and around the port holes to unclog them.

If your grill has a grease trap, make sure it is emptied. Grease is very flammable and may catch on fire if it gets too hot.

For charcoal grills, the charcoal or ash should be cleaned out after EACH use. Then use the wire brush to clean the sides and ash catchers. Keeping your grill clean will reduce excess smoke during cooking and bad tastes left on old charcoal.

Twice a year, it’s a good practice to give the grill an extensive cleaning especially if you use it frequently. For gas grills, disconnect the propane tank before starting. Start by soaking the grates in hot soapy water, then scrub to thoroughly clean off grease, food and bacteria. Check all connectors, joints, fasteners and hoses to make sure there are no cracks, leaks and any corrosion. Check all fasteners and screws on wheels, handles and knobs. Make sure hinges are working properly. After the grill is reassembled, put the grates in and turn the grill on for 10 minutes to burn off any leftover cleaning products and completely dry the grates (especially if they are cast iron). After the grates are cool, reapply the cooking oil layer.

Invest in a good fitting grill cover. This is will extend the life of the grill and reduce the need for more frequent cleaning.

Following a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule will extend the life of your grill and make sure it’s ready for the next big barbecue.

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