Imagine a warm summer day. You catch a glimpse of that telltale wisp of smoke slowly rising into the crystal blue sky from a grill sitting on a homeowner’s deck. Jealous neighbors look on longingly as they instantly recognize the unmistakable smell of seared meat and the faint sound of sizzling steaks. Children play in the yard as the pup digs through the garbage looking for a few delicious scraps.
It’s hard to think of a care in the world when grilling on days like this.
But without proper care, your grill could become a serious risk to operate. If not given a deep clean each year, the accumulated grease could lead to an uncontrollable fire or even an explosion.
Nobody wants to be concerned about this on those wonderful summer afternoons. It goes without saying that cleaning your grill is crucial, but we all know how easy the time-consuming operation can be postponed weekend after weekend. After all, that grease adds flavor, right?
Whatever benefits you may think building up grease in your grill affords, it is vastly outweighed by the risks of a grease fire. Grease fires are uncontrollable, hot-burning fires that you should never attempt to extinguish with water. Compounding that risk is the propane tank sitting just below the grilling surface. And with that you have a recipe for a nightmare.
To prevent fire hazards, we recommend supplementing your normal cleaning schedule with a deep clean once per grilling season.
Checking for propane leaks should be the first thing on your to-do list for your annual cleaning. The National Fire Protection Association advises doing a quick test with soapy water: “Spray the hose with a mild soap and water solution. Bubbles will be released by a gas leak. Shut off your grill and gas tank and have your grill serviced if you discover bubbles during your test.
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Table of Contents
Deep cleaning the grilling surface
With regular use, the grilling surface may accumulate charred bits of meat, poultry and fish, so this area needs regular cleaning. You should scrub down your grill grates with a stainless steel brush every time you fire up your grill. Let the grill preheat until it is nice and hot, and then scrub the grilling surface with your brush. Any remaining food bits will incinerate and should come off with ease.
Once a season, those grates will need a deep cleaning. Doing so may be significantly less work than you might imagine. There are a few simple and unconventional cleaning methods that require items you may already have in your home.
Laundry detergent is great at cutting through grease and grime. Use a shallow cooking sheet with a ¾ inch or higher lip and fill it with water and a few splashes of laundry detergent. Use your finger to swish around the mixture and rest your grill grates in the solution. If you have larger grill grates, you may use the bathtub to sit them in, but be sure to place a bath towel under the grates to protect the basin of your tub from scratches.
Let the grates sit in the mixture overnight.
The next morning the grease and grit of stuck on food should wipe right off. Rinse off the grates thoroughly and let them air dry. This is a great non-toxic method of cutting through some serious stuck on grime. I’ve personally used this method and can confirm its effectiveness.
Tracy on madefrompinterest.net suggests you seal your grill grates in a garbage bag with a small amount of ammonia overnight. Positive results are undeniable, but keep the sealed bag away from pets, children and grass or plants as any escaping fumes are toxic. Also remember to wear goggles, a facemask and gloves when removing the grate from the bag. If you choose to use this method, be sure to do it in a well-ventilated area.
A Can of Coke
Also on the madefrompinterest.net post, a commenter mentions that a can of Coke may be equally as effective as ammonia when applied the same way. Tie a garbage bag air tight with your grates and the contents from a can of Coke and let it sit overnight.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Consider using vinegar and baking soda as an environmentally conscious grill grate cleaning solution. The folks over at eHow recommend the foaming mixture for your deep cleaning needs. Mary Ylisela, an eHow contributor, explains “Mix equal parts of white vinegar and baking soda in a bucket or bowl, then wipe the solution onto the grill grate with a clean cloth or sponge.”
It’s best to do your scrubbing outside. The mixture and the gunk coming off the grates will likely get everywhere.
A great mid-season cleaning idea that is relatively unconventional is to rub half an onion cut-side down on a hot grill surface, then treat the grates with olive oil, much as you would when seasoning a butcher block prep table. Simply apply some oil to a microfiber cloth and coat the grates. Make you’re your grill is off and has had a chance to cool down. Treating your grates with olive oil may make food less likely to stick the next time you grill, and it helps prevent rusting.
Cleaning the inside of the grill lid
Now that the grill grates are positively sparkling, turn your attention to an oft forgotten part of your grill: the inside of the grill lid.
What may first appear like peeling paint is a buildup of carbon and grease that just happens to resemble an aging paint job. Kevin Kolman of Weber Nation stresses, “It ain’t paint.” These pesky flakes can fall on your food while cooking and taint what might have been a perfect bite of BBQ.
Following a quick back and forth scrape with the grill brush, Kolman advises “spraying the interior of the lid with the Weber Grate Grill Cleaner, which will quickly break down any lingering oil.” 30 seconds should pass after this cleaner is applied on the lid before removal with a damp paper towel.
Clearing the burner tube holes
When giving your gas grill a deep clean it is important to ensure each hole on your burner tubes is clear. Usually, the holes clog when various cooking residues build up on the burner tubes over time.
At a minimum, clogged holes will create a cold spot on your grilling surface or even keep your grill from reaching temperatures hot enough to sear a steak. The simplest cleaning method is to poke a toothpick through each burner tube hole. You may also use a stainless steel grill brush and scrub side to side perpendicular to the direction of the tube.
With regular maintenance your grill will last many years. Avoiding maintenance will cost you performance and temperature consistency when grilling. A dirty grill can lead to potentially dangerous situations when grease is allowed to build up year after year. Respect your grill, treat it well and look forward to year after year of trusty use and delicious food!