Question and answer section
Barbecue Grills: Keeping ’Em in Tip-Top Shape
We all think of our barbecues as indestructible, and that’s pretty much true, but you can add years to the life of your charcoal or gas grill by giving it a thorough inspection and cleaning once a year. If your cooking grate is rusty or the charcoal grate is burned through, it should be replaced.
Make sure the kettle is cool and coals are totally extinguished; then remove the cooking and charcoal grates and the ashes. Ashes should be removed regularly to ensure that the vents are not blocked. Wash everything with a mild detergent and water. Don’t forget the vents: they need to open and close easily. Rinse well with clear water and wipe dry.
Cooking grates can be cleaned very easily after grilling is done. When you’ve finished cooking, open all the vents and keep the grill at a high temperature for 10–15 minutes. Then use a stainless steel bristle brush to remove any excess debris left on the grates. This is important because any residue left on the cooking grate could cause food to stick during future grilling. It isn’t necessary to wash the cooking grate; the flames and heat will sterilize it before you start to cook. Check the grate for rust; if you find any, replace the grate.
When the lid is warm but not hot, wipe off the accumulated grease with newspaper or paper towels and wash with warm, soapy water. That flaking stuff on the inside of the lid isn’t paint, but carbonized grease, way beyond baked on. To remove it, use a grill cleaner, which dissolves grease, burned-on food, and carbon deposits.
To clean the cooking grate in a gas grill, close the lid, turn the burners on high, and leave it closed for 15–20 minutes. Then brush off the residue with a wire grill brush. This is called a “burn-off.”
Remove the flavor bars and the burner tubes under them and clean them with soap and water. When cleaning the small holes in the tubes, don’t use a scrubbing motion, but rather a tapping motion in order to prevent the tiny holes from expanding.
Clean the insides of the tubes with a wire coat hanger. To clean the inside lid, wipe it off when warm. Use warm, soapy water or a stainless scrub pad if the buildup is extensive.
Once your grill is in shape, or if it’s new, you may want to invest in some accessories to enhance your grilling experience: a cover will keep the San Francisco fog from causing mildew on the surface of your kettle, charcoal holders are great for indirect grilling, and wire holders are ideal for grilling things like fish and veggies without dropping them into the fire.
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