As temperatures rise and we begin to crawl out of our winter cocoons, the time we spend on our porch, patio or backyard increases dramatically. So does the desire to entertain friends and family with your outdoor cooking skills. As your grill may have been idle for some time, or used less often, it’s time to thoroughly clean your appliance before starting to use it regularly. Even if you’re on the grill all year long, spring is a great time to do deep cleaning before the main season begins. Here are some tips and tricks to hopefully make things easier.
Uninstall, scrub, re-assemble
When cleaning anything that has not been used for a long time, a good rule of thumb is to cut it as much as possible and dry it thoroughly. For grills, that means removing the grate and any bars or burner covers – basically anything you can remove that is not a heating element. This gives you the opportunity to check for any ugly expense on gas grill burners or pellet model fondue. If these components are worn or rusted excessively, most companies offer new ones that you can easily replace with a few basic tools.
Once all the debris is out, start by scraping any excess from all sides of the interior – with the help of a cleaner if needed. For gas grills, that could mean pushing everything out of the grease trap. On a pellet grill, you’ll need to scrape the grease trough clean and put it in a collection can, but you’ll also need to vacuum the inside with a storage vacuum – as you would after every few hours. While you’re at it, go ahead and empty the hopper of any old pellets he’s been sitting on since Labor Day. Months of fuel on the grill won’t give you the best results when cooking, so you might as well start again.
You need to get as much surplus food as possible off the grill for several reasons. First, these things are old, and over time, a lot of accumulation can affect cooking performance and possibly taste. The last thing you want is old food or grease that burns away under your expensive rib eye. Secondly, with pellet grills, improper removal of grease and dust can be dangerous. Grease fires can easily start in scorching heat, and if there is enough particulate dust at the bottom of the grill, it can really ignite or explode. This is why companies tell you to vacuum them after every few hours of use.
To really clean the surface, you need to use an all-natural grill cleaner. There are so many options here, it may take some time to find the one you like. I usually use the Traeger formula because it is readily available where I buy the pellets, and I have found that it cuts through dirt that adheres to dirt well. You need an all-natural grill cleaner, not a normal household product, because it’s safe to use on surfaces that come into contact with food. They can also be used safely outside your grill without damaging chrome, stainless steel or any other material.
Spray it in and give it a few minutes to work. Dry it all and return to any really dirty places as needed. The same goes for grills, bars and any other parts you remove. I like to keep these on yard junk bags (they’re bigger than kitchen bags) so not everything I scrape or clean is scattered on my deck. You can use towels if you want to recycle, paper towels if you don’t, but know that anything you choose will be covered with nasty black dirt so you don’t want to throw them in the washing machine when you’re finished. . A bucket or sink needs to be washed in advance to ensure that you do not transfer litter from the grill to a casual business.
As far as tools go, you don’t need much. I’ve tried grilling robots that claim to do the job for you, but I find it more effective to stick to the basics. In fact, it doesn’t take that long when you come out. It’s best to have a wire brush set aside for grates that you don’t use to clean anything else. After all, this will touch the same surface where you place your food. I recommend another smaller wire brush – the one that looks like a large toothbrush – for cleaning the burners on a gas grill. If you notice that the flame does not burn through one of the holes, you can use it to clean the channel. In the end, plastic is the best choice for scrapers and anything else you could scratch the surface of your grill. Of course, any damage done will happen internally, but it’s still not a great feeling to increase previous investment.
If you have a smart grill from Traeger, Weber, or another company, you will need to plug it in and check for software updates before grilling for the first time. You probably haven’t cooked much since last fall, which means companies have a few months to update their gear. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than spending an hour trimming and brisket seasoning just to walk outside and start the grill and start the refresh process right away. This can significantly extend the overall cooking time, depending on the extent of the firmware add-on and the strength of the WiFi.
Thankfully, checking for updates is quick and easy. All you have to do is turn the grill on and open the company app on your phone. The mobile software will let you know when a download is ready for your model, and is usually very noticeable. If there is no immediate popup alert, you can check the settings menu to make sure. Sometimes, for smaller updates, a company may not surprise you with an update. However, it is always a safe bet to start using new firmware that will ensure your grill is performing at its best during cooking.