Cleaning is always a hot topic whenever I teach a class or give a demonstration, and people are always surprised when I say that for day-to-day cooking, a good “burn-off” of the grate is perfectly adequate. Well, it’s that time of year when some of you may not have used your grill much over the cooler months, but with warmer evenings around the corner, now is the time to get your grill cleaned and checked over so you’re all set to Raise Your BBQ Game in 2018!
The grill in these photos is one I’ve had since May 2015, so almost 3 years ago, and I hate to say I don’t think it’s had this level of deep clean before. All I will say is that I must have known I would need a dirty grill for a blog post such as this!! 😉 My view on cleaning a grill is that water only belongs on the outside, and the inside of the cookbox is a simple case of a good scrape, some high heat and your grill brush.
Tools For The Job
This could not be simpler. You will need:
- your grill brush
- a 3″ and 2″ paint scraper
- a roll of tinfoil
My 6 Step Process To Spring Clean Your BBQ
- Clean the Heat Distrubution Bars Remove the cooking grates while cold, and using the 3″ scraper scrape the heat distribution bars of any burnt-on food debris. The bars may have suffered from some erosion due to salts and acids used in cooking, as well as heat so check them for holes or weakness. These metal plates take the full force of the burners and can burn through, but usually only after several years.*If they have rusted, you may be able to buy replacement parts from the stockist where you bought the grill, or the manufacturer themselves.
- Wrap Burner Tubes & Scrape Down Cookbox
Once the heat distribution bars are cleaned and removed, the burner tubes are revealed. These don’t need cleaning as they are protected from falling food during regular cooking, but it’s important to keep them free from debris as you clean the inside of the cookbox.
Top Tip – wrap the burner tubes in some kitchen foil and make sure all of the holes are protected when you begin the next step.
With the burners wrapped, you can now start to scrape down the inside of the cookbox. Start at the top and work your way down, being sure to get into all those corners where fat deposits can build. Depending on the type of cooking you do more of, whether it’s direct grilling, or indirect roasting, your grill will be dirtier in some spots than others. With gas barbecues it’s these thin layers of fats that build up and need to be removed periodically.
My personal opinion on scraping vs. washing is that washing the inside only gets water in places it doesn’t need to be, and a fine layer of grease on the inside of your barbecue won’t do you or the grill any harm. In-fact a thin layer of fat on the inside of your grill will help keep moisture and oxygen away from the hardware, helping to prevent certain metals from rusting.
- Clean Grease Tray & Drip Tray
With the sides of the cookbox cleaned, slide the grease tray out from underneath the barbecue and scrape the debris into the bin.
Remove the drip tray, and either replace the foil tray liner with a new one, or as I did just line with a double layer of kitchen foil.
Replace the grease tray and the drip tray.
- Wash Exterior & Lower Cupboard
Close the lid of the barbecue and remove the control knobs; if they are designed to come off. Use a dishcloth and a green scouring pad (test in a discrete area first if you’re not sure of the exterior finish of your barbecue. Paint vs Enamel?) and give the exterior and lower cupboard a good wash and scrub.
Rinse with fresh cold water and dry with towels or kitchen paper to give a streak-free finish.
*If you have a stainless steel finish on your barbecue DO NOT use a scouring pad as this will scratch the finish. In this case just go with a soft cloth to wash, and dry the barbecue. Finish with a coat of stainless steel protector, or a product like Johnson’s Baby Oil – applied in the direction of the grain.
- Check Gas Hose, Replace Battery & Visually Check Burners
Check that the gas controls of the barbecue are switched off. Reconnect the gas bottle and turn the valve to ON. This has pressurised the hose so you can check for leaks using a soapy dishcloth run along the length of the hose. If you notice any bubbles coming from the wet hose, contact your local barbecue stockist for a replacement part, the manufacturer.
If your barbecue has an electronic ignition there will be a battery somewhere in that lower cupboard. As it happened the battery had died on this grill, but if you aren’t aware of this you may think the entire ignition system has broken. After a cold Winter, if the ignition isn’t working, try changing the battery before you start the more time consuming process of replacing the entire barbecue ignition.
If the hose has no leaks, lift the lid and remove the tinfoil from the burner tubes. Light the barbecue per usual instructions and check that the flames are even, and run the entire length of the burner tubes. Sometimes there can be corrosion around the holes in the burner tube and a good way of freeing them up is to use an unfolded metal paperclip to work the holes open.
*This should of course be done with the barbecue switched off to prevent burns.If the burner tubes are in a really bad state, it could be time to change them so again contact your local stockist to see if they carry spare parts, or contact the manufacturer.
- Burn Off Grates, Wire Brush Both Sides & Scour the Inside of the Lid.
Replace the heat distribution bars and put the cooking grates in upside down. Light the barbecue, turn all dials to FULL and close the lid. Allow the barbecue to burn-off for a good 15 minutes to thoroughly sterilise the cooking grate, and to drive away any water that may have got into the cookbox as you washed the outside.
Reduce the dials to minimum, lift the lid and using your barbecue grill brush, give the underside of the cooking grate a really good going over to remove the burnt on debris and return the metalwork to a smooth finish.
Using heat resistant barbecue gloves, turn the grill grate pieces over and give the top cooking surface a good clean with the barbecue brush to remove brunt on debris.
Take one final piece of tinfoil and scrunch it into a ball. Use this to scuff the inside of the lid for any burnt on dry layers of fat that may peel off and land on you food.
*Don’t do this step if your barbecue has a paint finish as it will remove the paint and expose the metal underneath, causing it to rust.
Wipe out the lid and the cooking grate with kitchen paper and close the lid. Your BBQ is now ready for the first cook of Spring. (Oh! Make sure your gas bottle is full and ready to go too, it’s so frustrating when you go to cook and realise you’re low on gas!)
If you still have the owners manual for your grill then of course refer to that for any cleaning specifics. I’m a massive advocate for not washing the inside parts of your grill for 2 reasons – 1) they are usually too big to fit in the kitchen sink and they also make a mess of the kitchen, and 2) they are metal, and metal and water don’t usually mix that well.
The grill I used for this blog has been a working grill for the last 3 years so it may have some extra bumps and knocks compared to if it was purely a home-based grill. I have to say I was really impressed with how well the heat distribution bars and the cooking grates are holding up and looking solid for another 3 years! Do bear in mind though that cooking grates are like types on a car – they wear out and do need replacing every so many miles (or cooks!)
Now I just have to decide what to cook first…any ideas?! 🙂