Nothing announces the arrival of summer like firing up your outdoor gas grill. Unfortunately, nothing sours a summer party faster than a grill that won’t light, smokes too much, or cooks unevenly. Over time, grease, marinades, and sauces wreak havoc on gas burners and the innards of your grill. To keep your grill working at its best and food tasting as good as it looks, you are going to have to spend a little time maintaining it.
After all, you wouldn’t expect your oven to keep working perfectly if it was parked out on the back porch all year long and not need a little TLC. A thorough cleaning ensures that the burners fire properly, heat distributes evenly, and the grill is safe. Regular maintenance and upkeep also helps you to catch problems like rust early on.
There are three “cycles” to abide by for your grill maintenance schedule: Every time you use it, every ten cookouts, and once a year. Following this simple plan of cleaning and maintenance will help you get the most out of your grill and lengthen its life, which leads to saving money over time.
Start by preheating your grill completely every time you turn it on, as this will clean and disinfect the unit. Once preheated, brush the cooking grates using a stiff stainless steel brush to remove residue and give you a clean cooking surface. Always use a stainless steel bristle brush, never any other metals, especially steel wool.
After each cooking session, run the main burners on high with the hood closed for 10 minutes before shutting it down. This will help burn away drippings and residue on the grilling surface and in the hopper. Turn off the grill and let it cool slightly, and then use your bristle brush again, followed by a wipedown using clean water and a dry-off wipedown.
Never use chemicals to clean your grilling surface. When finished, cover your grill or close the lid if there is one. It is a myth that a grill cover causes rusting.
Every 10 Cookouts
After using your outdoor grill for ten consecutive cookouts, remove the cooking grates and clean them on both sides. While the grates are out, clean off the barriers (those metal things above the burners) and below the grates. Brush out the inside of the grill into the drip pan blow, and then clean out or replace the grease drip pan if necessary.
Finally, put everything back together and fire up the grill, letting it heat up for about 10 minutes, or until there is no (or at least not very much) smoke coming out of the grill. Now you’re good to go for another ten cookouts!
If you plan to pack away your grill for the winter, you’ll want to do this at the end of your season. If you grill year round, pick a nice day and do this at least once a year, and if you use your grill more than once a week, you should do this twice a year.
Start by removing the barrier and cooking grates, and soaking them in hot, soapy water. Thoroughly brush out the interior of the grill, leaving the greasy accumulation as a protective layer on the metal. With everything out of the way, fire up the grill just long enough to look at how the flame is coming from the burners. If the flames are uneven, you’ll need to clean out the burners.
To do this, remove the affected burners from the grill, and with a pipe cleaner or small wire, push through the ports (holes along the side). Then gently tap the burners, open end down, on the ground to displace any debris from inside the burner. Now you can reinstall your burners, and the flames should all be at an even level with each other.
While the grates and barrier are soaking, close up the grill and give the exterior a wash, much like you would your car. Now wash off the grates and barrier with clean water and put your grill back together. Finally, fire up the grill one last time and allow it to heat up, drying all the internal parts.
It may seem like a daunting, bothersome job to follow this cycle of cleaning and maintenance for your outdoor gas grill, but in the long run it will keep your food tasting delicious, and will extend the life of your grill. Manufacturers of outdoor grills are counting on you to fall behind or ignore these upkeep procedures in order to sell you a new unit once every ten years or so.
The reality though is that if you stay true to your maintenance schedule and routines, your grill will last for decades upon decades. So don’t fall behind and become a victim of time and the elements!