Culinary Spring Cleaning: De-grunging Your Grill

By Dawn Warden

Soaring temperatures and sunny skies tempt our senses in many ways, particularly our taste buds; there’s just something about a beautiful afternoon that transforms our cozy, comfort culinary cravings into an almost savage hankering for all things charred. And, after a snow-heavy winter, mild, cloudless skies are surely going to send us running to the seafood store or butcher (and liquor store!) in bigger droves than on the eve of all those storms.

But, before you get too crazy and invite the entire neighborhood over for your legendary ribs or burgers, you need to do a spring cleaning. And not just of your deck or patio, but also of your grill. For some, that may translate into a few simple steps or for others, a daylong project. A great tip that I found online is to first heat your grill—provided you have a gas grill and leftover propane—on high for about 15 minutes. Once you’ve done that, you can use a wire brush to scrape off any nasty bits and pieces from the rack, and then let it cool completely. After that, it’s serious cleaning time. Remove the rack from the grill and generously coat it with oven cleaner—try not to breathe in this obviously caustic spray. Store the rack overnight in a heavy-duty plastic garbage bag. Depending upon the size of your grill, you can either rinse the rack off in your sink or outside in your driveway. If it’s a sunny day, save some labor and sit it in the sun while you move on to the bigger project of giving the grill’s interior an overhaul. The steps here are pretty simple:

· Dust/wipe down the interior on all sides and hood—apparently spiders like to chill in your grill

· Brush off or toss (and plan to replace) lava rocks—these and briquettes should be replaced at least once a season

· De-gunk and rinse all heating elements with a metal brush and hose

· Inspect the gas hose for cracks or leaks

· Do a check of knobs, handles and thermometer, and assess what needs to be tightened, cleaned and/or replaced

· Reassemble all parts, including the propane tank, and let it run for about 45 minutes to burn off any residue, soap or other cleaning agent

Once you’ve done the dirty work, you’re ready to check out your arsenal of grilling tools and accessories. Again, this may require some replacement efforts, but save what you can in favor of making some new purchases for items that you do not already own, such as a smoker, rotisserie, wok, griddle or durable stainless steel skewers. But, without a doubt, the most important tool you will need is a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, get one. If you do have one, get another one. Another essential tool is a light; trust us, candlelight and the hand-doneness test are not foolproof. And with meat and fish costing what it does these days, you don’t want to be the one responsible for overcooking or, worse, undercooking and sending your guests home with a bellyache.