Grilling season is upon us, and it's time to clean your grill. If you are as disgusted as we are about what you've found after uncovering your grill, then read on for a simple and fast way to get your BBQ grill back into cooking mode.
Here in Southern California we can grill year-round, so we don't have any seasonal reminders to clean our grill. It's best to really do a deep clean-more than just brushing the grill, twice a year, and clean the grates thoroughly every couple of months depending on frequency of usage.
I've got a beautiful Saber IR grill that is about five years old and has performed well despite irregular cleanings. I've recently noticed the side that I grill meat on has been noticeably cooler. After initially thinking there was an issue with the gas flames, it turns out all of the carbon buildup on that grill grate was affecting how much heat was being transferred to the food. It's never good to let your grill get to this point. After cleaning off this buildup, the temperature across the grill has evened out and is much warmer.
Grill Cleaning Equipment
There are a ton of different grill cleaning gizmos to choose from, but nothing can beat a long handled wire brush, soapy water, and some elbow grease. We've avoided using any toxic cleaning formulas and just mixed a bucket of soapy water using Dawn dish cleaner. We also gathered our grill brush, gloves, and a few disposable sponges and rags. Everything we needed was about $15, but we also grabbed a stainless steel cleaner for a few bucks more, to get that extra shine.
We gave our grill an initial brush to clean off as much loose debris as possible and then placed them into the full bucket of soapy water. We did the same with the infrared panels located directly beneath the grates. We let these soak for about 15 minutes on each end before removing them.
Use a Vacuum
With the grates removed, the easiest way to clear out loose particles of food and debris that has collected at the bottom of your grill, is to use a handheld vacuum. Our Milwaukee M18 hand vacuum was up to the task. Since we use it in our workshop, we have no qualms about it getting a bit dirty and sucking up any greasy bits.
After the grates and panels had soaked, we took our grill brush to them and went to town. A long handled grill brush is necessary to get enough leverage to remove the really stubborn junk. The shorter brushes will work for in between cleanings, but they won't cut it for getting back down to the steel or porcelain.
Our stainless steel grates had some areas around the corners that remained covered with carbon despite intense brushing, so like Luke Skywalker we used a small flathead screwdriver to clear away the remaining carbon. We did leave a few scratches, but that was the tradeoff for a cleaner grill. Using anything other than a wire brush can damage your grill grates, especially if they are porcelain.
Although we were hoping to remove all discoloration from our grill, we were pleased with the results.
Wash and Wipe
After getting our grills back into shape, we replaced the soapy water in the bucket and proceeded to scrub down the entire outside of the grill using a household sponge. Avoid using steel wool on your stainless steel grill as that will leave scratches everywhere. It's possible to even scratch your grill using a coarse pad, so be gentle but firm when wiping and scrubbing.
It also helps to remove any grill badges, buttons, knobs, or thermometers, while cleaning, so you can remove all the dirt that has built up on and behind them.
We used microfiber towels to wipe down and dry the exterior of the grill.
Stainless steel cleaner works great as a final touch, but it shouldn't be used for any heavy cleaning. Spray it on, and let it sit for a couple minutes before wiping away with a clean dry cloth. Vinegar can also be used to effectively clean and wipe down stainless steel.
During the cleaning process it's good to inspect all of the gas lines and tubes. With the grates removed, light your grill and inspect the burner tubes for any blockages. If you see any clogged holes, turn off your grill and use your brush to gently scrub the tubes.
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