I remember years ago firing up a friend’s barbecue at the cottage and starting to scrape the grills clean of built-up grime. “What are you doing,” he asked me. “That’s the flavour.” I begged to differ, and you should too. Cleaning the grills, firebox, heat diffusers, and drip tray will prevent steak-scorching flare-ups. If it’s been a while, here’s your spring cleaning to do list.
This is messy work so set up some newspaper on the ground nearby to catch the gunk you scrape off. Don a pair of work gloves and remove the grills. You want to clear as much grime as possible off of the top and bottom of the grills, and all the gaps in between. Your wire cleaning brush is a good tool to start with, but I find a painter’s spatula, putty knife or even an old kitchen knife are best for getting into all the gaps between the grills. As you’re working, try to brush down and away from yourself to avoid flinging the crud onto your clothes. For a really thorough cleaning, you can finish off by scrubbing with a stainless steel pad and some soapy water. You could also use a commercial degreasing product following the instructions on the package, just make sure you’re far away from lake that nothing flows into the water.
Next, remove the heat plates or diffusers that sit between the burner and grills. (These are usually inverted V-shaped pieces of stainless steel, or a connected plate with gaps in the middle.) Again, use your brush to scrape of any rust and food debris. You’ll likely notice that some plates have more buildup than others so rotate the positioning before you put them back in place.
Scrape the inside of the lid and firebox using your spatula or putty knife, knocking all the debris into the drip pan below.
Use your brush to clear any rust and debris off the burner tubes. If any of the holes are clogged, use a paperclip to clear them out.
Finally, remove the drip pan from below the burners. This is where all the grease and debris you scrape off accumulate, and is the source of fuel for those meal-wrecking flare-ups. A putty knife or spatula is the perfect tools for scraping this pan clean. Depending on how often you use the barbecue, you’ll want to clean out this pan at least a couple of times a season.
For ongoing maintenance all season long, once you’re done cooking, crank the heat up full blast. While your meat is inside resting, scrape the grills clean before you shut it down for the night. Before firing it up next time, check the drip pan and clean that out again as necessary.
Safe and sound
Check the hoses for leaks by coating them and the connection points with some soapy water. Open the gas tank’s valvebut not the barbecue burners—and watch for any bubbles to form. If so, there’s a leak and you should replace the hose before using. If not, you’re good to grill.
If your cleaning brush is ready to be retired, invest in a good-quality replacement. There have been numerous reports in recent years of people accidentally ingesting the metal barbs that came loose from a brush. Keeping the grills clean of junk will help avoid this, but you should also stay away from cheap plastic brushes that can soften in the heat.
Finally, if your barbecue runs off of propane tanks, make sure you have a spare and that it’s filled. Nothing will ruin the evening like getting your steaks half-cooked, and then the tank runs out.