Your grill is going to glow

A few simple steps will have you ready for outdoor cooking season

If you are raking the yard, washing windows and scrubbing deck furniture, there’s another job to add to your spring-cleaning “to do” list: cleaning the grill.

Whether it’s gas or charcoal, it needs a good scrub-down, both for a better cooking experience and to get rid of any bacteria lurking inside. You also need to get rid of all the gunk that spent the winter in there from when you last grilled. Even at the very most, this will take less than 45 minutes.

You probably have all the equipment you need to get started — rubber gloves, a sponge, rags, a bucket, a grill brush and maybe a paint scraper. You could also use a grease-cutting liquid like Dawn and/or vinegar. There are basically just three things to do — take out the grates, cleaning the inside and scrubbing up the outside.

If yours is a gas grill, start with the outside lid and bowl using warm, soapy water and a sponge. If you have side tables, do those as well, then dry everything with a soft cloth. You can use paper towels but sometimes they can scratch the surface, especially if the side tables are stainless steel. Open up the grill and remove the bars and grates scrubbing them well with a vinegar-water solution (1 part to 1 part). If there is any peeling on the inside top, brush it off with the grill brush or paint scraper.

Replace or clean out the grease and dripping collector. This is also the time to check for gas leaks. Brush the lines with soapy water and start the grill. If water bubbles, that indicates a crack. Tighten the connection or replace the gas lines. This is the time to fix things. Once you’re finished, turn on the grill to high for 15 minutes to burn off any leftovers.

Christy Buchan of Energy Products and Design stresses the importance of a clean grill. “If you take the time to clean it, it will last a long time,” she said.

Once it’s in use, she stresses the importance of getting rid of any fatty deposits to avoid flare-ups. “That can ruin what you’re grilling.”

She also adds the importance of cleaning the grill racks after each use. Her recommendation for a scraping tool is unusual — a 2-by-4 piece of untreated wood. If used every time, it will get grill marks and almost become seasoned. “The more you use it, the better it gets.” She swears by it.

Something else I hadn’t heard of: cleaning grill racks with an onion. Turn on the grill, put a half onion on a long-handled fork, and rub the onion over the grates. It not only cleans but seasons as well. Who knew?

Charcoal grills take a little bit more time to spiff up. Start with the lid and bowl first, again using soapy water and a soft rag. Remove the grates and scrape, wash and scrub, either with soapy water or the vinegar solution. If you use the vinegar mix, pour it in a spray bottle, spray all around the inside of the grill, close the lid and leave it for an hour. The residue should wipe right off with paper towels. Empty all the ashes and unburnt charcoal from the bowl and the ash collector. Wash out or get a new grease collector.

You’re not quite done yet, but almost. Check the fuel supply. If your propane tank is half-full, get an extra, just in case you ran out when grilling on Memorial Day. If you do charcoal briquets or specialty chips, make sure you have enough. Also do a tool inventory. The most essential are a long-handled oversize spatula; long, stainless tongs and a perforated pan for vegetables. A long-handled fork is also handy. If you need additional tools or replacements, remember — Father’s Day is coming up.

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