Start your ignitors! Warmer weather is ﬁnally here, which means grilling season is officially in full swing. Grills and smokers are big-time essentials for fun in the sun (there are an estimated 100 million grills in homes in the United States!), but these backyard treasures can also cook up some unsavory treats like burnt foods, insects, or debris when ignored for too long. Here's how to take care of your grill so you can enjoy what you eat throughout the season and beyond.
WHEN GRILLING SEASON BEGINS
Prior to ﬁring up your grill for the first time, examine the inside and clear away any spider webs, pests, or debris that may have been collected on the cooking grates or in the firebox while stored away or not in use.
For gas grills, reconnect your propane tank and check your gas line for leaks. You can check for leaks by applying a soap and water solution to the connections and hose. If any bubbles form, you may have a leak and need to do some replacements.
At the start of the grilling season, you should also:
- Lubricate moving parts, like hinges or wheels.
- Clean the ignition system and burners.
- Run a maintenance test.
- Season the grates.
- Replace any old or broken parts.
- Give it a deep cleaning yourself, or contact a grill cleaning service.
- Stock up on protective and fire safety gear, like fire extinguishers.
BEFORE EACH USE
Before you add food to your gas or charcoal grill, ensure you have a proper fuel supply and a clear grilling area. Appropriately light your grill, let it preheat with the lid closed for 10-15 minutes, and then brush the grates to remove dirt from previous grilling sessions. Preheating your grill will not only disinfect and sterilize it, but it’ll also allow leftover debris to turn to ash, making it easy to brush the grates and remove residue. For gas grills, you should empty the drip tray to reduce the chances of a grease ﬁre.
Additionally, gather supplies you'll need to keep handy, like:
- Recipe with cooking times
- Heat-resistant gloves
- Grilling tools and utensils
- Sauces and seasonings
- Trays and plates
DURING GRILLING SEASON
Grease and smoke deposits can build up inside your grill, so it’s important to scrub the lid from time to time. For charcoal grills, use a soapy water solution and paper towel, and be sure to clean out the ash catcher. For gas grills, use a stainless-steel brush, and don’t forget to address the burner covers. It's recommended to lightly oil the grates before storing, too.
If you live in a drier climate, you’ll want to protect your grill with a waterproof, breathable cover. On the other hand, if you live near the ocean or in a humid area, you’ll want to leave your grill uncovered to avoid trapping salty or moist air that could cause grill rust.
AFTER GRILLING SEASON ENDS
Before you pack your grill away for the year, thoroughly clean the cooking grates and give the inside one ﬁnal scrub down with soapy water, using a wool pad or wire brush for best results. You’ll need to give the exterior of your grill some love, too. For charcoal grills, use a mild detergent soap or glass cleaner. For gas grills, use a multipurpose grill cleaning spray, and always remember to disconnect the propane tank. After your grill is clean, cover it and store it in a secure, sheltered location.
How to Care for Your Grill
Now that you know how to care for your grill when grilling season begins, before each use, during grilling season, and after grilling season ends, you'll keep your grill looking and working great. Need some summer grilling inspiration? Check out unsuspecting foods that taste glorious when grilled!
1. How do you season a grill?
Complete the following steps to season a grill:
- Preheat the grill for 10-15 minutes with the lid closed.
- While the grill is preheating, clean the grates with a grill brush to remove dirt, debris, and burnt food.
- Evenly apply a thin layer of high-heat cooking oil with heat-resistant gloves or tongs and a clean cloth.
- Let the oil bond by heating the grill for another 10-15 minutes with the lid closed.
- Turn off the grill, let it cool, and wipe down the grates to remove excess oil with a cloth.
2. What's the difference between a gas grill and a charcoal grill?
Gas grills use propane or natural gas, and charcoal grills use charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal as a fuel source.
While gas grills are often more expensive, it's easier to ignite, use, and control the temperature of a gas grill. Gas grills also offer a neutral flavor and are more versatile. Conversely, charcoal grills are usually cheaper, but less predictable. Charcoal grills produce a smoky flavor and require more time, effort, and attention to use.