Nothing tastes better than food barbequed outdoors. However, cooking on a dirty grill can impair the taste of any food, and is unsanitary as well unappealing. Who wants to eat a burger cooked on a grate covered in last weeks dinner? While most of us take pride keeping our kitchens super clean and sanitary, grills are probably the dirtiest cooking surfaces any of us use. This is due to several factors. For one, grills are messy and time consuming to clean. In nice weather they are often used several times a week, and spending all that time cleaning is a big inconvenience. It does need to be properly done, though, to ensure good tasting meals that have been cooked properly. A clean grill will also last several years longer than a dirty one. The proper way to clean a grill depends on whether it uses charcoal or gas.

Charcoal Grills

To clean a charcoal grill, first remove the cooking grates and place in a pan of hot, soapy water. Using a dish detergent like Dawn, that degreases, works best. Next, dump out the tray containing the leftover briquettes and ashes. Scrub the inside of the grill and the cooking surfaces with a plastic brush or scouring pad. Baking soda can be sprinkled on the grill before scrubbing to act as a mild abrasive if needed. A ball of aluminum foil also makes a good scrubber. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely. After the grill has dried, wipe the inside of the grill, and the cooking grates, with a thin layer of vegetable oil. This acts as a preservative and will help keep food from sticking.

Charcoal grills should be cleaned from top to bottom at least once or twice each season. The cooking grates need to be cleaned after each use, without exceptions.

Gas Grills

Like charcoal grills, gas grills should be cleaned after every use. Gas grills usually have cooking areas that disassemble, which makes cleaning a little easier. Cleaning is easiest when done right after cooking, as soon as the grill is cool enough to touch, but still slightly warm. When food is left overnight or longer, it makes the job much more difficult. Any remaining food should be wiped off and grates should also be placed in warm, soapy water to help soak off cooked on sauces and food. Some gas grills actually come with a cleaning function, but this will not completely clean the grill. Usually it just helps to remove the food particles that have fallen down near the heating elements. If the lava rocks or briquettes are very dirty and covered with burned food, they will need to be replaced, as this can give food a bad taste. They really cannot be cleaned efficiently. The inside of the grill and the grates should be scrubbed and rinsed well. After reassembling the grill, it should also be coated with a thin layer of oil to help preserve and protect it.

Stainless Steel Grills

Stainless steel grills can present a problem. They tend to discolor quite easily over time with heat exposure. They are also prone to scratching and can rust. Keeping them looking nice and performing well takes even more diligent care than other types of grills. This is in part due to the acid content of the sauces used in grilling foods. These can contribute to rusting and staining.

Harsh chemicals and scrubbers should not be used as they can scratch stainless steel. A soft cloth and mild soap are all that should be used.

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