Clean Your BBQ for Sizzling Summer Cookouts

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A dirty BBQ grill can put a damper on your summer cookouts and backyard parties. Here's how to prevent your grill from getting dirty unnecessarily, and clean up before and after cookouts.

Keep your charcoal or gas grill covered when it's cool and not in use. In just about every climate, doing so will retard rust formation on the cooking surface, fire grate and burners (gas grills). The steel used to make most gas burners is especially vulnerable, and it's expensive to replace if it rusts through.

Keep the cooking surface lightly greased, either with meat fats or with a non-stick cooking spray, to help keep rust at bay.

A wire or brass brush is indispensable in clearing stuck-on food bits from the cooking surface. To maximize grease removal, clean when the grill is hot by dipping a long-handled wire brush in water then scrubbing the grill carefully, allowing the steam and agitation of the bristles to remove greasy soils.

An oven cleaner such as Easy-Off may be applied but follow the label instructions carefully, and rinse thoroughly before using the grill.

Perform a safety check on the gas-supply components before the start of each cooking season. Replace the flexible gas hose (between the gas bottle and burner control valves) if its jacket is cracked or appears to be brittle. Next, mix up a few ounces of water and hand dishwashing liquid, then brush the solution onto both the hose and all gas fittings, which are made of brass. Soap bubbles indicate gas leaking out in inappropriate places. Replace the hose if it fails the test. Disassemble any leaking fitting, wind about three turns of white Teflon tape around the male threads and then re-assemble the fitting. Teflon tape is a plumbing-supply product sold for $2 or less in hardware stores and home centers. Repeat the soapy water test when finished.

Spiders have a habit of building nests inside the venturi tubes, which are located between the control valves and the burners. The tubes mix gas with air; webs and egg colonies interfere with the mixing process and can block the flow of gas. Clear the debris away with a pipe cleaner or small wire brush.

Burner orifices need occasional cleaning to work at top efficiency, which is indicated by a bright blue flame (in the shade) or an invisible flame (in bright sunlight) any time the grill is hot. Use a length of narrow wire, or straightened paper clip, to clear debris from the orifices any time the burner flame is mostly orange. Use a wire brush to remove loose corrosion from other areas on the burner surface.

Clear away built-up grease from the lava rocks found in most gas grills as follows:

  • Turn the rocks over when completely cool.
  • Place aluminum foil sheets over the cooking grate.
  • Light the grill, close the cover and let it run at maximum temperature until the grill stops smoking, up to a maximum of 30 minutes.

Aluminum foil helps intensify the heat for more effective cleaning. Caution: Heating the grill for longer periods may warp the grill body, particularly if it's made of aluminum. Scrape any residue off the insides of the grill body once it cools completely. The inside surfaces of most gas grills are straight, so it's easy to scrape away accumulated fats and foods with a putty knife or similar metal tool.

The Housekeeping Channel at strives to be the Web's most comprehensive storehouse of information and resources to help households everywhere achieve a cleaner, more organized and healthier indoor environment. The site provides how-to tutorials, plus news and reviews regarding the latest innovations from the cleaning products industry to improve the home environment. Resources include time-saving systems, tools and motivation for keeping a better house at the click of a mouse.

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