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June 5, 2013

How to clean, season and maintain your grill

Whether you’ve just bought a shiny new grill or pulled your old one out of winter hibernation, step No. 1 before embracing grilling season is to clean and season it.

Grills are like cast-iron skillets; the more you use them, the better they cook. That’s because food cooks on the grill, the fats and juices are instantly vaporized by the heating elements or charcoal briquettes. The vapor creates the smoke that flavors the food with that legendary grilled taste. The smoke that isn’t absorbed by the food accumulates on the inside of the grill, and so the Grill gets “seasoned.”

So let’s start with the cleaning. If you’ve had your grill for a while and use it a lot, you may notice that the lid of the grill looks like peeling paint. It isn’t. This is simply the accumulation of layers of smoke. Warm soapy water, a scrub brush and a little elbow grease will take the excess bits of black smoke off the inside of the grill lid with little trouble. And you’ll only need to do this once a year.

Next, burn and scrape off any food bits stuck to the grates. Turn all the burners on high for a gas grill with the lid down. For a charcoal grill, burn a chimney starter of charcoal with the lid closed. Let the flames burn until any residue has turned into a white colored ash. Brush gently with either a brass bristle brush or my makeshift foil cleaning brush.

A brass bristle brush is soft enough to bend and not break off like steel brushes. They are the only kind that I would use. The harder, more brittle brushes can also damage the finish on your cooking grates.

If you don’t have a grill brush or don’t want to use one, try this. Crumble heavy-duty foil into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Hold the ball in a pair of sturdy 12-inch locking chef tongs and brush away! Remember to use heavy-duty foil or the ball will disintegrate.

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