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As temperatures rise and we begin to emerge from our winter cocoons, the amount of time we spend on our porch, patio, or backyard increases dramatically. Ditto for the desire to entertain with your friends and family outdoor cooking skills. Since your grill may have been idle for a while or less used, it’s time to clean your appliance thoroughly before starting to use it again regularly. Even if you keep baking year roundSpring is a great time for a deep clean before the main season begins. Here are some tips and tricks that will hopefully make things easier.
Disassemble, clean, reassemble
A good rule of thumb when cleaning anything you haven’t used in a while is to remove it if you’re comfortable with it and wipe it thoroughly. For ovens, this means removing the grates and any burner rods or covers – basically anything you can get out that isn’t the heating element. This gives you an opportunity to inspect the burners of your gas grill or pellet model’s fire pot for unsightly wear and tear. If those components are worn or too rusted, most companies offer replacements that you can easily swap out with a few basic tools.
Once all the pieces are out, start by scraping excess debris off all sides of the interior – with the help of some cleaner if needed. For a gas cooker, this could mean pushing things out through the grease trap. On a baking pellets, you’ll want to scrape off the grease trough and drains into the catcher, but you’ll also need to vacuum the inside with a store vacuum – the same way you do every few hours of use. And while you’re at it, go ahead and empty out any old pellets that have been in the hopper since Labor Day. Fuel sitting in the oven for months won’t give you the best results when it’s time to cook, so you might as well start fresh.
You’ll want to get as much leftovers off your grill as possible for a number of reasons. Firstly, those things get old and accumulate over time which can interfere with cooking performance and possibly affect the taste. The last thing you want is stale food or grease that burns right under the expensive elderberry. Second, for pellet ovens, improper grease and dust removal can be dangerous. It’s very easy for grease fires to start at extreme temperatures, and if there’s enough pellet dust on the bottom of your grill, it can actually ignite or explode. That’s why companies ask you to vacuum every few hours of use.
To really clean the surface, you’ll want an all-natural baking cleaner. There are a lot of options here and it can take some time to find one you like. I usually use Traeger’s Formula since it’s available at the places where I buy pellets and I find it works well in cutting out the stuck stuff. You want an all-natural cleaner instead of a regular household product because it’s safe to use on your food contact surfaces. They are also safe to use on the outside of your grill without damaging any material to chrome, stainless steel or any other material.
Spray inside and let everything work in minutes. Wipe it all down and go back to any super dirty spots if needed. Ditto for grids, bars, and any other parts you’ve removed. I like to put these on a yard trash bag (they’re bigger than a kitchen bag) so all the stuff I scrape or clean doesn’t spill all over my floor. You can use store towels if you want to recycle or paper towels if you don’t, but know that whatever you choose will get covered in nasty black dust, so you won’t want to throw them in the machine. wash when finished. Pre-rinse in a bucket or sink to make sure you don’t transfer trash from the grill to your business utensils.
In terms of tools, you don’t need much. I tried that baking robot that claims to do the job for you, but I find it more efficient to stick to the basics. And honestly, once you get the hang of it, it won’t take you that long. It’s a good idea to have iron brush especially for nets that you don’t use to clean anything else. This will eventually touch the same surface you put the food on. I recommend another, smaller wire brush – the ones that look like big toothbrushes – to clean the burners on the gas stove. If you notice that the flame doesn’t shoot through one of the holes, you can use this to clean the path. In the end, plastic is the way to go for a scraper, anything else and you risk scratching the surface of the grill. Sure, any damage that happens will be internal, but it’s still not a great feeling to get your previous investment back.
Check for updates before your first cookout
If you have a smart grill from these Traeger, Weber or another company, you’ll want to plug it in and check for software updates before your first grill. Chances are you haven’t cooked much since last fall, which means companies have had months to roll out updates to their devices. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than spending an hour trimming and seasoning the brisket only to go out and start grilling and it immediately starts the updating process. This can extend the entire cooking time considerably depending on how well your firmware is added and how strong your WiFi is.
Thankfully, checking for updates is quick and easy. All you need to do is turn on the grill and open the company’s app on your phone. If there’s a download ready for your model, the mobile software will let you know, and it’s usually pretty prominent. If no pop-up warning shows up right away, you can check the settings menu to make sure. Sometimes for smaller updates, a company may not beat you to a refresh. However, starting a new firmware is always a safe option and will ensure your grill is performing at its best when it’s time to cook.
For a good use time, please clean it after each use
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not following my own advice here, but it’s nice to have goals. I’ll also be the first to tell you every time I smoke a Boston Butt or some other super fatty meat that I wish I would do at least a quick cleanup right after a meal. Grease that builds up is not only highly flammable, but it’s also much harder to clean up as it cools and solidifies. Ditto for leftover sauce or cheese on the griddle after chicken or burgers. It’s best to attack these while the grill is still warm, but has cooled down from the cook.
You don’t have to go out of the store every time to bake pellets or empty the grease bin. However, you will want to make sure that the furniture is away from the main cooking area for safety and so any burns won’t affect the taste of your dishes. A few cups of hot water can clean up grease stains while the wire brush I mentioned is best for grating. You also don’t need to gently wipe with all-natural cleaners so everything is ready to go when you want to cook again.