With temperatures expected to hit 80 degrees Saturday, it could be the first time this year that charcoal is lit or the propane tank knob is turned on many outdoor grills.
But many of those grills may have taken a beating over the winter in the backyard. Or, they might still have caked-on gunk from grilling seasons long past.
So what do you need to do to get your grill in order for the spring?
The Daily Herald turned to Dustin Green, who for six years has been the official Grill Master at Weber Inc., headquartered on Roselle Road in Palatine. Green landed at the Weber Grill Restaurant in Schaumburg a decade ago and has spent some 25 years working in kitchens and earning a degree in hotel restaurant management.
Q: If you haven’t touched your grill since last summer, should you do a deep cleaning?
A: If I’m taking my grill out for the first time for the season this weekend, I am going to definitely spend a good 45 minutes to an hour giving it a good, deep clean. Because if your grill is not functioning properly, like if the gas isn’t flowing right, your burner tubes aren’t allowing the gas to flow freely, and it’s dirty, you’re not going to get the best experience that you want to have in your backyard.
Q: What does a deep cleaning entail for the average gas grill?
A: I take the grates out. I’ll get a rubber spatula and scrape the flavorizer bars, which are the metal triangular pieces that cover our burner tubes. Then I take (the bars) off and address the burner tubes themselves. There’s orifices that run across the length of these tubes. So with a clean grill brush, I’ll make sure that I’m cleaning these orifices in the same direction that they point. I don’t want to go opposite that; you want to go with them. The reason being is if you go opposite that orifice, you could open it up a little bit more than it’s supposed to, and then once again, your grill is not going to function properly. So that’s extremely important.
With that same scraper then I’ll scrape out the cook box. There’s a heat deflector in the bottom of most gas grills. I’ll take that out. I’ll scrape it and at the same time what I’m doing is pushing everything I’m scraping into the drip pan. There’s a hole in the bottom of the cook box that I can push everything into and it goes right into a drip pan. Take that out, throw it away and replace it. Put the grill back together and then turn it back on for a preheat.
Q: What about cleaning a charcoal grill?
A: Take out your cook grate. Then I’ll take a look at my charcoal grates and see what kind of condition that’s in. If I’m seeing any type of rust on there, I’ll replace it. I’ll take that out, though, too. And then with a rubber scraper I’ll scrape the sides of the bowl and just get anything loose that might be on there and then push it down into the one-touch system or ash pot and just discard it. It’s super simple. And then preheat that grill the same way I would a gas grill.
Q: How often should you do a deep clean?
A: It does take a little bit of time depending on how much you use your grill and how dirty you let it get. I like to say at least once a year, but once again it depends on how much you use your grill. Now if I’m grilling on the same grill every day, it might be every three months.
Q: Do you use any cleaning products or chemicals on the grates themselves?
A: I like to use just warm soap and water for the most part. I’m not a big fan of using certain chemicals. You want to stay away from certain chemicals anyway with grilling. It’s not good for the material, for the metals and that kind of stuff. Mild soap and water will do wonders. You don’t need to use oven cleaner or any of that kind of stuff. It’s not worth it.
Q: Should your grill brush be replaced regularly?
A: It absolutely should. You can tell the people that don’t preheat their grill to clean it off because they do have all that grease and stuff intertwined in their grill brushes. When we talk about preheating your grill and getting it ready to cook on, you want to burn anything off that’s on those grates. But if people don’t do that, it gets stuck in your grill brush and you’ll never get it out. It’s always there.
Q: When you fire up the grill, how long should it take to scrape the grates with the grill brush?
A: You should preheat your grill 10 to 15 minutes on high. It will take anything that’s leftover from your prior cook — it’ll carbonize it and turn it into a good powder, and it makes it easy to take that grill brush and hit it a couple of times across the grates and it comes right off.
Q: If you clean regularly, what’s the typical life of a grill?
A: To give an exact number, I couldn’t. But from my experience and if you take care of your grill and you maintain it, they’re good for 10, 15, 20 years, if not more. I have charcoal grills that have dated back from 1950 and 1960 in the collection. They last a long time.
Q: Is there anything else you recommend for people getting ready for the spring grilling season?
A: It’s really, too, about making sure you have your essential tools. What are you going to cook with? Making sure (you have) a grill brush. I like to take a look at my supplies. I want to make sure I’ve got my tongs and my spatulas and what kind of shape those are in. My grill gloves, which are one of my favorite accessories for working around the grill when it’s hot. I take a look at everything. I take a look at my smart device to make sure that I’ve got a charge in it and that I’m ready to go when I want to use it. I take a look at my probes and make sure that they’re in good shape. It’s really just kind of diagnosing and taking a look and making sure that everything I want is ready and there for me.