Tomorrow's barbeque is going to be epic, a cookout for the ages. But first you'll need to make sure your grill is up to the task. Here's how to turn your fire pit up to 11 in time for the 4th.
Stuck between open flame and charring flesh, your grill's cooking surface goes through hell during the course of a cook. Luckily, it doesn't take much effort to get it clean enough to eat off.
You'll need a stiff wire brush, a tub of warm sudsy water large enough to fully submerge the grills, and some cooking spray or vegetable oil. Wire brushes are a dime a dozen. They usually run about $5 - $15, though you can always use steel wool as well. The tub of sudsy water doesn't have to be deep; a shallow pan with enough space the set the grills flat works as well.
As tempting as it is to put it off for another day, it's best to clean your grills just after the last cook, once they've cooled, to prevent food and bacterial buildup. Give the cooking surface a vigorous once-over with the wire brush to knock off the bulk of the charred-on gunk, then drop it in the soapy tub for a few minutes to further soften any remaining char. Give the grills another scrubbing with the wire brush, rinse it with clean water, then either pat them down with some paper towels or hang them to dry. Once the grills are dry, coat them lightly with cooking spray or vegetable oil to prevent rust.
Now that your cooking surface is clean, it's time to tackle the rest of the grill. If you use charcoal, empty any ash and unburned briquette chunks—whaddya mean you don't do this after every cook as a course of habit—and go to town on the inside of the grill with your wire bristle brush and some soapy water. Be sure to empty the ash catcher as well, if your grill has one.
Gas grills, on the other hand, require a bit more work. First, disconnect the propane tank, then remove the grills (if you haven't already) as well as any lava rocks and burner shields so that you can access the burners themselves. Soak and scrub the shields, replace the rocks if necessary, and set them aside to dry. Use your wire brush to gently remove any grease and gunk buildup from around the flame ports. Clogged ports result in uneven heating and uneven cooking temperatures, so be diligent in your port polishing. Then, give the rest of the interior surfaces a once over as well.
The flakey black coating on the inside of the grill lid is not rust, but rather a harmless buildup of carbon that scrubs off easily. Don't forget to empty the grease trap as well, unless of course you enjoy grease fires. Once everything is clean and cool, reconnect the propane tank, reassemble the grills, and turn it on high heat for about 10 minutes to cook off any residual cleaner. Then give it a light coating of oil or cooking spray and you're set.
Infrared and rotisserie-style grills require a bit of special attention. The best way to clean an infrared burner is to simply burn off the grease and food bits after each cook. Setting the burner to high for ten minutes or so should do the trick. If not, use a mix of lemon juice and water (NOT detergent) to scrub the grates and wipe them down with a damp cloth. The same goes for rotisseries—give it ten minutes on high and wipe down with a damp rag.
While you've got everything disassembled, check over the rest of the grill for rust and loose fasteners and screws to tighten. Surface rust can easily be treated with some vigorous steel wool scouring; more extensive corrosion might warrant replacement. Polish the exterior of the grill with a sprinkle of baking soda on a sponge and some clean water to really make it shine. Oh, and if you haven't yet, it's about time to buy yourself a grill cover to protect it from the elements.
Now all you need are some delicious animal parts to dirty it right back up again. [About - Real Simple - Wikihow - Lowes - grill: Eldad Carin / shutterstock, charcoal grill: Zoom Team / Shutterstock, rust: Kenneth Keifer / shutterstock]