Whether you’ve just bought a new grill or are whipping off the cover after a long, cold winter, we bet your whole family is excited to cook, eat, and simply hang out outside. Many of us associate grilling and outdoor kitchens with summer, but the truth is you can have just as much fun year round if you choose the right grill for your needs and maintain it properly. Sure, there’s nothing more satisfying than cooking outdoors on that first warm day of spring—it’s a reminder that summer is around the corner, and winter will be gone for months. But maintain your equipment well, and you can grill burgers, corn on the cob, or whatever gets you fired up any time of year.
For families who have recently moved to suburbs, this might be your first chance to cook in your yard or have an outdoor kitchen. Before you grab the tongs, you’ll need to make the tough decision between a charcoal or gas grill. The biggest differentiators? Convenience and flavor. Many a grill master has argued the merits of each, but consider what’s most important to you. A gas grill can turn out burgers in a flash on a weeknight, and is effortless to operate—you don’t even have to worry about wind. Charcoal, meanwhile, is more hands on, but imparts a smokier flavor in a steak.
There’s no right or wrong answer. Some families even have both options: a large gas grill for big backyard cookouts and a smaller charcoal grill for a couple of steaks.
Before you light anything, learn how to keep your grill clean. These easy tips will keep that igniter firing, so you can make easy, delicious meals for years to come.
Deep clean it annually
If you’re looking to buy a new grill, you don’t have to worry about this right away. Next year, however, you will. A once-a-year detailing helps keep your grilling going strong for years. Set aside an hour or two for the session.
Make it a spring routine
Making grill cleaning part of your spring cleaning checklist (whether or not you cook on it during the winter) is a good way to ensure that it’ll get done every year. Tackle it by the end of April, so you’re always ready for action.
Polish the exterior
According to grill manufacturer Weber, the best thing to use to get the outside of your grill gleaming is warm, soapy water. Glass and stainless steel cleaners and a paper towel may also come in handy.
Degunk the lid
For both charcoal and gas grills, you’ll want to scrub the carbon deposits off the inside of the lid. These look like peeling black paint—and a steel-bristle brush will take them right off. Once they’re gone, wipe down the area with warm, soapy water.
Get the racks gleaming
Then there are the actual cooking surfaces, with all that built-up, cooked-on grease. One no-mess way to clean them, from HowStuffWorks: Put them in your home oven and set it to the clean function. This setting automatically locks your oven and heats it up to around 900 degrees, obliterating any food particles (and grime). Alternatively, spray on any food-safe cleaner and let it stand for up to an hour, then scrub it with your steel-bristle brush. A putty knife can scrape off any stubborn bits.
Clean out the cooking elements
The rest of the routine depends on your type of grill. A charcoal grill should be emptied of any ash and washed out with soap and water. Don’t forget to empty the built-in grease or ash trays. On gas grills, you’ll want to carefully inspect the fittings and hoses for cracks, and clear any clogs in the areas where the flames come out. Read your manufacturer’s advice on this first and make sure the gas is off.
Keep it looking spotless
A little regular care ensures you can throw on burgers or salmon and get great results anytime you want. It’s not a major task—you can check it off in 15 minutes after dinner. Once you finish eating, put on some work gloves and go over to the warm grill. Pull of the racks and wash them in warm, soapy water. Place foil over the heating elements in a gas grill and scrub the lid and sides. If everything is still warm, it’ll all come off more easily. Finally, don’t forget to empty the grease traps and ash cans.
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SIDENOTE. This post was last modified on June 3, 2021. However, we regularly update our content as we test more products and new models are released. We also listen to the feedback of our customers and make changes to our product recommendations based on their experiences. So don’t be surprised if you see some old comments below! Since reader comments contribute to the topic, we have decided not to delete them.