This spring, especially, as millions of us are told to stay home, a trip outside to the backyard or patio is a welcome change. And with the arrival of warmer weather, grilling season is upon us.
Those who have a new grill or have taken one out of winter hibernation, will need to clean and season it before you cook.
Remember, outdoor grills are like cast-iron skillets: They get better and more seasoned the more you use them. When food cooks on the grill, the fats and juices are vaporized by the heat and create the smoke that flavors the food. The smoke accumulates on the inside of the grill and is “seasoned,” making food “sing” with grilled flavor. For this reason, don’t want to over-clean your grill.
Those who have had their grill for a year or two and use it frequently, may notice that the inside of the lid looks like the “paint” is peeling. This is simply the accumulation of layers of smoke, and not paint at all. The buildup needs to be removed so it doesn’t flake off and fall into your food. Scrape the inside of the lid first. If the grill still has layers of left-on food on the grill grates, turn all the burners on high for 30 to 45 minutes, or until everything has burned into a white-gray ash. Brush the grates with a grill brush while they are still hot, and let the grill cool before continuing to clean.
Warm soapy water, a scrubbie and a little elbow grease will take the excess grime off easily. Don’t scrub so hard that the grill becomes shiny again. Be sure to leave the first layer of seasoning on the grill, but get rid of any excess soot and ash.
If there have been any flare-ups, clean the outside lip of the grill as well, the part of the lid that meets the rest of the grill. Be sure to rinse with cool clean water.
Once the grill is clean, it’s time to season or re-season it. My favorite way is to fill the cooking grate with uncooked sausages such as bratwurst or Italian sausage — not the bulk breakfast variety. Don’t want to waste good sausage, so make it a meal.
Normally, I grill raw sausages slowly on a low-medium indirect heat, but when I am seasoning the grill, I opt for a medium-low direct heat to get more of the juices rendering and releasing on all the surfaces of the cooking grates. Turn the sausages a couple of times to make sure they don’t burn, and let them cook until very brown and bubbling hot. Remove the sausages and re-set the burners to high, letting the grill burn off any residue until it turns ashy white, or about for 20 to 30 minutes.
Clean the cooking grates with a grill brush, turn off the gas, or close all the vents on a charcoal grill to extinguish the coals — and you are ready for the season.
Cleaning the grill
Preheat every time you use the grill.
After removing cooked food from the cooking grate, allow residue to burn off for 10 minutes.
Before and after each use, use a grill brush or crumpled aluminum foil to loosen and clean residue on the cooking grate.
Remove accumulated ashes from charcoal grills each time you cook out.
Check the drip pan and clean and replace it when it is half full.
Clean your grill once a year with warm soapy water but no harsh abrasives.
And, remember, a grill is like a cast-iron pan: The more you grill, the better your food will taste.