Our mild mediterranean climate in San Francisco allows us to barbecue year-round for the most part, but summer is truly barbecue season. Barbecues appear to be indestructible and that’s pretty much true, but you can add years to the life of your charcoal or gas grill by giving it a thorough inspection and cleaning once a year. And when we have those few truly hot days, don’t get caught in a hot kitchen cooking dinner — an entire meal can be easily cooked on a barbecue.
Make sure the kettle is cool and coals are totally extinguished, then remove the cooking and charcoal grates and the ashes. Ashes should be removed regularly to ensure that the vents are not blocked.
Wash everything with a mild detergent and water. Don’t forget the vents: they need to open and close easily. Rinse well with clear water and wipe dry.
To clean the cooking grate, start your fire as usual, put the grate on and let it get hot. Then loosen residue with a wire bristle grill brush. Check the grate for rust; if you find any, replace the grate. It isn’t necessary to wash the cooking grate after each use. If your cooking grate is rusty or the charcoal grate burned through, they should be replaced.
When the lid is warm, but not hot, wipe off the accumulated grease with newspaper or paper towels and wash with warm soapy water. That flaking stuff on the inside of the lid isn’t paint, but carbonized grease, way beyond baked-on. To remove it, use a degreaser, which dissolves grease, burned-on food, and carbon deposits. Find a cleaner that will also kill E.coli, Salmonella, and other germs.
To clean the cooking grate on a gas grill, close the lid, turn the burners on high and leave it closed for 15 to 20 minutes, then brush off the residue with a wire grill brush. This is called a “burn-off.”
Remove and clean the flavor bars and the burner tubes under them with soap and water. When cleaning the small holes in the tube, don’t use a scrubbing motion, but a tapping motion to prevent the tiny holes from expanding. Clean the inside of the tube with a wire coat hanger.
To clean the inside lid, wipe it off when it is warm. Use warm soap and water or a steel wool pad if the build-up is extensive.
GAS VS. CHARCOAL
If you are in the market for a grill, you have the choice of a gas or charcoal grill, and each has its benefits. You will find a wide selection of both styles in the marketplace and can choose the grill that best fits your lifestyle.
Taste: Foods can be more flavorful when cooked over natural wood smoke. Wood chips can be used to add flavors.
Price: Charcoal grills are generally more affordable than a gas grill. A basic charcoal grill is very inexpensive.
Fire versatility: Hot coals can be arranged so that you can cook some foods over the hottest, direct heat, while other foods can be cooked over less-direct heat.
Convenience: After a long day at work, after-school activities, and errands, turning a knob on a gas grill is quite convenient to get dinner started.
Readiness: It’s quite easy to adjust the heat up or down with just the turn of a dial.
Cleanup: Practically nonexistent; basically you just need to shut the lid and not deal with ashes, which can sometimes be messy.
Cook for long periods: If you will be cooking over a long period of time, a gas grill allows you to do so easily without having to keep replenishing charcoal.
GRILL SAFETY TIPS
Don’t try to move a hot barbecue.
Don’t add charcoal starter fluid to hot or warm coals and don’t use anything like gasoline to light the barbecue. Store starter fluid away from the barbecue.
Before lighting a grill, always open the lid.
Don’t wear loose clothing while lighting the barbecue.
Use long-handled BBQ tools and flame-retardant mitts to avoid burns.
Have a fire extinguisher handy and use baking soda to control grease fires.
Never leave children unattended near a hot barbeque. Store a hot electric charcoal starter away from bare feet and small hands.
Always store propane tanks upright; never in temperatures over 125°F. and never beneath a grill.
Never use your barbecue indoors!
Once your grill is in shape or if it’s new, you may want to invest in some accessories to enhance your grilling experience: a cover will keep the San Francisco fog from causing mildew on the surface of your grill, charcoal holders are great for the indirect method of grilling, and wire holders are great for grilling things like fish and veggies and will keep them from dropping in the fire.