It’s that time of year again; the sun is shining, the days are longer, it’s the perfect time to invite your friends around and fire up the grill. In theory, it’s as simple of that, but after dragging out the barbecue and opening it up it you’re reminded that you might have forgotten to clean it out when winter rolled around last year… Well, have no fear, we are here with our guide to help you navigate the tricky world of washing a barbecue. Follow these tips and you’ll be cooking up your favorite summer treats in no time!
Step 1: Preparation
So, the first thing you’re going to want to do before you get started is to turn up the heat! Get all the burners available on full blast and keep the hood down. What we’re attempting to do here is get the inside of the grill to its maximum temperature, which will achieve two specific goals. The first of which is to kill off all the internal bacteria, which cannot withstand the high heats, and the second is to carbonise all the leftover foodstuffs on the grate itself. Carbonising the remains leaves them brittle and easy to scrape off. You’ll know it’s working when you see smoke coming out of the vents, and we suggest that you keep it going until the smoking stops. From there, you should give it a couple minutes to cool down and get right on in there with a wire brush. As a general rule it is always easier to clean a warm barbecue as the built-up dirt is far easier to remove when warm.
Top tip: Should you not own a wire brush or even if you just can’t find yours, you can make a replacement by taking a large sheet of aluminium foil and balling it up loosely. Once balled up you can then use it to scrape the dirt off your grate. The fact that you have balled it up loosely allows the foil to form grooves and get in between the bars allowing for a deep clean.
Once you’re done with the top side, it’s time to flip it over and repeat the process on the underside. Make sure to be careful when flipping your grate over if it is still hot!
Step 2: Disassembly
Now, on to dismantling your barbecue, it’s not as complicated as it might seem, and it allows you to do a much more thorough job. All barbecues are different but for the most part they can be taken apart in similar steps. The first of which is opening it up and removing the cooking grates. This will give you free access to the heat diffusers within, which at this point should also be removed. From there you will want to carefully remove the drip tray. These, more than other elements, really do vary from model to model. Some have purpose-built drip bowls in the center of the base, others have long wide flat panels that can be slid out from the back. Locate your drip tray and empty out the contents (this also helps prevent grease fires!). Now that you’ve got all your individual pieces separated, it’s time to get cleaning!
Step 3: The belly of the beast
Let’s just get this out of the way now: This is by far the most time consuming and frustrating job when it comes to cleaning a barbecue as it is one of the elements that you cannot remove and manipulate freely. It is also an area that is constantly building up grease and dirt every single time you grill. If there is a large buildup of food and the shape of your grill box allows it, try using a paint stripping tool to scrape the more heavy-duty residue that has built up on the walls. This trick works especially well on either angular or barrel shaped grill boxes as they will lead your tool and the grease down to the base where you can easily scoop it up and dispose of it.
Once you’ve gotten as much of the thick buildup off as possible, it’s time to break out your secret weapon. White vinegar in a spray bottle will do most of the work for you. Spray on a nice layer and then leave it to do its magic for at least an hour, then it’s time to get right back at it with a little elbow grease. Don’t forget to wipe off the burner tubes if they look like they need a clean!
Step 4: Grates and heat diffusers
Now this part might seem daunting but here are some tricks to make it all go smoothly. Just heading right in and trying to scrape off all the gunk is going to be finicky and demanding work, but with a small amount of preparation it’s a piece of cake.
Soak, soak, soak. We can’t say it enough but by giving yourself the time to let your grate soak overnight will make the world of difference. Don’t worry about not having a container big enough to fit, there is an easy one size fits all solution that can be found in almost any household. Simply place the grate in a bin bag and add in one third vinegar to two thirds water. There should be enough of the solution to ensure that the grate is submerged inside the bag when it is laid down flat. Make sure that the bag is tied up as tight as possible, its neck is slightly raised off the ground to prevent any leakage and then leave it to work away for a minimum of 12 hours.
When you return, simply remove it from its container and wipe it down, and just like that it’s looking ready to roll! As for the heat diffusers, we would recommend using the same mixture only with a bucket, as keeping them fully submerged in a bin bag might prove tricky and the pointy nature of these pieces might pierce the bag.
Step 5: Final touches and food for thought
You’ve made it! Each element of your barbecue is clean and now it’s just a matter of putting it back together the same way you took it apart. It’s looking so clean; wouldn’t it be great if it always looked like that? Well there are a couple of things you can do to increase to the longevity of this cleanliness!
- Before cooking: Make sure to grease the grates with a dab of cooking oil, it stops food sticking to the grill and burning on so quickly and will mean less clean up down the line.
- After cooking: When you’re done cooking and whilst the grill is still hot, grab an onion, cut it in half and rub the grates down with it. The heat from cooking combined with the moisture from the raw onion ‘steams’ the leftover food away.
Only one thing left to do, repeat the very first step of the process, only this time you’re heating it up to burn off any excess vinegar left inside, as opposed to leftover food. 15 minutes at full heat should be plenty!
So, there you have it, our step by step guide to cleaning out your barbecue and taking that first step to becoming the grill king/queen of the summer. If you have any tips that you would like to share with us, make sure to drop us a line, we always relish the chance to learn from our readers!