Nothing sounds worse at the end of an all-day barbecue than cleaning the grill.
After hours spent perfecting steaks, burgers and bratwursts for friends and family, it’s tempting to let the grill cool and return to clean it tomorrow — maybe.
But falling behind on cleaning and maintaining a gas grill can take years off the grill’s lifespan, and it will cost you in the long run.
“It’s always the worst when you buy a $1,000 grill, and three years down the road you’re spending $1,000 on parts,” says Christopher Sanchez, retail general manager of Tru-Lite Gas Products in Houston.
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Clean the grill after every use
The best way to maintain a grill is to clean it after every cookout. Start by turning the heat up to medium or high to burn excess grease off of the grill grate.
“Let that baby run for about seven minutes, and burn off that excess grease and fat,” Sanchez says.
Find the right grill brush
Once the excess grease has burned off, brush the grates, panels and flavor bars — but don’t use just any brush.
A brush’s bristles shouldn’t bend too easily, otherwise they could snap off. That’s especially dangerous if you use a wire brush and accidentally ingest one of the bristles. A nylon brush, a wood scraper or grill-cleaning cloths are all safe alternatives.
It’s always the worst when you buy a $1,000 grill, and three years down the road you’re spending $1,000 on parts.
Christopher Sanchez, Tru-Lite Gas Products
A $5 brush is too cheap to last beyond two or three cleanings, but you don’t need to pay $50 either. A $30 brush should hold up for a long time before it needs to be replaced, Sanchez says.
Brush the grill as you would brush your teeth — the goal is to remove any remnants of food that shouldn’t be there.
Also, don’t forget to empty the grill’s grease trap, which collects fatty deposits while you’re cooking. If it’s not cleared regularly, it can start a fire in the grill that could spread to your home.
But don’t ever use soap and water to clean the inside of a grill. Think of the grill as an oven; if you wouldn’t use something to clean an oven, it doesn’t belong near the grill, says Steve Pulone, vice president of operations for O'Malia’s Living in Carmel, Indiana.
“You might as well be putting nails in the coffin,” Pulone says.
Keep the grill dry
A little advance planning can also keep a gas grill’s exterior looking nicer longer. Rustproof metal paint can protect your grill during spring showers. If rust does appear, try using steel wool to remove it. A grill cover offers even more protection.
“Water is a pretty big enemy of a gas grill,” Pulone says.
Professional grill cleaning
Also consider having your grill professionally serviced and calibrated once each year by a qualified outdoor kitchen or gas grill specialist.
A professional can disassemble the grill, cleaning areas that otherwise would be difficult or impossible to reach. That’s especially important for gas grills that use propane, as propane causes a buildup of soot (carbon), Sanchez says.
Once the grill is reassembled, a professional can check the gas grill’s pressure to ensure the burners are heating evenly.
A professional cleaning takes about two hours from start to finish, and can cost $130 to $325, depending on the grill’s size, Pulone and Sanchez say.
Proper grill cleaning and maintenance can keep a grill cooking past its typical lifespan, Sanchez says. So take 20 minutes, and clean the grill tonight
The dishes can wait until morning.
Tom Lange is a reporter at Angie’s List, a provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services.