How to Clean & Prepare Your Grill Before a Party!
So you've finally taken the plunge and are going to host a party in which involves delicious grilled food that will take center stage. Maybe you didn't clean it super well before you packed it away for the winter, or you're staying at an AirBnB, vacation rental, or maybe it's just gotten a little gross from sitting out in the elements in the backyard while it waited for the upcoming main event.
Before we just fire things up and start cooking, it's a really good idea to give your grill a good cleaning, safety check, and preparation a couple of days before the party to insure a smashing success, and great tasting food. Here's how to do it.
As a general rule, you don't need to "deep clean" your grill after every single use, but when you're going to have a party, and there is going to be a bunch of food being prepared on your grill, you certainly should give it a deep clean to make sure that it's running safely, efficiently, and you won't have any unexpected towering incredibly stinky and smoky inferno grease fires that your neighbors call 911 about.
Your grill should fall into one or two categories, either a gas grill (propane or natural gas) or a kettle grill (charcoal or wood fired). As a guideline, you should always refer to your grill manufacturer's instructions first, but if you don't have those handy, just follow our suggestions here.
How to Clean a Grill:
Stuff you will need:
Hot Water and Dawn Dishwashing Liquid
Grill Brush or Grill Stone (depending on the type of grill grate you have)
A 2" putty knife or bench scraper
Pipe Cleaners (for gas grill owners)
Step 1: Preparation
Gather up your cleaning supplies, and move your grill to an area where greasy or soapy water won't discolor or damage what it's sitting on. Gloves are always recommended as this isn't going to be a particularly tidy job. Also, grab your cell phone and take a quick video or a few pictures of all of the interior and exterior appearance of your grill. You'll thank me for this later.
Step 2: Safety First !!!
Make sure that your propane tank valve is turned off, then disconnect the supply hose from the tank. If your gas grill runs on natural gas, turn off the valve and disconnect the supply hose from the grill. Never use any cleaning chemicals that you wouldn't use on your dishes! Remember that heavy duty industrial de-greaser (often used in auto body shops) should NEVER be used on any food contact surface!
Step 3: The Wipedown
Before your big bash starts, you will want to give the exterior and interior of your grill a good wipe down with hot soapy water (a bit of Dawn dishwashing liquid works great!). This will remove any build up of dust and other icky stuff that may have come to roost inside your grill since you last used it. In the case of a gas grill, don't forget to pull out the grease drip collection tray, under liner tray, ceramic briquettes, or lava rock, and the V-shaped metal flame shields that go over the top of the burners. In the case of a kettle grill, scrub the grills and also the rotating vent mechanisms. Check inside the lid for any peeling or flaking black stuff (this is carbon and grease build up) and scrape this off with your putty knife. Take extra care to get all of it off, because no one wants this in their food later!
Step 4: Grill Grate Cleaning
Most grills will have one of two types of grill grates: either a stainless steel grate or a porcelain enamel coated grate. You will want to utilize a stiff bristled steel grill brush for the stainless types of grill. You will always want to use a softer bristled copper or other type of material brush for the enamel coated grill grates, as you don't want to scrape off the enamel coating off. Whenever you're choosing a grill grate brush, always read the manufacturers instructions and brush packaging to insure that you are getting right type of brush for your type of grill material.
For Stainless Steel Grate Owners Only:
You can certainly use a special grill stone (normally made from natural pumice) that will do wonders for getting in between the grill grates to help get those hard to reach areas clean. These bricks are super easy to use, and can be reused many times. Note, do not use these on your enamel grates! Stainless grates and grill stones only please!
Step 5: Check for Uninvited Guests
Spiders love to make their homes inside gas burners and tubing. These spiders and their webs can not only block up gas tubes so that your grill doesn't heat evenly, but their webs can also catch fire underneath the grill, causing possible damage to the igniter or gas delivery hoses! Clean out any uninvited visitors or debris with a pipe cleaner.
The other uninvited guests that seem to want to frequent a BBQ party are bees, wasps, and yellow jackets. These little stingers love the aroma and flavor of meat and grease. Any food residue left over in the grill will entice these little guys to make their appearance, and sometimes even a build new hive inside your grill.
Step 6: Re-Assembly
After everything has been given a good wipe, scrape, or scrub... it's time to put things back together. Remember those pictures you took at the beginning of this little adventure? If you're a bit forgetful, you now can refer back to those as to what parts go where! This is also a great opportunity after reassembling everything to take some more for a before and after comparison of what a great job you did cleaning your BBQ grill. Don't forget to reattach your gas lines, and then check for leaks with some soapy water (refer to manufacturer's instructions).
Here's a great video on how to test your Gas grill for leaks.
Step 7: Fire it up!
After all of your hard work, there's just one final step to insure that your grill is clean and food ready. Gas grill owners will want to fire the grill up and run it on high for at least 10-15 minutes. Charcoal or wood grill users, 8-10 briquettes or a small pile of kindling will do the trick. This last step is super important for a couple of reasons. If you've inadvertently left any soap residue anywhere, it will burn off and not leave soapy flavors behind. More importantly, heating the interior of the BBQ grill will completely dry out any remaining moisture that may be left. Excess moisture inside the grill will lead to premature rusting of parts that can cause your grill to fail and to be potentially dangerous.
Once you're all done following these few simple steps, your grill will be all fresh and clean and ready for your big day. Whenever you're having a party, always remember to have a backup tank of propane, or an extra bag of charcoal or supply of wood on hand. There's nothing more disastrous than a quarter cooked piece of meat, and a bunch of hungry people standing around waiting because the grill had an inadequate supply of fuel on hand.
Your grill is now clean and ready to go for when your AWG Private Chef arrives to prepare that mouth watering custom created BBQ menu for you & your guests.
About the Author:
Certified Master Chef Sean Andrade is Executive Chef/Owner of AWG Private Chefs, named the #1 Private Chef company in California. Chef Sean has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industries worldwide for more than 25 years. His company AWG Private Chefs offers highly custom tailored, private chef dining experiences, and event catering in over 30 countries around the globe.