A little basic maintenance will help your grill look and perform better than ever.

Weber genesis gas grill

Some people grill year round, but for the rest of us, grilling season starts now. Before you can start flipping burgers, though, you'll need to make sure your grill is ready for business. We asked Kevin Kolman, Weber's grilling expert (and a man who has more than 30 grills in his backyard), how to get your own barbecue equipment in tip-top shape. First and foremost, do you really need to clean the grill? Absolutely, Kolman says. If you don't prepare your grill, "you'll have more schmutz, and that will mean you won't get the same performance." He explains that a cleaner grill makes for better airflow; when the grill is grimy, energy is absorbed into the debris.

Wear rubber gloves "because of grease and debris inside the grill," advises Kolman. "It's important to use the right tools so you don't damage your grill." Read on for the whats, whys, and hows of grill maintenance, both for charcoal and gas grills.

How to Clean a Gas Grill

"Start with the exterior, with the lid and the bowl," Kolman counsels. "If they look neglected, clean them." Use warm soapy water and a sponge, then dry everything with a rag. If there are any grease and smoke stains on the exterior, use a non-lint terry cloth and glass cleaner to remove them. Many gas grills have stainless-steel tables; Kolman recommends using a stainless-steel cleaner, "and be sure to use microfiber or terry towel—do not use paper towel; some can scratch stainless. Always follow the grain of stainless to avoid scratches." Next, open the lid and take out the flavorizer bars and grates. Brush them with a stainless-steel grill brush and wipe clean with a rag. "Examine the burner tubes: If they have debris on them, use your stainless-steel brush. Brush up and down or side to side, depending on the direction of the burners—if your burners go north-south, then brush side-to-side." Put the flavorizer bars and the grates back in.

If you didn't clean the bottom tray after you finished grilling last summer, remove it and empty it into a trash can. Use a paint scraper to remove any remaining debris. Put the flavorizer bars and grill back. Close the lid and turn the grill on to high for 15 to 20 minutes. This will burn off any debris that can cause food to stick. Kolman advises doing this high-heat cleaning not just as start-of-the-season cleaning but on a regular basis: "It helps reduce the amount of flare-ups," he says. "Think of it like turning your oven on to self clean."

What to Clean a Charcoal Grill

"Start with the exterior: the lid and the bowl," Kolman says. "If they look neglected, clean them." Use warm, soapy water and a sponge, and dry with a rag. If there are any grease and smoke stains on the exterior, use a non-lint terry cloth and glass cleaner to remove them. Next, look at the inside of the lid: If you grill a lot, it's likely the inside will be peeling. "And that's not peeling paint," Kolman warns. "It's carbonized grease." Tackle this buildup with a stainless-steel brush made for grill surfaces—that way, you know it won't scratch. And follow up with a sponge and warm soapy water, then rinse.

Still using the stainless-steel brush with warm, soapy water, move on to cleaning the cooking grate. "The grate can be tough to clean if it has baked-on debris." Kolman says. After that, remove the cooking grate and the charcoal grate to tackle the inside of the kettle grill. If your grill has a blade system to clean the bottom of the bowl, use that to remove debris. If it doesn't or it can't remove all of the debris, use a small paint scraper.

If you happen to have left your grill covered for the winter, good for you! If you left it covered with the damper open (Kolman admits he's done this), then the charcoal and ash in the grill will have mixed with water that got inside, and it has likely created a block of debris; use the paint scraper to tackle that. Follow up with a sponge and warm, soapy water, rinse, and dry. Once you're done, Kolman says you're ready to "pop the grates back in and close the lid—and you're set for another summer of grilling."


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