I wipe down my stove several times a week but rarely do I think of cleaning my grill. It’s outside, protected by a thick cover. It’s out of sight, out of mind, until the grilling season sets in. When I photographed those chicken wings on the grill a couple weeks ago, I was frankly appalled and embarrassed at how yucky my grill was. The surfaces were sticky.
Rarely do we talk about the unglamorous side of cooking – cleaning the equipment that we use. The onset of the barbecue season often entails photos of happy people gathered around a bounty of fire-licked food produced (one assumes) on a sparkling grill that looks barely used. The reality in my home is that I cook and clean the kitchen equipment.
On Memorial Day morning I woke up and I said to myself, “If you don’t clean the grill today you won’t do it for a long time and your grilling will suffer.” We bought the Ducane grill (now discontinued) in 2012 for a sweet price -- about $350 assembled and delivered from Lowes. It’s a sturdy, quality grill but I stupidly neglected it. The day I went to cook those wings, the grill had two years of grime and guck stuck on the grates and flavorizer bars. I was able to work with it but the frequent flare ups made it hard to grill cleanly and easily. The flavorizer bars were adding the wrong kind of flavor!
Cleaning the grill is such a dirty job but I couldn’t hand it off to anyone. (My husband brings home most of the bacon and does the laundry, vacuums, and makes the bed.) After I drank my morning cup of coffee, I found a pair of dishwashing gloves (my mom gave them to me but I rarely wear them) and headed outside.
Initially, my cleaning equipment included a grill cleaning liquid made by Green Earth Technologies, restaurant bus tub, nearly spent dishwashing scrubbies and gallon of water saved while waiting for warm water to flow from the bathroom sink. The food and eco-friendly cleaning solution said to spray, wait for a minute then wipe or scrub. I tried that and found that it did an okay job to knock off some junk, enough for me to remove the grates and attack the flavorizer bars.
At first I scrubbed and wiped with the scrubbies but they proved weak. Looking around for help, I realized that the long-handled, three-sided wire grill brush was perfect. I was able to lean-in and go to town on the flavorizer bars. (This may sound strange but I sort of smelled our last grilled meals of squid as I cleaned.) Then the bars got set aside with the grates in the bus tub.
The majority of grossness laid at the bottom of the grill. I figured I’d grab it by the handful and put it into a paper bag. That was slow and ineffectual. Then I removed the covering of the grease hole and noted that I could push all the remaining ghosts of past grilling sessions down that hole into the pan sitting below. Voila, after ten minutes of working the triangular grill brush like a very small shop floor broom, most of the stuff was gone from the bottom of the grill. Easy disposal into the paper bag.
I went at the inside of the grill with the brush again, spraying on some of the cleaning liquid to loosen things up. Then I did the really really yucky part of the job – I took the flavorizer bars and grates into the kitchen sink and cleaned them. I didn’t aim to get them super clean, just so that I could make out the clean contours of their edges was good enough.
A cheap rectangular grill brush from Ross helped but so did an old metal spatula. The sink got filthy (a chance for a thorough scrubbing) and I scooped up the tangible bits by hand to dispose of them. Less down the drain is better, in my opinion.
When I reassembled the parts, the sun had heated up the grill surfaces. I sprayed on the Green Earthy for a final wipe. Interestingly, the warmed surfaces were much easier to clean than before when I was working in the mid-morning shade. I got a little bit of a tan but the grill was restored and stood proudly, ready for our Memorial Day dinner guest.
All told, the unglamorous task of cleaning the grill took about one hour. But now the grill is totally ready for summer food and fun.
I don’t clean my grill often and suffer a certain memory loss as to how to smartly go about it. If you have grill cleaning tips or even experiences to share, please do!