Grill Maintenance Tips For Cleaning & Winterization

There’s no doubt about it, a quality grill is a significant investment, and maintaining it properly both in the season and for the winter is essential for maximizing your return on investment. Of course, the type of grill you have will directly influence what measures are called for and when.

How To Clean And Maintain A Charcoal Grill

Charcoal Grills tend to need the most cleaning and maintenance, both in between grilling sessions as well as when you put them away for the winter. This is due in large part to the chemical composition of ash as well as how weather influences steel.

Right off the bat, when water and wood ash from burned charcoal meet, they create a substance that is corrosive to metal. So, you need to always do your best to clean away and dispose of any ash in the firebox of the charcoal pan.

Of course, that ash might be hot, and chances are there might still be a lingering ember or three hiding in it even hours after you’re done grilling. Technically, most grill manufacturers recommend waiting for 24-hours after grilling to empty the ash to ensure the fire is 100% out. The way around this is to simply scoop the ash into a metal bucket. Then stir in a little water. Cover the bucket and put it in a safe place for at least a day before putting in your disposal bin or dumpster.

While you are at it, you should consider scraping down your grill grates after each session, rather than waiting until the next time you grill. This is especially handy if you have stainless steel or chrome-plated grill grates that can be prone to corrosion issues over time.

Winterizing A Charcoal Grill

If the winter gets cold enough in your area to force you to put the grill away, then you might want to take some added steps before storing your charcoal grill. This starts with giving it a thorough deep cleaning.

Make sure to give the insides of the firebox a thorough scrape down. Then any cold ash and debris can be cleaned out with a shop vac. You should also scrape down the grill grates and wipe down any grease or residue. At that point, you can wipe down the exterior and cover it with a quality grill cover. Take a moment to think about where you want to store it. Water can be invasive. So the last thing you want to do is tuck it away under a roofline that will flood it with melting water when spring comes.

How To Clean And Maintain A Gas Grill

Gas grills are designed to be convenient. Many come with special features that help make cleanup a breeze. This includes things like grease management systems, drip pans, and copious amounts of stainless steel.

Just like a charcoal grill, you should do your best to scrape down the grill grates after every session. If you sometimes use wood chip boxes or foil packets to add a smoky component to the foods you cook, you will also need to clear away any lingering ash.

While you’re at it, make sure to empty out the drippings pan and wipe down any obvious grease spots on the interior of the firebox. Take a moment to inspect the heat tents to make sure they are clean. If your particular gas grill doesn’t have heat tents, you might want to also inspect the flame ports on each burner element. If one of them is clogged you might want to clear it with a wood grill skewer.

Winterizing A Gas Grill

Winterizing a gas grill calls for the same kind of deep cleaning methods you would give a charcoal grill. You want to remove any ash, residue or grease. Make sure the grill grates are spotless, especially if they are stainless steel without a protective porcelain coating.

You also need to make sure to disconnect the gas line from the propane tank or the municipal gas line. While you are at it, you should also take the time to cover both the male and female connections to prevent ice from invading the fitting. You might also want to tuck the propane tank away someplace safe to prevent any rusting problems.

How To Clean And Maintain A Wood Pellet Grill Or Smoker

Wood pellet grills are incredibly popular for their convenience and innovative design. They work by carefully delivering a steady stream of wood pellets to an internal firepot via an automated auger system.

It’s important to note that the wood pellets are bound together using all-natural lignin. This is nice in that you’re not going to be perfuming your meat with artificial chemical binders. Unfortunately, lignin is also water-soluble, and prolonged high humidity can cause them to break down into wood fibers that can jam the auger system, and lead to other problems.

If you aren’t going to be using the wood pellet grill in the next day or two you need to thoroughly empty the wood pellet hopper. Many wood pellet grill manufacturers are even offering units with some type of pellet purge engineered into it.

Beyond that the grill grates need to be thoroughly scraped down just like a charcoal or propane grill. Take a moment to look for residue buildup in the corners or on the inside of the lid. Many wood pellet grills have a reputation for soot buildup affecting the accuracy of the temperature sensor. Its especially troubling for digital control systems. If you see soot or grease on a temperature probe, you should give it a careful wipe down.

It’s also important to remove ash from the fire pot, as it can interrupt the burning process in the next grilling session. Double-check the owner’s manual to see what they recommend. Some have special ash cleanout features, but there are others that simply recommend waiting a few hours for any burning embers to die out and then cleaning the fire pot with a shop vac.

Winterizing Your Wood Pellet Grill

Just like their gas and charcoal counterparts wood pellet grills need a thorough deep cleaning before being put away for the winter. This is another time when you need to pay particular attention to soot and any other residue under the lid and on the temperature probe. Changes in humidity from the fall, through winter to the spring, can loosen the soot. Then when you use the wood pellet grill for the first time next year the soot falls off onto your food.

When you’re done with the deep clean, cover your wood pellet grill and tuck it away someplace safe. While you’re at it, make sure any extra wood pellets are in a sealed container to prevent them from breaking down over the long winter months.

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