Summer is almost here and your grill needs some spring training! Your BBQ is your outdoor kitchen. Many tools exist to help cook most, if not all, of your meal’s courses outside and thus help keep the heat down inside. The less you use the oven or stovetop, the less you need to use the air conditioning. At the start of the season, it’s important to check out your BBQ for safety. Make sure the hoses are properly connected and that the gas flows cleanly. Check for visible signs of damage and give special care to any surfaces that will be in direct contact with food. Now is a good time to tighten the handle(s) on the cover – the last thing you need is a cover you can’t lift and there's supper trapped inside the BBQ! Soapy water and soap-impregnated wire pads can be great at getting most of last year’s flavours off. Soak most removable parts in hot soapy water and wipe dry. Do not let them air dry, because they can rust. If you do use your BBQ year-round, it’s still worth giving it a “spring cleaning” to make sure you are giving your chicken the optimal grilling experience. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning the cooking grate every time you grill. Before or after grilling, burn off any residue by simply turning the grill up high until the smoke stops, then brush the cooking grates with a brass wire grill brush. (Note: Cast iron cooking grates require slightly different care and suggest only cleaning the grill before grilling). For more detailed instructions on how to prepare a new cast iron grill or to “season” an old one, here are some more tips from Weber:
- To maintain the wonderful searing/grilling performance of your cast iron grates or griddle, as well as their longevity, some special care is required. As with any cast iron cooking tool, proper seasoning is most important.
- First time use: Before using a cast iron grate or griddle, wash it thoroughly with a mild dishwashing liquid to remove the protective wax coating applied for shipping. Rinse with hot water and dry completely with a soft cloth or paper towel. NEVER ALLOW TO DRAIN DRY and NEVER WASH IN A DISHWASHER. Now season the grates/griddle to prevent rust and sticking.
- Seasoning: A solid vegetable shortening is recommended for the initial seasoning. Spread a thin coating of solid vegetable shortening over the entire surface, including all corners, with a paper towel. Do not use salted fats, such as butter or margarine.
- Gas grills: Preheat grill for 15 minutes, place grates/griddle in grill. Turn burners to medium-off-medium with lid closed. Allow grill to heat grates/griddle for 1 to 1½ hours. Turn all burners to OFF, and leave cooking grates/griddle in grill until they are cool.
- Your cast iron cooking grates/griddle are now ready to use. To prevent rusting, they should be re-seasoned frequently, particularly when new. If rusting occurs, clean with a steel brush. Re-apply vegetable shortening and heat as indicated above.
- Maintenance for every time you grill: Don't do a burn-off after you grill, rather leave the cooking residues on the grates/griddle to keep a protective coating on the cast iron. Then do a burn-off just before you grill. Brush off charred residues with a steel brush rather than a brass brush.