By Kathryn Weber

Are You Neglecting Your Barbecue?. This living room has the right feel for summer. Pale, painted chairs with light-colored accessories and pale walls makes the room look and feel right for warm weather

One of the greatest pleasures of summertime living is cooking outdoors. The barbecue is a hallowed tradition in America -- it may be the only kind of cooking that never seems like drudgery. Yet when it comes to basic maintenance, the family grill is perhaps the most neglected and abused household item there is. Filthy, rusting, exposed to the elements and heaven knows what else -- is that any way to keep the thing we use to cook our favorite meals?

Regular cleaning will preserve your grill, keep it ready to cook and make the food taste better, too. Here are some pointers.

Two crucial tools: a cover and a brush

Perhaps the most onerous maintenance tasks for the grill is removing rust. The cast-iron grates common on gas grills rust easily when exposed to water, making cleaning more difficult. Worse still, food sticks to rusty grates and no one wants a barbequed rust burger. That's why it's important, before the meat ever hits the grill, to buy a good quality grill cover. This is one of the most important tools in the grilling toolbox. Made of a heavy canvas, these covers don't blow off easily in the wind. And although they can cost more than $50, they'll last much longer than their inexpensive counterparts -- and make your grill last longer, too.

Another piece of grill cleaning equipment is a good quality grill brush. You'll want one with a scraper at the end to scratch off any dried-on particles that stick between the grates. For porcelain-coated and stainless grates, a soft brass brush will do the job. If you have cast iron grates, you may need a stiffer stainless steel brush.

Clean with heat

When it comes time to clean the grill, be sure to heat the grill for about 20 minutes to loosen any dried residue. Brushing the grates while the grill is hot makes the stuck-on particles come off easily. You can also take a lemon half and scrub the top of the grates to remove any further residue. It's better not to use a commercial oven cleaning products on cast iron grates because the grates are porous and can absorb some of the chemicals -- and you don't want those chemicals on your baby back ribs.

If you have porcelain-coated or stainless steel grates, presoak the grates in hot, soapy water for an hour. Take the grates out of the water and brush them with stainless steel scrubber. If this doesn't remove the majority of the residue, use a commercial oven cleaner to remove whatever's left. To clean the exterior of the grill, simply use an all-purpose spray cleaner and paper towels. If you have a stainless steel grill, you'll want to apply a light layer vegetable oil or stainless steel cleaner to prevent rusting.

An ounce of prevention

Once the grates are clean, you'll want keep them that way. Pour some vegetable oil onto a wad of paper towels and wipe the grates down with the oil. You're now ready to cook. The vegetable oil will protect the grates from rust and your food from sticking. After cooking, if there's any food stuck to the grill, you can clean it off with your grill brush.

© Living Space by Kathryn Weber





Home & Garden - Are You Neglecting Your Barbecue?