One of the greatest pleasures of the long summer days is standing over a scalding barbecue grill in your backyard blackening a row of your favorite sausages.
When daylight saving starts, barbecues across the country will be wakened from their winter hibernation and prepared for the summer season. That is the time to do a few routine checks and preparations which will keep your barbecue operating safely for the season.
Cleaning the inside of your barbecue is the first step to annual barbecue maintenance. It has to be done!
The secret to cleaning your barbecue is to do it every time you use it, but don’t go over the top – a coat of natural food oils on the cast iron parts protects them from rust. Eventually those oils, fats and burnt-on food will build up excessively and need to be removed.
Warm barbecues are easier to clean than cold ones, so start it up for a short time first then turn it off and disconnect the gas before dismantling the entire barbecue to wash all the parts one by one.
The grills can be spread out on some newspaper and scraped clean with a grill scraper which is normally specially shaped to fit around the grill bars.
Alternately, grab a grill stone. These man-made stone blocks are soft enough to grind to the shape of the grill as you use them, removing grease and burnt-on food as you go. This is a great tool as it customises to your grill shape.
Spray on some cooking oil before scrubbing the grill clean with warm water and soap mixed with white vinegar to remove any residue. Once dry, spray on a little more oil and spread it with a paper towel or cloth. Make sure that the soap mixture is well cleaned off.
If you have ceramic flame-tamers or cooking grids these should be cleaned with soapy water and a brass wire barbecue brush. Soak in the soapy water for an hour first.
The outer casing of your barbecue has a stainless-steel outer casing and trolley, then all it will need is cleaning. Harsh cleaners and abrasives shouldn’t be used on stainless-steel as they will scratch it – the soapy water and vinegar mix is all that is needed. After cleaning the outer casing, it can be buffed with cleaning oil, or even a little baby oil. The oil will remove watermarks and fingerprints and will also make it easier to clean next time.
If you have a casing and hood that is vitreous enamel you may have to use an oven cleaner type product (preferably non-toxic) to remove the baked on grease. Depending upon the state of the grease you may have to do this several times and then the grease can be removed with scourers and cloths. You should also wash the complete casing thoroughly.
The de-rusting and re-oiling step. If your grills and burners are cast iron, they may have corroded over winter. Scrape off any flaked rust and then give the surface a good scour with a wire brush, wash all the parts and then spray with cooking oil before they rust up again.
If the outer casing is developing rust spots, these should be rubbed back with steel wool and treated with rust converter before retouching with heat-resistant paint.
Timber barbecue trolleys can be kept in good order by re-oiling them once a year. Give the trolley a light sanding then use outdoor furniture oil or a specially formulated barbecue trolley oil. This will not only soak through oil stains on the top of your trolley but help protect against new ones.
Renew volcanic heating rocks each year as they become clogged with grease and oil. Empty the old sand from the drip tray, clean the tray and give it a spray of vegetable oil before lining it with aluminium foil. Place new washed sand on top of the foil.
Always keep it working and safe. Gas taps can become stiff over winter, causing plastic controls to break. Remove the plastic knobs and spray the mechanisms with a lubricant like WD-40 to free them up. Apply a drop of sewing machine oil to each tap and then cover them with Vaseline to keep the oil in.
If one or more of your burners doesn’t seem to generate a flame then it may be because a gas jet has become clogged.
If you lift the burner out of the barbecue you will see the small brass jets – these are like a small covered nut with a tiny hole through them. They can be simply removed with a small spanner. If you can’t clear the blockage, buy new ones from a barbecue shop.
Reconnect the gas and check all the connections by coating them with a mix of 50/50 dishwashing liquid and water. If gas is leaking you will detect bubbles forming in the mixture. Try tightening the connections or replacing the seals.