A couple of weeks ago with all the confidence in the world that winter had passed, I got everything ready for our first outdoor barbecue of the season. The weather was perfect, ditto for the menu.
I pulled the cover off the grill and got a shock—and not of the electrical kind. Actually, I was more embarrassed than anything. The grill was a mess—inside and out. Yuck!
My only explanation is that the cold days of fall prompted me to just throw the cover on while my inner procrastinator assured me that I’d clean it later.
Granted, our new grill is now three years old, but still. A dirty mess? You should have seen me fly into action. I grabbed a spray bottle of homemade degreaser (no time for more heavy duty options) and went to work. In no time at all, it was clean enough and we were back in business.
Assuming I’m not the only one who fails to do a deep clean on the outdoor grill after every use, today I have lots of really great grilling tips and tricks for cleaning and for great grilling, too.
Let’s hear it for summer—let the grilling begin!
All-Purpose Degreaser. In a 16-oz spray bottle, mix 2 cups hot tap water, 2 tablespoons baking soda, 2 teaspoons blue Dawn and 20 drops lemon essential oil. Shake well to mix, label clearly. Use freely and liberally. Spray on, scrub as needed, wipe dry.
Newspaper. This is a method to use once you’re done grilling for the day and you have turned off the grill. Soak a stack of newspapers in water to get them quite saturated and lay them on top of the still hot grate. Close the lid. The heat and wet newspaper will create a steam-cleaning action so that when you’re finished eating, you can simply remove the soggy newspapers and wipe the grate clean.
Aluminum Foil. This is a DIY to create a kind of self-cleaning action on your grill provided it is gas or propane powered and has a lid. Just be careful here as you will be using very high heat.
Lay several sheets of aluminum foil over the grill rack (grate), covering it fully from side to side, front to back. Now turn all the burners on high and close the lid. The foil is going to trap the heat below, causing the temperature to soar. This will burn off all of the grease and gunk in the same way this happens when you use the self-cleaning option on your traditional oven.
DO NOT leave this unattended, nor allow it to “self-clean” for hours on end. Twenty or 30 minutes should do it. Please use caution. This is an extreme cleaning method so a word to the wise should be sufficient.
Heavy-Duty Cleaning. For those really tough situations (a little too much procrastination, perhaps) you won’t find a better option than Dawn Dish Power Dissolver Spray. This is heavy-duty option and not something you would use while guests are standing around waiting for you to put the burgers on the grill!
If your grill has seasons of build-up inside, under, around and even on top of the unit, this is the product you’ve been looking for. It really is fantastic for all kinds of situations where grease and gunk have been allowed to build-up and burn on. This is non-abrasive so you can safely clean stainless steel areas, too. Do not use on painted surfaces. About $18
Grill Mat. I bless the day someone invented the grill mat. Made of silicone, it’s just a thin piece of flexible material that keeps hot surfaces clean. I lay a mat right on top of the grill, then the burgers on top of it. I don’t know how it happens but the burgers don’t stick, they grill up beautifully and the grill below stays perfectly clean. I even line the bottom of my Breville Smart Oven Air with a grill mat! It doesn’t burn and any spillovers wipe away with no effort at all. I throw grill mats in the dishwasher and they come out like new. 6-pack: About $12
Related: Best Inexpensive Outdoor Grill
Thermometer. I’m convinced that the secret to good grilling is temperature control. I’m not talking about a dial on the grill itself although that is handy—I mean the internal temperature of whatever you’re grilling. Keeping an eye on that is the secret. The easiest way is with a quick-read food thermometer. And it needs to be accurate. The best inexpensive option of chef-quality thermometers is a ThermoPop. It fits in your pocket, which is super handy. But more than that, it rotates so you can read it at any angle. And it is spot-on accurate. About $30
Marinade. Its the secret to making a tough cut of meat as succulent and tender as a prime cut. Just make sure your marinade of choice contains acid like vinegar, lemon or wine. Acid breaks down the meat to make it tender. Enzymatic action from wine, beer, cider and soy sauce also helps. My favorite grilling marinade recipes are here.
Outdoor grilling always brings visions of groups of people hanging around a blazing hot heat source—some of them children. Common sense and reasonable safety measures are mandatory.
- The grill should be placed well away from the home, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
- Keep children and pets away from the grill area.
- Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
- Never leave your grill unattended.
The National Cancer Institute now warns that the way we grill meats may be contributing to cancer risk. Generally, experts at this institute recommend:
- Avoiding direct exposure of meat to an open flame or a hot metal surface and avoiding prolonged cooking times.
- Using a microwave oven to cook meat prior to exposure to high temperatures to substantially reduce the time that meat must be in contact with high heat to finish cooking.
- Continuously turning meat over on a high heat source can substantially reduce risks compared with just leaving the meat on the heat source without flipping it often.
More: NCI Fact Sheet