Preparing the Grill for the Grilling Season
With the coming of spring, it only means one thing: grilling season is about to begin. For those that grill year round, every grilling session is the beginning of a new season, but if your grill and equipment has been set aside for the winter, there are some maintenance tips to consider before firing up the outdoor cooker.
If your grill is propane fired, look up your favorite tank filler and get the tanks filled. New tanks, today, are equipped with a meter that tells you how much is in the tank. If the valve is not functioning properly or the tank shows signs of rust due to weather, consider purchasing a new tank. If your grill is charcoal fired, look for upcoming sales of bags of charcoal.
Preparing your grill for the upcoming barbeque season means inspecting the grill and the stand to make sure it is sturdy and there is nothing, such as rust or other damage, to compromise the structural integrity of the grill. Preparation will include taking as much of the grill apart as possible and cleaning the parts, especially the cooking racks or grills. Even if the grill was thoroughly washed before being stored for the winter, perform the task again. The grill will collect grime, dust and dirt over the winter and if little critters found your grill to be the perfect winter home, there will be some leftover remnants you will want to clean out.
Clean your grill out of doors or in a well ventilated garage or shed, especially if cleaning products will be used. You may want to consider putting newspapers or plastic under the grill to collect any gunk that falls off the grill, as it is being cleaned. Cleaning products used may include oven cleaner, steel wool, or a grill brush, hot, soapy water, paper towels and sponge. Don’t forget to include your grilling utensils in the cleaning process.
Uncover the grill and remove the top. Remove the grills or cooking panels and set them aside. Inspect the interior of the grill thoroughly, checking for nests build by critters that might include squirrels, mice and spiders. Look for any missing or rusted parts and replace those parts. If your grill is a propane fired grill check all the connections to the grill and the tank and replace any connection that is not in at least near perfect condition.
Making sure the racks are clean is imperative to the preparation process. Spray the grills with oven cleaner if they were not cleaned before putting the grill away for the season or spray the grills with equal parts of ammonia and water, if they were. While the grille set, empty the grill basin of any charcoal or cooking residue or remove the ceramic briquettes. Wash the basin with water and ammonia and let dry. Be sure to clean off the burners, as well. If the ceramic briquettes have built up food on them wash them thoroughly or replace them. Briquettes with old food on them will produce an odd smell that will be absorbed by food as it is being cooked. With hot, soapy water, wash the outside of the grill and the inside of the cover. Include the handles in the wash down as they can accumulate much grease, grime, grime, dirt and sometimes baked on food.
After the oven cleaner or ammonia and water performs its magic, scrub the grills with a grill brush or steel wool and rinse with clean water until the cleaning agent has been completely removed. Let the grills air dry or dry them with paper towels.
Cooking utensils, pots, pans and cutting surfaces used for outdoor cooking should be thoroughly washed with hot water and detergent before the grilling season begins, especially if they have not been used since the last grilling season. Putting food on dirty surfaces or using utensils that are not clean could lead to food contamination and illness.
When all the parts and pieces have been cleaned and dried, put the grill back together and let the grilling begin!
Tool of the Trade
Tools for the Grilling Trade
Being prepared is one component for establishing a plan to accomplish a task. Without a plan and the right tools the task will be considerably low on the expectation scale. The same “being prepared” philosophy applies to grilling in the great outdoors. The right tools will make grilling an exciting culinary experience.
The Most Important Tool of All
Of all the grilling tools a chef should have in their repertoire the most important of all is a fire extinguisher. A know fact of grilling, and cooking in general, is grease spatters. Spattering grease has the ability to start a fire. An extinguisher, and make sure it is rated for grease fires, should always be within reach of the chef. Be sure to check the life and effectiveness of the fire extinguisher and replace it when necessary.
The basic grilling tools include a spatula, tongs, fork, hot mitts, thermometer, grill light or flashlight, paper towels, aluminum foil and waste container r, . It is essential the tools have long handles allowing the user to maintain a safe distance from the heat, and heat resistant handles to eliminate the possibility of experiencing burns. Grilling tools are made from a variety of materials, but the most durable tools are those made from stainless steel and offer the best bang for the grilling buck. Stainless steel is resistant to rust and easy to clean. Even with heat resistant handles, it is wise to use hot mitts when working at the grill.
A spatula is the tool used to flip burgers, fish or grilled sandwiches with ease. An offset handle will allow the chef to slide the spatula under the food and get better leverage to perform the flip with ease and aplomb.
Tongs are better to turn meat than a fork. Piercing the food will allow the juices to run and flavor will be lost. The tongs need to be sturdy and able to pick up a sizable steak without bending.
A fork is probably the least used tool in the grilling set. It is a useful tool to puncture anything to absorb marinade or to hold a piece of food in place.
Hot mitts are an absolute must when grilling. Grill fires, and it does not matter if the fire is propane or charcoal, will reach temperatures that cause second and third degree burns. The hot mitts should fit properly without being to big in size. Handling grilling tools with hot mitts will present an added challenge to the art of grilling, but the mitts will protect the chef from injury. Even with heat resistant handles, it is wise to use hot mitts when working at the grill.
A thermometer will come in handy to check meat as it is cooking. Doneness of meat is not only determined by look and smell, but by temperature. Consuming meat not properly cooked could lead to illness. The thermometer
When grilling after the sun sets, it is important to have sufficient light to prevent misjudging the cooking process. Use a light that clamps to the side of the grill or have a flashlight handy. There are lights made especially for grills and solar lights are also available. The solar lights will charge during the daylight hours and be ready to illuminate grilling action after dark. Sufficient light will also raise the level of safety while grilling over a fire.
Paper towels are a must when grilling. Keep them on hand to clean up spills, grease, barbeque sauce and any other dripping remnants from food.
Aluminum foil will be one of the most favorite grilling tools ever. The foil is useful for protecting delicate foods such as fish and when covering the grill will prevent small items, such as vegetables from falling through the grill. The foil will also keep the cooking area cleaner and easier to wipe down after use. Unless the chef is collecting aluminum for the world’s largest aluminum ball, the aluminum can be tossed after use.
Keeping a waste container near the grill will come in handy when tossing out food or packaging waste. A covered container will keep critters from turning it into a feeding dish, including rodents, squirrels, skunks, opossums and the family pet.
Slightly Beyond the Basics
After the basics, there are a variety of grilling tools that will make the grilling effort easier. Wire grill brush, basting brush, heat resistant bowls, platters and plates are all handy dandy and useful tools for the more than casual griller.
A wire grill brush is ideal to keep the grates clean. Cooking directly on the grates will result in baked on food if not cleaned regularly.
For grilling chefs who love to swab on the barbeque sauce a basting brush is the tool to have in the repertoire. The best basting brush should have heat resistant bristles.
Heat resistant bowls, platters and grates are necessary to serve the food. They can be placed on a table near the grill without being damaged by the heat. If the bowls, plates and platters are shatterproof, the surprise of a shattering bowl, platter or plate on the deck will be eliminated.