Gearing up for grilling season

The grilling season is fast approaching.

Whether people pull their faithful round charcoal burner out of the shed or go in search of a newer gas fueled monster, they will need to do a bit of prep before attempting to grill up some grub.

“Depending on where you had it stored, when you first pull out the grill you’re going to want to wipe it down, open it up and clean it out,” said Jerry Mohr, sales associate in the lawn and garden department of Sears. “Get any cobwebs, dust or leaves out of there.”

Additionally, a complete top to bottom scrubbing of the interior of the grill with a mildly abrasive sponge, or even paper towel, will help remove built up residue and grease from last season’s dishes and meals.

This will help reduce the likelihood of flare-ups that can burn and overly char the meats, vegetables and grilling creations planned for the future flames.

Once the initial surface grime is removed it’s time to use a little elbow grease to clean the grates.

“People can remove them and take them into the kitchen sink to wash them if they want,” Mohr said, “or they can scrub and hose them down outside.”

However, keep in mind newer grills have porcelain coated and cast iron grates. This means a steel scouring pad or steel wire brush should be avoided since it will scrape the porcelain off. Instead, Mohr said, a brass brush can be used. The benefits of the newer grates are that they hold the heat better when grilling and they don’t rust as easily as the older, painted steel grates do.

Rusty grill grates are a common issues when the grill sits unused for a winter season, grilling experts said. If the rust isn’t too extensive, they can be cleaned up by aggressively srubbing them with a wire bristled brush or steel wool pad.

Once the rust spots are cleaned off, the grate should be seasoned with oil. Wipe the grates with an oil soaked paper towel, then heat the grill to high and reapply oil. This creates a barrier between the metal and the food placed on the grates and helps prevent rust when regularly done.

Prepping the grill takes more than just cleaning, though. Mohr advised people check to make sure their burners aren’t plugged, as well as doing a thorough once over looking for loose screws, slipped connections or dangling wires. Additionally, check the tank hose for leaks or other signs of deterioration before the first use. If people aren’t using propane or natural gas, and instead are going with the traditional charcoal briquettes, they need to check to see if the charcoal is dry. If it’s not, experts suggest people lay it out to dry as much as possible then light it and see if it will catch.

These quick tips for getting the grill ready apply to large-scale grilling as well simple backyard get togethers, said Bruce Long, of Gowrie. President of the Webster County Cattlemen’s Association, he and his fellow cattlemen grill locally processed beef patties at various events throughout the summer.

To do so they have three different sized grills, the smallest of which can grill 60 patties and the largest can grill 90.

“The first time we have to grill,” Long said, “we get it out, look it over, fire it up and burn it off.”

There is no secret to grilling for crowds, he added. It just takes more charcoal, more meat and more time. What remains the same – whether serving a family of four or a community event of 4,000 – is the basic inspection and cleaning to properly maintain the grill.