Keep your grill working great for years

For active grillers, BBQ aficionados and outdoor culinary types, the grill is a centerpiece of quality time at home. Keeping your grill clean is essential for great cooking, better-tasting food and a longer life for your grilling station. It can be a challenge, however, with marinade splatter, burger grease and accumulated leftover chunks of who-knows-what on your grates. Taking care of your grill with an annual deep-cleaning and corrosion check will help it work properly and safely every time, and keep your backyard barbecues going off without a hitch for years to come.

Protecting it from the elements and sticking to a regular cleaning schedule is essential for your grill's look and longevity. Below are a few tips on grill maintenance, and proper cleanup after each use – as well as a necessary deep cleaning, which should happen every two to three months depending on frequency of use.

To properly care for your grill, buy yourself a grill cover and a cleaning kit. Your cover should be of good quality and snug fitting to avoid any rust-causing rain leaks or invasion by mice or rats. You'll want to use the cover after every grill use, to keep it safe from the elements and protect it from pets, bird droppings, sap and more.

Tools for the job

Your grill cleaning kit should include proper brushes for cleaning your type of grill. For stainless steel grates, you'll want a brass grill brush, as the bristles won't scratch the surface. For cast iron grates, you'll want to pick up a stainless steel grill brush. The longer handle and steel bristles allow you use the extra force necessary to clean without breaking the handle, or crushing your bristles and breaking them - at which point they can fall into your grill and complicate the cleaning process. You'll also want a scrubber pad for cleaning your grill exterior without scratching it, and a nylon brush for safety purposes.

While you're at it, pick up a can of Simple Green Heavy Duty Barbecue & Grill Cleaner. It's great for cutting through grease and carbon buildup on your grill, and it's orally non-toxic so it won't leave behind a harmful residue. It's also non-fuming and biodegradable, so you don't have to worry about an overpowering smell or any harm to your lawn or plants. Don't worry about getting it on your skin, because it won't cause irritation like other more harsh cleaners.

Seasoning is key

Every time you use your grill, you should oil the grates to properly season them. Use a high temperature oil to avoid smoking, and make sure to oil after each use as well in order to prevent rusting. Dampen a paper towel with oil and use tongs to rub it on your grill grates to help prevent food from sticking while cooking.

You should also avoid flavoring your food while it's on the grill; sauces, spices, salt and more can accumulate at the bottom, resulting in a tougher cleanup job as well as possible clogs to the gas lines. This can potentially affect the taste of your food.

When you finish grilling, you'll want to make a regular habit of checking the inside for any build-up or loose debris. Scoop out any ash or remaining charcoal - or if you have a gas grill, check for accumulation in your drip pan and clean or replace as necessary.

Check fuel lines/propane

If you have a gas grill, you'll also want to regularly check the fuel lines for any holes or cracks, indicating that a replacement is necessary. Use a sponge to wipe a mix of dish soap and water onto your gas lines with the gas turned on, and look for any bubbles along the line. This will indicate a hole which means that you'll need to replace the line right away.

It wouldn't hurt to check the propane levels as well, so you're not caught with an empty tank during your next barbecue. Pour a cup full of hot water down the side of your tank, and run your hand down the same area. The point that's cool to the touch is the level of remaining propane in your tank. The propane absorbs heat from the water, cooling the surface immediately.

Heat it up

Turn the burners on HIGH for 15 minutes to burn off any leftover food. Then turn off the grill and let it cool before removing any ashes that remain. Leftover ash can adversely affect the taste of your food.

Moisture, smoke and grease tends to accumulate and get baked onto the underside of your grill. To scrub away these carbon deposits, coat the area with Simple Green Heavy Duty Barbecue & Grill Cleaner. and allow it to penetrate for 7-10 minutes before getting to work with your grill brush.

Next, remove the cooking grates for cleaning, and check both the grates and grill components for corrosion. For gas grills, also remove the heat shield, and clean or replace the drip pan as necessary. Give them all the good cleaning with Simple Green, using the grill brush to remove any stubborn residue.

Uneven flames? That's a cleanin'

Uneven flames on a gas grill likely means your burners need to be cleaned. With the gas turned off, remove the burners from the grill. Spray them with Simple Green, and after letting them sit for a few minutes clean them with a wire brush. Use a pipe cleaner to remove any clogged materials from the burner holes. Then replace the burner covers, grates and other components to your grill. Reconnect the gas line, and set the burners on HIGH for 5 minutes to burn off remaining residue.

Let the grill cool, then wipe down the outside with your scrubber pad and Simple Green Heavy Duty Barbecue & Grill Cleaner.. If you want to give your stainless steel grill a beautiful, finished shine you can use Simple Green Stainless-Steel One-Step Cleaner & Polish to get the job done.

Whenever using a metal brush to clean your grill, give a quick brush-down with a nylon brush to be certain that no metal brush filaments are left behind. This eliminates the possibility of ingestion of metal brush particles.

To get your grill ready for end-of-season storage, double-check your cover for any holes or leak points, and secure your grill in a safe area away from trees which may drip sap or other runoff. Also make sure you're not storing your grill within range of any sprinkler heads or water sources - this is a one-way ticket to a rusty grill. Use Simple Green Heavy-Duty Barbecue & Grill Cleaner on your grill cover for end-of-season cleaning or general upkeep as well.

With these tips your grill should work safely and properly for years to come!