Get Your Grill Ready

It's officially grilling season! We've got the latest tips and tricks to get your grill ready for summer.

Jeff Mauro and Geoffrey Zakarian compare steel brushes, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Photo by: David Katz

David Katz

Step 1: Clean the Inside of Your Grill

  • Use a wet-dry vacuum to clean out all the debris from your gas grill.
  • Focus on the large drip tray. Bits of food collect here as you use your grill.
  • If you haven't cleaned your grill in a while, you may need a paint chipper to scrape up the dried food. Once you do that, vacuum up the bits and wipe down with a damp paper towel.
  • BONUS TIP: Pay special attention to your flavor bars--they can acquire a lot of gunk!
  • Scrub your grease tray with soap and hot water and let dry. Line it with aluminum foil; when it's full of grease, unwrap the foil and toss it…then reapply new foil! Every time you grill, check to make sure the tray is not full, since that can lead to a dangerous grease fire.

Step 2: Clean the Grates

  • Invest in a good grill brush! Pick a brush that is durable and strong. Make sure the bristles are anchored to the head and aren't too long or too thin.
  • Stainless steel brushes work best on stainless steel grates.
  • Brass brush heads are good for cast-iron grates; they don't wear the cast iron down.
  • If you don't have a good brush, try taking a large piece of aluminum foil and rolling it into a ball. Scrub your grates with the foil and the stains should come right off!
  • If your grates are rusted, consider replacing them. A small amount of rust on a grill grate isn't a problem if it comes off with a wire brush. If the rust won't scrub off or if flakes of rust stick to your food, replace them immediately. Rust makes your food taste bad and should not be ingested for health reasons.
  • Replacement grates usually run between $15 and $40, depending on your grill model.

Step 3: Pick the Perfect Charcoal and Use a Chimney Starter

  • Lump Hardwood: It's made from real chunks of charred hardwood and burns super cleanly. It adds incredibly smoky flavor to food and gets hot very quickly (usually in 10 to 15 minutes), which means it can sear your food fast! But lump hardwood loses heat quickly. Temperatures will fall from high heat to medium heat in less than 30 minutes. You'll want to add additional coals to maintain a high temperature (it usually takes 5 to 10 minutes to get additional bursts of heat).
  • Pressed Charcoal Briquettes: Briquettes are made from wood fragments and other additives. They're universally available and offer long-lasting, dependable heat. Their uniform size makes it easy to create a smooth bed of coals that heat evenly (the irregular shapes and sizes of lump charcoal can leave "holes" in the fire).
  • Instant Charcoal Briquettes: These are like regular charcoal briquettes, except they've been soaked in lighter fluid for easy ignition. They tend to add a chemical-like flavor to food, so we suggest avoiding them if you can.

How to Use a Chimney Starter:

  • Fill the chimney starter with the appropriate amount of charcoal. A standard chimney holds about 100 briquettes.
  • Add 1 to 2 sheets of newspaper and light it in several spots so you get even heat.
  • When you see flames up top (after 10 to 15 minutes), pour out the coals and spread with tongs.
  • Wear safety gloves when handling a chimney starter so you don't burn yourself. Always keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of an emergency.
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