Vail cooking: Clean grills cook tastier foods |

Vail cooking: Clean grills cook tastier foods

Brad Austin
Vail, CO Colorado
Vail Daily File Photo/Kristin AndersonCleaning your grill before using it preserves its longevity and also prevents flareups.

VAIL, Colorado “-Sunny and warm weather is here in Colorado’s Vail Valley nd so is the time to barbecue.

We in the mountains regions tend to start our grills and smokers a little later than those from lower, warmer elevations, but in celebration of National Barbecue Month, it should be time to fire up your gas and charcoal grills and smokers.

Many of us do not realize that a clean grill or smoker cooks so much better. Nothing can ruin outdoor festivities more than barbecue cooking equipment that is dirty and has not been well-maintained.

If outdoor enthusiasts thought of their grills like they do their stovetops, there would be a lot less problems with grills wearing out and making food taste bad. I have many friends who boast they have used the same grill for almost 20 years, but that is only made possible by cleaning every time they cooked with it.

The primary and obvious advantages of maintaining a clean grill are preventing flare-ups and ensuring that bad flavors are not added to your barbecued foods.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

A basic cleaning tool is a good stiff wire brush, which is available at most hardware stores. It doesn’t even have to be a special brush made for a barbecue ” just a brush used to remove paint or for other uses at home. But you shouldn’t use your barbecue brush for any other household tasks.

The best time to clean your grill with a brush is after you grill and not before. While the grill is cooling down, clean off any remaining food particles with your brush. Cleaning is more difficult if you allow your grill to cool completely and food particles have hardened onto the grates.

Grills that have cast iron grates can also be cleaned with a wire brush, but then brush on some oil with a paper or cloth towel. Bare cast iron should be inspected regularly, because they are more likely to rust than stainless steel grates.

Ashes can be cleaned out of charcoal grills after every use. And cleaning the grill will cut down excess smoke and bad flavors from previously cooked foods.

Every once and a while, take time to really get in there and clean out everything that settles to the bottom of your grill. At least once a year “preferably at the end of grilling season ” fill a bucket with warm water and grease-cutting dish detergent, and give your grill a really good clean. To prevent rust, make sure your newly washed grill dries thoroughly. Also, don’t forget to clean the lid.

For gas grills, you should regularly lift out the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. This might include briquettes, lava rocks or some variation of metal plates. Whatever is below in your grill should be periodically cleaned of cooked-on grease and food particles . Wearing rubber gloves during the cleaning process will prevent you having take a wire brush to your hands and fingernails.

For those of you who really want to clean your grill, once a year it may be wise to actually take the grill apart. But it’s not as hard as it sounds. Disconnect the gas and lift out the grill parts layer by layer.

Once you get down to the burners, you should look carefully for anything blocking the flow of gas. A clogged burner puts out uneven heat and makes for poor and slower grilling. If you are not able to clean the burners completely, visit your favorite hardware store for replacement parts. Consider replacing heavily encrusted lava rocks or ceramic briquettes to avoid bad tasting smoke that results in bad tasting foods.

Basically, a clean grill is a better grill that brings out the best tastes in foods. A clean grill also lasts longer. The extra effort will definitely pay-off.

Brad Austin is a local barbecue judge and grill master. E-mail with questions or comments.

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