Here in Chicago, spring can be a fleeting thing. It’s either raining and 50 degrees or 85˚ with 40 mile-an-hour winds. Whatever weather we are blessed with, on any given weekend everyone wants to get outside after a long winter. Make sure your grill is ready when you want to brave the spring weather and have some good food cooked outside.
If you are a charcoal grill master, there are only a few things you need to do. Dump out any old coals, as they are likely wet and full of nasty food leavings from last summers’ grilling. If you use coals from last year, be prepared for a longer than usual fire prep. Coals kept all winter in the garage tend to get a little damp. We keep ours in a large plastic bin with a snap-on cover, this keeps them as dry as possible. Cleaning the grate is best done by burning off the old sediment when you start the fire. Brush when the grate is super hot. I’ve read lately that using wire brushes can be extremely dangerous. Small wires can stick to the food and wind up in the digestive system causing life threatening issues. You can always use crumpled up foil instead; or for a flavor kick, clean with the cut side of half an onion.
Gas grills are a little more complicated and should be checked yearly to ensure proper operation. Check for gas leaks using equal parts dish soap and water. Coat everything from the tank to the venture tubes (which connect to the burners). Leaks will bubble and show which parts need replacing. To clean, disconnect the gas and take the grill apart. Wash all parts with warm soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Make sure everything is completely dry before reassembling. As you inspect the grill, if it has parts that have rusted through, it’s cheaper to replace the entire grill. If it’s just a single burner, it can be replaced easily and inexpensively. The flame on the burner should be evenly distributed and have a blue flame with yellow tips. Check the burner’s control valve, as it can get clogged with insects. Clean with a thin wire. Spiders love to hide in the venture tubes. Cover with aluminum screening to keep them out while ensuring good air flow.
With a little care you can be sure of a safe and successful grilling season.
KATHY WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO