Last Updated on July 1, 2021
That first gloriously sun-filled day arrives — you know the one — when spring unexpectedly explodes into summer. You feel great. Short sleeves go on, shades become essential, and the urge to lie down anywhere and soak it all in takes over.
But more than anything, a yearning burns inside you to light up the nearest grill — be it charcoal or gas — and cover its sizzling grates with large quantities of whatever meat you have on hand.
If you haven’t taken the right steps to get your grill in prime cooking shape, this could result in grease or rust flavored steaks or sausage. Or worse, it could lead to an unplanned backyard bonfire with your grill as the propellant.
Luckily, the ButcherBox Kitchen team is ready to guide you through the key steps you need to take before you spark up your Weber or fire your charcoal chimney for the first time this season.
For ButcherBox Head Chef Yankel Polak, being able to dole out this advice comes at a sublimely appropriate time. “This is fresh on my mind because I lit a grill on fire just last week,” said Chef Yankel. “It was covered in old fat grease and the entire grill was immediately engulfed in flames.”
“Luckily, there were a few firefighters who happened to be standing nearby to supervise, and I had a big box of salt at hand to quell the grease fire,” he added.
Keeping a box of Kosher salt by the grill is good when outdoor cooking goes awry, but you should take these preparations to make sure that never even happens:
Why you should clean your grill
The most important step to getting your grill ready for a big BBQ is cleaning it. As Chef Yankel puts it, “If you are in the one percent of the population that cleaned your grill before you put it away last year, you need to do some serious work.”
“If you are like the rest of us procrastinators, like it or not, there is a healthy build-up of grease on the inside, often hidden beneath a layer of coal dust or beneath the burners,” Yankel explained. As soon as you put a few juicy burgers or a nice fatty ribeye on and the fat begins to melt and drip, and it will ignite last years grease.
The best case scenario in Chef Yankel’s opinion is that you end up with some oily tasting meat. “Worst case, your grill goes kaboom!”
Prepare and clean your grill before you cook
There are a few things you can do before even turning on your grill for the first time. If there is leftover charcoal, cooking residue, or ash, you can clean this up easily by enlisting the help of your handy Shop Vac. Suck up as much as you can, then move on to some deeper cleaning.
Chef Yankel suggests turning your grill on low for a few minutes to warm it up, turn it off, and then spray it down with some degreaser. If you don’t have a degreaser, any dish soap will work fine.
Let the soap or degreaser sit for a few minutes and then give it a good scrub a heavy duty scour pad — you know, one of those green rough scrubbing pads.
After you scrub, wipe it down. Emilie Abijanac, ButcherBox Test Kitchen Manager, thinks you should take one more vital step. “Instead of just wiping it down after scrubbing, you should also rinse it off to get any soap residue off,” Emilie says.
“You don’t want your meat tasting like dish soap,” she added.
Chef Yankel also has one final tip: “Pay attention to the front ledge as well, grease is always dripping there whenever you take something off the grill.”
“Your grill doesn’t have to be pristine, but trust me,” Chef Yankel added, “The cleaner it is, the better your food will taste!”
Dennis Keohane is the Editorial Director for ButcherBox.