So I talked in my last article about great foods to serve at a summer barbecue. This article is a bit of a follow on from that so to say. You've enjoyed your barbecue but now comes the dreaded cleaning. However, not to worry, I'm going to give you a few great tips for cleaning a charcoal BBQ grill! Charcoal grills will become fouled with cooking oil, charcoal fumes and juices from foods. When soot mixes with meat juices and the run-off from potatoes and corn on the cob at
high temperatures, you’re left with a disgusting, sticky sludge that’s pretty hard to shift – but it can be done.
First, let the grill cool down. Charcoal can stay hot for up to 24 hours after you think you’ve put the fire out so let it stand. Manually scrape the grate as clean as you can get it and then soak it in hot soapy water if it’s really bad. Otherwise, take a stiff wire brush to it. You can use a cleaning one or a steel wire brush like welders use. Scrub off the remains and then lightly oil the metal to prevent it from rusting.
The story is much the same with the inside of the grill. Get in there with a bucket of hot soapy water and a wire brush, and scrub hard.
But what about if that won’t cut it? Well, that’s why it’s always easy to find a charcoal barbecue at the dump – they’re cheap to buy, so people just throw them away. But if yours is a good one or you want to preserve it, you can use soda crystals or even caustic soda to clean out the remains inside. The stuck-on food residue and charcoal remains are both mostly carbon and when it’s dissolved in water, it’s acidic. Using a base like soda crystals will react with the carbon and un-stick it from the walls of your barbecue.
If you’re going to do this, use caution. Make sure the barbecue is cold and empty apart from the residue you want to remove. Make up your solution lukewarm and pour in carefully. If you’re using caustic soda be very careful and remember it doesn’t take much. Wear eye protection, warn everyone what’s in the barbecue and have a plan for safe disposal. Rinse it out thoroughly before you try to finish cleaning it or put your hands inside it for any reason.
Another tack is to use a commercial oven cleaner. These often form a foam that covers the deposits, but their active ingredients are a blend of washing-up liquid and caustic alkali like soda crystals. You should be able to get away with a can of one of these products, a scouring pad and rubber gloves, though once again eye protection is advised.
Finally, consider just scraping the whole grill out with a metal scraper and repainting it with grill-safe paint, which your hardware store will be pleased to sell you.
Keep on top of barbecue cleanliness and your grill will give you years of cooking satisfaction!
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