illustration: Christy Lundy

How to Prep, Clean and Safely Use Your Barbecue

By Craig Moy

Even the barest hint of warm weather is enough to get Albertans firing up their grills. But as the season of al fresco dining begins, it’s important to get reacquainted with your barbecue. Pull out the owner’s manual and perform any manufacturer-recommended maintenance, give everything a thorough cleaning and then follow our tips to grill safely and deliciously all summer long.

PREP
1. Ensure the barbecue is at least one metre from your house, fence, awnings, tree branches or other flammable objects.

2. To help prevent food sticking to the grill, brush some vegetable oil onto the grates and preheat for about 10 minutes.

safely use your barbecue chimney starter3. Get your charcoal grill going with a chimney starter (following manufacturer’s instructions). It’s safer than lighter fluid.

4. For slower, gentler cooking by indirect heat, keep a section of grill with the burner turned off or with no charcoals beneath it.

COOK
Do open the lid before igniting your barbecue.

Don’t lean over the barbecue as you light it.

Don’t barbecue in a garage or other enclosed space.

Do use long-handled utensils and oven mitts when cooking.

Don’t wear loose clothing that could potentially catch fire.

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Do keep children and pets away from the barbecue.

Don’t leave your barbecue unattended— drippings from meat can cause dangerous flare-ups.

Do keep a home fire extinguisher (or in a pinch, baking soda) nearby in case of fire.

Don’t forget to turn off the gas line or propane tank when you’re finished cooking.

safely use your barbecue cleaningCLEAN: BEFORE FIRST USE
• Clean all components of the barbecue, including burners, cook box and exterior. Remove grates and wash with light dish detergent.

• Use a pipe cleaner to clear venturi tubes connecting control valves to burner. Look for blockages caused by spiders.

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• Check for leaks by spraying soapy water on gas supply lines and connections. Slowly open gas valve. If you see bubbles (indicating a leak), turn off gas, tighten connections and retest. Contact the manufacturer if leak persists.

CLEAN: AFTER EACH USE
• Remove food particles from grates and racks while they’re still warm using a pumice stone or wooden scraper. Don’t use a steel-bristled brush. The fibres can fall off, stick to grates and end up in your food.

safely use your barbecue tongs spatula• As the grates cool, wipe them with a damp cloth.

• If your barbecue has cast-iron grates, you can re-season them by rubbing on a thin layer of vegetable oil.

• Once coals cool, dispose of ash and spent coals in a lidded non- combustible (i.e. metal) bucket.

CLEAN: EVERY FOUR TO SIX USES
• Slide out the drip pan and grease tray and scrape away any accumulated gunk. If your barbecue has a disposable grease tray, replace it with a new one.

• Remove the reverse V-shaped heat plates (a.k.a. flavourizer bars) and scrub them with warm soapy water. Be sure to towel dry completely before reinstalling.