Getting your grill ready for grilling season: the dangers and a step-by-step guide

Ground meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F, measured with a food thermometer, said K-State food scientist Karen Blakeslee. (K-State Research and Extension)

As the weather warms up, it’s time to dust off the grill and prepare for the upcoming grilling season.

Whether you’re a seasoned grill master or just starting out, getting your grill ready is essential for a successful and safe barbecue experience. Follow these simple steps to ensure your grill is in top condition for the season ahead.

Step 1: Check for gas leaks

Gas leaks can be dangerous, so it’s essential to test before using your grill. Here’s what to do:

  • Mix Soap and Water: Create a solution of equal parts water and dish soap.
  • Turn on the Gas: Turn on the gas at the source, but don’t turn on the burners or ignite the grill.
  • Apply the Solution: Using a brush or spray bottle, apply the soapy solution to the gas connections, including the tank valve, the entire gas line and regulator.
  • Watch for Bubbles: If you see bubbles forming, it indicates a gas leak. Tighten the connections and check again. If the problem persists, you may need to replace the damaged parts before you fire up the grill.

Step 2: Check for unwanted visitors

There’s nothing worse than finding out you grilled a wasp nest, pigeon or mouse along with your steak. Insects, rodents, even birds like to nest in covered places, and over the winter, your grill could look like a 4-star hotel to them.

  • Get rid of the nest: Open the grill and wipe away any spider webs or other nesting material.
  • A sure sign: Check underneath and in any enclosed parts of the grill for rodent droppings. If you find any, spray the area down with a disinfectant and clean the area thoroughly. Don’t forget to check the grease trap.
  • It’s easer to keep them out in the first place: If you don’t have one, you may want to consider buying a grill cover to protect it from both weather and unwanted pests.

Step 3: Clean the grill grates

Cleaning the grill grates is a crucial step to prepare your grill for the upcoming season. If you have stainless steel grates, follow these steps:

  • Use the right tools: Before you start scrubbing, consider your brush. Metal wire brushes can leave small, sharp bristles stuck to your grates, which then may transfer to your food and cause an injury. Consider using a nylon bristle or coil-shaped bristle-free brush, or better yet, a pumice stone. You can even use a balled-up piece of aluminum foil to easily (and cheaply) scrub away residue.
  • Preheat the Grill: Turn on your grill and let it preheat for about 15 minutes. This will help loosen any food particles stuck to the grates.
  • Scrub the Grates: If using a long-handled grill brush, dip the brush in clean water and scrub the grates thoroughly. The steam produced on the hot grates will help remove burnt-on residue. If using a pumice stone, wear a heat-resistant grill glove and scrub away. After scrubbing, use a clean cloth to quickly wipe down the grates to remove any remaining residue.

Sometimes, especially if it’s been awhile since you’ve cleaned them, your grates need some special attention.

  • Wash with Soapy Water: After brushing, wash the grates with warm, soapy water. Use a sponge or cloth to remove any remaining grease or food particles.
  • Rinse and Dry: Rinse the grates thoroughly with clean water and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel. This prevents rusting during storage.

Step 4: Clean the Interior

Next, you’ll need to clean the interior of the grill. Here’s how:

  • Turn Off the Gas: If you have a gas grill, turn off the gas supply at the source.
  • Remove Burner Covers and Drip Pans: Take out the burner covers and drip pans. Clean them with warm, soapy water, and dry them thoroughly.
  • Scrub the Interior: Use a grill brush to scrub the interior walls and floor of the grill. Remove any built-up grease, ash, or debris.
  • Clean the Burners: Carefully brush the burners to remove any debris that may be blocking the gas flow. Be gentle to avoid damaging the burners.
  • Reassemble the Grill: Once everything is clean and dry, reassemble the grill, ensuring all parts are securely in place.

Step 5: Clean the Exterior

Don’t forget to clean the exterior of your grill to keep it looking great. Here’s what to do:

  • Wash with Soapy Water: Use warm, soapy water and a sponge to clean the exterior of the grill. Pay special attention to any grease or dirt buildup.
  • Rinse and Dry: Rinse the grill with clean water and dry it thoroughly with a clean towel.
  • Apply a Protectant (Optional): For stainless steel grills, consider applying a stainless steel cleaner and protectant to keep it looking shiny and new.

Step 6: Check the Ignition System

A properly functioning ignition system is crucial for a hassle-free grilling experience. Here’s how to check it:

  • Inspect the Igniter: Check the ignition system to ensure it’s working correctly. If it’s battery-powered, replace the batteries if necessary.
  • Test the Ignition: Turn on the grill and test the ignition button. If it doesn’t spark, you may need to clean or replace the igniter.

Step 7: Season the Grates

Seasoning the grates helps prevent food from sticking and gives your grill a non-stick surface. Here’s how to do it:

  • Coat the Grates: Lightly coat the clean, dry grates with cooking oil or a high-heat cooking spray.
  • Preheat the Grill: Turn on the grill and let it preheat for about 15 minutes. This allows the oil to penetrate the grates.
  • Let Cool: Once preheated, turn off the grill and let it cool down. Your grates are now seasoned and ready for use!

Step 8: Perform a Test Run

Before you start grilling your favorite dishes, it’s a good idea to do a test run to ensure everything is working correctly.

  • Preheat the Grill: Preheat the grill on high for about 15 minutes.
  • Check for Hot Spots: Use an infrared thermometer to check for hot spots on the grill. Adjust the burners if necessary to ensure even heat distribution.
  • Grill Something Simple: Grill something simple like hot dogs or vegetables to test the grill’s performance.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your grill is clean, safe, and ready for a season of outdoor cooking enjoyment. You’re all set to fire it up and start grilling your favorite foods for family and friends!