How to Winterize Your Grill
When fall rolls around and the cold weather of winter is looming, it’s important for grill owners to be prepared by winterizing your grill. Many of you, I’m sure, are like me and grill year-round, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also prepare your grill for lower temperatures and nasty weather. Most of us are familiar with how corrosion (rust) can degrade the performance and lifetime of your grill - while high quality materials like 304 stainless steel are very corrosion resistant, that doesn’t mean they’re impervious to the elements. Not only does moisture stress metals, but grease build-up can create pressure points where corrosion can build and spread.
Preventing much of the damage that can befall your grill comes down to a thorough cleaning from top to bottom, so I would recommend grabbing a few cleaning supplies to help you get started, like like grill cleaner and stainless steel polish. . A grill brush will also be helpful.
While you can use warm water and a mild soap, grill cleaners usually have chemicals that help cut through grease - but be careful - some industrial cleaners are so powerful they can damage the finish of your grill. Also, take caution using any type of abrasive scouring pad that can scratch the surface of your grill, typically a soft sponge is all you’ll need to clean the surface.
Clean the Interior of the grill
Begin by firing up your grill, I recommend letting it run on high heat for at least 10 minutes, to burn off any large pieces of food/residue left from previous grilling sessions. After that period, you can shut it off and start by using your grill brush to scrape the grill grates clean. If your grill grates are severely caked with sauces or other stubborn bits, I find it easy to dip your grill brush in water and then take to the grates using steam to break free those tough spots.
After you’ve cleaned your grates, allow your grill to cool completely. Then remove all the interior components, like flame tamers, warming racks, or briquette trays, and start cleaning out the inside of the fire box. If you have flame tamers, I recommend soaking them in a bucket of soapy water to loosen tough stains, and then scrubbing with a sponge to remove as much residue as possible.
For the firebox, I recommend using grill cleaner to cut through the grease that hasn’t made its way to the drip pan - but you can use soapy water here too, if you don’t have grill cleaner. Be sure to wipe away any leftover cleaner/soap away, any residue left behind can promote corrosion and impart bad flavor the next time your grill is used.
Finally, remove the drip pan and determine how much grease/build-up you have. If you have a large amount and its cold/caked on, I find a putty knife is a great tool to scrape it off and then use your grill cleaner to cut through whatever grease is left behind.
Clean the Exterior
I clean the exterior of my grill in two phases: first, using my grill cleaner to wipe away dust and any other grime; and second, using a stainless steel cleaner or polish to protect the finish.
First, in cleaning the exterior you should pay attention to the grain of your steel - if you scrub in the wrong direction you can scratch or harm the surface. Again, I just use a soft sponge to remove all build-up. Also, be sure to be careful if your grill has decals or symbols printed on the surface - like this grill’s control panel has indicators for temperature painted next to the burners. If you scrub too hard around these areas, you can remove them.
Finally, find yourself a stainless steel polish - some cleaners have a polish mixed in, but I like to use products like Sheila-Shine or Bar Keeper’s Friend to finish cleaning the exterior. These products have an oil base to them that help “season” and coat the steel, preventing moisture from penetrating the material.
And lastly, after everything is cleaned, be sure to invest in a high quality grill cover. Protecting your grill when not in use helps keep the elements like snow and rain off the grill and from getting inside. With that in mind, a key feature to look for in a good cover is ventilation - you don’t want moisture to build up on the inside without being able to escape. Beyond that, vinyl, PVC, or leather are good materials to look for in a cover in order to survive a harsh winter.
If you have any tips/tricks of your own that helps you winterize your grill, be sure to leave a comment below and let us know!