Nothing quite captures the joy of home ownership like firing up a grill in the back yard and throwing on some burgers and hot dogs. Unfortunately, all that enjoyment often comes with the headache of cleanup, and that shiny new stainless steel BBQ soon looks like it’s been through a war. However, there are a few simple steps you can take to make sure that your grill always looks and cooks as well as the day you bought it.
The best way to keep your grill looking great is to keep it from getting nasty in the first place. When selecting a stainless steel BBQ, make sure you get one made of high quality materials. There are many grades of stainless steel, and the low-quality ones will actually rust surprisingly quickly. Fortunately, there’s an simple way to tell what quality you are buying before purchase. Low-quality stainless steel is magnetic and high-grade stainless steel is not due to traces of nickel that mixed into high-grade stainless steel alloys. An easy way to tell if a grill uses high-end material is to take a small magnet with you to the store and test the grill before purchase.
Additionally, check to see how the grill is put together. High-quality grills are welded, whereas cheaper grills tend to use rivets or other fasteners. Of course, unless these rivets are stainless steel as well, they will rust and discolor your whole grill.
Regardless of which grill you buy, make sure you get a good cover for it to prevent rusting or damage from weather. Vinyl covers work the best, and vinyl that has a felt liner is even better. In general, any material that lets moisture out but not in will keep your grill looking its best.
Finally, a few adjustments to your cooking style may also prolong the look of the grill. Excessive heat will discolor just about any grade of stainless steel. Don’t leave the lid closed any longer than is necessary when preheating and don’t close the lid until the grill has adequately cooled down. While you’re using your grill, never set hot pans directly on the stainless steel surfaces, but use potholders instead. Additionally, don’t use cutting utensils on the steel itself. Making good use of cutting boards will greatly extend the life of your grill.
Even the most careful chef will eventually end up with grease drippings or sauces on their grill. Like any grill, a clean stainless steel grill is much easier to cook on because food doesn’t stick as much. However, stainless steel is more fragile than other materials, so it’s important to clean it carefully.
Never use steel wool to clean stainless steel as it may scratch the finish. Cleaners that contain chlorine bleach can also quickly damage your grill. Instead, use a cloth and non-abrasive cleaner such as one specifically made for stainless steel. Otherwise, simple soap and water should also work well. If you are careful to clean the grill after every use, this should be enough to keep it shiny. Unlike other material, it’s almost impossible to over-clean stainless steel. In fact, the more surface area that is exposed to the air the more chromium oxide will form, which gives stainless steal the ability to “self-heal” minor scratches.
Unfortunately, even the best stainless steel grill can’t last forever. In particular, any grill will eventually discolor because of the heat of the grill itself, and there’s very little an owner can do to prevent this kind of wear. However, the typical life span of a grill is five years, and careful cleaning and prevention can extend that life by a year or two and ensure that a grill looks as shiny and new for as long as possible.