As warm weather approaches, you might find yourself anxiously looking forward to the days when you can break out your favorite piece of cooking equipment — your grill. Nothing beats the satisfaction of cooking large pieces of meat, full of succulent goodness out over an open fire. And let’s face it, food always seems to taste better when it is cooked outside. Before your BBQ season gets into full swing, while the weather is still too cold to permit grilling, there are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the season so that you can be ready to fire up the grill on the first warm day.

If you neglected to clean your grill after the last grilling season, you need to take care of that last bit of housekeeping before doing anything else. Make sure that you have emptied out the old coals if you own a charcoal grill. Leaving them on the bottom of the grill can cause it to corrode since rainwater can mix with the ashes to form an acidic mixture. Once you have removed the old ashes, take a garden hose and wash out the interior of the charcoal grill. If there are any stubborn stains or burnt areas, you can use fine still wool and soap to help remove the baked on crust. One reason for making sure that the interior of the grill is clean is that the metal sides help to reflect the heat up onto the food. If the walls of the grill are dirty, they cannot reflect heat efficiently, lowering the effective cooking temperature of your grill. Next, make sure that your grill grate is clean. If it is dirty and crusted with bits of burned material try to scrub it away. You do not want these pieces of burned material touching your food. Not only is this unsanitary, but studies have shown that they may also cause cancer. If your grill grate is rusted or dirty beyond repair, consider purchasing a new one. They are relatively inexpensive and buying a new one can save you a lot of manual labor. Next, make sure that the air vents in your lid are clean. Air needs to be able to flow freely through these vents so that the hot air inside the grill can circulate all around the food. Finally, make sure that the legs and handles on your grill are sturdy. The last thing that you want is for your grill full of hot coals to collapse while you’re grilling. This can cause serious injuries and major fires.

If you own a gas grill, cleaning it before the grilling season begins can be more labor intensive. First, you will need to disconnect the gas and disassemble the grill according to manufacturer instructions in order to expose the burners. Make sure that the burner jets are clean and unobstructed. Next, take soap and water and clean the inside of the grill. Next, clean the grates. If they are rusted, replace then. Many gas grills are constructed out of stainless steel, which may need cleaning. You can clean your stainless steel with soap and water or a commercial stainless steel cleaning spray that you can pick up at any hardware store. Finally, reassemble your grill.

For gas grillers, checking the status and contents of the gas tank is important. Make sure to inspect your gas tank for rusty spots or signs of damage. If you see any, replace the tank immediately. Also, allow your grill to heat up for several minutes before you use it to burn away any debris that may be stuck in the burners.

After your grill is cleaned, make sure that you have all of your accessories ready. You will need a charcoal chimney if you own a charcoal grill, tongs, gloves, a thermometer, forks, spray bottle, spatulas, and a silicone basting brush at the very least. If you grill a lot of vegetables or fish, look into purchasing a grill basket and a fish grilling basket, which will keep the food from falling between the grates and sticking.

Now is also a good time to make sure that your spices that you will use for your dry rubs are fresh. Spices do not last forever and should be changed out at least once a year.

Finally, think about what kinds of meats you grill frequently. If you grill a lot of beef or pork and host parties throughout the summer, consider purchasing half or a whole butchered cow or pig. These large cuts can be bought from wholesale meat purveyors at very reasonable prices. You can even split the order with your neighbors or family members. You can ask the butcher to break down the animals into the cuts that you want and freeze them in individual freezer bags to use later in the BBQ season.

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