A gas barbecue should be cleaned at least once a season to remove accumulated grease - if not, you'll have cooking flare-ups or even a full-on fire that could take your house down with it. Cleaning a gas barbecue can be broken down into seven stages. Here's the progression:
Stage one: tools and supplies
You are about to take your barbecue apart, dig out layers of built-up grease, clean the components, make necessary repairs, then put it all back together again. Here's what you'll need:
- wire brushes
- dull-edged putty scrapers
- abrasive pot-scrubbing pads
- barbecue venturi brush (long and thin, to remove spider nests). If you don't want to buy one, you can make do with a length of straightened coat hanger.
- spray degreasing solution
- surface cleaning solution
- garden hose
- biodegradable garbage bags
- paper towels
- old newspapers
- replacement lava rocks (if your barbecue uses them)
- plastic container to store parts
- rubber gloves
- optional - high heat touch-up paint to match your barbecue
- optional - electric angle grinder or drill with a wire brush attachment to scour components
Stage two: setting up the cleaning area
Choose a spot that you don't mind getting dirty and that can be hosed down when you're done. An alley or driveway will work well. Don't use your deck. Make sure your garden hose will reach your cleaning spot. Gather your tools and supplies, and prepare your barbecue for transport. Disconnect the propane tank or natural gas line and prepare for your cleaning odyssey.
Stage three: disassembly
How far you disassemble your barbecue will depend on your courage and mechanical aptitude. Before you begin disassembly, warm up your barbecue by lighting it for a minute - this softens grease, making it easier to remove. Once it's cooled a bit, remove the lid, cooking grates and bun racks. If your barbecue uses metal flavour bars, take them out. If it uses lava rocks, throw them away - you'll be putting in fresh ones. Remove any other components inside the firebox, including the burners. Take off the burner knobs. Place screws, knobs and other small parts in a plastic bowl or tub as you remove them (if you don't do this, you'll lose some). Spread out all the dirty components in your cleaning area.
Stage four: mechanical inspection
Examine the mechanical components, including the valves and burners. Run the venturi brush through the end of the burners to clear out spider nests. Examine the burners for dents, bends or plugged holes. Make a list of any parts that need to be replaced. If your barbecue is a name brand, parts are easy to get. Otherwise, you may be in for a scavenger hunt. (This is when many owners learn that their bargain barbecue wasn't that great a bargain.)
Stage five: scraping out heavy grease
This is the point of no return. Slip on your rubber gloves. Using a dull-edged putty knife, scrape off the grease from the inside of the lid and the firebox. (There may be a lot.) Scrape heavy accumulations from other components, including the cooking grates. Deposit the scraped-off grease in biodegradable bags for disposal in your green bin. Although there may be some who will take grim pleasure in this stage, most will find it a task that is best enjoyed in retrospect, as you contemplate your newly cleansed grill. It's best to just glove up and dive in.
Stage six: degreasing and clean up
Now that the heavy grease accumulations have been removed, spray everything with degreaser or solvent and let it soak in for a few minutes. Oven cleaner can also be used. Spray off the softened grease and grime with the garden hose, then spray on more solvent. Begin cleaning internal components with wire brushes and abrasive pads. Clean exterior surfaces with paper towel and solvent so you don't scratch the paint. Reapply solvent as needed. Rinse. Repeat as required. If you have a grinder or power drill with a wire wheel, you can buff components such as stainless steel flavour bars. Spray burners with solvent and go over them with a wire brush to remove residue and clear burner holes. When everything's as clean as you can get it, rinse thoroughly with the hose. Shoot water through burners to remove residue. Rinse everything some more, then spread everything out to dry for a few minutes. Contemplate your work. Have a drink - but not more than one, because reassembly is next.
Stage seven: reassembly and test firing
Put everything back together. Reinstall burners, knobs and flavour bars (or lava rocks). But don't put the cooking grates on yet. Wipe down the outside with an all-purpose kitchen cleaner. Reconnect propane tank or natural gas line. Because of all the rinsing you've done, there's probably some water on the components, so your igniters may not work. If they don't, light the burners with a match or a cigarette lighter. Let the barbecue run for a few minutes to burn off moisture. Now it's time to drop in the cooking grates and accessories (such as bun racks). Light the barbecue again and close the lid for a few minutes to finish drying it out. You're done. Time to slaughter the fatted calf, gather the clan and get the party started.
Okay, there is a stage eight: the pros
Ignore steps one through seven. Call a professional barbecue cleaning service, pour a drink and watch in wonder as they raise your grill from the dead.