For some of us, summer doesn't mean sunbathing on the beach or hiking along a mountain trail-it means grilling burgers, hot dogs, steak, fish, and vegetables on the backyard grill. While barbecue lovers argue passionately about the secrets of perfect grilling, there's one thing everyone agrees on: To produce great-tasting food, a gas or charcoal grill must be clean, not greasy and overrun with char. The more often you clean the grill, the less residue you'll have to deal with, so the task will only get easier. Follow these simple steps to clean a grill quickly and effectively, using common household items that you probably already have on hand.
If it's been a while since you last had a chance to clean the grill, start the process by filling two large buckets-or an even larger plastic or metal basin-with warm, soapy water. Remove the cooking grates from the grill and submerge them in the water, leaving them to soak for a spell. If yours is a charcoal grill, it's not a bad idea also to remove and soak the ash catcher and the grate that holds the briquettes. Finally, remove and set aside any other parts, such as the drip pan, that easily come free.
Next, use a rag to clear out all the loose dust and ash from within the grill. Follow up with a stiff wire-bristled brush; intermittently dip it into a bath of soapy water and use the tool to scrub off all the caked-on residue. With a gas grill, take extra care here not to disturb any of the connections to the propane tank.
Turn your attention to the grill grates that have been soaking in soapy water. The grease and caked-on residue should be looser now than at first, but it's still probably going to take some elbow grease to get satisfying results.
Allow enough time for all the newly cleaned parts of the grill to dry completely. Once they have done so, reassemble the grill. You're all done-unless you've got a gas grill, in which case it's recommended that you take a moment to confirm that the burner is working properly and that the flame shield is in the right place.
Get into the habit of cleaning the grill after each use; the longer charred food remains on the grates, the more difficult it becomes to get off. Let the grates cool, then spray them with vegetable oil and scrub with a wire brush. Lastly, wipe down the grates with a paper towel. By regularly following the regimen described above, you can avoid the hassle of having to give your grill a time-consuming and laborious cleaning. Now, who's hungry?