Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Under the Hood

Spring Returns—And Not a Minute Too Soon

Spring Returns—And Not a Minute Too Soon

Polar vortexes. Texas hookers. Thunder sleet.

If nothing else, this winter added new words to the nation’s weather vocabulary as it spread inconvenience and misery from Bozeman to Boston, from International Falls to Atlanta.

But spring officially arrived Thursday, March 20—not a moment too soon. Many of you shoveled the path to your grill and kept smoking and grilling this winter. We salute you. And if you’re just now waking your charcoal grill or smoker out of its winter hibernation, here’s what you need to do to get it ready for action now. (We’ll cover gas grills next week.)

  • Spring cleaning: Thoroughly clean the inside and outside of the grill. If you cleaned it last fall and benched it for the winter, a quick rinse with a hose will do the trick. If you’ve been using it (or stored it without cleaning it—you wouldn’t do that), start by emptying the ash catcher. Remove the grates. Using a garden trowel or putty knife, tackle any solidified piles of ash or drippings in the bottom of the firebox. Spray stubborn crud with a commercial grill cleaner like he one made by Green Earth Technologies or soak it with Simple Green. Rinse, preferably with a power washer. That’s what we do at Barbecue University.

    If you own a kamado-style cooker, like a Big Green Egg, check the tightness of the bands, then adjust with an Allen wrench. Replace any gaskets as needed. Clean out ash from the bottom. If the interior has developed mildew (common for unglazed ceramic in humid environments), build a fire in your grill and preheat to 600 degrees. Let it burn for 20 minutes. Close the vents and allow the grill to cool completely, then brush the grill grate and interior with a stiff-bristled brush. Wash the exterior with soapy water and a soft cloth. For more cleaning tips specific to kamado cookers, check the manufacturer’s manual or website.
  • Rust patrol: Inspect the body of your grill for rust. Sand minor dings and rust spots, then touch up with a high-quality heatproof paint. (The rims of kettle grills are especially prone to dings, which then allow rust to get a toehold.) If your grill is powder-coated, look for heat-flaked paint. Oftentimes, the manufacturer stocks paint that will match your grill. Discard grills that have rusted through. (I know, it’s hard.)
  • Lube job: Loosen any sticky vents, wheels, or ash catchers by applying a lubricant or a silicone spray such as WD-40.
  • Get grates camera ready: Build a hot fire in your grill with the grill grates in position. Let it burn for 20 minutes. Fill a spray bottle with water, then spray the hot grates. Brush the grates with a high-quality grill brush or pumice brick. (Use softer brass bristles for porcelain-coated grill grates to avoid scratching them.) Finish by oiling the bars with a grill oiler or a tightly folded paper towel dipped in vegetable oil. Repeat as needed. If your grill grates are warped or in especially rough shape, buy replacements.
  • Inventory fuel and equipment: Do you need fresh charcoal, wood chips or chunks, fatwood, or paraffin fire starters? Maybe a new chimney starter or grill gloves? As you upgrade your current inventory, remember: investing in good tools now will save you replacement costs in the future. Tip: To keep charcoal dry throughout the season, store in a lidded galvanized metal container.

Once the work is done, reward yourself by grilling a meal to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Here are two seasonal recipes to inspire you:

Israeli Spring Game Hens
Asparagus Rafts

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