Kya deLongchamps on how to restore outdoor cooking equipment to safe working order/
You've wheeled out the old soldier, swatted off the atrophied spiders and lifted the lid. Holy battered burgers! This is not going to be pleasant.
Well, relax. You can get most, if not all of the baked-in goop off a structurally sound BBQ grill. As you stoically scrub sear this adventure onto your enduring memory, with a scout’s dib-dib pledge to clean the cooker after every use.
Natural flame, fighting through an opaque layer of last year’s seasoning will clog gas holes, smother flavour bars and deliver uneven cooking results, wasting fuel as it strains to get up to temperature.
Sauces left to drip onto the grill and the gas tubes will leave a sticky mess, rabid with juicy bacteria only flies appreciate.
Gas grills can be cleaned by first firing them up with the lid down to soften the goo. Check the condition of the regulator and hose first. Don’t fudge obvious problems like brittle hosing or a worn butane or propane regulator with tape and potentially lethal jerry-rigging. Replace it.
Opening up the unit, disconnect any gas, and lift off the grill and movable pieces to reveal the fire-box. Empty the belly of the BBQ of any solid fuel and pour off oil into a jar from the grease trap to dispose of safely and sustainable.
Use balls of newspaper to lift off viscous gunge. Try natural scrubs and soaks for the solid muck first. If you do go straight for the chemistry — remember to clean the unit down repeatedly with clean water to avoid tainting food when you fire up.
You should have a BBQ grill brush on hand. Don’t use it for enamelling or bright-work which should be washed down and then polished with a micro-fibre cloth.
If you’ve been very good your grill plates will just need immersion in hot soapy water and a rinse along with other removable pieces of the BBQ. Otherwise, give them a thorough spray with 1:1 water and white vinegar. Leave to penetrate, repeating the spray and work off with a metal pot scrubber or scrunched kitchen foil. Tough material can be forced with a putty knife. Still not yielding?
Try a paste made up of bicarbonate of soda and vinegar applied like a poultice and left for a few hours. Use a wire bottle brush or something suitable to fidget out any blocking material in the gas holes and check their condition for terminal corrosion.
Once you have disassembled and cleaned the unit thoroughly, the structural features (the legs, lid and any shelving) should be cleaned down with hot soapy water (washing up liquid if fine and preferable to noxious petrochemicals).
Use plenty of rinses to get it properly clean. Dry hardwood elements off quickly and give the surfaces a rub with a little linseed oil to moisturise the timber. Even straight vegetable oil is fine. Dry cast iron pieces immediately to avoid rusting.
Finally, put the BBQ back together according to the maker’s instructions; PDF archived instructions are online for every brand.
Check the fixings to the legs are tight and be careful that any burner tubes are properly clipped or screwed into the right order.
Gas BBQs can be fired up for 10-15 minutes with the hood down to evaporate off any cleaning residue and check their performance.
If you’re determined to buy new or don’t have a unit, Outdoor Scene and other leading suppliers I spoke to said that their online sales portal was intact and operating nationwide, but to expect a kerbside drop off.
The crucial message here is to read reviews, do your measurement and know what you’re getting.
Returning something that doesn’t light your fire will be a hot mess during these challenging weeks. Gas (some with lava rocks), wood pellets, coals or fully electric: do your research in quality, size, handling and potential taste differences.
Around 30cm by 30cm is a tight grill size for a family barbecue.
A large unit will have a cooking surface of at least 50cm by 50cm and prices for larger units have crashed.
Examine the area you are siting the barbecue, and imagine distracted adults milling around with perhaps a glass of wine onboard and children careering through, heading a ball. A larger unit will keep spectators further away, avoiding potentially dangerous huddles over a naked flame.
Pace out the intended outdoor dining area and ensure the footing is stable and level.
A wider top and integral cupboards and shelving will take plates, condiments and other accessories out of your hands, allowing you to concentrate on safely cooking food through. Good kettle grills in both charcoal and gas start at less than €100.
My choice in a scorching investment would be Weber’s brand-new 2020 line in wood-pellet stoves, the SmokeFire from €1,199, at Weber dealers nationwide.
For a smaller unit to hide away on a petite patio, Black + Blum’s Hot Pot, is a witty plant pretender in heat-insulating ceramic with a BBQ under attractive fake herbs, €86, cuckooland.com.
Slow heat? The compact Asian clay Kamado kiln from Berghoff is scrumptious in dimpled lime green, and cooks with just moisture and deliciously scented woodchip. €329,