Cleaning grills

Summer brings with it the love of outdoor parties, and if you've spent the weekend dragging out and cleaning the lawn furniture, you're probably ready to tackle the grill.

You did clean out the grill before you shut it down for the winter, right? One last grilling of the summer and then you took all the racks out and scrubbed them, all the charcoal dust came out from the bottom, or the propane tank was checked, cleaned, and put away in the garage.

Or did you? Did you spend the last grilling day of the season hanging out with friends, slamming the lid to the grill down, vowing to clean it really well before you put away the patio furniture?

Opening up the lid on the grill after it has been stashed for the winter can be a truly scary experience. Make sure you don't let it happen to you again next year by following these simple grill cleaning steps.

The worst part of grill cleaning is always the bottom of the unit. Take out the grill parts, set them on newspaper and use oven cleaner to liberally coat both sides. Cover it all with plastic and let it sit 24 hours. The best way to do this is to place the entire mess in a garbage bag, that way, in the morning you can just turn the garbage bag inside out and the goop is contained. Wear gloves and , using a garden hose, spray off the remaining grease onto cement, or a part of your yard that you don't mind getting a little dry, as oven cleaner has a tendency to kill grass and burn your hands.

Remover the burner from the pit if at all possible; over the winter, spiders and other insects may have used the tubing for homes, so bang those outside, and place any lava rocks you might have in the bottom of the grill into a plastic bag and bang them on the cement, gently, to remove the gunk on them. Poke the element holes with a coat hanger or thin wire to make sure the propane can get to every area of the element, this will keep food cooking evenly.

Keep an old coffee can under the drip hole in the bottom of the grill this year, it will catch the grease overflow and help the bottom of the grill gunk next year.

Now you can spray the entire grill down with the hose, and use a mild detergent on the outside. If you really want the grill to look like new, you can spray paint it with BBQ paint from your local home improvement center, but this time purchase a grill cover to keep your masterpiece new looking throughout the winter.

Replace the grill units and spray with non stick cooking spray or take a tip from an old restaurant worker, and keep a small, rolled towel saturated with canola oil on hand to wipe it down before and after grilling. This makes clean up much easier and seasons the metal, helping it last longer.