Now that spring has almost sprung, to quote the famous old bit of doggerel that is rapidly turning into a cliché, it’s time to start thinking about eating outdoors in the warmer weather. And the really big question is: did you clean your barbecue before you put it away for the winter? Oh dear. You’re going to have to clean it now, aren’t you?
Ideally, you should clean off any residues left from cooking after each barbecue session, in much the same way as you would clean a saucepan or grill tray after cooking in it. This is fairly easy to do – a quick wipe with a paper towel or two (or a nice reusable cloth) and maybe some dishwashing detergent (of the sort for washing by hand) some warm water and a dish brush. Do this once the barbecue has cooled down or you run the risk of burning yourself and/or melting the plastic bristles of the brush. Believe me, burnt-on melted plastic is a pain to remove.
However, there are some things that you can do to help clean the barbecue while it’s still hot. Turn the flame up to high and this will burn off a lot of the gunk. It will pong horribly and emit black smoke, but don’t panic. After you have turned the flame off and the hot plate is still a hot plate, sprinkle salt all over it. Then, once the machine has cooled down, brush the salt off. It will have absorbed a lot of the liquid fats, etc., and it will also help to scour the metal.
Once you have done either of these post-cleaning methods, you should dry your machine and coat it lightly with a little vegetable oil to “season” the metal (the same as people used to do with cast-iron skillets and stop them from rusting).
Too late now. You’re confronted with rancid fat, mysterious burnt on bits, mould and rust. What are you going to do now?
First of all, switch the barbecue on. While it’s heating up, find a wire brush and spray dispenser. Fill the spray dispenser with water. Spray the water over the hot plate and get busy with the wire brush. This will be like steam cleaning for your barbecue and remove a lot of the rust as well And it kills the mould.
If you don’t want to do this – or if you still haven’t got a new gas cylinder for the barbecue yet – then you can clean the top off with a mixture of baking soda and water, plus a good dollop of elbow grease. Enjo cloths also do a great job at cleaning barbecues, especially the special green ones designed for fats and grease. A paste of salt and vinegar will help remove the rust – you may need to leave the paste on for about ten minutes and you will need to scrub it off fairly hard. Try not to use one of those commercial cleaners and rust removers but stick to the home-made natural rust removal methods: you are going to eat off that barbecue.
I’m not going to pretend that cleaning off a barbecue that has been left neglected is a picnic – I’ve done it myself – but the experience should be enough to teach you to clean, dry and season the barbecue machine properly before you put it away next time. It’ll mean one less spring cleaning job next year.