What you should do before you fire up the grill for the first time this season

Grilling season is here, but cleaning and maintenance may be needed first

By Richard Nunn - Meteorologist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - This is without a doubt my favorite time of year.  You know me I love "open window weather!"  It's perfect for camping, kayaking, lounging in the sun and of course grilling.  Whether it's slow and low over smoke or the sizzle of a flame, spring is grilling season.

If your smoker or old webber has been sitting unused through the winter season it's time to clean the cooking surface, check the lines, controls and bring the heat.  Common to all grills is the cooking surface.  The same products you use on your stove top and home oven work great to remove the build up of grease from the previous season.  When it comes to the tool you use to scrub the cooking surface the only rule I follow is no bristles.  No steel bristles, fiber bristles or brass bristles.  Those little wires and fibers weaken over time and can break, sticking to the cooking surface and then becoming lodged in your food.  

For gas grills check the propane feed lines and connections for loose fittings or leaks.  Check the propane tank for rust and corrosion.  For smokers, grab the hand broom or vacuum and clear the ash and debris.  Make sure all smoke ports are clear and free flowing and lastly the hot box vents and grate to ensure a steady flow of heat and smoke.

Once everything is clean, check and reassembled I like to do an burn off to kick off the season.  For gas or pellet grills, crank up the heat and let it burn.  I like to take the temperature to at least 500 degrees for 20-30 minutes before adding any food.

Cleaning and scrubbing the greasy parts is messy.  Cleaning smokers and pellet grills is dusty and dirty, but it's worth it.  By following these simple steps of maintenance and keeping the grill covered, my old el'cheapo cooker gave me 8 great years.  I spent a little more for my current pellet grill - shhh, don't tell Luvbug, but I know with a little TLC this one will always be ready to go when the flame kissed flavor of smoke is needed for a romantic dinner on the patio or to feed a hungry party crowd.‚Äč

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