Baby your barbecue

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It comes as no surprise that in our heat-starved climate, we spend as much time as possible outdoors when the weather gets warm. And many of us are fair-weather barbecue buffs, grilling happily from spring through fall, putting the cooker away for the coldest part of the year. But we all know folk who barbecue year-round, on the back deck or balcony, donned in parkas to attend to the meat or vegetables searing on the grill. Some estimates say the majority of grill-owners now cook with it year-round, and about half use it once or twice a week.

But, though we have a well-established love affair with it, how many of us pay attention to cleaning the grill – giving the maintenance, care and TLC our favourite cooker deserves? If you’re like me, cleaning the barbecue is low on the priority list – usually involving a quick scrape of the heated grill tops before and/or after each use, and nothing much else.

Barbecue expert, cookbook author and TV competitor Danielle Bennett a.k.a. Diva Q says she “lives, breathes, and eats barbecue,” travelling all over the world to teach, judge and share her love of barbecue with other aficionados – the girl knows her barbecue. And whether it’s gas, charcoal or wood-smoked, Bennett agrees with what everyone knows – results are only as good as the tools the cook is working with. “Life is too short for bad barbecue!” she says.

Barbecue manufacturers offer suggestions for the best grill performance and longevity, and that means thorough cleaning, inside and out, more than once a season. Cuisinartbbqs.com says a basic but thorough maintenance regime should be performed regularly (at least twice a season, and more if you barbecue year-round), with attention to grill housing, burners, cooking grates and exterior surfaces. Realsimple.com concurs, saying to clean the burners and tubes, wash the grill, clean grates and stock fuel levels too.

When storing your barbecue for winter or long periods without use, experts recommend an end-of-season cleaning and maintenance of parts, removing the igniter battery to avoid corrosion, and removing burners and cooking grates (which can deteriorate from moisture damage). When the season ends, cuisinartbbqs.com says to burn off the grease, clean grates and burners again and wash grill with a stiff wire grill brush.

But what about for those who are too busy to do such a detailed job, or those who just don’t want to? With many St. Albert customers, The Busy Backyard Beaver professional barbecue cleaning service answers the call.

“We clean 30-year-old, inexpensive barbecues – they were built better back then – $3,000 Webbers and everything in between,” says The Busy Backyard Beaver owner Dennis Thomson. “I’ll tell you if it’s not worth cleaning – but it usually is.”

The average barbecue that is less than 30 inches across costs about $160 for a two-to-three-hour cleaning and inspection, (up to $200 for a 40-inch-and wider model.) Thomson inspects for leaky hoses and regulators, checks the brush bristles to be sure no bristles are falling out, and cleans every aspect of the barbecue, inside and out.

And customers don’t even need to be home. The busy Ardrossan-based business comes to your home in a decommissioned ambulance trucked out with all cleaning supplies and tools, where they’ll soak and scrub grills and burners, remove all traces of fat and carbon, and then hand de-grease hood, knobs, drip pans, racks and even the thermometer, before polishing the barbecue.

“A thorough cleaning removes harmful carcinogens transferred to your food. It also prevents future corrosion and helps extend the life of your grill – it’s a valuable investment,” Thomson said. “We tarp the entire area too – no mess is left behind.” Thomson books well ahead in the busy season – check rates and contact info at thebusybackyardbeaver.com

At the end of the season, realsimple.com advises storing the barbecue propane cylinder upright and outdoors, in a dry, shady, well-ventilated area. Especially with an attached garage, you shouldn’t have a propane tank near dryer or furnace vents.

If storing the barbecue inside the garage, put a piece of cardboard under the grill to protect from concrete moisture damage. And if the barbecue stays outdoors, use a cover to protect it from rain and snow.

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About Author

Lucy Haines

Lucy Haines has been a freelancer writer for the St. Albert Gazette since 2012. She writes features on travel, food, seniors, homes and gardens.