Nothing announces the arrival of summer like firing up the grill. Unfortunately, nothing sours a summer party faster than a grill that won't light, smokes too much, or cooks unevenly. Grease, marinades, and sauces wreak havoc on gas burners, while charcoal grills suffer the corrosive properties of charcoal.

Grills of all kinds, from simple kettles to stainless steel restaurant-grade infrared grills, require maintenance to ensure that they perform and last. "At least twice a year you need to pull the grill apart to get inside and take a closer look at it," says Derrick Riches, barbecue and grilling guide for A thorough cleaning ensures that the burners fire properly, heat distributes evenly, and the grill is safe. Regular maintenance also allows you to catch problems like rust early on. Here is a This Old House primer on keeping your grill in shape.

Inspect the Chassis: Grills with welded joints or connections with pop rivets can rust. Scrub rust off with a stiff wire brush or coarse steel wool, apply a rust-inhibiting primer, and paint the grill's exterior with rust-resistant metal paint. Keep fasteners tight to ensure the base is stable and safe. Replace damaged grill appendages, like wheels, handles, or any other part of your grill, by contacting the manufacturer. You can also refer to the CLA Grills and Service website, or the Appliance Factory Parts website. Use dish soap or a mild detergent to clean cast aluminum grills, and Simple Green all-purpose, biodegradable cleaner for stainless steel ones.

Clean the Burners: Riches stresses that cleaning burners keeps the unit working at its best. Burner ports can fill with grease and close up, leading to hot and cold spots on the grill. While the unit is cold, use a stainless steel wire brush or flexible pipe cleaner to remove the gunk from a traditional gas burner. The flames should be distributed evenly throughout the burner after a good cleaning. Brush off any ash that accumulates on infrared grills, and be sure to keep the glass clean. Infrared grill manufacturers suggest using Bar Keepers Friend, a non-abrasive cleaner, to remove any deposits. Running the grill for 10 minutes on high after cooking also helps keep the ports free of build up.
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