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Prep Your Grill for Winter

Whether you've got a charcoal kettle on wheels or a gas grill built into an outdoor kitchen, here's how to store your grill during the off season

Barbecue season's winding down (yup, we’re bummed too). To ensure your grill will be good to go come springtime, give it some extra TLC before you put it away.

If you've got a charcoal grill...

BUILD A FIRE Light up your grill one last time (sorry, no food—you're just trying to cook off anything accumulated on the grate). A couple of hours at 500°–660°F should cook off any heavier grease.

CLEAN IT OUT Once it's thoroughly cooled, check to be sure any leftover food scraps and residue are completely gone; they're attractive to animals and insects looking for winter hangouts. Scrape the grates with a nylon-bristle grill brush, and sweep or vacuum out any ashes from the bottom of the cooker. Any stubborn spots? Soak stainless-steel grates in soapy water, then use the brush to take them off.

SEASON AND STORE Spray grates with cooking oil; you may want to store the grates in plastic bags to deter pests from cozying up to them.

If you've got a gas grill...

FIRE IT UP To get rid of food remnants, turn your grill on high and run it with the lid closed for 15 minutes. Once it's cooled, go over the grates with a nylon-bristle grill brush to dislodge any stubborn gunk.

DISCONNECT THE TANK If you store your grill in a shed or garage, the liquid propane tank can't come with. Store the tank upright outdoors, away from potential heat sources like dryer vents. Cover the grill's regulator with plastic wrap to prevent critters like wasps from crawling inside to nest. Keeping it all outside? Double-check that the gas is off.

GIVE PARTS A DEEP CLEAN Remove the cooking grates, heat tents or shields, and warming racks, and scrub them with warm, soapy water. Remove and empty the grease pan, which should also get a scrub. Use your nylon brush on the dry burners, leaving the holes clear. Spray the burners, grates, and shields with cooking spray to prevent rust, and seal these and the grease pan in plastic bags—otherwise, spiders or insects may decide to spend the winter in them.

If you've got an outdoor kitchen...

GO WITH GAS Follow the same steps for a built-in gas grill that you would for a freestanding one. Be sure to shut off gas and water lines, unplug any electrical items, and cover outlets.

For all grills...

WIPE DOWN THE EXTERIOR Grab a bucket of warm, soapy water to clean the outside of your grill.

SPRAY SMART Mold can be an unwelcome spring surprise. To prevent it, spray the cleaned exterior with undiluted white vinegar.

COVER IT UP Finally, pull a cover over the grill. For indoor storage, one made from a breathable fabric like cotton is best, providing protection from dust and debris while still allowing air to flow. If you don't store your grill indoors, it’s preferable to at least keep it sheltered from snow and ice; a weatherproof cover is smart, but it needs to breathe so moisture isn't trapped beneath.

Thanks to Barry Atwood, senior product manager, gas grills; and Robert Hawkins, product manager, gas grills - TRU-Infrared; Char-Broil. Justin Monroy, market development manager; DCS Appliances. Bob Trudnak, director of marketing for Monolith Grills and pitmaster for BBQ Guru.