CAA-Quebec - Barbecuing: annual maintenance guidelines

Spring, when a man’s thoughts turn again to – barbecuing! Before you fire up ye olde grill for that first time, you need to do a basic once-over and cleaning. Here are some guidelines for making your outdoor meals not only as delicious as they can be, but safe too.

First, check “under the hood”

The burners:

  • If you see any cracks, holes or damage caused by rust, it’s time to replace them. They’re in good shape? Make sure that all the jets are clear, then brush them gently with a brush specially made for this purpose.
  • Clean the hoses between the gas valve and the burner. These can become blocked by spider and insect nests.
  • Keep in mind that the flame produced by propane should be pure blue. Any yellow flames are usually an indication that the burner needs adjustment, a cleaning or that the tubes are partly blocked.

The fittings:

  • Examine the fittings and hoses.
  • Make sure that there are no leaks before lighting your barbecue for the first time. To do so, the Canada Safety Council recommends using a solution of 50% liquid soap and 50% water. Lift the lid and open the main gas valve. Apply the solution to the fittings and the hose leading from the cylinder. If you see bubbles forming, then you know you have a leak. Firmly retighten all fittings, then apply the soapy water solution again. Repeat the operation until the gas ceases to escape. Never use matches or a lighter to check for leaks!

Pit, grills, lighter and radiant elements:

  • Clean the inside of the pit with oven cleaner or barbecue degreaser.
  • Remove the grills and deep-clean them. While enamel grills must always be cold-cleaned (never with a metal brush or steel wool), stainless steel grills may be brushed when warm.
  • Make sure that the ignition buttons work properly. Clean the lighter: gently remove rust and grease using a metal brush.
  • Check volcanic rocks and ceramic briquettes. Replace the stones when they begin to crumble. These radiant elements are self cleaning. All you need to do is flip them over from time to time throughout the season: the intense heat will burn off food particles. Note that a single layer of stones is enough to provide maximum output.
  • Check the propane cylinder. Tanks that are defective, dented or older than 10 years should be taken out of circulation and returned to the distributor safely. Never throw out a cylinder with the garbage as, although it may seem empty, it could contact enough propane to cause an explosion.
  • Refill the cylinder as needed.
  • During transportation – and always, in fact – the cylinder must be kept upright so that the gaseous portion of the propane is always in contact with the safety valve in order to minimize risks in the event of leakage. Make sure the cylinder does not tip over by securing it with a stand or straps. Moreover, the valve on the cylinder must be closed and equipped with a sealing cap. If transporting the tank in the trunk, leave the trunk lid partially open; if transporting it in the passenger compartment, leave a window open.

For an impeccable “body”

  • To restore the shine to the outside of your barbecue, you can paint it. After sanding, cleaning, rinsing and drying the surface, heat it up for a few moments, then apply a paint made especially to withstand high temperatures. Wait at least two days before using your barbecue. Do not, however, paint the grills or cooking surfaces.
  • You own a stainless steel barbecue? Clean the outside with a product specially made for it. To help remove any future grease, coat it with a little pure lemon oil.
  • Change the bottom tray, if any, which collects grease.
  • After cleaning, run the barbecue for 15 minutes, one half at a time. Don’t leave it unattended and make sure it is working properly.
  • Adjust or replace any defective handles or wheels.

All done? You’re ready for a new season. Gentlemen, light your barbecue!

Source: Article “Barbecuing: please be careful!” by Jacqueline Simoneau, Touring, Spring 2009 edition.