Proper barbecue grill maintenance seems obvious to many of us. There’s nothing less appetizing then seeing dried, burnt food on a grill when you’re about to cook a juicy steak, fresh fish or tasty vegetables. But there’s a lot more to proper propane grill maintenance than keeping the cooking surface clean. When the nice weather hits, your first reaction is to get the grill out from the garage and fire it up for the first grilling of the season. While it’s tempting, taking some time to ensure your grill is clean and safe — especially the first time you use it each season — is worth the effort. In the U.S. every year there are grilling-related home fires, and many stem from poor maintenance or failure to inspect a grill before using it.

The quality of your food is affected by how you maintain your grill, but so are the safety and lifespan of your grill. These maintenance tips won’t make you a better cook, but we can help you have the best chances by sharing our knowledge of outdoor grill maintenance to protect yourself, your family, your friends and your home!

The Best Times to Perform BBQ Grill Maintenance

At the start of summer there’s often a rush to get the grill out. When the good grilling weather hits, you want to take advantage of it, but if you haven’t done your propane grill maintenance beforehand, you might be in for some unhappy, hungry friends and family members. The most critical time to pay extra attention to propane grill safety is when you’re using your grill for the first time — either after your purchase or at the start of the summer. Start by walking through this simple checklist to get your grill back in good working order, so you can be sure it’s ready to use at a moment’s notice.

  • Visually inspect. Make sure the chassis of your grill is solid and sturdy, and check that the burner is clean and intact. Some very light surface rust may be okay, but any parts that are getting rusty and worn should be replaced soon. One common problem after winter storage is the presence of spider webs in your burners and lines, so think about taking them apart and cleaning them. Make sure you clean out any grease, as this is highly flammable.
  • Perform a thorough cleaning. When your grill has been sitting unused for a while, it needs a proper cleaning. Remove the cooking surfaces, lava rock or ceramic plates, and tubes and hoses. Be careful when you’re unthreading any fittings, and make sure you don’t lose the gaskets. Remove all grease that has accumulated in the grill, so you can get rid of a potential fire hazard. Also use the hottest water you can stand with a bit of dish soap — this will help detach any grease and grime on the burner and in the grill body. And be careful not to get water inside the burner. Instead, use a wire brush or toothpick to clean any clogged burner holes.
  • Reassemble and verify all connections. With the cleaning complete, you can start reassembling your grill. Make sure you inspect all gas gaskets and replace them if necessary. Proper barbecue maintenance is important for convenience and safety, so take the time to check all your propane connections. Any leaks will be easily visible when you apply a bit of soapy water. Your nose and ears can also help you detect any gas leaks. Once the gas is connected and the heating elements are back in place, all that’s left is to put the cooking surface into position.
  • Check for leaks. The best way to do this is to tighten all connections and open the propane tank with the burners closed. If you listen carefully, you should be able to hear any leaks. Using soapy water on all connections and your nose to sniff out any leaks are also valid methods. Any leak is a potential safety risk, so don’t light your grill until all leaks have been fixed.
  • Heat up the grill to burn everything off. Once you have finished cleaning your grill, light the grill at maximum temperature to dry out any remaining water and soap, and burn off any grease. Try doing it once, let everything cool, and then flip over the stones or plates. Heat the grill up again to make sure that both sides see maximum heat. Be aware: this step will create lots of smoke, so make sure you’re as far as possible from buildings and people. This is also the perfect time to check your heat gauge — a properly functioning temperature indicator can be a big help for proper grilling. Once everything has cooled down, one last scrub of the grill with a brush will ensure your propane barbecue is ready for some serious cooking.
  • Consider the location of your grill. A large percentage of house fires related to grilling are because the grill was installed too close to a flammable source. This could be a house, garage, shed, or a wooden deck or railing. Always make sure your grill is located a safe distance from all structures and objects. It’s also important to keep children and pets a safe distance away from your grill. That’s why it’s important to never leave a grill unattended. If you need to leave, turn off the gas and close the lid. You won’t lose much heat, and you can easily fire the grill up again when you get back.
    While every type of grill requires proper safety consideration, charcoal grills require extra care, especially while you’re lighting them. Only use approved charcoal starter fluids, and never use lighter fluid. Check with the manufacturer of your grill for safe lighting techniques. If your charcoal grill gets knocked over, hot coals can cause severe burns and quickly start a fire, so it’s helpful to install your charcoal grill on a stable, non-flammable surface.

A few last details — such as verifying your propane tank level, tightening all frame and handle bolts, and gathering your barbecue tongs, brushes and skewers — will make your grill ready for another season of reliable and enjoyable grilling. Checking your connections for leaks, as well as the condition of your grill before you light it up, are the best ways to ensure propane grill safety. It only takes a few minutes, and an extra step of caution can help guarantee a full season of propane grilling enjoyment!
If you’re filling up your propane tank as part of your summer grill maintenance, contact Foster Fuels for assistance!
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