Cleanliness may be next to godliness when it comes to personal hygiene, but don’t overdo it when it comes to your grill. A firebox seasoned with smoke and spatterings produces better-tasting food than a shiny new grill just out of the box. Don’t be gross about it, though. Never leave whole pieces of food encrusted on the grill.
The one exception to the cleanliness rule is the grate, which you should clean thoroughly before and after each use. A clean grate helps prevent foods from sticking and makes the final product taste better. At my house we follow this simple procedure.
Before cooking, when the grill has been preheated to high and the grate is hot, brush the grate vigorously with a long-handled wire brush to loosen any burned-on food or debris. (A metal spatula works well for scraping off large bits.) Brush the grill again when you’ve finished cooking.
If the grate is to be oiled, wait until it is hot, and oil it just prior to adding the food. There are three techniques for oiling. The first is to remove the grate from the fire and spray it with oil. (Use sturdy spring-loaded tongs and a heavy oven mitt or pot holders to lift the grill.) Never spray the grate over the fire: you’ll spark a Vesuvian flare-up.
For the second method, the grate remains on the grill. Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil into a small bowl. Fold a paper towel to create a pad about 3/4 inch thick, 1 inch wide, and 3 inches long. Holding this pad with long-handled tongs, dip it in the oil, then rub it over the bars of the hot grate.
The third method-my favorite-is also with grate in place. Rub the hot grate with a piece of beef, bacon, or chicken fat (hold the fat with tongs or with a carving fork).
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