How to clean your grate cover

Going camping or cooking outdoors can be a barrel of fun, especially when you experiment with lots of recipes and ingredients around a campfire of family members and friends. But clean-up is not that great, so some outdoor cooks tend to put off this task as long as possible, making it even more difficult than if they had taken care of it right after each use.

If you use the a charcoal, gas, or electric grill with an open flame, here are a few suggestions for cleaning the grate afterward:

  1. Don’t let it sit. The longer the charred food remains stuck on the grate, the harder it will be to get off. Get busy with clean-up as soon as everyone finishes eating and the food is put away. Be sure the grill’s flame has died down or is turned off, especially the fuel valves. Allow time for the grate to cool, and handle it with oven mitts or iron utensils to keep from getting burned.
  2. Arrange the clean-up area beforehand. Don’t pick up a hot grate and then decide where to put it. Know where you want to go, and have the place ready for resting or cleaning the grate and associated grill parts and equipment. Remove objects that could cause you to trip and fall while handling the grate, such as bricks, stones, tent pegs, food containers, and other things that may be sitting in or on the ground. Have the soap and washing implements ready for use when needed.
  3. When the grate is cool enough to handle, use a metal wire broom to scrape away cooked-on food or charred spills. Get as much off this way as you can, using elbow grease as needed. Work on both sides of the rack, since many food or grease spills drip and run. Catch the scrapings on newspaper to roll up and put in the trashcan to avoid littering or damaging the environment.
  4. For stuck-on spatters, use an oven cleaning spray. Or try a safe, non-toxic home compound made of vinegar, baking soda, and warm water. Apply it to the grate and let it sit awhile, preferably overnight. Then wipe off the loosened residue. You may have to do this step twice to remove most of the buildup.
  5. Be sure to rinse the grate with clean water and wipe off crumbs or soft debris. Allow it to air dry or use a large cloth or worn towel to get rid of excess moisture and prevent rusting, if the grate is made of iron. Some grates now come with a special protective coating that needs to be cleaned with a special formula product. Ask the manufacturer or read the carton directions as well as any handbook that comes with the grill to find out how to clean the grate without damaging the finish.

You can scrub accompanying utensils in the same manner if they are made of similar materials. When in doubt, contact a home supply store to ask a sales associate for advice. Keep all your cooking equipment clean and rust-free to prevent damage, breakage, and replacement purchases.

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