January 02, 2019
By Lynn Burkhead
Even if you own the most expensive and feature-packed pellet grill on the market, all that smoky goodness fueled by the wood-fired blaze taking place inside can be short-circuited without some regular tender loving care (TLC).
To avoid problems as the summer grilling and smoking season arrives, why not spend a few moments this weekend giving your grill some attention and maintenance work, chores that set the stage for a season worth of good cooks and rave reviews by guests assembling out on the back deck?
To keep your grill working properly and belching out heat, smoke rings, and great flavor, do your maintenance work regularly. Some will do such work after every cook, others after going through a bag of pellets, and others on a weekly or monthly basis. Depending on how often you cook on your grill, the basic rule of thumb is to not let too much time pass before you give the unit some TLC.
To properly clean and maintain your grill, start by looking at the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations in the owner’s manual, on the company’s website, or even on their social media platforms. Be sure that you follow their directions and understand the intricoes of your particular unit, so you avoid any unwanted problems and warranty issues down the road.
Next, assemble some basic tools for the job including brushes (use softer nylon bristles for surfaces you don’t want to scratch, bronze or metal bristles for other surfaces where a vigorous scrub is more necessary); a natural degreaser that is food-safe and approved by the manufacturer; a shop vac to vacuum away accumulated ash; new liners for drip pans and/or grease buckets; some paper towels; and a soft shop cloth.
Once you’ve gathered the tools, start the process by opening the grill’s lid and giving the interior a good brush down as you remove each part of the unit. Start with the grate, knocking off ash and crusty remains from previous cooks. Then proceed to the drip pan, removing the liner and giving it a good brushing. Finally, do the same to the heat baffle before removing it, carefully setting all these pieces aside.
Now that you’ve got all the interior parts removed, give the bottom of the barrel, the various crevices, and the fire pot itself a good vacuuming out. To accomplish this task, use either a small shop vac or a handheld vac you’ve dedicated to your grill maintenance chores.
When necessary in this cleaning process, use your brush to loosen hardened debris and ash so that it can be vacuumed away. One word of caution here, be sure you carefully clean around locations that contain sensitive grill parts like a unit’s auger system, temperature sensor, etc.
If tough spots deem it necessary, use a supply of paper towels and an all-natural cleaning product on the inside of the grill, something like a spray bottle of Traeger All-Natural Grill Cleaner. Whatever product you choose to use, be sure it’s all-natural and won’t leave behind any harmful chemical residue that can compromise health or the smoky taste of expensive meats and other food.
Once you’ve got the interior of the grill cleaned of crusty debris and leftover ash, reassemble the guts of the grill. When you get to the drip tray, use either a commercially made liner or plain aluminum foil to cover it, ensuring that future cleaning chores are as easy as removing the liner and discarding it. Also remove and discard any grease tray/bucket liners, replacing them with a new one. (Note: Some will do these chores before every new cook, others on a regular basis.)
Once you’ve cleaned the inside of the grill, replaced old liners, and carefully reassembled the interior parts, give some attention to the hopper that stores the wood pellets your grill uses.
If your grill has been used often and covered properly, you may not have to do anything but make sure that the hopper is topped off with a fresh supply of pellets. But if it has been a good while since you’ve last cooked on the grill, you’ll want to check the pellet supply and make sure they are still good and “crisp” (meaning they haven’t soaked up humidity and moisture, turning into something soft and easily crumbled).
If the pellets aren’t good, empty the hopper via its trapdoor or through removing them by hand. Then use your shop vac or handheld vac to scoop up any leftover wood pellets and debris before starting off with a fresh new load of good pellets that are poured straight out of the bag.
Now you’re ready to give some attention to the exterior of the grill, using your natural degreaser and some paper towels to clean up areas where grease, ash, and other types of crusty debris have accumulated. Follow that up with a good spritzing and rub down, using some elbow grease to give the lid, barrel, exterior trays and shelves, and even the legs and wheels a thorough cleaning.
With just a few extra moments of work, you can have the outside of your pellet grill looking like it just came out of the box in many instances.
Finally, with the grill cleaned up and dried off from any natural cleaning product used, you’ll want to properly cover it up. Use either a cover made by the manufacturer or a third-party company, one that fits properly, shields your grill from the elements, and keeps it ready to go with reliable functionality that stands the test of time and use.
After all of that, all that’s left to do is find a shady spot out back so you can relax just a bit after your weekend clean-up chore on a favorite pellet grill.
Or head for the grocery store to assemble the meat, food, and other ingredients you’ll need for your next cook, one that is sure to draw rave reviews and big smiles out on the backyard deck as another meal of smoky goodness is served up for hungry family and friends!