With the approach of winter, I know that some of you are thinking it's time to pack your grill away until spring. And I also know that some of you are planning on forgetting and just letting your grill sit under a foot of snow all winter. Of course that's not what anyone plans on doing, it just happens that way. If you do, you deserve to find your trusty barbecue rusted and populated with squirrels next spring.
To those of you in warm climates, free from that great chiller of fire boxes, moistener of wood and charcoal I apologize and offer you the best of wishes in those mid January cookouts. Those of you that live in lands of snow however are presented with a choice; pack the grill carefully into a nice dry corner of the garage or face potential frostbite by cooking outdoors in a foot of snow.
The natural thing to do, if you are human, is to leave your outdoor cooking equipment (whether a grill or smoker) out in the weather until it's time to grill again. Then with 45 minutes until dinner, try to get a good even fire going with rusted burners and a load of critters living in your grill.
Now, what I'm going to suggest might seem radical at first, but I'm sure that after you've really thought about it, you would actually consider skipping the half-time show to do a bit of preventive maintenance.
Strip it: After a long summer of grilling you probably have a good build up of black, greasy gunk in your grill. Nasty as it sounds, you want to get in there and get all of that cleaned out. This stuff can be corrosive burners. Dismantling your gas grill and cleaning off the individual parts is actually the easiest way to go. Once you have the grill stripped down to the shell you can clean it out easily with warm soapy water and a good rinse from the hose. The burners and grates can be cleaned up inside. You should also make note of any part that is rusted through and need replacing. You might not be able to find those parts in the off season but you will know exactly what you need when the stores roll out their barbecue selection next year. This is an excellent time to repaint your grill either entirely or parts that need paint.
Store it:With the shell and all the components clean you can reassemble the grill. Fire it up one last time to make sure that it is completely dry. Now you can go over the metal parts with some cooking oil or spray. This will repel any moisture that might build up during the winter. Now you should cover your grill and park it in a place where it will be sheltered from the elements. An important note about gas grills is that while a nice dry corner of the garage is the perfect place for the grill, it is not the place for the gas tank. Never store propane bottles in an enclosed area. Even the slowest of leaks can flood an area with explosive gas. It's best to keep the tank in a well ventilate area, protected from the weather.
If you have a charcoal grill the same basic rules apply. But you’ll have a much easier time of it. Charcoal grills and smokers tend to only need a light coat of oil over the cooking grates and don’t need to be oiled down like a gas grill. When spring arrives always let your grill or smoker heat up completely before you cook. This will burn off this protective oil covering.
If you do live in a place where winter never visits you should clean your grill anyway. So there.