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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Frugal Kitchens 101 - The Outdoor Grill

 Frugal Kitchens 101
We have always had some type of outdoor grill from the time we were newlyweds, always within a few steps of the kitchen.  We even had a tabletop model for our RV and one of the first purchases we made for our vacation home was an outdoor grill.  We grill year round regardless of the weather.  In all honesty, if we had our druthers we would grill every day of the year!  Outdoor grilling has many advantages.  It gives a flavour to the food that you really can't get using other cooking methods.  In fact, the only way I cook my homemade roasted tomato sauces is on the outdoor grill.  Outdoor grilling keeps all the cooking odours and heat out of the house.  There's less dishes to do using an outdoor grill as well.  However, an outdoor grill is an appliance that does require maintenance.  The type of maintenance will depend on the fuel or in our case the fuels being used.

In general, there are a few tips that apply to all outdoor grills:

  • don't cover - A outdoor grill should not be covered as that will eventually lead to rust and it encourages rodents.  If you want to protect your grill put it in a sheltered place like a garage or shed.
  • salt is the enemy - Many seasoning blends and commercially made barbeque sauces are high in sodium.  This promotes rusting of the burner and grates.  Avoid using salt directly when grilling.
  • avoid flare-ups - Part of what adds to the flavour of grilled foods is the flame but you don't want excessive flare-ups.  They not only burn the food, they create soot on the inside of the grill and they can be down right dangerous.  Any built up soot should be brushed from the inside of the grill to prevent contaminating foods.  Do not use water to control flare-ups as that can make them worse.   Instead turn the heat down and move the food to a cooler spot on the grill.
  • don't clean the grate -  The grate should be left as is after each use.  Heat the grate to burn off any left overs at the start of the next use of the grill.
  • cleaning the exterior - Use a hot soapy water with a little household ammonia to clean the exterior surfaces.  A non-scratching cream cleaner can be used on stainless steel portions of the grill to clean, rinse then buff to a shine with a clean, dry cloth.
  • repainting - Painted portions of the outdoor may need to be repainted to protect the metal from rusting.  Use a high heat, rust proof paint on the box and hoot.  A standard rust proof paint can be used on other parts like the legs.
Each of the fuel choices have maintenance tasks specific to that fuel.  Here is what we have learned over the years.
  • charcoal -  Charcoal creates ash.  Old fashioned lump charcoal creates less ash than charcoal briquettes.  The ash must be cleaned out on a regular basis but always leave a thin layer of ash in the tray.  Never use chemical charcoal starters as they leave residue on your food as well as inside the grill.  Instead, invest in an electric charcoal starter or use a newspaper chimney to start your charcoal.  Be sure the ashes are cool before cleaning out the ash tray. 
  • natural gas - The biggest problem we noticed with natural gas is it encourages earwigs and spiders.  Earwigs are simply annoying but spiders will spin webs that can obstruct the flow of the gas causing a rather dangerous situation.   The burner on a natural gas grill will likely need replacing every five years.  The ceramic briquettes if there should not need replacing, simply turning them over occasionally will clean them.  If you have a wave style bed over the burner, it will need to be replaced every three to five years. 
  • propane - The electronic igniter seems to break faster on propane grills.  Perhaps it is because they can be moved easier. The burner will likely need replacing every five years.
  • electric - Electric grills are not ideal but for those living in apartment buildings it may be the only option.  Inspect the cord to be sure it is not damaged before plugging it in.  Place a bit of water in the bottom of the grill to prevent flare-ups.  Electric grills should always be stored indoors when not in use.

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