Yea, yea, I know all about the new fangled propane grills, and the electric type too. But if you’re like me, you favor using a good old-fashioned charcoal grill when you cook up barbecues at home. When my family and I get together at my parents’ house for summertime cookouts- and there are a lot of us to feed, trust me- we always use three or four charcoal grills. What can we say? We just like the taste that a charcoal grill gives to our barbecued chicken, hamburger patties, steaks, and hot dogs.

I’ve used the same Weber charcoal grill for several years now. There are secrets to keeping it in good shape. Plus, by keeping it clean and in good shape, the flavor of the food I barbecue on it tastes as delicious as ever.

The first thing I do after I use my grill, (and it has cooled down enough so the grate is just warm), is to remove both the top and bottom grates. Since I clean the grates after each and every use, they don’t get an accumulation of grease and goop on them. Therefore, cleaning them is a breeze.

If you run a metal brush over the top grate to remove the worst of the burnt on food, you can then use a soap-filled steel wool pad to finish the job. If the steel wool pad doesn’t cut the grease and grime, put a few drops of Dawn™ Dishwashing Detergent on the pad and scrub the grill again. Rinse the entire grate, (a garden hose works great), with plenty of clean water to remove the soap, food particles, and dissolved grease. Those soapy pads might smell good, but you sure don’t want that smell clinging to your next batch of grilled meat.

The bottom grate, which holds the charcoal briquettes, can be cleaned in the same manner. They don’t normally get a lot of food and grease on them. So, they’re easier yet to keep clean.

Next, I clean the inside and the outside of the lid on my charcoal grill. The inside of the lid tends to get greasy and black like the top grate. The outside basically gets dirty from the smoke. Again, you can use a soap-filled steel wool pad to clean the outside. However, don’t scrub too hard or you’ll scratch the paint. I sometimes use a nylon scratcher in place of the steel wool if the lid isn’t too dirty.

To clean the inside of my grill lid, I use- yea, you guessed it! – a soap-filled steel wool pad. What can I say? Those pads do a super job of cleaning up grease, burnt-on food, smoke, and other “dirt.” Rinse the lid with plenty of clean water.

Then, after I’m sure the ashes are completely extinguished, I carefully dump them out of the bottom of my grill. Otherwise, if you allow the ashes to build-up, they’ll block the air vents in the bottom of the grill. The lack of air will hinder the proper burning of your charcoal.

Note: Never, ever use any type of oven cleaner on your charcoal grill. Most oven cleaners are so harsh that they will take the paint right off your grill. Bad news! In fact, you’re not supposed to use any type of harsh cleaner on your grill. And, you don’t need to apply wax to your grill either. The porcelain enamel is baked-on and is quite shiny and durable under normal use.

After the ashes are gone from the body of my charcoal grill, I simply wipe off the outside with a damp, soapy rag. I then wet the rag and wipe out the inside as well. Before I rinse the body off, I wipe off the ash catcher tray. Then, I spray the body clean, inside and out, as well as the ash catcher.

Finally, I wipe off the legs and any other parts on my charcoal grill. You can dry it off with an old rag. Personally, I always leave it apart and allow it to dry in the sunshine.

Then, assemble your charcoal grill and store it in your garage or in another dry place in between uses. Or, you can buy a cover for it at your local garden supply store. The cover will protect it from the elements, tree sap, leaves, and bird droppings if you want to leave it outside.