There are two scents that let you know spring is here: fresh cut grass and a barbecue.

But, before you light up the charcoal, your grill may need some attention after being stored away for the winter.

First, know what kind of outdoor grills you have and how it operates — there are cast iron and stainless steel, and charcoal or gas operated.

The first step is to clean the exterior, even if it was stored under a cover or in a garage. Grame Miller, who works in the outdoors department at Home Depot in Bennington, Vt., suggested using a hose to spray it down, or any kind of Weber exterior cleaner. Spraying the inside is also recommended.

Next, he said to locate potential rust, especially on the grates. Cast iron grates are more vulnerable to it, especially if the grill sat outside all winter long with no protection.

"You can use [Calcium Lime and Rust] or a grate cleaner," he said.

Any heavy-duty degreaser or house cleaning product can be used, as well, Miller said.

Cast iron grates are expected to last about 20 years before replacing, according to Miller's experience, while stainless steel lasts longer.

Keeping a cover on the grill will prolong its life, said Chelsy Baker, Carr Hardware front manager in Pittsfield, Mass., because inexpensive grills can't withstand the weather.


Baker said there is no right or wrong type of grill — it all comes down to personal preference. Cast iron grates tend to hold in flavors longer, but stainless is more durable and doesn't keep in the same flavor cooking over time. According to Miller, over time, cast iron grates can actually add iron to the food.

"Definitely care for [cast iron] with your grill brush, or you can wash [the grate] in the sink," she said. "For stainless, use a grill grate cleaner, one that's made for that, and then you want to be more gentle with the grill brush. We have a similar product to a grill brush, it's like a Brillo pad, as opposed to the sharp, hard brushes."

To lessen the amount of spring cleaning, Baker advised cleaning often after use and before storing it away for the winter.


With cleaning comes refilling your propane or buying a new bag of charcoal. Some propane tanks have expiration dates on them, according to Baker, and most stores will not sell tanks if they're expired.

Reformer file photo  Taking care of your grill after it has been stored all winter will extend its cooking life.
Reformer file photo Taking care of your grill after it has been stored all winter will extend its cooking life.

"It's important to make sure there are no dents or rust and to make sure there's no issues," she said. "Make sure no one is living up in there and when you left it, if you didn't clean it, a build up of any crumbs could be flammable, so clean it first."

Miller said tanks can lose gas over the winter, so checking how much is left is crucial.

A propane tank gauge is an inexpensive way to check. They usually run about $20. It connects in between the tank and the connection to the grill with a pressure gauge on the side of it. Expensive grills typically have a fuel tank gauge built in, and as long as it's hooked up, it'll reveal how much is left, Baker said.

Other accessories to grill safely include a splatter mat that's fire-proof and slips right under the front of the grill. It also traps liquid and grease, Baker said.

New grills that have a side igniter, similar to a stove top gas burner, sometimes stop working, Miller said. Some can be fixed by unscrewing the power knob and replacing the battery that's in it.


Once you've got your grill ready for the summer season, consider spicing things up with grilling accessories. Miller suggested purchasing flavored wood chips that can be added to charcoal grills to add flavor to the food. There are hickory chips, applewood, pecan and mesquite.

"I've never tried them, but I've heard good stuff about them," he said.

Even though charcoal grills take longer to start, they're much hotter. With the addition of lava rocks, similar to charcoal, Miller said it creates an even heat.

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.

Grilling lingo

Impress your friends and family with more than just your perfectly grilled hamburger this summer. Throw some of these grilling terms around the picnic table when describing your food:

Bark: That's the delicious crunchy outer layer formed on meat from a combination of rub, the Maillard reaction (which makes meat brown) and smoke.

Black and blue: A steak that is grilled super fast on a hot grill. The outside is charred black and the inside is very rare.

Mop: A thin sauce that is applied to meats during the grilling process.

Planking: No, not the exercise. This is when you use wood planks to impart extra flavor to food, commonly used for fish.

— Source: