Spring is in the air – and that means the barbecue grilling season isn't far behind.
Smell those ribs cooking?
Before you fire up the grill, however, it's best to clean it and check it over after the inactivity of the winter months.
"Time to get the cobwebs out," says Brent Walton, owner of QN4U BBQ House restaurant in Clovis.
The grilling season traditionally kicks off in May, which is National Barbecue Month. In preparation, retailers are starting to roll out their lines of new barbecues and related products, and some restaurants are offering annual barbecue cooking classes.
QN4U BBQ House – recipient of a recent California Restaurant Association Best in the Valley Award for Best Kept Secret – will present its Backyard BBQ class at 11 a.m. Saturday at the restaurant, 1414 S. Clovis Ave. The class is offered at the start of spring and autumn only and provides tips on grilling ribs, chicken and tri-tip along with vegetables. Cost is $75, including lots to eat.
Walton teaches the class with John Ruloph, of Fairfield, a representative of Big Green Egg barbecue and grill. The class begins with tips on getting your grill back in shape.
Walton advises to first check propane grills for valve and hose leaks – and replace them, if necessary. He then suggests to clean the burned particles off the grill with a wire-bristled brush or soap and water, empty out the firebox, scrub the inside of the lid with a de-greaser and wipe down the entire exterior.
Walton says his passion is the teaching portion of the Backyard BBQ class, when he and Ruloph lecture and perform demonstrations.
Walton was a local mechanical contractor for 23 years before stress-related health problems caused him to leave the field. A restaurant cook years ago, he decided to open up QN4U BBQ House in February 2008. Although he works long hours, he says, "I can't wait to get here every day."
Walton also can't wait to address the common grilling errors, particularly with tri-tip, in class.
"We are known for tri-tip in California," he says. "But people cook it too long, too fast and cut it the wrong way," he says. "I'm a one-man defender of tri-tip. I treat it like steak. You cook it. It rests. You cut it to order."
Walton and Ruloph also will talk about marinade recipes and demonstrate the spicing and seasoning of meats.
Ruloph takes over with the Big Green Egg grill and barbecue, which can be used as a griller, smoker and pizza-maker (it can reach 700 degrees).
Walton says the best part is wolfing down what's grilled.
"You eat a lot of things," he says. "People are pretty happy and excited."
Get your barbecue grill ready for cooking
Websites such as Kingsford's grilling.com and local retail stores offer tips to rouse that barbecue out of hibernation.
Check propane grills for leaks. Apply soapy water to the length of the hose while the tank is turned on. If bubbles appear, the hose has a leak and should be replaced.
Clean burned particles off metal grills with the grill on. Lowe's home improvement stores offer the 15-inch-long Brush Hawg grill brush for $9.41.
"It's long and pointed up, so you're not going to get burned," says Lowe's store clerk Jeff Fox.
Clean porcelain surfaces with soap and water when the grill is cooled down. Grate Chef offers six nonstick grill wipes for $2.97 at Lowe's.
Wipe the barbecue's interior of any grease and residue buildup, including the lid. A 23-ounce Citrus Safe BBQ grid and grill cleaner costs $6.91 at Lowe's.
Check for rusty grill grates and replace them, if necessary. If the rust isn't severe, elbow grease is usually all that is needed. Scrub the grates aggressively with a wire-bristled brush to remove the rust particles. Then, season the grate with an oil-soaked paper towel (held by tongs) with the grill heat at high and reapply oil in order to create an oily barrier between the grate and your food.
Wipe down the outside of the barbecue with soapy water.