Common Problems Affecting Barbecues and their Solutions
When temperatures begin to rise in June and July, we love nothing more than to dust off the barbecue and enjoy the first of many outdoor summer feasts. However, you won’t find too many people risking it during late autumn, winter or early spring, and barbecues often get neglected at these times of the year. If you’re not careful, you can have the burgers ready, the guests milling round the garden, and then, when it’s time to light up, you find your trusty griller isn’t working properly. Nightmare! There are a number of problems that can prevent your barbecue from functioning as it should, but most can easily be dealt with.
The biggest problem facing any barbecue owner is the curse of rust and corrosion. This can be the death of an otherwise fully-functioning barbecue, so it’s vital that you take preventative measures. First off, make sure that your barbecue is stored away from the elements, if at all possible. If you have to leave it outdoors, make sure the barbecue has a decent grill cover, and even if you are storing it in the shed, it’s probably a good idea to invest in a cover anyway. Although they protect your garden equipment from the worst of the elements, sheds can get damp during the rainy seasons.
Although the more expensive, stainless steel models are quite rust-resistant, grills made from cast iron or cheaper steel will rust quite easily. This makes cleaning all the more important, especially straight after the barbecue has cooled off. Give it a good scrub with a wire grill brush, making sure you clean everything off. Burned food will build up on the grill over time, and become increasingly tough to remove, so it’s better to nip it in the bud before it turns into a major task. You can also make your job easier by not starting to cook until the barbecue has fully heated. Put food on too early, and it almost always sticks to the grill, leaving you with a bigger clean-up mission later on.
The next step is to wipe off any fatty residue that has settled beneath the grill. This is particularly important for gas grills, as it can clog the nozzles. Once the barbecue has been fully cleaned, spray it down with cooking oil, and keep topping it up during long storage periods. This will protect the metal from oxidisation, which leads directly to rust. Finally, owners of a charcoal barbecue should make sure that spent coals are always removed from the barbecue after use, as they will also corrode the barbecue over time.
One of the other common gripes of the barbecue enthusiast is that their food cooks unevenly. If you’re using a charcoal grill, this simply means that your coals aren’t spread evenly. The best results are often obtained by creating different heating zones – a double layer of charcoal is great for searing, while a single is better for foods like chicken, which take longer to cook. Also, try to create a cool area in the middle, with hardly any charcoal beneath. This is good for resting food before serving, and also for cooking food indirectly, otherwise known as slow-grilling.
If you have a gas grill, uneven heat is usually caused by clogged burner holes. You can’t do much about this once the barbecue has been fired up, so it’s always best to check the burners beforehand, and clean them properly after use. Fatty meats are the worst foods for clogging burners, but you can always use a drip pan, which will catch most of the fat before it gets to the burners. However, there’s no substitute for good cleaning – just make sure you don’t use oven cleaner or detergents, as these can cause the burners to rust afterwards.
Although gas grills are generally easier to use than their charcoal equivalents, more tends to go wrong with them. Gas grill problems are not just limited to rust and clogging – the flame output can fall dramatically, and sometimes stop working altogether. However, don’t panic – this doesn’t mean that your barbecue is done for!
If you find that your barbecue is emitting a low or yellow flame, the problem is usually the regulator. You will need to either adjust it or replace it, so make sure that the barbecue is turned off, and the gas cylinder is disconnected. The regulator is the circular object that sits on the gas hose, and they tend to get sticky after long periods of use. When this happens, the gas can’t flow to the burners properly, so you need to release the pressure. Once you’ve turned off and disconnected the tank, open the grill lid, and turn up the control valves as high as they’ll go. Leave it for a minute or so, and then turn the control vales off again. Reconnect the tank, and slowly start the gas flowing from the tank. Light the grill as you normally would, and it should work properly. After further use of your barbecue, you can prevent the problem reoccurring by turning off the control valves first and the tank valve second. If you try this process and you’re still having low flame problems, you’ll probably need to replace the regulator completely.
The other problem that may arise with a gas barbecue is a total failure to ignite. This can be caused by a few things, so it’s best to check them all before calling a repairman. Make sure the igniter is emitting sparks, and is free of grease and debris. If you have a battery-powered igniter, try changing the batteries, as they may be flat. The problem could also be caused by faulty wiring, in which case you’ll definitely need a repairman. If you have independent igniters for each burner, and none of them will light up, dodgy wiring is almost certainly the problem.
Ultimately, taking good care of your barbecue is the best way to stop these problems occurring. Most models are designed to last for years, but they still need looking after!