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If your trusty cast-iron barbecue plates have grown a bit rusty over the winter months, here's how to restore it to as-new condition.
1. Take the cooking plates out of the barbecue, and set out several sheets of newspapers (they make it easy to catch the gunk then dispose of it). Scrape off flaking rust and gunk with a paint scraper and wire brush.
2. Wash the plates in warm, mildly soapy water, then rinse well with a mixture of water and white vinegar (about one cup vinegar to half a bucket of water). Stand upright to dry in the sun.
3. While you have the cooking plates off, replace your volcanic rocks with new ones, or clean your flame tamer to remove any rust or gunk, etc. While you're at it, check the burners (see 'safety checklist').
4. Replace the cooking plates on the barbie, turn on the heat, then, when it's hot, carefully spray or wipe with canola oil. Once that burns off, spray or wipe on some more oil, let that burn off, too. Turn off the barbecue and let it cool down.
Get the barbie season off to a safe start.
Gas bottle: 10 years is the upper age limit for gas bottle safety, and your gas bottle's date of manufacture is stamped on the bottle. Check it out.
Burners: sometimes burners will be blocked by enterprising spiders, ants or wasps trying to build nests there. Check your burners to make sure they are clear. Use a bottle brush to clean them. Remember to re-fit locking pins to hold burners in place, and do a visual check that they are all working properly after lighting the barbecue.
After cooking clean up
1. Scrape excess food, marinade etc off the plate and grill, then turn the heat up high for 5 minutes, or until the smoke dies down.
2. Check to see if any bits of fat or meat are still hanging in there, and scrape them off. If you have a cast iron or steel grill and hotplate, spray with cooking oil, and let that burn off for 5 minutes more (this isn't needed with stainless steel or vitreous enamel).
3. Turn off the gas cylinder, let the burners die down (to get rid of leftover gas in the lines) then turn the burners off.
4. When the barbecue is cool, wipe over all surfaces, including the trolley and hood. Pictured right, we used Selleys Tough Wipes, ($7.99 for a dispenser pack of 12 wipes) that come with a 'cleaning nodules' that loosen grime as they wipe down cooking surfaces, hoods, cabinets, etc.
Clean new trends
The SS option: cast iron barbie plates and grills are high-maintenance. So we lashed out and replaced ours with stainless steel gear made by Topnotch (www.topnotchbbq.com.au). They make grills and hotplates in many sizes, and our replacements dropped into place as perfect fits. Ours were $278 for the pair. But they offer great cleanliness, rust-resistance and ease of care.
Grinding it out: we tried out a GrillStone pack which comes with a handle, three GrillStones and a cloth ($29.95 from Barbeques Galore). You use the stone dry, and rub it back and forth over the grill. As it wears down it takes on the shape of the surface. Once the grill is clean, wipe it down with a cloth. It's OK for iron, steel, enamel or porcelain surfaces, but not stainless steel.
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