Good old-fashioned backyard barbecues are always the highlight of an all-American summer. When grilling season starts, you’re either dusting off your backyard grill or looking to purchase the latest model.
Whether you’ve been using your trusty grill for years, or you’re about to break out a new one, seasoning it prior to cooking is essential to achieving that perfect fresh grilled flavor.
What Does ‘Seasoning’ Mean & Why Is It Important!?
Seasoning a grill basically means coating your grill plate in high heat resistant oils and letting it burn for a few minutes. This ensures your plate has a generous coating of oils and fats so that your grill plate maintains a nice non-stick surface.
Now here’s where the magic happens:
This oily coating will build up each and every time you use your grill, the grates absorb the hell out of all that beautiful flavorful ‘seasoning’.
These built-up oils account for that “signature grill taste.” They stick to the grates, lid, pit, and walls of your grill, flavoring the meat as it cooks.
It’s a super simple process, and the best part is that the flavor actually gets better every time you grill. The more you cook fatty food, the more the grill grates suck up the flavor, the more that “grilled taste” coats your meat.
The Secret To The Perfect Cookout
Seasoning a grill doesn’t just improve flavor, it also helps your grill’s performance. Regular seasoning and cooking, actually maintains the grill helping it last longer. Think of it like brushing your grills teeth with pure fatty goodness.
When you season a new grill, you’re also eliminating the residual paint and chemical debris left over from manufacturing. You’re also getting rid of excess metal shavings that could potentially affect the taste of your food or even contaminate it.
So… HOW To Season A Grill?
Now that you know why you should season your grill, it’s time to talk about how to do it. Long-time grillers have come up with their own methods of seasoning grills, from using specialty oils to uncooked meat. For starters, let’s focus on the more basic methods, and then you’ll be free to play around with what works best for you.
Before seasoning a new grill, first rinse it and air dry. You can use water or a tiny amount of soap. Make sure the grill is completely free of any soap residue before drying.
If you’re working with an older grill, leaving it unused for most of the winter will mean that when you open it again, you may see signs of what looks like paint peeling inside.
This isn’t actually paint, but the fat, oil, smoke, and carbon layers from previous uses starting to peel away. It’s best to remove these prior to re-seasoning.
To get all the residue off, turn up the heat to low for 20-30 minutes. Once the debris starts to loosen, you can take a grill brush and start scraping it off. If you don’t have a grill brush, a cheaper option is taking heavy-duty foil, crumpling it into a ball, and using a pair of tongs to help rub the debris off with the foil ball.
Heavy-duty foil is required to make sure the ball doesn’t break down. Avoid using rough metal bristle brushes as they may damage the grill grates.
Step 1: Coating Your Grill Grates With A Brush Of Oil
Now that your grill is clean, you can start seasoning it. You can choose from a variety of oils. The only requirement is that it be high-heat resistant. Canned PAM often works fine, as well as flaxseed oil, peanut oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil.
Make sure to coat the grill grates, inner lid, and pit in oil with a light, clean brush.
Step 2: Season Your Grill By Burning Oil
The next step is to burn the oil. Turn the grill up to its high setting and let it burn for 30-40 minutes.
This is so the oil seeps into the metal and creates a thick coating over the grates. This will make give them a non-stick property as oil builds every time you use it.
The flavors of the oils will also be released the next time it burns.
Seasoning a brand new grill is obviously essential, but you should also season your grill regularly while you use it.
Even though it technically gets seasoned every time you cook, you also need to take time to remove the burnt carbon and oil, and freshly season it again.
This process should be done 1-3 times a year. Some people will opt to season every week or before every use, but that is unnecessary. You still want some fatty build-up for that incredible grilled flavor.
Instead of frequent re-seasoning, you can leave the grill’s heat on medium for 10-20 minutes after use. Then once it’s cooled, use a pair of tongs and a clean cloth to wipe off the loose residue.
Additional Tips on Seasoning for Flavor
As I mentioned before, apart from regular oils, more experienced grillers also use meat and herbs to season their grill. This supposedly helps improve flavor when cooking meat.
Here are some more creative ways to season your grill:
- Uncooked Sausage
- Bacon Slabs
- Cube of Beef or Pork Fat
- Half an Onion Dipped in High Heat Resistant Oil
- Smoky Mesquite Wood Chip Dipped in High Heat Resistant Oil
It’s best to use these ingredients after the usual seasoning methods. This is because these ingredients require the grill to be warm when you brush them over the grill’s surfaces.
Once the grates, inner lid, and pit are sufficiently coated, crank your grill up to high again and let it cook for another 30-40 minutes.
Seasoning Different Types Of Grills
While the seasoning process will generally be the same for most types of outdoor and indoor grills, there are some caveats you should keep in mind when you’re assessing how to season and care for your new grill.
Once you’ve finished cleaning and coating it with oils like usual, gather about 10 pounds or so of natural charcoal around the center of the pit.
You can use an electric starter to get the heat going. Leave it on for about ten minutes or until the coals start to crackle. Make sure there is proper air flow to get the embers going.
When the coals are hot enough that you start to see smoke, you can remove the starter. Use tongs to spread the hot charcoal around to cover the pit evenly.
Leave these to heat for an hour or two before removing the charcoal and discarding. There should be an even dark coating on the grates and inside your grill that’s packed full of flavor.
Clean and coat your grill with oil as discussed above. Fill the pellet hopper with 100% food grade pellets. Place the flame detector securely over the fire pot. Then you can turn on your grill and set it to 400F.
It may take a while for the pellets to drop into the flame pit so leave it to heat up for about an hour. After that’s done and dusted your grill will be seasoned and ready to roar.
For a gas grill, it’s important that you ensure safety while you’re going about cleaning the thing. Make sure that the gas is turned off, and the propane tank is removed from the grill while you’re cleaning and scrubbing the grill grates.
Unfortunately, this will mean that your grates will be cold when you clean them, so to get a proper clean you’ll have to substitute by using warm water instead.
Coating and burning can then be done safely with the propane tank re-attached.
Seasoning a grill is an important preparation step to make sure your food is getting that delectable grill flavor. It maintains the quality of your grill and vastly improves the taste of your food, and It’s fairly easy to do regardless of what type of grill you have.
Some ‘State-Of-The-Art’ grills already come pre-seasoned. But nothing beats that personal touch. Feel free to experiment with different oils and fats until you find that perfect recipe that works for your tastes.