Cleaning Porcelain Enamel With Steel Wool

A popular technique for cleaning exterior porcelain enamel on Weber grills, both gas and charcoal, is to use super-fine 0000 steel wool and a degreasing spray like Simple Green or Formula 409. You can use this technique to occasionally deep-clean your grill or to restore an old grill to like-new condition.

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Here are the steps:

  1. Use a damp cloth to remove any surface dirt.
  2. Spray degreaser generously on the surface. Using a circular motion, scrub gently with super-fine 0000 steel wool to remove grease build-up. Apply more degreaser if it begins to evaporate.
  3. Wipe away residue with a damp cloth and check your work. Repeat Step 2 if some areas are still dirty.
  4. Wipe the surface several times with a clean damp cloth and dry with a soft towel to remove streaks.

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Thanks to countless members who have shared this technique on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.

How To Prevent Foods From Sticking To Grates

Grates just waiting for foods to stick!
Grates just waiting for foods to stick!

There’s nothing more frustrating than foods that stick to the grate. We’ve dealt with this subject numerous times on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board…a new Weber owner is about to kick his $700 gas grill to the curb in frustration because no matter what he tries, everything seems to stick!

In my experience, meats with high fat content like 80/20 burgers and steaks don’t tend to stick. It’s lean cuts like skinless chicken breasts and pork tenderloins that are the problem.

Here’s the procedure I use to ensure the least amount of sticking when I grill lean meats.

  1. Light all burners. Preheat the grill on the highest heat setting for 10 minutes to burn-off residue from the last grilling session.
  2. Use a grill brush to remove any residue from the grates.
  3. Before putting food on the grill, examine the grates for any brush or scrubber bits that would be dangerous if eaten and carefully remove them.
  4. After cleaning the grates, adjust the burners to your desired setting and allow the grill temperature to stabilize.
  5. Spray the surface of the lean meat with non-stick cooking spray before placing it on the grate. You can spray right over any dry seasonings or rub. If using a marinade, pat-off any excess before spraying.
  6. Place the sprayed side down on the grate. Allow the meat to get a good sear on the first side before turning. Some meats will initially stick a lot but then release when a good sear has developed.
  7. When turning meat, use a large spatula to carefully separate it from the grate, lift it high above the grate and spray the top side, then place the sprayed side down. Spraying meat on the grate may result in dangerous flare-ups and is not recommended.

It’s usually not necessary to spray again after both sides have been seared. Just carefully work that large spatula under the meat when turning it.

Many experts recommend oiling grates before grilling. I don’t find this to be a particularly effective technique, but here’s how to do it if you want to give it a try. Place a good amount of vegetable oil in a small bowl. After Step 3 above, wipe vegetable oil on the grates using long tongs and a large wad of paper towels. Repeat up to 10 times to create a somewhat non-stick surface. You must repeat this process each time you grill.

TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off: Almost Organic Division

Welcome to the TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off!

This is the third installment of our summer hot dog taste-off. If this is your first visit to the taste-off, make sure to read the first installment for details on how we’re selecting and judging the hot dogs.

Last week, Ball Park Deli Style was the winner over Hebrew National, Nathan’s Famous Skinless, and Ball Park Angus in the Big Brand Premium Division taste-off. This week, we’re examining a small category in the world of hot dogdom.

The Almost Organic Division

These hot dogs share some attributes with organic hot dogs but are not certified organic. Although they are labeled “uncured”, they have essentially been cured using the sodium nitrate that occurs naturally in celery juice or celery powder.

  • Open Nature (Lucerne/Safeway): $4.99
  • Oscar Mayer Selects (Kraft): $3.98

(Note that in these photos, the hot dogs are always shown in the order listed above.)

The Almost Organic Division - Front view
The Almost Organic Division – Front view
The Almost Organic Division - Rear view
The Almost Organic Division – Rear view
The Almost Organic Division - Without packaging
The Almost Organic Division – Without packaging

You’ll notice that the Open Nature hot dog looks more brown than the Oscar Mayer Selects. The Open Nature packaging makes claims about no antibiotics, no added hormones, and all vegetarian fed; the Oscar Mayer Selects packaging makes no such claims.

Grilling the hot dogs
Grilling the hot dogs

The hot dogs were grilled together and served to the judges.

Once the hot dogs were grilled but not overly cooked, they were brought indoors and immediately judged on appearance, then sampled and judged on taste and tenderness/texture.

Hot dogs ready for judging
Hot dogs ready for judging

The Results

Open Nature squeaks by Oscar Meyer Selects with a 0.56 point margin of victory.

Here are the weighted scores:

  • Open Nature: 63.4172
  • Oscar Mayer Selects: 62.8572
Judges’ Comment Cards
  • Open Nature: Nice color; looks like meat; nice sheen; firm texture
  • Oscar Mayer Selects: Nice color and sheen; good flavor, a bit too salty

So Open Nature is the winner of the Almost Organic Division! Stay turned for our next division contest: The Organic Division.

All Taste Offs

5 Steps To Burger Brilliance

Photo from 5 Steps to Burger Brilliance
Photo from 5 Steps to Burger Brilliance

The good folks at Weber have provided this excerpt from Weber’s Big Book of Burgers by Jamie Purviance titled “5 Steps To Burger Brilliance”. It contains great tips for making your best grilled burger this summer!

I’ve posted the text and photos on our companion discussion forum The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board. I hope you enjoy it!

Read “5 Steps To Burger Brilliance” 

Preheating The Grill

Grilling on a Weber Q 220 after proper preheating
Grilling on a Weber Q 220 after proper preheating

It’s important to preheat your gas grill thoroughly before cooking. Proper preheating has the following benefits:

  • Preheating burns off any residue left from the last time you grilled.
  • Foods tend to stick less to grates that have been preheated.
  • Foods tend to cook more quickly and evenly in a grill that’s been preheated.

Check the owner’s manual for your grill for the recommended preheating instructions and length of time. Although your grill may vary, many experts recommend 10-15 minutes of preheating before grilling.

Reusing A Weber Frame As A Grill Cart

TVWBB member Rich Dahl made a wonderful grill cart from an old Weber gas grill frame.

“I was looking around for some type of movable service cart for my cooking area and just didn’t find what I wanted, or the price was way out of line,” says Rich. “I was on Craigslist one day and ran across a Weber Silver B gasser for $20.00, pretty beat up, but being in dry Arizona, no rust at all. I bought it, and with a repaint and some surplus clear pine and some trim, I built my own.

“Total cost $34.00 including the Weber.”

Read the reactions to Rich’s project on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.

TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off: Big Brand Premium Division

Welcome to the TVWGG Hot Dog Taste-Off!

We’re continuing our taste-off of the best hot dogs for summer grilling. If this is your first visit to the taste off, make sure to read the first installment for details on how we’re selecting and judging the hot dogs.

Last week, Oscar Mayer beat Ballpark and Farmer John in the Big Brand Basic Division taste-off. This week, we up the ante by tasting upscale tube steaks from the most recognizable names in hot dogs.

The Big Brand Premium Division

This division includes what some would consider higher quality hot dogs from the biggest names in the business.

  • Ball Park Angus (Hillshire): $3.98
  • Hebrew National (ConAgra): $2.98
  • Nathan’s Famous Skinless (licensed to John Morrell/Smithfield): $2.98
  • Ball Park Deli Style (Hillshire): $3.99

We had hoped for an entire division dedicated to kosher hot dogs, but Hebrew National was the only big brand available in supermarkets in San Jose, California where the taste-off was held. That’s why HN has been placed in the Premium Division alongside these worthy competitors.

(Note that in these photos, the hot dogs are always shown in the order listed above.)

The Big Brand Premium Division - Front view
The Big Brand Premium Division – Front view
The Big Brand Premium Division - Rear view
The Big Brand Premium Division – Rear view
The Big Brand Premium Division - Without packaging
The Big Brand Premium Division – Without packaging

Judges Make Exception For Hebrew National

The Hebrew National hot dogs shown here are 50% larger than the competition, weighing-in at 3 ounces each. The taste-off rules require a standard length hot dog weighing about 2 ounces each. Hebrew National makes a 1.72 ounce hot dog, but it’s not readily available in San Jose, California where the taste-off was held. In order to include HN in the competition, the judges made an exception to the rule to allow this larger hot dog.

Grilling the hot dogs
Grilling the hot dogs

The hot dogs were grilled together and served to the judges.

Once the hot dogs were grilled but not overly cooked, they were brought indoors and immediately judged on appearance, then sampled and judged on taste and tenderness/texture.

Hot dogs ready for judging
Hot dogs ready for judging

The Results

Ball Park Deli Style sliced up Nathan’s Famous by 2.9 points, gored Ball Park Angus by 4 points, and made Hebrew National say “Oy Vey!” by 5.2 points.

Here are the weighted scores:

  • Ball Park Angus: 61.68
  • Hebrew National: 60.5828
  • Nathan’s Famous Skinless: 62.88
  • Ball Park Deli Style: 65.7372
Judges’ Comment Cards
  • Ball Park Angus: Good color; salty; mushy
  • Hebrew National: Looked bland, tasted bland; good texture
  • Nathan’s Famous Skinless: Not the best color; good balance of salt and spices; good texture
  • Ball Park Deli Style: Nice color/sheen; excellent spicy flavor; good texture

So Ball Park Deli Style is the winner of the Big Brand Premium Division! Stay tuned for our next division contest: The Almost Organic Division.

All Taste-Offs

Restoring The Weber Emblem

Weber emblem before and after restoration
Weber emblem before and after restoration

The emblem on many Weber gas grills may shows signs of aging long before other parts of the grill. Here are the steps to restore the emblem to a like-new state.

  1. Remove the emblem from the lid. It may be fastened with nuts or friction clips.
  2. Use a stiff wire brush to remove any flaking paint. Clean the surface with a solvent such as lacquer thinner.
  3. Spray the surface with high-temp gloss or semi-gloss black paint. Allow paint to dry thoroughly
  4. Sand the emblem to remove paint from the raised surface, leaving black paint in the negative space. Place a piece of 100 grit sandpaper on a flat work surface and place the emblem face-down on the sandpaper. Move the emblem in a circular motion to remove paint. Check the emblem frequently. Don’t sand more than necessary to remove paint.
  5. Repeat with 150 grit, 220 grit, 320 grit, and 400 grit sandpaper until a smooth finish has been achieved.
  6. Reinstall the emblem and enjoy your handiwork!
Emblem fastened with friction clip on 1991 Genesis
Emblem fastened with friction clip on 1991 Genesis
Emblem after partial sanding
Emblem after partial sanding

In some instances, the black background may be in good shape, as in the example shown below. This emblem just needs a good cleaning followed by sanding.

No painting required to restore this emblem
No painting required to restore this emblem

Thanks to members Steve Counts for the before/after photos, Bob U (Queens) for the partially sanded emblem photo, and Chad Bman and LMichaels for sharing the restoration steps on The Virtual Weber Bulletin Board.

Recycling A Propane Tank

Recycling a propane tank at a hazardous materials center
Recycling a propane tank at a hazardous materials center

As a conclusion to my posts Turn Off The Gas Supply and Expired Propane Tanks, I wanted to say a few words about how to properly recycle a propane tank.

You cannot just toss that tank in the trash. It’s bad on two counts. One is that it’s considered hazardous material. Another is that it contains a lot of good steel that can be recycled into your next propane tank or gas grill!

Here’s the right way to lose that old tank:

  1. Contact your local garbage hauler. They can tell you where to drop-off your old tank.
  2. Contact your city or county hazardous materials department. Where I live, the county sponsors free drop-off locations where they accept old propane tanks along with other hazardous household materials.
  3. Go to the place where you have your tank refilled and ask if they will accept old tanks for recycling.
  4. Contact the tank manufacturer. They may be able to tell you about a recycling location near you.
  5. Contact a scrap metal recycler to see if they will accept old tanks for recycling.
  6. You can drop-off tanks for recycling at any Blue Rhino exchange location. Just write RECYCLE on the tank. They will collect and refurbish the tank, is possible, otherwise they will recycle it.

Plancha Bacon Cheeseburgers

On June 8, I posted about buying a Weber plancha for my Summit gas grill. The first thing I cooked using my new toy was bacon cheeseburgers. Yum!

I preheated the plancha for 10 minutes over medium-high heat, then fried-up some thick-sliced bacon over medium heat.

Bacon on the Weber plancha
Bacon on the Weber plancha
Bacon close-up
Bacon close-up

Once the bacon was done, I used some long tongs and a wad of paper towels to sweep the bacon fat to the drain. Next I grilled the burgers to medium doneness. A friend recommended that I try Prather Ranch ground beef from the Campbell Farmer’s Market. Very nice meat, but about twice the price of regular ground beef. Not an everyday thing but definitely a nice treat.

I formed the patties by hand and seasoned both sides generously with kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.

Burgers getting planchafied
Burgers getting planchafied

Got some good crustification on both sides.

Burger close-up
Burger close-up

Topped that burger with two slices of Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese and some crispy bacon.

Burger smothered with melted cheddar cheese and bacon
Burger smothered with melted cheddar cheese and bacon

Toasted me a bun on the grill and this meaty masterpiece was ready for condiments and my burger hole!

Burger ready for assembly
Burger ready for assembly

You can see that the plancha did a great job on the bacon and gave me a good crust on the burger. That cast iron construction is the key…it really holds the heat.

Next time I may try a Weber grill press to see if I can get even more crusty goodness on a plancha burger.

The Weber Style 7577 Premium Cast Iron Plancha is available at Amazon.com.