This advice will apply to most barbecues, but still read the manufacturer’s advice on how to prepare and maintain your particular model.
Seasoning and oiling the hotplates
Before you use the barbecue for the first time, remove any protective plastic coating from the hotplates. Give the hotplate and grill a thorough scrub in warm soapy water, to remove any residues from manufacturing. Then season the hotplate and grill: give them a light coating of cooking oil and turn all the burners on low for about 30 minutes. The oil may smoke, but that’s normal. Afterwards, let the hotplates cool and wipe off the excess cooked oil. Add a little fresh oil and you’re all set to start cooking.
Scrape off food residue and excess leftover oil, but leave a light coating of oil to protect the plates from rust. If you decide to give the hotplates a thorough clean with soapy water, make sure you season them again afterwards. Some hotplates and grills have a non-stick coating and shouldn’t need as much oil for cooking. These usually only need a wash before the first use, but between uses it may still be worth protecting these with a light coating of oil.
Non-stick cooking sheets are available for the barbecue hotplate (but not the grill) from Magic Cooking Products and other suppliers. We haven’t tested them, but they could be a good way to keep the hotplate clean while cooking.
To clean grease and dirt off the barbecue’s exterior, use any all-purpose cleaner or warm soapy water. For stainless steel, use hot water with vinegar or a commercial stainless steel cleaner. Stainless steel can suffer from ‘teastaining’ — brown discolouring on hot surfaces, such as inside the hood — which can be reduced by regular cleaning with soapy water or a commercial cleaner. Clean out the fat collection tray after each use and line it with fresh foil.
Keep your barbecue under a cover to protect it from the elements. Some models come with a cover. If not, it’s worth buying one. Make sure it can be easily secured to the barbecue with cords or Velcro straps, so it won’t blow off on a windy day.
To check your gas bottle for leaks, connect it to the barbecue and turn on the gas at the bottle. Brush soapy water over the bottle’s joints and connections; leaking gas will create bubbles. Make sure your gas bottle is full enough before you start cooking.
Fitting a gauge on the tap connection is the surest way to know how much gas you’ve got left, but you can also weigh the bottle on your bathroom scales. A '9kg' bottle typically weighs around 10kg when empty and holds around 9kg of gas, so it weighs about 19kg when full. The weight when empty — the ‘tare’ — will be stamped on the bottle.
It’s worth giving the barbecue an annual maintenance check, and the start of summer is probably a good time for this. Check the hotplates are clean, the trolley and hood are in good condition, the fat tray is lined with fresh foil or sand, volcanic rock (if used) is replaced, and the gas bottle is in good condition.
Check the supplied instructions for specific maintenance advice. If all this is too much hassle, there are companies who’ll come to you and service, clean and repair your barbecue.