Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Equipment Tip: Invest in a Good Wire Brush

I am frequently blown away by the countless BBQ accessories that are on the market. Some of the new products are quite innovative, although many fall short in terms of utility or performance.

Consider grill cleaning products. There are a ton of them out there, but most of them are garbage. Today's post provides some very worthwhile insights on how to select a grill brush that is effective, inexpensive, and safe. But before getting to the good stuff, we should take out the trash.

For example, one should stay away from gimmicks like the steam cleaning grill brush. It's an expensive product that is also quite ridiculous because the steam is unnecessary if you're cleaning your grill at the proper time, which is when the grates are hot (more on that below).

I also recommend against any sort of motorized grill brush, These units lack power, plus they require proprietary (and typically expensive) replacement brushes.

Stay away from gimmicks!
Let's face it, it's hard to beat a real wire brush, the kind that requires a little elbow grease. However, I'm not talking about your everyday grill brush. The kind of brushes that you find in the BBQ section of any big box store are usually of very inferior quality.

The main problem with the el cheapo models is that the bristles bend and get worn down very quickly. What's more, the bristles can break off, adhere to the grill unnoticed, transfer onto your food, and possibly get ingested. Not good.

I experienced the detached grill brush bristle phenomenon myself a couple of years ago. It happened while feeding my face at a restaurant. I won't name the joint, but let's just say it was a national chain that specializes in chicken wings, beer, and lots of sports on big TVs.

While taking a monster bite into a tasty burger, I all of a sudden felt a sharp pain in the back of my mouth. It was evident something was wrong, perhaps a loose filling or something along those lines. Rather than swallow, I diligently worked my cud until I could spit out the foreign object. It turned out to be a long but thin bristle from a cheap grill brush. The manager came over and apologized profusely while laying blame on the kitchen staff. Lesson learned: loose bristles are not your friend.

I've often said that the best grill brushes aren't on the shelves with the BBQ stuff; rather, you need to check out the painting supplies aisle at Home Depot or Lowe's for incredible wire brushes with heavy-duty stainless steel bristles that offer superior scraping performance without falling out. These products are typically around $6, so the price is right, too.

Now THIS is an excellent grill brush!
And while you're selecting a new brush, you should also pick up a high-quality paint scraper to remove some of the difficult bits from your grill grates. As an alternative, sometimes the kick-ass stainless steel brushes described above have a little scraper on the end. Shop around to find what's right for you.

There's a product out there called The Texas Brush. As the name implies, it's big. The brush head is oversized, and the handles are available in 2-ft. and 4-ft. lengths. But at $50 this brush is a little too expensive, especially when you consider that it has the same kind of heavy-duty bristles as the less-than-$10 models at your local home improvement store. Unless you need a jumbo brush with a super long handle to reach the deepest, darkest recesses of your monster BBQ pit, I would suggest not buying into the hype of The Texas Brush.

Finally, please note that the proper time to use a grill brush is while the grates are hot. The easiest way to do this is to work the brush on the grates right after you've removed the meat and taken it inside to the kitchen. While the meat rests, come back outside and make a few swipes with the brush before your grill or smoker has had time to cool off. This way it will be clean as a whistle before your next outdoor cooking extravaganza.