Monday, May 28, 2012

Replacing Old BBQ Grates with GrillGrates

Five 18.5" GrillGrates fit my Charbroil perfectly.
This is a long over due message and a story about letting your customers show you the way. When we introduced GrillGrate in 2008 they were designed to lay on top of the old surface to form a new one; much like resurfacing a road. We knew GrillGrate was more than grilling accessory to be used occasionally. Customers tell us they never grill without them. But, the demand and interest to remove the old surface and cover the entire grill with GrillGrates slowly grew until Meathead of called two years ago. He asked if I would cut him a special length 18.5” for his gas grill. I knew better than to say no and cut 5 for his Charbroil. We also heard from many customers who were buying 20” GrillGrates (for commercial grills) and cutting them to fit their grills.

Meathead's enthusiastic response along with the barrage of pictures I was receiving from delighted (and handy) customers was enough to make me make cut GrillGrates for my grill. I have the same 4 burner Charbroil that Meathead does. I've had five of the standard GrillGrates on it for 2 years and never felt the need to cover the uncovered portion.  But from the moment I removed the old cast iron grates, I was amazed at the difference in how my grill performed. It ran much hotter a lot faster and was very responsive. I had a new learning curve too. Medium is the maximum I use even with steaks and the heat control and responsiveness is amazing.

GrillGrates cook food the same whether they are on top of the old grates or not. It was the difference in my grill that was the eye-opener. Here is a summary of the performance aspects of replacing the existing grilling surface with GrillGrates:
  • Gas Grills run much hotter with only GrillGrates: GrillGrates trap a grills heat much more efficiently than any other grate. Heat can only escape up through the holes in the bottom of the GrillGrate or via the metal.   GrillGrates act as a heat exchanger- capturing the heat of your grill and transmitting it up to the cooking rails. NOTE:  Be careful not to overheat your grill.  Stay below 900F!
  • Grills heats up twice as quickly: Light your grill just a few minutes before you are ready to cook No long warm-up needed or the grill will be at 700F or more. The cool down is equally fast if the grill does get too hot. Open the lid, turn down the gas and the aluminum is very responsive in dropping temperature quickly as well.
  • GrillGrate make Gas Grills incredibly efficient when the original grates are removed. Caterers cooking on large 8 burner grills that require two tanks have reported using 1/3 the fuel compared to grilling without GrillGrates.
  • A GAP at the edges is a good thing. The only other place heat can escape is at the sides. (as the front to back is covered) A small gap on each side allows for strong convection into the hood. AND
  • Veggies roasting at 350F on left, Steaks grilling at 650F on right
    A GAP in the middle by separating GrillGrates creates a two-zone grill. Disconnecting 3 GrillGrates on the left from two GrillGrates on the right in my case allows me to roast vegetables on the left at 350F with burners low or even off, while grilling steaks on the right at 650F with the burners at medium. We're creating a video and a separate post about this discovery which has made my gas grill even more efficient and versatile.
My Charbroil is a like a souped up Chevy Nova! Faster, Hotter and Even More fun!

After 2 years of testing and customer feedback we now offer 5 standard lengths:
  • 13.75”- standard / universal GrillGrate
  • 17.375”   Ideal for many models of Weber gas grills
  • 18.5”  Fits Charbroil, Jenair, Treager and many others.
  • 20” GrillGrates for many event grills
  • 24” GrillGrate for restaurants and institutional grills. 

    Thank you to all our grrrrrate customers who are helping us improve GrillGrate and your grilling experience!

    Updated May 21, 2013

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My First Steak Cookoff was Darn Near Perfect!

I lef the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ on Friday evening and drove 5 hours to Magnolia Arkansas for The 24th Annual Magnolia Blossom Festival and the 23rd annual World Championship Steak Cook-off.  It was my first steak cook-off, and my first visit to Magnolia Arkansas.  Population 11,000 of the nicest people.  

I drove there to meet the two teams who have been using GrillGrates-- and winning.   The United Steaks of America Team in particular has won TEN 1sts or 2nds in steak cook-offs.  I had to go and meet these guys.  Little did I know I would be treated to a fabulous All-American event complete with a parade of pits and skits, and a steak dinner for 3500 around the town square. 

At 10:00am I parked myself next to a stand where the pits were judged for construction and showmanship.  78 Teams parade by many of them stopping to perform a skit for the judges.  The local funeral home was one of the more memorable.  The UnderSteakers performed a hot and fast funeral for Mr. Ribeye complete with casket, local pastor, and grieving widow.

After the judging stand the parade veered right and the pits drove straight and found their spots around the town square complete with a large courthouse in the center surrounded by towering Magnolia's in bloom.
Each team was given 40 rib-eyes (previous winners were given more).  They picked the best 2 or 3 steaks to turn in that one steak.  Prep begins and the remaining steaks are seasoned and kept on ice to grill for the public dinner later that evening.  Pits were lit and appetizers are grilled first before steak turn-ins start later in the afternoon.  There is a window of time for the 78 teams to turn in their championship steak, no garnish and no running en- mass.  Turn in when you are ready and when you want.

I bounced between The USA Cook Team and Shorty Dunn and The Cook'em Up Gang- both previous winners of this contest.  The USA Cook Team was the 2011 winner using GrillGrates and these two teams have dueled many times for the top spot.  I only found one other team using GrillGrates as  I informally surveyed the pits and enjoyed Mangolia's downtown square.  By now I had already decided I'm coming back next year with Susan- she'll like this town and the event.  

I watched the USA Cook Team get their Weber Kettle hot with lump charcoal and seasoned GrillGrates.  They grilled a test steak, stop watch and notebook in hand.  The "turn-in" steak must be medium- warm pink center.   Sometime in the middle of the afternoon the two best steaks went on the Weber and were seared to perfection on the GrillGrates.  The instant read thermometer guided them to the finish as the steaks cannot be cut or otherwise checked for doneness.  Into a plastic box no garish and off to the court house. 

After turn-in the teams all had time to take a break before cooking up championship rib-eyes for the public that was lining up at four points around the square to pick up their plate with potato, salad, drink and roll- all for $15 per head.  3500 people picked a steak from one of the teams and tables were set all over the lawn around the square- you could have filmed a movie- by now my camera was full and I was using my phone.

The award ceremonies were kicked off with prize money paid for showmanship and pit construction along with 5 places in steak with $4000 going to the champion.  5th Place was called then 4th was Shorty Dunn's Cook -Em Up Gang, 3rd was The United Steaks of America.  They were both thrilled to place and I was happy for them and did not pay much attention when 2nd was called and then the Grand Champion- was The WTF Team- (Walker Tree Farm) the nice family I met earlier today using GrillGrates.

Two years in a row The World Championship Steak Cookoff was won grilling on GrillGrates.  Luckily I was able to get a picture of these grate winners!   Later I learned that the 5th place team  Lake Erling Sizzlers used GrillGrates too.  That made it 4 out the 5 money winners used GrillGrates - a near perfect day in a superb town called Magnolia Arkansas. 
Four of Five Money Winners Grilled with GrillGrates!
Got a championship story to tell?  Tell us Your Grate Story here or on Facebook.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Care & Cleaning of GrillGrates

 Cleaning GrillGrates is a bit counter intuitive as less is more especially in the beginning. During the first few uses avoid the temptation to over clean them or take them indoors to the sink. Just shut down the grill and enjoy your grate meal. Clean them as little as possible during the first several uses to allow seasoning to take place. GrillGrates will season quickly like a cast iron skillet. (without the rust and regular re-seasoning)
Tip: Use grill spray (Weber or Pam) or Canola Oil the first few uses while the rails are un- seasoned. (Focus on the raised cooking rails- no need to wipe or spray the valleys.) We don't want you to stick that first grate burger or fish filet. After a few grillings (especially chicken) grill spray will become unnecessary.
Well seasoned GrillGrates 
Over time GrillGrates will become nearly self-cleaning as built-up debris and carbonized juices burn off or release and brush away. 
Routine Maintenance:  Routine care is primarily brushing or wiping the raised cooking rails clean during the warm up of your grill.  Its better to clean GrillGrates during warm-up rather than at the end of the cook with hot GrillGrates.
  • Use either a grill pad or a basic grill brush. I like the grill pads because they wear out and force you to replace them regularly.
  • The popular triangular brush works well to reach into the valleys.
  • Steaming grill brushes also work well to steam clean hot GrillGrates. I find I don't use it as often because it tends to dry out the GrillGrates. Go easy on the water. Be careful of hot steam- spritz of water during warmup is best. Do not use a garden hose on hot GrillGrates- it is guaranteed to warp them.
This is my go to brush to get into the valleys.
Tip: Replace your brush regularly- just like your tooth brush they wear out or get too dirty

When GrillGrates Get Sloppy and They Will! 
Here are a Few Tricks to Clean Them Right Up:
  1. The GrateTool doubles as a cleaning device for the valleys. Use it like a shovel or a plow. The tines are turned upward at the tip so they won't catch in the holes of the valleys. Periodically shovel the valleys with the GrateTool either during warm up or on a cold grill. Shovel the valleys after particularly greasy foods such as chicken or a grill full of 80/20 hamburgers. The grease will puddle in the valleys and is easily shoveled away the next grilling with the GrateTool. A little grease is fabulous flavor, but too much grease in the valleys can ignite or send burned offerings up to your food.
Hot SOAK in JOY and a little Brillo 

I only clean the valleys on my GrillGrates when there is a reasonable buildup. Most of the time the build-up dislodges during brushing and the GrillGrates truly do become self cleaning.  Its only when I get sloppy with marinades or grill a lot of chicken or hamburgers that I tend to the valleys. 

 2.  SOAK GrillGrates in HOT water with Dawn or Joy dish-soapFocus on the raised rails with a scruby and use the GrateTool as a scrapper for the valleys and sides in the sink too.

grease gone, cleaning GrillGrates
Grease Gone
    • TIP: Its OK to use Brillo on the top of the rails but don't go crazy trying to clean the valleys or bottom. 
    • We are testing an organic de-greaser that is showing very good results.  Grease Gone is a coconut oil based all natural product that can also be used as a hand-cleaner, range top cleaner and added to hot water for a GrillGrate cleaner.  Includes a sanding block style sponge that is for the valleys. (Update July 10th- currently out of stock on Grease Gone- not sure if we are continuing to sell)
    3.  Burning OFF on the grill is OK-  but GrillGrates will dry out from the prolonged heat You may need to use Grill Spray or canola oil on the cooking rails the first cook or two. 
    • TIP: Several customers report success cleaning GrillGrates in their self-cleaning ovens. Do not use oven cleaner as it can pit and tarnish. They may be 'dry' the first couple of cooks.
    • Powerwash! Customers also report power-washing is very effective. One catering customer told me he bungee-cords his GrillGrates to a tree and power washes them after rendering pork butts on them!
    Do you have a special process or brush you particularly like- please tell us!

    Updated May 21 2013.  One year to the day...