I want to say that every outdoor chef knows the significance of having the proper tool for cleaning the grill when the grilling is done, but that, unhappily, is not the case. As difficult as it is to believe, there are some grillers out there who are satisfied to let the fire go out (or turn it off for propane), shut the top of the barbecue and go ahead with the next cookout without giving any thought to the grunge and bits of charred food that will remain, and be a part of what gets cooked next. This is not only unsightly, but also runs the danger that some nasty microorganisms may have taken the occasion to get a foothold in the leftover mess. The best and the safest procedure is to clean the grill after each use, and the method for doing that is by application of a grill brush.
Choosing the proper grill brush can be difficult, because grill brushes come in many shapes and sizes and are composed of many diverse materials. I will attempt here to give some helpful pointers on just how to pick the best brush for your backyard barbecue.
There are the commercial brushes which operate on electricity and generate steam which I imagine might be deemed the Cadillac of grill brushes, but owning one of these would be going overboard for most people who are only cooking for their own family and friends. No one wants to get carried away with a costly tool that will necessitate a great deal more time and maintenance than the casual backyard chef will want to give, but for the purist, this is a possibility.
The best solution for most outdoor cooks is the manual grill brush, but these are produced with a wide variety of features, some of which are clearly more desirable than others. Years ago the only grill brush that was widely available was the short-handled block type of brush with the bristles inserted in a block of wood or metal on one side and a scraper on the other. The bristles themselves were made of some metal, usually steel. A key drawback of this kind of grill brush was that to perform the necessary cleaning, it was essential to expose one's hand to the hotness of the grill. The bristles were very rigid with the result that there was little penetration between the ridges of the grill, thus leaving a lot of incompletely fried food.
Perhaps the chief drawback of the old-style brush was that occasionally some bristles would come out and become attached to food on the next barbecue. There were many reports from hospital emergency rooms treating victims who got these bristles stuck in their throats.
The contemporary grill brush incorporates features which overcome the disadvantages of the old model. If scouring the grill is done while it is still hot, the necessity for the old scraper is done away with. On the newer brushes the grip is elongated so that the hands are not endangered by the heat. The bristles are in a T-shaped head which permits better coverage, and the bristles are composed of brass which allows for more penetration into the gaps on the grill surface. Lastly, the bristles are intertwined into the twisted metal head which makes it almost impossible for them to become separated and to cause the hazard of being swallowed.
The bristles on some of the newer grill brushes are made of stainless steel, but the brass ones are superior, as the springiness of these brass bristles allows for much more thorough cleaning because they can get into the crevices that the inflexible steel bristles cannot get at. A caveat about the brass bristles is that if excessive pressure is used when cleaning the grill it is possible to mash the bristles, thus rendering the tool unusable. It is unnecessary to apply this extreme force, however. A moderate amount of force is all that is needed to get the grill clean, so when used properly the brass grill brush should be good for producing a clean grill for many repeated scrubbings.
To recap, when choosing a brush for your grill, you should insist on the following features: