Now that it's too cold for cookouts and outdoor entertaining, it's time to winterize your outdoor kitchen to keep it in good shape for next year. Outdoor kitchens don't require too much maintenance, but the maintenance they need is very important. If you neglect winterizing your outdoor kitchen, you risk facing broken water lines and appliance damage. Put that kitchen to rest for the winter so it can be ready to serve you in the spring.
1. Shut off water lines. Locate and shut off all the water lines connecting outdoor kitchens to indoor plumbing. Use the indoor shutoff so you don't have any water in the lines running outside.
2. Drain all water lines. As you're draining your water lines, don't forget water lines to the refrigerator, sinks, and ice makers. Neglecting this step could cost you in repairs to both the water lines and to your appliances.
3. Position drain valves for winter. It's important to leave your drain valves open all winter long to protect the lines from freezing water.
4. Clean out the refrigerator. Switch off the power to the refrigerator and unplug it. Remove all food items from the refrigerator and clean it completely with mild soap and water. Remove the front grill (the toe plate) and vacuum underneath it to remove loose dirt and debris. After you've cleaned underneath the refrigerator, put the front grill back on. Don't cover the refrigerator for the winter because moisture can accumulate under the cover and damage it.
5. Prepare the ice maker. Switch off the power to the ice maker. You should already have drained the water line and opened the drain valve. Remove any remaining ice from the ice maker and clean the ice bin.
6. Clean the sink. After draining the water line to the sink, fully open the hot and cold taps. Some people like to completely uninstall the faucet and store it indoors for the winter, but this is generally an unnecessary step. Thoroughly clean the sink according to the manufacturer's instructions and then cover it securely to keep winter debris from scratching the finish and entering the drain.
7. Take care of the grill. Give your grill a thorough cleaning. Start with a degreaser, and then follow the degreaser with stainless steel polish. Use a metal brush to clean areas that are hard to reach. Empty the grill's cleanout, and thoroughly clean the cooking grates. Season your cooking surfaces by wiping vegetable oil on both sides of the cooking grates. Put the grates back on the grill and heat the grill to about 500-degrees Fahrenheit, keeping the hood closed. Allow the grill to season the cooking grates for about 20 minutes. The cooking surfaces should be brown or black when they're sufficiently seasoned. Keep the hood vent closed. If you're not planning on using the grill at all during the winter, turn off the gas line.
8. Winterize your cabinets. Depending on what type of cabinets you have in your outdoor kitchen, your winterizing methods will be different. If you have stainless steel cabinets, coat them with a fresh layer of stainless steel polish. Any cabinets made from wood need to be oiled or sealed to protect them from winter's harsh temperature and moisture swings. This is also a good time to remove any food from your cabinets and transport it inside.
In order for outdoor kitchens to serve you well all summer, it's important to give them the end-of-season maintenance they deserve.Author: Joe Schill