There’s no getting around it: We are in the midst of grilling season. The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and that insistent voice in your head chanting “grill stuff,” is getting more and more insistent. But before you can cook up a few of your favorite hot dogs, or throw some shrimp on the barbie, you have to make sure your grill is clean and ready for action.

Somehow, no matter how you clean them, grills always seem to have a little schmutz left over. You know what I’m talking out—the charred crusties of old food that are perennially stuck to the grate. You don’t want those burnt bits of soy-glazed pork chops from last weekend sticking to your carefully prepared party salmon.

Those scorched leftovers don’t taste very good, and, as it turns out, they’re probably not great for you, either. Thankfully, Bricia Lopez and Javier Cabral, authors of Asada, a new cookbook celebrating the expansive world of Mexican grilling, have a simple solution: an onion.

Asada: The Art of Mexican-Style Grilling$40 $30 at Amazon$40 $37 at

Here’s their go-to method: To start, heat your grill to high (figure 450–550°). Getting the grate hot will partially do your work for you by burning off some of those clingers. Next, slice an onion in half—any kind will do, be it yellow, white, or red—but Lopez and Cabral recommend “the biggest, cheapest white onion you can find” since a larger onion will cover more surface area. Stab a large fork into the uncut side of the halved onion, then run it up and down the grate.

This technique, dubbed a piece of “Mexican ingenuity” by Lopez and Cabral, uses the natural acids in the onion to loosen and remove bits of grease and pieces of char. Onions also contain a compound called allicin, the same chemical that brings you to tears when you’re chopping. This compound has antimicrobial properties that leave your grill spick-and-span. A few minutes of onion-scraping should do the trick, but in case you find your grill left with a few bits of stubborn detritus, Lopez and Cabral have one more trick.

Lopez and Cabral recommend “the biggest, cheapest white onion you can find” since a larger onion will cover more surface area.

Getty / eldadcarin

“For extra gunk-fighting power,” they write, “you can spray the grates with lemon juice or white vinegar first.” The extra acidity in lemon juice and vinegar can loosen grime, helping the onion get that grill grate sparkling clean. Natural solutions like these can, in fact, be safer than the traditional grill brush method. Older brushes may have loosened bristles, which are more likely to fall off and end up in whatever it is you’re grilling—and picking out those fibers from our BBQ chicken is not our idea of a good time.

And if you still aren’t convinced, here’s yet another benefit, according to Lopez and Cabral. The oils from the onion can discourage food from clinging to the grate. “It creates a nice film on the grill that prevents it from sticking,” Lopez explains. “So it’s not only cleaning but it’s also creating a nonstick surface.”

So, next time you’re preparing to grill, make sure you’re stocked up on onions. What can’t they do?

Get grillingFig and Mustard Baby Back RibsThese spicy-sweet ribs are ideal for fuss-free grilling as they can be cooked directly on the grill, with no need to bake or steam them first.View Recipe

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