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10 Easy Hacks To Get Your Grill Ready For Summer

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There are few things that say summer quite like the sweet, smoky sizzle of a backyard grill. But after spending months forgotten on a porch, shrouded in polyester and pelted by the elements, your BBQ star typically needs some TLC before it’s back in serious searing shape. So, get your “Kiss the Cook” apron ready: These hacks will help you and your trusty meat-cooking machine get all fired up for grill season.

1. CHECK FOR GAS LEAKS.

The trade-off for gas grills’ swankier appeal is that maintaining them and keeping them safe requires some extra attention. To make sure your gas grill hasn’t sprung a dangerous leak and that everything’s working properly before you get grilling, brush your gas lines with soapy water and check for bubbles—which indicate a crack—when the gas is running. If you spot any, tighten your connection or replace the line.

2. MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING SOLUTION.

Mix one part water and one part distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and go to town on your grill’s interior. Replace the lid, let the solution soak in for an hour or so, and cooked-on residue and gunk should be broken up enough to easily wipe off when you’re done.

3. TRY AN ONION.

For an even more natural approach, some suggest heating up your grill to bake off some crud, then rubbing down the still-warm grates with a sliced onion, cut-side down, on the end of a fork. The move seems to loosen up grit and make a grill easier to clean.

4. MEASURE YOUR FUEL LEVEL.

Your steak will have to wait if your gas grill is low on propane, so think ahead by checking your fuel level before inviting over the neighborhood. One nifty trick if your grill doesn’t have a gauge: Pour a glass of warm water down the side of your tank. Wherever the water starts to feel cool on the tank is your fuel level.

5. GET BRUSHING.

A sturdy brush with wire bristles has your grill cleaning covered. The supplies you use to clean with vary based on what type of grill you’re working with and the part of the grill you’re cleaning (dish soap and water work for many grills; stainless steel cleaner is recommended for stainless steel exteriors; rotisserie style grill grates do best with just lemon juice and water). Make sure you haven’t left any bristles on your grill surface after your vigorous brush-down.

6. CLEAN OUT TUBES AND BURNERS.

A toothpick, pipe-cleaner, or paper clip works to de-clog any build-up in your gas ports or tubes (make sure the propane is turned off beforehand).

7. CHECK YOUR FLAME COLOR.

Not all flames are created equal. The pros at This Old House advise grillers to be wary of an all-yellow flame on a gas grill, as it won’t be as effective as the blue fire with yellow tips you want. Flames without the blue color probably means there is not enough pressure coming from the gas tank. They recommend using a similar tactic as when your computer stops cooperating, i.e. turning everything off—the tank, the control valve—disconnecting the tank, opening and closing the valves, and then reconnecting and slowly turning the gas back on. If that doesn’t work, it could be your burner ports have gotten wider over the years. Might be time to replace them.

8. KICK SOME ASH.

A charcoal grill has a habit of collecting ash and unburned chunks of briquettes. Before you start using yours for the season, scrape and empty any ash, including whatever’s in the ash catcher if you’ve got one. If you’re using a gas grill, empty the grease trap.

9. HAVE A MUFFIN TIN HANDY.

A summer breeze is lovely and all, until it knocks over your half-empty ketchup bottle. Keep your fixings organized (and, may we say, attractively displayed) by using an empty muffin tin for all the mustard, pickles, and onions your burgers require. Though you might want to keep it covered when your diners aren’t using it to protect your BBQ sauce from bugs.

10. OIL UP.

A light coating of oil or cooking spray prevents rust and keeps food from sticking—making grill prep for next grilling season just a little easier.

All images via iStock.

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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Popcorn Company That's Creating Jobs for Adults With Autism
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A New Jersey-based gourmet popcorn company is dedicating its profits to creating new employment “popportunities” for adults on the autism spectrum, A Plus reports.

Popcorn for the People, founded by Rutgers University professor Dr. Barbie Zimmerman-Bier and her husband, radiologist Dr. Steven Bier, is a nonprofit subsidiary of the couple's charitable organization Let’s Work For Good, which focuses on "creating meaningful and lasting employment for adults with autism and developmental disabilities." Recognizing the lack of skilled employment options for adults with developmental disabilities, the Biers decided to create jobs themselves through this popcorn venture, with all of the profits going to their charitable organization. According to the site, every tin of popcorn purchased "provides at least an hour of meaningful employment" to adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, who perform jobs like making popcorn, labeling products, and marketing.

The couple developed the idea for the business and the nonprofit in 2015 when their son, Sam, grew tired of his job at a grocery store. Sam, 27, is on the autism spectrum, and after six years of working as a “cart guy,” he decided he was ready to try something new. Employment opportunities were scarce, though. Jobs that provided enough resources for someone on the spectrum tended to consist of menial work, and more skilled positions involved a tough interview process.

“Some companies mean well, but they are limited in what they can offer,” Steven Bier told TAP Into East Brunswick in 2015.

Unemployment rates are especially high among adults with autism. Last year, Drexel University reported that only 14 percent of autistic adults who use state-funded disability services are employed in paid work positions. And while high-functioning autistic adults are often perfectly capable of working in technical careers, the actual process of getting hired can be challenging. People with autism tend to struggle with understanding nuance and social conventions, which makes the interviewing process particularly difficult.

Enter the Biers' popcorn business. What began in 2015 as the Pop-In Cafe (which still sells popcorn and deli items at its New Jersey location) now distributes flavored popcorn all over the world. In three years, the organization has gone from a staff of four, with one employee on the autism spectrum, to a staff of 50, nearly half of whom are on the spectrum. In July, the organization plans to expand to a larger production facility in order to keep up with demand.

The company provides an environment for employees to learn both hard skills, like food preparation and money management, and what the company describes as “watercooler life skills.”

"There just aren't many programs that teach these sorts of things in a real-world environment, with all that entails," Bier told My Central Jersey. "These are skills that the kids can use here, and elsewhere."

According to A Plus, you can now buy Popcorn for the People in person at locations like the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey and the Lyric Theatre in Times Square. The organization sells 12 flavors of popcorn (including cookies and cream, Buffalo wing, and French toast), all created by Agnes Cushing-Ruby, a chef who donates 40 hours a week to the company.

“I never thought that the little pop-up shop would grow into this,” Sam told A Plus. “It makes me so happy to see we have helped so many people.”

[h/t A Plus]

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