When it comes to the grill, just about every home grillmaster swears by three tools: sturdy metal tongs, a quality spatula with a serrated edge, and a grill brush. If a wire grill brush is your foolproof way for cleaning your grill, you might want to reconsider swapping out those wire bristles for a grill brush that is less hazardous to your health. If you're thinking that it could hardly matter, ask Nadia Fiore of Toronto (and countless other folks) why they're dangerous.
Before slapping burgers on her grill at home in May 2016, Nadia took to the grill with her wire brush, removing the excess gunk that inevitably builds up. Six-year-old Anthony Fiore took one bite of his burger and immediately had a painful reaction. The Fiore family rushed him to the hospital where they were then redirected to SickKids for emergency surgery. Anthony Fiore had swallowed a wire bristle from the grill surface that was stuck to his burger, and the tiny wire was lodged in his throat.
Doctors removed the bristle via surgery, but Anthony still developed a throat infection from the bacteria on the foreign object. Nadia Fiore shared her story through CBC News because she's demanding that wire bristle brushes be banned from hardware and grocery store shelves. There are a few reasons for this call.
The first is that, according to CBC News, "doctors haven't found a surefire way of removing the thin, sharp wires from people's throats when they're swallowed." Additionally, the wires are so small in some brushes, it's hard to see when they come loose from the brush and stick to the grill grates as you're scraping away. The wire bristles from the BBQ brush can become lodged in your throat or your digestive tract.
Doctors and urgent care clinics have also seen an influx in patients with this same problem and the issue has been on the rise in recent years. CBC News even reported a few days later that a Halifax woman "had a bristle lodged so far down her throat that surgeons couldn't reach it. It's still there." X-rays confirmed the discovery. So if wire bristle grill brushes are so terrible, what can you use instead?
If you're ready to make the switch from a wire grill brush, here are some safe alternatives that will last a long time in your care. While many swear by the functionality of wire grill brushes, these are just as effective at cleaning off your grill surface.
This hardwood grill scraper comes in three different sizes: 16 inches, 18 inches, and 20 inches. Made from Beech and Red Oak hardwoods, these wood scrapers do an excellent job at removing gunk from the grill grates without damaging the surface.
The Kona Barbecue Grill Brush promises a deep clean without metal bristles while still bringing the heat with a stainless steel surface. Designed not to melt like standard nylon bristles or lose bristles like a metal brush, this tool is actually three products in one. For best use, dip in a small pan of water between scrapes for clean grates.
The minimalist's grill brush, this runs along each individual surface of the cooking grates. Though more time-consuming overall, many swear by this small metal scraper for its precision and consider it superior to the grill brush bristles. Sure, it might not look like your standard grill cleaning brush, but it is perfect for getting gunk off a hot grill.
The No-Cost Method
If you're not interested in purchasing new cleaning tools, you can try this old trick. Fire up your grill to make sure it's hot enough to have the gunk slide off the grates, and turn it off. Let it sit for about 5 minutes to cool down. Wearing a silicone oven mitt or another form of hand protection, run aluminum foil along the grates like you would with standard grill brushes.
Discard the aluminum foil and admire your hard work. Now grab your barbecue brush and start basting those sticky ribs to smoke over medium indirect heat. Even better? If you wrapped your food in foil for the grill, just reuse that if it's not too oily or greasy.